Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Haven’t posted for a while for several reasons.  I made a fast trip to the UK in mid-March to spend a week staying with my niece, Margaret, and her family and from their spending days at the bedside of my dying brother.  Diagnosed with brain cancer just before Xmas, ’08, I visited him in Australia last spring. He returned to the UK just before Xmas, ’09, so as to spend his last weeks closer to “home.”

Also, a fall on some icy steps in mid-February left a colleague with a nasty concussion from which she is making a very slow recuperation. I picked up some work related projects while she has been out.  And pray for her full recovery.  Be thankful for each day – you never know when it might be your last, or at least the last of being the “you” that you now are.

And, piano has become a borderline obsession.  In fact the whole subject of music has grabbed my interest in a way that I would never have dreamed.  The morning routine has now settled in to accommodate this passion and secure its hold on my day, whether or not  a work day (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and half of Thursdays.) Upon rising, there’s the immediate sit in the hot tub communing with my mountain (Mt. Juneau) and spruce trees (not to mention the heron roosting in its branches above the tub) followed by a sit in the living room with Bill, coffee, a few poems, and the newspaper. Then a bit of stretching, make the bed, get dressed, and head for the piano.  Daily practice is expanding its grip – and introducing to my life a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure at the (sometimes noticeable) progress.


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Great email from cyberspace this morning.

Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure.

Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’

The daughter replied, ‘Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.’

They kissed and the daughter left.  The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry.  I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’

‘Yes, I have,’ I replied.  ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?’

‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ he said.

‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’

He began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone…’ He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we wanted the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

  • I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
  • I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
  • I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
  • I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
  • I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
  • I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
  • I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

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Can’t believe it’s a month since I last posted.  Time flies, life flies. I’m 70 years old – how much longer do I have?  And how long for Bill?  No way to answer that question except to remember to live and enjoy each moment.  Which means adjusting the old attitude when I don’t like something or what’s happening.  A great skill – learning to notice the old attitude and then shake it into shape as needed.  Story on the Internet triggered this line of thought – Go read it. Boiled down, it’s about a 72-year old longitudinal study of 268 Harvard sophomores that shows three ingredients for a happy life:

  1. Make an outlet for your fears and struggles – join a team, help others, laugh, lighten up.
  2. Be humble, remember you’re no more special than anyone else.
  3. Share yourself with others, give hugs and tell people you love ’em.

Not a bad way to begin the day….

So, on a scale of 1 to 10 I’d say I’m up around 8.  But I still have work to do.  We’ve had three weeks of visitors, and some delicious weather.  Little League has been wonderful.  I’m finally “getting” how to practice effectively at the piano. (Make a note, Pat, need to write about that.)  I’m slowly releasing the stiff and sore from the Australia trip – thanks to that pain I am learning about the Feldenkrais method of body awareness and muscle control. (Make another note…) Jasper is taking sailing lessons – puts me right back in the armchair of wannabe’ness before we went cruising on Callipygia. I took some video of his class yesterday, maybe I’ll make a movie of it. But I’m kind of aimless. I need more structure to my time. So I’ve started looking for a part-time job.  With more to do I should do a better job of fitting the day’s pieces together.

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It will come as no surprise that after 7 weeks away from home, and 2 more to go, that I’m homesick:  for Bill, for our sweet little house, for our dear ones/dogs in the purple house, for Juneau generally, for the mountains and sea, and most of all (after Bill) for my own comfy back-supporting bed.  I’ve been “sleeping” on a variety of mattresses, some of the back-breaking type.  And, guess what?  My back is killing me.  2 trips to a nearby chiropractor have taught me that the tools and techniques used in Australia are new to me –  and interesting.  Whether more effective or not remains to be seen.

Regardless, I’m glad I’m spending this time with my brother and Rae.  All things considered he’s doing quite well facing probable death from brain cancer in the not too far off future.  For now he functions pretty well and – as people do when they get older or sicker – he’s being more of what he was before.  Introverted, often inaccessible, and sometimes amazingly like our father.  He writes often, and has begun a blog. One can only imagine what it would be like to face one’s own imminent extinction, let alone how someone else would experience it. We’re born alone and we die alone, and at both life-markers we need help.  And we each approach these end-points differently. For me, now, the task is simply to be here and available to Sandy as/if/when he chooses. To walk the dog, run errands, cook, wash dishes.  Rae has taken the opportunity of my visit to fly to NZ for 10 days to see her 96-yr old mother, giving her a break from home and its constant worries.  Not easy to be sandwiched been a failing mother and a failing partner.

My brother and Rae live a somewhat reclusive life, so I’m a bit short of social contact – with Rae gone, I’m especially enjoying time with Sara the little dog, a perennial happy treat.  My daily phone contact with Bill is likewise an important anchor

Since I’ve been in Lara, we’ve made 2 weekend trips to the southern Victoria coast (more later,  thoroughly enjoyable) and I made a solitary 2-day trip to explore Melbourne, a fascinating city (again, more later.)

Myy brother has been the custodian of our family history, so I’m spending a lot of time scanning/digitizing old photos, letters, documents, and downloading the genealogical data from his head – being 3 1/2 years older than I plus remembering more from his childhood, he has more information on that topic than I do.  Emersing in our family history has become  fascinating, and for the first time (I think) I’m relating to my forebears as real people.  The family energy field is alive and well and I’m happy to have the opportunity to document it in some interesting way – once I’ve collected everything in one place.

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From Australia

The trip to “down under” was  uneventful – we arrived in Seattle on Tuesday morning and ascertained that all flights to Juneau before Bill’s scheduled one in the evening were overbooked.  Perhaps a fall-out of the continuing Mt. Redoubt eruptions which are keeping Anchorage airport on tenter hooks due to ash. I had previously booked an airport hotel so Bill came with me to eat lunch and hang out (ie take a nap) until it was time for his flight.  When awake, we entertained ourselves watching news coverage of the G20 meeting in London.  Amazed at how the Obamas towered over the Queen and Prince Philip –  I once thought he (Philip that is) was tall.

Wednesday, I veg’d out in my hotel room until time to go to the airport early afternoon. Three legs on this flight (changes in San Francisco and Sydney, then Melbourne.)  The long one (14 hours) across the Pacific was often bumpy but otherwise uneventful – broken up by short catnaps, a movie, some reading, and 3 servings of uniformly ghastly food.  A thunderstorm broke over Melbourne soon after arrival as I found my way to the Skybus which took me to Southern Cross Railway Station and my vLine train to Lara.  Sandy and Rae met me in Lara and brought me to my home-away-from-home for the next 6 weeks.

While missing Bill and Juneau, I’m glad I’m here to for support as Sandy begins radiation treatment. I’m suffering a bit of culture shock, but no doubt that will pass after a while.  The weather is colder and wetter (I got soaked twice yesterday) than I anticipated, the birds are phenomenal, and little Sara (Australian terrier) is a sweetheart.

Meanwhile, on the home front, I catch up with Bill on a daily Skype conversation and find out wots ‘appenin in Alaska via email and on the Internet.

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In my young adulthood, my primary job was to care for my spouse and children.  Then, as time became available, my work was to express care for my community in volunteer and civic activities. Later, during my professional career I did work that I saw as benefitting groups of disadvantaged people and to improve governmental capacity to function for the common good.  In old age my job seems to be to care for those about me who suffer ill health.

I’m motivated to write about this because on Tuesday we spent much of the day with Martha, going to and from and sitting with her in the Emergency Room as a result of some previously undiagnosed cardiac issues. (She’s OK now.)

And further, a couple of weeks ago I began doing some coordination of the support network for my high-school friend, Marian, who had cancer. I had barely begun to address that work when she died, but in the course of that process I discovered Lots of Helping Hands.  It’s an Internet tool for creating free, private, web-based communities to organize family, friends, neighbors, and others during times of need.

Perhaps we’ll use this mechanism to coordinate support for my brother during his illness. If we do, I’ll review it in a later post. In the meantime I’m preparing myself to travel to Australia when we leave DC on Tuesday.  I’m impressed with the way my brother, Sandy,  is responding to his situation and am looking forward to quality time with him, with Rae, and with their dog Sara.

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Flickr Photos

Now you can see links to many of our  Alaska photos in the Photographs tab of this blog.  It’s a bit tedious to upload all of these, but Flickr is a lot more informative and fun for those interested in watching fast slide shows on topics of their choice.

So far a bit more than 1,000 of the 15,000 photos in my collection have been uploaded.  A usefully numbing way to spend some discombobulating hours suppressing the emotions erupting from recent and chronologically-compressed life-events:

  • Marian’s death,
  • my brother’s brain cancer,
  • traveling across 4 time zones,
  • my daughter’s wedding, and
  • house-sitting in densely-developed traffic-embroiled Northern Virgina with a teen-aged grand-daughter that we don’t know very well.

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