Sunday, October 10, 2010

Changes

My new blog address is http://www.marthagoudey.wordpress.com.
My blog of photography is at http://www.goudeygal.wordpress.com.

I may continue the blog about the garden at this site for my own edification and the enjoyment of others if they desire to partake.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What does God have to do with it?

There doesn't seem to be a denouement to this endless saga. I want to walk a labyrinth to sort my thoughts, or maybe just walk a long beach and dig my toes in the sand and feel the sun on my body, with the knowledge that no one really needs me. The catch-22. My friend, Ted, once told me that what I will miss most when mom is gone is her needing me.

I called my brother yesterday and shared my angst over a trip to the foot doctor for mom that didn't go well. They made her wait an hour, which included two trips to the bathroom. The first time the light was out in the handicapped restroom, so I took her down the hall to a tiny employee restroom that was so small she couldn't close the door with the walker in the room with her. It also smelled terrible.  She wanted to wipe off the toilet seat before she sat down and I was impatient and insensitive, asking her what she was afraid of. I'm always amazed that she says she no longer wants to be here but does everything possible to prevent her going--flu shots, cleaning off the toilet seat, Vitamin C. There are children dying every day and mom stubbornly gets up off the couch and brushes her teeth, uses her eyedrops, and cleanses her face. Truly, this is an amazing woman.

Thirty minutes later, still in the waiting room, she said she had to go to the restroom again. I took her to the handicapped restroom. They had fixed the light. She went in and I waited by the door. When she came out, the nurse took her back while I used the restroom. I looked at the toilet seat. It was covered with a sheen of crap, left not by mom, but the previous patient whose caregiver had made a half-ass attempt to clean the toilet, but to no avail. Then she left it, not considering who would come along and sit in his crap--as mom did. (I crossed paths with the caregiver and her charge in the hallway right after a very old gentleman had left his gift. As we passed each other she said, "I'm so tired." Got that, honey.)  Mom said she tried to clean the seat, but I knew she couldn't see what was left there for her to sit in. I felt disgusted and embarrassed that I had not checked the seat for her.  The rest of the visit wasn't any better. 

Mom can't hear well. No, correction, she can only hear if you talk directly to her in a very loud voice.  While the nurse was asking me medical questions, mom kept interrupting, not realizing that the nurse was talking. I finally told her I was going to answer some questions for her, and she said, "All right, if you tell me what they are." No, I said.  "She just wants to know what medications you are using." Then, a few minutes later, while the nurse is still asking questions, mom began talking about my shoes. "Those aren't orthopedic shoes, are they?" "No, mom, could we wait to talk about that." When the assistant came in mom said she didn't want the foot rest up, except that's how they are able to take a look at her feet. When the assistant left she was anxious about the wait for the doctor. Then she said, "I know you would probably like to be out in the sunshine on this beautiful day." A sweet sensitive comment that sent me through the ceiling. "No, mom, that's not what I'm thinking. Just please stop talking for a minute." That hurt her feelings, but at least we were quiet for a few minutes. I texted her caregiver to tell her what was going on. She reminded me to breathe.

After my brother and I talked, he said he would call more often. We've had the same conversation a couple of times a year for the past ten years. I want him to engage with my experience, even though I know he really can't. He's not here, and even though he can use his imagination based on a week a year he spends with his mother, there is no way he can enter into this daily experience of being pulled to and fro by the forces of my emotions, the forces of a 101 year old woman who won't, will not, stubbornly refuses to die. As if she has anything to do with it. 

Some say we have choice about when we go. One woman was in an assisted living home. She went down to the desk one morning and said, "I'm going to die today," and went back to her apartment and died. I've asked mom if she's told God she wants to go. "No, she replies, it's in God's hands, it's not my choice." And then I wonder what God has to do with our living and dying. It all seems so arbitrary and accidental, except for birth, which can be planned, but many times is not. I have friends who say they leave the conception of their child up to God. They don't use birth control, get pregnant, and attribute that to God. Well, I suppose if you assume that God made our bodies, then God can be held accountable for conception. But what about the unwanted babies that end up being aborted. Is that in God's plan, too?

As for dying, what about all those children who die early, while thousands upon thousands of people languish in nursing homes, sitting in wheelchairs unaware of their surroundings with few visitors.  I remember visiting my grandfather when he was nearly 100, lying in a nursing home bed. The nurses told me he wouldn't be able to hear me, that he was "gone." Bullshit. I went into my grandfather's room and shouted in his ear. He sat up in bed, asked me about everyone in my life, and then began to dictate a letter. No one had been talking to him, including his daughter, my aunt, who was the administrator of the nursing  home. Maybe she was angry. I don't blame her. My grandfather was a womanizer, she told me. He left the family when she was a child and then much later she was expected to be the caregiver. 

I don't know how to make sense of any of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tender love

Annie called this morning. Through static lines that were reminiscent of phone lines in the 40s or 50s when phone lines crossed and two conversations could be heard at once, we tried to talk about my writing and mom, and before we could get to their life and what was going on with them we had other people on the line, operator recordings, crackling lines, and finally we had to end the conversation.
It almost felt like we were being sabotaged.
But she told me that she and Stan had premonitions that mom wouldn't be here that much longer.  He had two premonitions and Annie had one. On the third day after their premonitions, they shared their thoughts with each other. I thought it was interesting...perhaps a forewarning to me, because I have stopped, or blocked, premonitions because I had them before and then nothing happened. Now that she is 101 I don't think about it as much...I just do my job of caregiving knowing it could go on for awhile longer. When I think about her dying, I cry, but I was informed by spirit once many years ago that I was to stop crying, that she wasn't gone yet.
Since then I have cried at the length of this journey. I have been impatient and harsh at times, angry at her for things that I didn't need to be angry about, but simply triggered by voice intonations or demands or needs.
I fear mom's death because I fear that I will not be at peace about it, but feel guilt instead. Because I have wanted her to die and know I will miss her. Because I have lost my patience with her even though she has reassured me that, yes, "you have lost your patience, but you have been very patient." Because I will miss her humor and her patting me on the leg and saying, "It will work out."
Although our journey together has been complicated by a host of life events that shaped our interactions, I love her deeply. A mother/daughter dance that didn't feel as much like dancing as fencing, but nonetheless filled with a tender love.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A quiet agony

I receive a weekly email about how to write a successful blog. The latest post advised bloggers to be “upbeat and optimistic” to increase readership. Ben tells me that I should write the way I used to write my columns for the newspaper, humorous and with a point. I tell him I'm not sure how to make the past humorous. There are writers like Mary Karr and Cheryl Strayed who find the humor in the horror of the past. I'm not sure how to do it. My point is not to increase readership. The point is to tell the tale. For those who read, know this. You won't laugh. But it's the truth as I know it, which is the point.

Sept. 27
Today I went to mom’s as usual. When I came in she was animated, her eyes sparkling. When I sat down next to her as I do when I go over, she started talking about a birthday remembrance from the third grade. She had invited her teacher to dinner.
“I really liked her and she really liked me,” mom said. “I was the teacher’s pet and Mom made a cake with caramel icing.”
 Then she said she remembered an incident in the fifth grade. I was amazed that not only was her memory so intact, but that she was, after all this time of recalling the past, telling me new stories, ones I had never heard.  The teacher didn’t like her and she didn’t like the teacher.  When the teacher left the room for a moment, a boy scooted over into mom's seat with her. When the teacher returned she was angry and ordered the two of them to stay after school.
Mom said, “I’m not going to do that,” and started for home. Somehow that sounds familiar, like the time she announced to the doctor and nurses after a stroke that she wasn't going to rehab. She told someone to tell the teacher that she was going home to get her mother. 
“The teacher said I was the most ill-bred child,” mom said. Stubborn is more like it. 
“But Papa Strain [mom described Papa Strain as a neighbor friend] lived across the street and he was a member of the school board. He had the teacher, Mrs. Ransom, apologize to my mother.”
Mom went on to recount an eighth grade experience, but I interrupted her. I was feeling claustrophobic, like if I heard one more of her memories I was going to vomit memories. It isn't as if I don't like to hear mom's memories. I am, as I have said, the designated family historian, along with being the designated family caretaker. But a journal entry from 1996, 14 years ago, says, "I'm so tired of hearing mom's memories, I want to hear my own." 
I said, “I don’t remember any of my childhood,” feeling sorry for myself and angry at my feelings. But, of course I remember my childhood. It is told within these pages. But I don't remember birthdays and have few happy memories. I would like to have optimistic and upbeat stories to tell my grandchildren that will make them laugh and think, "Grandma is cool," as this story of mom's fifth grade experience will for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. That is the gift she offers, and that is the gift I offer by recording the stories. I will not share my memories of my childhood with any grandchildren I may have. Instead, they will have to read my blog.  
I felt like a spoiled child. I reminded myself that I have a right to set boundaries on stories that pierce my heart over and over.  I remind myself that this journey with her isn’t just about her. It is my journey, too, my experience of life with mom. I am part of the story. I am not just the caretaker, the one who is here to make sure Grandma is okay. I ask myself, where is the rest of the family to sit with her and listen? 
As if to mollify my feelings, she said, “I’ve told you how I used to hold you. I held you until I couldn’t hold you any longer. You were still missing your father and I was grieving."
That was supposed to make me feel better? It occurred to me that somehow when my father died a pattern was set up of her holding me, and me holding her, us grieving together and me somehow expected to assuage the pain of his passing just as she was trying to assuage the pain of his passing for me. The word “still” resonated. Did she think I ever got over missing my father, especially since I was repeatedly reminded how sad his death was and how he died, "just when things were getting good?”
“Mom, I always missed my father,” I said.
That segued into her guilt over marrying Sam—again. “I thought I was doing the right thing,” she said for the thousandth time. And I thought, how many times must I hear this? How many times must she repeat this quiet agony of knowing she made the wrong choice and how it hurt her children.
“I didn’t want to leave you with a babysitter.” 
Wouldn’t that have been better?
When I asked her if she didn’t rush it by marrying Sam, she said yes, but that she needed a father for her children, that her mother and Sam’s mother knew each other and that he seemed like a good “candidate.” She said that Sam would hold me in the beginning, but that she didn’t know what happened after that.
"I thought he cared,” she said. “It was the “damned liquor,” referring to the changes in him. Or, did he just trick her into believing that he would make a good father.
Mom said she thought he was jealous. “I can’t wait until the ‘we” means us,” Sam once told her. He had taken on a widow and her two children three months after her husband’s death. What did he expect?

Mom recounted the story of getting me dressed one time and hearing my father’s voice when she said, “Oh, I wish you could see her.”
“I see her, honey,” he answered.
“He talked to me twice after that, and I’m not making it up,” she said. She tells the story of how she went to the attorney’s office and she saw him there a couple of times and each time he was a little farther away from her.
“His dying was the saddest thing that could have happened,” she said.
My father had set up his children’s dental practice and was ready to open. Mom had decorated the office in light reds and grays and bought little chairs. He had bought new slacks because he wasn’t going to wear white. He never got to wear them, she said. “Dollard (my aunt’s husband) took them back to the store.”
I never like to cry in front of my mother, but I cried as she told me this new twist in the story. I don’t know what else to say, how else to come to terms with these stories and remembrances. What I need to say that I can’t say is, “It’s all right.” I have said, “Mom, you did the best you could.” I can’t say, “It’s okay, it wasn’t so bad.” I don’t know what else mom needs. Or, what else I have to offer except my daily care and as she calls it, “my ministrations.” 
The sadness of losing my father has permeated our lives. If a good man had come along to replace him, we might have made our peace with his passing, moved on. But a good man did not come along until after we were grown, after Sam was dad, after the damage was done. Instead, a sick man came along, but also a man who provided well for my mother in her old age. How do you slice that one? She is provided for so that the burden of her care is lessened, while I carry the burden of memory of his abuse.
As I prepared to leave that day she said, “Just remember that I always loved you and Stanley more than anything.”
It feels like an agony to hear those words, rather than a joy. It feels like a burden, an unrequited grief, that her love for us never was able to protect us even when she thought she was “doing the right thing.”
Sorry, blog readers, this isn't a funny story. 

Garden update



Yesterday I worked quietly in the garden, weeding, turning compost, feeling the sun on my back, the fresh Indian Summer breeze, hearing the birds singing, Taz keeping me company stealing potatoes I had discovered while weeding. I cut the elms attempting a comeback along the fence. I looked around at all that has to be done for the fall cleanup. Squash bugs burned, straw shredded, irrigation lines taken up, piles of compost contained, trash removed.
As I pondered the amount of work to be done, I ironically decided that next year I will garden by myself, that my experiment with community gardening will be postponed a year at least. The garden is a place of peace for me, a place of quiet and contemplation, a place for me to unwind from everything else occurring in my life.  Gardening with another person has its delights, but it is a different experience.
When I set about writing the blog it was meant to be about the garden and about care taking mom and about planning travels. The blog has been weighted with the stories about mom in recent months, partially because I'm writing in earnest about my life with her. Writing about the garden has been more difficult because it's "our" garden. I can't write of my experience without her needing to be part of the experience. And she and I have had very different experiences.
It's not as if sharing the workload hasn't been fun and practical. Nor does this decision take away from the delight my friend and I experienced in the garden together. My gardening friend and I did well, for the most part. She took great joy in this first experience with vegetable gardening, after many years experience as a flower gardener, and I would not want to diminish that in any way.
But I've never felt a complete peace about it. My time in the garden outweighed her time and I would find myself feeling resentful, then selfish, then petty. I would ruminate, telling myself how much I appreciated her help.  Then she would come out and say, "Gosh, this is so much fun. This has been so much easier than I thought it would be." She would take delight, while I would struggle with my feelings, not sharing them with her because I didn't want to rain on her parade.
I want to share freely the bounty of the garden without having to check in with someone else. I want to be able to freeze everything I want to freeze, or dry everything I want to dry, without feeling that I am shortchanging someone else. I don't want to have to call someone and say, "The zucchini are ready, the tomatoes are ready," so that if I harvest them and give them away I'm doing something wrong.
So, I will garden next year on my own, trusting that the little people and the garden fairies will be my companions, that when I need help Ben will be there and that together we will continue to create the peace of gardening.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Connections and perspectives

Jay and Ben, Mary, Sydney, Lindsay and Chris

One of the remarkable events of the past year, a year of connections and new perceptions, was the wedding of Chris, Ben's nephew, to Lindsay Barnes, last week in Colorado. Ben's brother Jay had initially discouraged us from coming to the wedding because it was so far and we wouldn't have time to visit with everyone. Ben hadn't seen Chris in 15 years, nor had he seen his niece, Sydney. I had met neither, except for a conversation with Sydney when she encouraged us to come to the wedding. Jay's perception that coming to celebrate a wedding 30 miles into the mountains of Colorado for a few hours was not a good idea. He was right, but that was before he realized that it was going to be a three-day soirĂ©e. We drove four days there and back and spent three wonderful days eating and talking and hanging out and reconnecting and getting to know one another. It was a blast, a remarkable wedding event, punctuated by a Francis family reunion. Ben got to see Chris and Sydney for the first time in 15 years and reconnect with others. I met all of them for the first time, including Jay's ex-wife, Mary, and her sister, Jenny. 
Wedding guests were mingling in the living room a few nights before the wedding in the mountain cabin where Chris and Lindsay and some of the other guests were staying. Food had been served and Mary and I were getting to know each other over a meal at an oak table that was a barn door in a previous life.  Mary and I began to talk about Ben and Jay's parents, Jim and Alice, or Jefe and Chula, as they were affectionately called, who had died 30 years before. Up until that moment I had only heard Ben's understanding of his parents' decision to sink their boat in Monterey Bay, marking their 42nd anniversary and their life-long agreement to "sail off into the sunset," and end their lives before ending up in a nursing home. "Since Jim suffered his stroke...he is just not able to be happy," Alice writes in a farewell letter mailed to Ben, but addressed to Jay, Mary and Chris. 
When I first heard the story early in my relationship with Ben I was angry. His father may have had a stroke, but I didn't understand how they could leave. My own mother is 101 and since she turned 90 she has seen me marry Ben, my brother marry Annie, me and Jared graduate from college, and the birth of two great grandchildren. Even though her third husband was defined as soulmate she has outlived him by 23 years. As I have written about caregiving mom, I have considered Jefe and Chula's choices, a choice that many would like to make but would not have the courage to make.
But if Alice was healthy, as is speculated, how could she leave her family, I questioned Ben. He rationally and patiently explained that he and Jay always knew and understood that their parents were together in life...and in death. They made a choice to die together because they could not face life without the other and they also could not face life in care facilities, dependent on other people. Alice briefly explains that she had been able to ignore "lumps, aches and pains," because of their decision. 
It was still an unsolvable mystery. I admired Ben and Jay's lack of anger and bitterness and their ability to extend grace to their parents. But Ben's rendition was one-dimensional. The story the fisherman told who saw the boat go down was one-dimensional.  Just like the different perceptions of those who show up at the scene of an accident, I had not yet met those with a different story to tell, a different perception than Ben or Jay. 
Mary said she had been close to Alice, and then, there it was, a new perception, a new angle, another dimension to the mystery. "I was pregnant with Sydney when they died." I had not realized how surprised I would be by this new revelation or how it would impact me. 
Once again I had to rewrap...or rewarp, as the case may be...my mind around their choice, especially Alice's. In her letter, she refers to her one wonderful grandchild. But what about the other one, Alice?  I stared at Mary, tears in my eyes. I was speechless. "How could she?" reverberated in my mind. Another day, Mary said she had been devastated but had to be strong for Jay and Chris. Sydney had vomiting problems when she was a small baby, creating more stress in the family.
Sydney and I had already connected on the phone and continued getting to know each other over the weekend. On the day before the wedding she and I drove alone to Steamboat Springs for a wedding shower for Lindsay. Before we left for the shower we sat on the back porch and talked about our mothers. Another night we drank beer in our trailer by candlelight with her Uncle Ben and I and talked about her grandmother and her choices. She listened as Ben explained that he hadn't been angry as Mary had remembered. Grieving yes, but not angry. 
Sydney said she felt an affinity for her grandmother and wants to write a book about her and the family, that she wants to understand the un-understandable.  I had observed Sydney and her mother having a good time together, but also a hard time, a karmic journey they began a long time ago with more to come. 
I wondered once again, but now with more poignancy, if Alice had seen the future and how her decision would impact those she loved if she would have still made the choice she did. If she could feel regret, would she? I think Jefe would still have made the choice. But I'm not so sure about Alice.  But then perhaps that's just my wishful thinking, my mother's heart, my desire for grandchildren, and not being in her shoes. 
I choose to believe that Alice would have been looking forward to her grandchild, the beautiful woman with the blue eyes that remind people of Jefe and others of Alice. But something even more powerful than a grandmother's love drew Alice in another direction.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Poisoned Chalice

But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions,
 which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips.  William Shakespeare, MacBeth.

 1974
I sat next to my mother in the pew as the priest intoned the Eucharist. Light filtered through stained glass, Jesus on the Cross, illuminating the altar and the flowers set there by my mother or some other devout altar guild member. I’m not sure why I agreed to go to church with my mother. But my stepfather was dead and I had not attended his funeral or bothered to visit him while he lay sick in a hospital bed. My mother was a widow a second time. It was the least I could do. And I was sure that going to church with her was a small piece of making things okay for her. She would have been hurt if I had refused.
After my divorce I had driven around in my blue volkswagon bus for two years, working for four to six weeks at a time and then moving on, in circles, from Utah to Idaho to Washington and then down the coast to San Diego, visiting my mother and brother and sister-in-law and nephews until I felt crazy and confused and then I would hop in my bus and leave. Eventually I spun off the circle and sold the bus and went to Iowa to work at the Maharishi International University where I went a little crazier before landing back in San Diego.  
I felt edgy, as if I might get up and walk out. Instead, I sat while she directed me to turn this page or that page, or hold the hymnal while we sang hymns, her beloved hymns she said she remembered and later sang in her head, just as she remembered passages of Longfellow’s Evangeline she learned in high school and would later recite to me when she was a centenarian. I would turn and see her mouth moving and hear the notes and words and watch her face and feel vaguely irritated.
We were to take communion. I wanted to stay in the pew, but if I had my mother would have been embarrassed.  “What would people think?” Instead, I went forward and knelt at the railing with my mother. The priest walked toward me, his hands holding the bread, the body of Christ, my hand outstretched to receive it. When I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church at age 10, I never was sure whether or not it was really His body. Some churches believe in the transmutation of the bread to body, the wine to blood. I just knew it was supposed to be cool, and I was proud to be participating in an adult ritual. Sitting beside my mother at the age of 27, irritated and distracted, there was still something about the ritual that reached me.
The priest walked the line of supplicants, offering up the body of Christ to tongues extended like birds in a nest waiting for nourishment. Stepping away, the priest went to the altar to prepare the wine, the blood of Christ, the infusion of life, the forgiveness of sins, the washing away of all that had gone before. I so wanted that. I wanted my life back, my innocence restored, my mother and brother returned to me from alcohol that isolated me from them, my family whole. Could the blood of Christ do that for me? I could only hope.
The priest walked to the head of the line at the altar, slowly offering upturned lips the hope that this would be the day they would feel the newness, the refreshment from the blood of Christ. The priest approached my mother who took the cup. Then, he stood in front of me, lifting the cup. Before me, a specter. Engraved on the side of the chalice, was the name of my stepfather, “In memory of Samuel Solleder.”
The way the dream plays out, I refuse the cup, stand up, and walk silently from the church, never to return, either to my family or to the church. I walk out into the sunlight, free. I’m alive, not because of the blood of Christ having washed me free, because I don’t take the cup. I walk away from the memory of the man who abused me, away from the mother I love who would sit next to me as I drink the bitter cup, the blood of Christ, in memory of the man who had shamed me and criticized me and used me and then acts as if everything is all right. I could not reconcile the two.
If this was even-handed justice, then I had received it all. The blood, the hand, the words, the touch of evil.
There’s a second dream. I take the cup from the priest, I bring my arm back, the wine spilling on the floor behind me, staining the carpet, the supplicants gasping. My arm comes forward in slow motion, the poisoned chalice leaves my hand and arcs, twisting in the air, the priest’s eyes are wide, aghast at this unseemly turn of events. The chalice falls through the air, slamming into the lovely stained glass window, the glass shattering, Jesus falling silently to the floor in shards, one eye staring up at me from a broken piece of stained glass. I turn and walk out.
Instead, ... my own blood rushing in my ears, anger and hurt and confusion tumbling my thoughts, I take the cup, the blood of Christ. Through my tears I have begun the journey of forgiveness. I just didn't know how long it would take.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Treacherous Journey


I met with my writer friend Jasara yesterday and we had another one of our three-hour marathon conversations that leave us satisfied and full, more so than the food we sometimes share. 
Ever since I met Jasara ten years ago when were in our first year of college--me returning after many years, and Jasara just starting--I have felt like I was communicating with a younger version of myself: very different people, and yet, uncanny similarities. 
After a few years hiatus from regular communication while she got her masters in English rhetoric, we now offer each other support for our writing, as well as other life issues. Included in all our numerous musings yesterday was a conversation about our families. In response to something I said, she asked:
"Which pain is worse--the pain of watching your mom deal with the knowledge that she did not protect her children, or the pain of denial?"
I thought about her question all the way home from Ellensburg last night and the following is an expanded version of what I said.
The pain of knowing has been mom's pain, and her burden to bear. But the pain of her denial was all mine. 
Which to honor? We are told to be good girls, to be forbearing and forgiving and allow the other person their view of the world. But it felt as if my emotional health, my perception of how things really were, depended on my breaking through her wall of denial.  To hold on to denial upholds the "ignorance is bliss," euphemism. But denial separates you from the truth--and the people you love the most.
For years I sometimes not so gently led mom toward the truth.  If I hadn't I would have survived, but I wouldn't have survived the relationship with her. There were times I felt as if my anger would overwhelm us both. My fury was at her telling me how things were when I knew that wasn't how things were at all.  The cognitive dissonance was sometimes too much to bear.
When I first heard her say, "But he was always so good to me," I was shocked. When she said it again, I was furious.  I finally had to say, "Mom, don't ever defend a perpetrator to me again. Ever."
She said, "But I thought God brought him to me." I responded, "If God brought him to you, what does that say about me?"
When I broke the no-talk rule four decades ago and she responded as she did by asking me why I was trying to hurt her, her denial created a rift that took four decades to heal.
But ultimately, the big payoff.  As I quested after emotional and mental health, she too, got healthier...even into her 90s.
I have enormous compassion and respect for her willingness to ride this out with me because more often than not, people are not willing to take those risks.
People leave, die, ignore, drink, do drugs, or simply remain firmly entrenched in denial because it feels so much easier.
That's where it gets tricky. We have to know when to let go and let them off the hook and allow them to be where and who they are, even if they don't change. And I've had to do some of that. She has the right to her perceptions and truth, too.
And ultimately, our emotional health rides not on their decisions, but on ours.
It's for these reasons that I write as I do. Telling the truth in the hope that others on a similar treacherous journey will be set free from denial, or the devastating consequences of denial.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Liar's Club

Just finished Mary Karr's, The Liar's Club, which reminded me that just when you think you have written something shocking or revealing, that's the signal to plunge deeper, to write more honestly, to describe more intensely, to see things more clearly.  She describes her childhood in turns of phrase that make me wonder why I ever thought I could be a writer. But then, of course, I am reminded that we all have our own way to describe what has happened to us (or what we conjure in our imaginations) when we take the time to set hand to keys or pen.
She reminds me that I can tell the truth.
One of the most compelling stories is her unambiguous and poignant description of how and when she was raped by a babysitter. It's a powerful narrative, unlike any I've ever read, clear and heart-wrenching, but without whining. Simply a description...to the last detail.
The book seems to have no clear direction at times, leading us from one fateful day to another over the course of two separate years of her childhood. But then, the denouement -- her mother telling her awful truth. Her father dying, finally happy, after suffering incapacity for five years from a stroke and a long life of war and fighting with her mother and alcohol and kindnesses to his daughter.
It's a tragic story, but not without humor and an ability to write it all without self-pity. She's scrappy and funny and a survivor.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Planting and preserving


Decided to get more serious about preserving food after more talk about hyperinflation and the economy going south. Ben, and my friend, Scott, who has lots of business and investment experience, tell me not to live in fear, that we will know far in advance of hyperinflation, but that storing some food is never a bad idea. I've always thought it was a good idea, simply to save money during winter months and have savory bites for soup and snacks. I just have never followed through on it in any serious way.
So, I bought a food dehydrator, a purchase I've longed to make for many years. Finally, it was, for crying out loud, just do it. Also bought a vacuum sealer for freezing food. I froze a yellow squash last night. Not sure how that will work out.
This morning I cut up a tomato, an onion, four jalapenos, a tray of basil, and some potato. The directions say that all of these are great to add to soups, sauces, or as seasoning. I'll see what works. I thought I would try packaging some for gifts at Christmas, too. But don't tell anyone.
When I'm alone in the garden it takes me away from my obsessing about all the other things going on in my life, my foot hurting, mom's needs, who has or hasn't called me, the dog, (who poops in my garden, chews on the irrigation line, digs in the new beds, barks and chases birds, and causes arguments between me and Ben).
But I shoo Tazie from the garden and go back to my ruminations over the irrigation, deciding what to plant for fall, what to leave, what to do next year. There's always so much to learn...even when you think you have it nailed to the wall.
I picked a German Johnson tomato, a salmon colored heirloom that Sue planted. It has an amazing mild taste. Thought I'd dry one to see how it does.
The beans are ready to pick. I freeze them and then I don't use them. Maybe I'll dry them instead and use for soups or as snacks.  Didn't plant enough potatos...Sue commented she hadn't gotten but two, although I'm sure it has been more that she took home. But we haven't gotten that many either. Two full rows next year!
Four days ago I planted a new batch of sugar snap peas. If there's a late frost we'll get another crop. Planted brussels sprouts -- again. Finally figured out what I had done wrong. I hadn't pulled the lower leaves off the plant so that the sprout could grow. What an odd plant. I planted more beets, and will plant lettuce tomorrow morning. I've weeded and have a pile of weeds four feet high that I need to deal with.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mouse tales

Mom told me a story today. When she and Bob lived in Oregon they decided to take a trip in their camper. They hadn't used it in awhile, so mom went out to clean it.
"I opened a drawer and a mother mouse was giving birth," she said.
"I panicked. I pulled the drawer out and mice went everywhere...and then they died."
She laughed at the thought and then said, "I don't know why I didn't just let her finish giving birth."
Then what, I thought. Kill them?

I told her about the time I trapped two mice, one big and one small, in a paper bag under the kitchen sink.
The recipe I used for trapping mice humanely: I placed just enough garbage in the bottom of a large grocery bag to entice them in.
Once they were in the bag they were unable to climb out.
I folded the top of the bag closed and transported them to the neighbor's barn.
"I'm sure they appreciated that," mom said.
She meant the barn owners, not the mice.
But I was thinking that the mice appreciated it.

She was clear and bright today, asking me about the conference, about her bank overdrafts (I messed up on that one), about the deposit I needed to make. She always thanks me now when I come and take care of things for her. For years she would forget, so resentful I think of needing the care, on the edge of dependency but not wanting to go there. Even now though she is not entirely dependent, still, at 101, getting to the bathroom by herself, brushing her teeth, putting on her makeup. The only place she needs help is with dressing, keeping the apartment clean, meals, hair and nails.

I'm reading Gail Sheehy's book, "Passages in Caregiving: From chaos to confidence." An informative read. Not the book I will write. It is about her care-taking her husband, Clay, through 17 years of cancer. It's a different journey, but she also recounts the journeys of others who were caretakers for spouses and parents.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Important work

Reading caregiving stories today. Makes my situation look like a walk in the park. Seriously. People are amazing, what they do for their loved ones.
One writer describes caregiving as a spiritual journey. Of course it is a journey of healing and enlightenment if we allow it.
It is also all those things we tell ourselves to assuage our angers and resentments and frustrations in the midst of it.
Few of us are so enlightened that we live in the joy of the moment while dealing with the details of caring for an aging parent, or anyone else we may have to care for, including a small child. It's all about caring for another person, throughout our lives.
Isn't that what gives it meaning?
But caregiving a person you once knew as a different person, with a myriad of needs that we could only have imagined?
I remind myself that it's not just caregiving that's a spiritual journey. It's all of life - of course.
And, living in the moment of whatever is handed to us.
The most important work we'll ever do. All of it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Trailer Love

Ben and I went camping for an afternoon yesterday, hauling our trailer an hour and a half into the mountains so that he could fish and I could read and sit by the river and watch Taz play.
I was feeling sorry for myself when we arrived, sad about a number of things that haven't been going right in my life, unable to be grateful for all the things that are going right. I cried and then went to sit on a rock in the river, allowing the sound of the water rushing over the rocks, and the coolness of the breeze to soothe my troubled thoughts. I wrote the previous post on the way home, feeling relieved and unburdened by five hours in the mountains.


Our new trailer


Australian Shepherd Water Dog


Just a comparison from 2004...Casey Dog and Shy Dog. Think Casey and Taz are related?


Experimenting with exposure - my healing


Ben's healing


Ben gets his fishing dog


Jay. do you know what this is. It's a trumpet shape.

I choose not to be ruled by a number

The Enneagram is a system used to determine personality types, numbers one through nine used to describe each type. According to the Enneagram I'm a number four, although I have not extensively researched this conclusion. It's somewhat similar to Hippocrates four temperaments, sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic. According to Wikipedia "he mapped them to a matrix of hot/cold and dry/wet taken from the four elements. There could also be a balance between the qualities, yielding a total of nine temperaments."
It may be a different system, but the conclusion is the same. We are ruled by our personality types.
As for fours, they are said to be prone to envy.
I can flip from gratitude to envy in the time it takes me to open Facebook and scan the triumphs of friends from the east coast to the west coast.
As quickly as I can say, "thank you, God, for all my blessings," I can deescalate into sorrow that I'm not on a multi-generational family camping trip at a pristine lake in the Rockies depicted in photos on Facebook, holding a grandbaby (the one that gets me the quickest), or on a trip to the Caribbean (my cousins). I just know I'm going to get to see photos of their trip!
Facebook is about family and friends and photos and all the good things, but also some not so good. A friend posted a photo of his beloved wife who drowned in the Wenatchee River three years ago today. He is blessed with a daughter and one granddaughter who his wife will never see. How dare I succumb to envy for the things I don't have in the face of that.
There's no sense in it, unless I'm truly living up to my personality type.
But given my belief that we can all change, I refuse to be ruled by the dark side of my personality.
Envy will ruin a good day faster than a flashflood and I choose not to be ruled by a number.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden update.



Jasara came for dinner last week. Everything we ate was from the garden except for the beer and salmon.




Eight pound cabbage

A little perspective.


Martha in the garden taken from Sue's cell phone.
Tomatoes almost ripe. Cantaloupe are the size of baseballs. Cucumbers the size of ... I don't know. Just not big enough. Yellow squash is prolific, but zuchini isn't doing that well. Beans are flowering, kale is growing as always. Will plant for fall in August.

Doors

I stand watching as she walks slowly to the car with her walker, inching closer and closer to the car, reaching out tentatively to grasp the edge of the door, pushing the walker aside as she still holds it for balance, takes my hand or arm, inches her way closer to the car door, reaches slowly for the handle above the window. 
I guide her hand to the handle, she grasps my arm for balance, shifting her weight slowly, slowly, then finally she’s in position to ease herself into the seat. I stand at her back to brace her and then gently shove her so that she is centered on the seat. I hand her purse to her, and reach in and put the seatbelt around her, shut the door, and put her walker in the back of the car.
I get in the car, adjust the visor so that she can control it when the sun hits her. I take off. We get to the physical therapist’s office. I make sure that we are not too close to the curb. I get out, get the walker, bring it around to the door, open the door. She begins to get out. First the feet, then the legs, slowly extending, then pushing against the seat, pulling on the side of the doorframe, then reaching for the grip on the door to pull her. Or, she grabs my extended hand and I pull with all my might, hoisting, pulling, until she is on her feet, still, on her feet, after all these years. 
She grabs for the walker, and slowly she walks toward the doors. First one door. A heavy door that I hold while she enters. 
But then another door that I have to hold open while holding the first door open so it doesn’t hit her as it closes. She’s not aware that I need a place to stand while holding both doors. The walker runs against my toe. I move it out of the way, reaching to extend my arms at the same time. Good thing I'm flexible.
She’s in. Now to find the restroom. Oh, it’s through that electric powered door and then through the door on the right.
Hold the door so that it doesn’t come back and whack her as it almost did once when she powered it herself but couldn’t get out of the way as it opened toward her. I had to run, grab her, the walker, and the door. That won't happen again.
To the bathroom. Hold the door while she gets herself and the walker into the bathroom. Door shut. She’s on her own. But I lurk by the door, waiting to hear if she needs help. Ten minutes. Mom, are you okay. I’m fine.
Sometimes I think that she has died in the bathroom. It's a terrible thought, but one that occurs when it's silent for so long.
I open the door. She’s fine. She’s washing her hands. Mom, the soap is off. Amy is waiting for you.
The physical therapist gets her adjusted on the bed where she will do ultrasound on mom’s bone spurs on the bottom of her feet.
I have to go to the bathroom, she says. You know that at this age my plumbing isn’t what it used to be.
Mom, you’re just anxious. You just went and you went before we left. Please hold on, because if you have to get up then Amy has to start all over again.
Smiles.
I think, just you wait, Martha. When someone tells you that you really don’t have to go to the bathroom when you really do have to go. Now.
Mom, please just hold on. She’s almost done. Then you can go to the restroom.
Okay, Sybil, I’m done. You’re all set.
I’m not coming back again. What does this ultrasound do anyway?
Remember mom, when she did it before? She made your bone spurs go away.
And besides, you might live to be 102 (which is actually just around the corner) or, Amy says, 107.
Noooo, don’t say that.
We just want you to be able to walk no matter how old you are.
Back on go the support hose, then the shoes, then turning her slowly so she can right herself. She’s up. Now she’s headed toward the bathroom.
I open the door for her. She's in. Then I wait. Ten minutes. Mom, are you okay?
Yes.
Back to the elevator door. I push the button, the doors open. She walks in. We stand there. And stand there. I finally say, oh, I guess I need to push the button so we can move. I’m tired. And I'm not 101.
Down the stairs, out one door. Out another door. Mom, wait here while I get the car. But stand here so you are out of the way of the doors. I do not want to return to find her whacked out on the floor by an out of control electric door.
I run get the car. Pull it up in front. Go to the door. She’s on her way out. Slowly walking to the car. The sun is beating down on both of us. It’s 98 in the shade. It’s okay. We can do this. My foot hurts. Slowly, finally, she’s at the curb. Holding on to the door, then reaching for the handle, then … she’s in. The walker in the back. I take off.
We’re at her place. Out of the car. Same routine. I park. By the time I park she’s going in the front doors. The electric door closes behind her almost hitting her in the back. I cringe and tell myself I should have gotten her in the door before I parked.
Okay. In her apartment. She heads for the bathroom.
Mom, I’m going now. I’ve got to go.
Okay, honey, I love you. Thank you so much.
I love you, too.
I close the door behind me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday used to be one of two days I visited mom. Thursdays were appointment days. I would leave work early and take her to get her hair done, to doctors appointments and to the store. This was after she quit driving. After I stopped working I started going mid-week three to four times. Weekends belong to me and Ben.

She tells me frequently how much she dislikes Sundays, how lonely and long they are. And I often feel guilt that I'm not there. I'm not sure how it's different than any other day, but it is. I used to feel the same way on Sundays before I married Ben.

Today Ben was working on a bid and I decided to go over, even though I'll be there tomorrow to take her to an appointment. We watched the Mariners and for a change they won. Watching the M's was always something we shared, but then the Mariners started losing and she started watching less and losing interest. But today that spark was back.

We talked about books. I told her I read a book I didn't like because of poor writing and she was animated again. It was fun to see her talk about reading. She said, "Now, all I read is trash. It's just escape reading for the story." I empathized.

I set up her fan because her apartment gets stuffy and the a.c. blows on her. Ben will see what he can do to fix that.

I cleaned the counter, set out her vitamins, picked up a bit. And even did some stretching on her floor.

It was one of those days I found joy in caring for her, being with her, talking to her. I thought how lucky I am that she is still here, so viable, and so present. How many people have a 101-year-old in their life who can still contribute? Some people, but not many.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I could be silenced

There are days I find joy in giving to my mother, running her errands, cleaning, paying bills, ministering to her.
Other days, not so much.

Some days I feel resentment.
But resentment debilitates, undermines, subjugates.
I guard my heart.

Some days I think of Evan Mettie, a young man like many, severely injured by an I.E.D. in Iraq.
He lives in a bed in an extension to his parent's home. He will be there until his parents are gone.
They are fortunate they were able to bring him home.
But for the rest of their lives they live with the reality that their son is disabled, unable to fulfill their early hopes for him.

I think of spouses whose partner is ill.
Parents with young children with cancer or cerebral palsy.

It's humbling.

I could believe my story is meaningless.

I could be silenced.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peace in the moment

That's all we have.
I realized tonight that as I started writing in earnest, I stopped breathing.
Reliving the past is hard, but necessary when you decide to write a book.
To stay healthy and inspired I will have to remember that breathing is prerequisite.

I took mom her new support hose today, along with her sweater that had been in the backseat of the car.
It was soaked with three cubes of butter I had left in the car in the heat.
I washed the sweater and it was okay.
I told Ben and he was remarkably restrained.
Perhaps because the dog ate two of his bluetooth earpieces that he left lying around.
A strange disquiet, an inexplicable exhaustion has overcome me.
I want to escape.
I want to go back to Nova Scotia and redo our trip last year, but this time stay longer,
lingering along seaside ports, unworried and unhurried, unharrassed by concerns at home.
Is that ever possible?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peace in the passing

For years I've thought about writing mom's story. Not just her story, but a collective story. Her life impacting my life, my life impacting her. The lives of others.

For more than ten years I've made journal entries on the computer and for the past 18 months I've written on this blog about what this journey with her has been like. But I hadn't yet made the decision to actually write a book. It was just something I talked about, rather than actually did.

Instead, I embarked on another writing adventure, one that involved telling the stories of the people of the Lower Yakima Valley, a place where five distinct cultures met and coexisted for generations. Yakama Indian, Japanese, Filipino, European, and later on, Hispanic, comprise the population of Wapato, Toppenish, White Swan and Harrah. But Wapato was the primary focus of my venture.

I had cards printed as a calling card, different images of the valley on each card.  I interviewed people. I met a Japanese man who suggested I write a fiction piece, using it to tell the Japanese story in the valley. He even had a book title. 

I got side-tracked from my original vision,. As compelling as the Japanese history is, it's not the story I set out to tell.

Backing off a bit, I realized that I had lost my way. I wanted to return to my original, theme of Faces of the Valley inclusive of all cultures, but narrowing the focus to women: Five Women, Five Cultures. Shaping a Valley. Talk about stories!

But then, in the quiet of my thoughts one evening, I knew. First I wanted to write a personal story, the one already in my head. It's not really my mother's story, because it's told from my perspective. But I have recordings of her telling her story that I will use.   The rest will be my story, my experience with my mother, and the story of others who have been a caretaker to an aging parent. 

The gift of the story, fiction or non-fiction, is to impact another person's life. My goal is to help others understand guilt before it descends, set boundaries before they are broken, and still live their lives in the midst of caretaking another life. It is a story of loss, healing and forgiveness. 

It is a practical story, designed to help others navigate the life of a caretaker: the hiring and firing and supervising caregivers, advocating for a loved one in medical settings, learning to take charge without appearing to take charge when they are in danger, but not wanting to lose their independence, the role of compassion and patience in the face of changing roles and watching a parent become someone you barely recognize. These are just a few of the topics.

I've worked on this project for a very long time, mainly because I have lived the project, but it feels like I'm just starting. It fills my mind night and day; themes and topics and events and conversations and feelings occupy much of my thinking, whether I'm actually writing, watering the yard, talking to Ben, walking the dog, and especially when I see mom and a myriad of emotions surface, each and every time.

I talked to a woman this weekend who had her dad living with the family the last three years of his life. He had cancer and after living in a garage apartment next to the house for a few years so that he could still be independent, but she was there to check on him. One day she and he realized that he could no longer take care of himself.  She moved him into the living room, where he eventually died. Her husband and two teenagers also lived in the home, although one daughter went to college when the grandfather had moved into the living room.

Her father has been gone two months. She said she hasn't cried since the funeral. She has peace. She said someone once remarked that she looked sad in a photograph of her while her father was still living.

"Now," she says,"I just feel relief. I feel happy, like I no longer look sad. My brothers, who weren't around that much, are having a harder time."

I want that peace when mom is gone. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Growing old is not for sissys

Mom got sick last night and had an unfortunate accident in her bed. Sandy, the manager, went down at 3:30 a.m. and changed the bed and her clothes. When I went over this morning, I suggested that she might start wearing Depends underwear to bed at night, just to avoid these types of accidents in the future.

Of course, she resisted. First, it was embarrassing to have an accident. But I am practical. If she has accidents (this is the second) she will end up having to move. I don't want her to have to move, so I am suggesting something that will keep her safe and more comfortable.

She said, "That would be a mess." 

No, mom, not as much of a mess as having the manager come at 3:30 a.m. to change the bed. That is not in the job description, although they are exceedingly gracious and kind to mom.

In that moment, I realized for the thousandth time how bone tired I am of hearing no. Of going through her sicknesses and her neediness but not having the cooperation. But friend Ted once told me, "That is what you will miss the most, being needed." I know that. I also know I'll miss her knowing pats on my knee, her concern for me, even when I get impatient at her concern, her loving kindnesses, her grit and tenacity, my mom. 

But just once, I said, I'd like to hear, "That sounds like a good idea."

Through the last decade I’ve been confronted time and again with the nos, the resistance, the not wanting to let go of her independence, the not wanting caregivers, the not wanting the cane, not wanting what will make it easier for me, but always wanting what is easier for her.

I get it. That is what has resulted in her being 101.

But it's certainly no fun. It's hard work being this old, and as she has said many times, growing old is not for sissys.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Contentment

This morning I ate a breakfast of lightly sauteed carrots, onions, beets, zucchini and basil. Maybe a weird breakfast, but last night we ate a delicious feast prepared by friend Paul that had my tummy not happy in the night. (Sorry, Paul, but I'm a lightweight when it comes to rich food--but it was a wonderful meal.) So, my vegetable breakfast that came directly from the garden into the pan was supposed to help my tummy settle down.

Ben and I went out this morning and worked for awhile in the garden before it got hot. I gave the tomato plants a haircut...like a wheelbarrow load of cuttings. Ben cut the wire cages out from inside the new wood cages he built.  We have green tomatoes, finally. They'll be ripe soon. We have seven tomato plants, but two don't have flowers. They are the ones who aren't in the direct sun.

A sunflower finally bloomed, the sweet peas are lovely and remind me of my grandmother. I located the sugar snap peas...a small section I had forgotten I planted. I will dry some and plant a fall crop in August.

Pulled up the spinach that had gone to seed. Ben will add more drippers and I'll plant carrots or beets...something good that will last. My gardening partner doesn't like beets, but husband Norm does. I like them sauteed with onion, the way Norm prepares them.

We've been eating potatoes...just digging them up and eating. They are small, but tasty, right out of the bed.

The onions are the talk of the town. Walla Wallas the size of softballs. The smaller white onions are great for sauteeing, like I did this morning.

Carrot thinnings are succulent, as are the leeks. Peas are about done, but harvested a bag full yesterday that I will freeze for soups.

Cantaloupe have bloomed. Hope for similar to last year.

Zucchini is small, partly because the plants are crowded. I pulled one out this morning to make more room. The yellow squash is okay, but they seem to shrivel on the vine. Had two last night, however.

Sunflower

Bachelor button

Walla Walla onions

Sweet Pea

Friday, July 16, 2010

The miracle of friendship

Old friends, Michael and Mary Wilson, arrived unexpectedly from Moab, Utah, on their way to sea kayak in Alaska the night before Donald, Nga and Tai left Wednesday morning.

I had written Michael and Mary a letter six months or so ago and sent them photos I took of them and their children in 1978 in Park City, Utah, where we were good friends nearly 40 years ago. I met them in 1971 when Michael and I were on ski school together. They taught me Transcendental Meditation. I left Utah in 1973, but would return over the next couple of years and always stay with them when I did. They were people precious to me, but life intervened in a multitude of ways.

For two years after my divorce I traveled from Park City, to Sun Valley, Idaho, then to the Olympic Peninsula, down to California and then back again. I would work six weeks in Park City, stay with Michael and Mary, and then head off again.

Eventually I spun off my circular route and went to Maharishi International University, or MIU, in Fairfield, Iowa, to become more involved with the TM movement. I was seeking something "more," but wonder if I couldn't have found that more in Park City, the way they did. But as we agreed, it appeared that wasn't my life path.

Eventually I returned to California and visited them again in 1978, when I took the photos. I never saw them or talked to them again after that, until this week, 32 years later, with many lifetimes and experiences in between.

When they drove up the driveway I was in awe that they were actually here. They had called on their way through to catch the plane in Seattle, allowing for a day to spend with us, but not really knowing how it would turn out. After all, we hadn't talked in all these years. Mary said she had my address information in her address book and that's when they decided to see if it would work. They arrived to much fanfare, ate dinner with mom, Donald, Nga, and Tai.

We decided we would go camping at Sawmill Flats, up Chinook Pass on Wednesday after Donald left.  Thursday afternoon they headed over the pass, enjoying their first sight of Mt. Rainier on the way to Seattle.

While camping we began to catch up on the intervening 30 years, although their first night on the patio we did the "nut shell." I quipped, "Yeah, a nut in a shell." Mary told me that she had thought I would be in their life always...and now we had 30 more years to catch up.

The guys fly fished and Mary and I talked some more. We ate tuna Michael caught in Mexico, along with the vegis from the garden that Mary weeded for me for two hours while I got the trailer ready. We drank wine and talked and laughed.

It was a rare experience. It's not often that someone from so long ago can show up and instantly feel the camaraderie. I enjoyed them as much or more than I ever did. Loving them. I felt the familiarity, their spirit, their personality, so much like it was then, unchanging, even though all around us had changed.

I saw in them the young people I once knew and loved, now with a few more aches and pains and health issues and parents dying and kids getting raised, and their grandchildren born. They have traveled the world extensively. Mary has traveled in India several times, they have hiked around MountBlanc in France, spent another month in France, traveled to Bali, Nepal, Italy, Greece, Mexico and other places. It is hard for me not to envy, but we all get something different. They earned it and have been blessed by it.

Now it is time, Mary says, for her to stay at home for awhile, at the oasis they created in Moab on a piece of property fed by a spring, allowing them to create ponds and gardens.

As they prepared to leave yesterday Mary was walking to their camper. She turned and said, "This was incredible." Considering all the incredible experiences she has surely had, that spoke volumes. And I agreed. I can't wait to see them again.


The sweet with the sweet

It was a week of sweetness with nephew Donald, his wife, Nga, and daughter, Tai.

Tai is four and delights us all with her charm, humor, intelligence, flexibility, playfulness, creativity and curiosity. They come to visit GG, or great grandmother. I realize that Ben and I are loved and they enjoy visiting with us. But the highlight of their visit is GG. I saw that Donald was sad when they had to leave her.

Each visit for many years has carried with it the knowledge that it could be the last time they see her.
But that is the way with all of us and mom has defied the odds many times over. Tai was just a baby when they first came, thinking then that it would be the only visit.

I'm always sad when they leave, leaving the house empty of Tai's enthusiasm, Nga's quiet humor and love of family (not to mention her fabulous cooking), and Donald's love of life, his intellect and curiosity.