Sunday, October 31, 2010

Addition to Last Week

Saturday -- Perry and Noelle invited Mom over to have dinner with some visiting missionaries from Italy. And she said yes! She had a lovely time and when she was ready to go home, she wanted to walk. So Perry walked my mom home. Very sweet.

Halloween Compromise

When I was a kid, my parents let us go trick or treating. I remember traipsing around the neighborhood collecting candy. The year that stands out in my mind, Loren had a skeleton costume and I was a princess.

Now that I'm grown and have my own kids, my parents turn out all their lights and hide in the back bedroom on Halloween. I don't know when they started this "tradition", I just can't remember a time in recent history that they ever turned on the porch light and handed out candy to neighborhood kids.

In contrast to my upbringing, we have never let our kids go out trick or treating. We just didn't feel comfortable with it for our family. We've always turned on our porch light, and passed out candy and little gospel tracts. We figured it was a good time to talk to our neighbors and spread a little light in the darkness.

I really didn't like the idea of my mom hiding at her home this year, alone in the dark on Halloween. So, we invited her and her friend Jan to go to the movies with us. They said yes! Mom wanted to drive, but we cajoled her into letting us pick her and Jan up instead. We saw Secretariat and it was great. Then we dropped the girls back off at their homes, safe and sound. A good Halloween compromise.

If you have the chance to take some octogenarians to the movies, I highly recommend it. They are a hoot!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week in Review

Monday -- Meg and Grandma did not get to watch their movie. :( Turns out the movie times change on Fridays and we didn't check back. Disappointing.

Tuesday -- Karis took Grandma out for lunch. I suspected they would go to Panera. Karis said Mom got in the truck with a Chipotle coupon in hand. But then as they set out, Mom told Karis she wanted to go to Sonic instead. She said things like, "Sonic is close; let's go there. I've never been there. I want to try their onion rings." I don't know if she was scared of Karis' driving or if she really wanted to go to Sonic. They both had Chili Cheese Wraps and Mom got her onion rings. :)

Thursday -- I invited Mom to come to Ev's Christian Heritage Program on Friday, and she said yes! And, "I hope I don't oversleep." I offered to give her a wake up call.

Friday -- Karis called Mom on our way to school on my cell phone.

Mom: Gwen!

Karis: Hi Grandma. It's Karis.

Mom: I'm up!

Karis: Well, stay up!

And she came! Mom listened to Ev's choir sing and then she listened to Ev give her talk about Betty Greene.

While Mom was at school, one of her friends asked her if she was coming to the church fellowship night. Mom agreed to come, but refused a ride. I asked her how she was going to get there, and she pantomimed driving. At night? Yup.

And she did! I was at the church to pick Meg up (she painted the youth room), and saw Mom having dinner with her friends. I love it.

All Things Together For Good

Subtitle: A Really Ding-y Girl and A Really Great God

This week when we heard the details for Aunt Helen's service, I hopped on the internet to make plane reservations for Mom and me. Mom wanted to fly in Friday morning and back home Saturday, so I was pleased to find a flight that left town at a reasonable hour, but got us into KC before noon. I clicked, I booked, I printed. The tickets were about $500 each, but what can you do? Sometimes you just pay what you have to pay and go on.

I showed Dave our itinerary when he got home. He said, "Uh, Babe. You've got a problem." Those Friday morning times were actually Friday evening times. Ack!

So that's the Ding-y Girl part.

I immediately got back on the internet to see what I could do to correct my incredibly stupid mistake. I tried to call Expedia, but got a message that they were too busy and to call back another time. I sent a desperate e-mail. I called again the next morning, and got the same message. I called again around noon, got the same message, and decided to try to get through.

Here comes the Really Great God part.

Within seconds, I was speaking to a representative. She most helpfully cancelled my reservations, then booked us on a flight that actually arrived before the graveside service.

With no penalty fees.

At half the cost of the original flight.


Monday, October 25, 2010


What do you think? Which one looks the most "Aunt Helen"?

Okay, I've decided to order #2 to be from Gayle, Ruth and Bill and their families. I'll order #4 from me and my family. Loren and his family are doing their own thing. And Mom is going to plant peonies for her dear sister.

Here We Go

Cousin Marsha let me know this afternoon. Aunt Helen's graveside service, at the graveyard of her childhood church, is scheduled for 3:00, Friday, November 5. There will be a reception following in the community center of the little nearby town. It is a town I remember from my childhood, where my grandpa had an old victorian house with creaky floors, steep stairs and a working hand water pump out back.

Mom and I will fly to Kansas City Friday morning. Bill and Cathy will pick us up at the airport and drive us out to the cemetery, a couple of hours away. We'll spend the night at their place, then fly back home Saturday. Mom did not want to have an extended stay. And we do what mama wants.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Sister Ruth called this afternoon to tell me that her husband Rich had spoken with Cousin Marsha. She said Marsha was talking about having Aunt Helen's graveside and reception on November 5th or 6th. I asked if that weekend was definite and Ruth said...


Wull, okay.

At least I'm pretty sure we can have Ev's birthday party this weekend.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We haven't heard yet when Aunt Helen's service will be. We know it will be a graveside at their childhood church cemetary in Kansas, but cannot make flight plans until we know the date.

Mom, however, is making plans of her own. She and a friend are going to see Secretariet on Monday afternoon. The friend is very similar in age to Mom. In fact, I asked her:

Gwen: Who drives when you and Jan go out together?

Mom: I always offer before she gets the chance. Her driving scares me!

Another clever part to this plan is, Mom has asked Meg to come with them. Her friend Jan thought having a younger person along might help them navigate the theatre a little better. I think it is a brilliant idea. Meg asked if she could also bring a friend. (I said yes.) Mom asked if she should pay for the girls' tickets. (I said yes.)

So, Monday afternoon, Meg and Maryanne are meeting Mom and Jan at the movies. Fun!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Goodbye

Mom called late this morning to say that when she returned home from Ladies' Bible Study, she had a message from my cousin Marsha. Mom's dear sister, my Aunt Helen, passed away peacefully this morning around 7:45. She was at home with both of her daughters. Mom said Aunt Helen opened her eyes, looked at her girls, then was gone.

I know it is good for Aunt Helen. She is whole, no longer confused or infirm, and reunited with her husband Ed. I'll bet she is sitting on the front porch, visiting with Mama.

But again, I'm surprised by sorrow. Even when it is welcome, even overdue, death is so sad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My cousin Jim came to visit Mom a couple of weekends ago. He is Dad's sister's son, and the impression I get is that Jim looks to my Mom and Dad as sort of parental figures in his life. I was corresponding with him about some family history he was interested in, and he let fly with this tidbit:

I enjoyed seeing your Mom and told her if somehow this drags on for a long time I'll come back to see her. I also discussed driving with her. She said you won't let her take your kids in the car with her any more and we talked about when she should stop driving. I told her that the legacy of injuring someone (or worse) would be a bad way to leave this world and perhaps she should consider giving her car to the kids and just having a cab pick her up for her errands and trips to the store. She thought that would work and said she'd talk to you about it.

It should come as no surprise that Mom has not breathed a word of this to me. If we don't talk about it, it isn't real, right?

I'm not quite sure what to do with this information. I really wasn't planning to tackle this issue. Mom hasn't driven my kids since she was diagnosed with TIAs some years ago. I just never thought periodic mini-strokes made for safe driving. Giving up driving would definitely cramp Mom's style. She relishes her freedom to run errands, grocery shop, attend two Bible studies and church, etc. She even drove herself out to our house for my birthday dinner.

Am I up for this fight? Is it necessary? Is it worth it? I dunno.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Handshake Deal

On Monday, Mom and I had lunch together at Panera's. I invited her, but she treated me to a bowl of delicious soup and a nice time of conversation. We caught up, Mom had some questions about mail, we talked about her steady stream of weekend visitors.

Last Tuesday when I had her captive on the way to the banquet, I had broached the subject of my family moving in with her when she needs 24 hour care. I knew she would need time to reject it outright, then mull it over, and maybe reconsider. She actually brought it up herself in the course of our conversation Monday.

Mom: Now, about the idea of your family moving in with me. Only when I am bedfast!

Gwen: Oh, that is the only way. We would only move in when you need constant care, Mom. Not a minute before. We want you to be independent until you just can't anymore.

Mom: (General agreement.)

Then, Mom actually stuck her hand out across the table so we could shake on it! What a hoot.

Parting Cruise Shot

(Sister Gayle on our balcony, embracing the wild.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Aunt Helen Update

I heard from Cousin Marsha today. She said that Mom's sister Helen is at home in a hospital bed, eating and drinking very little. Aunt Helen still recognizes Marsha and her sister Barbie, but they think her time is very close. It is hard to see a generation go. As Loren said, it's the end of an era.

In my mind, I see Dad keeping his bachelor pad together, getting ready for Mom's arrival soon. And next door is a sweet little cottage with Uncle Ed, waiting for Aunt Helen. It will be a great reunion all around.


Friday morning, a week after we had boarded, we had our last lovely breakfast together onboard and said goodbye to our beautiful boat. We caught a crazy taxi ride (nothing like wrong way up a one way street to get your blood pumping) to our rental car agency, then Cathy drove us out of Seattle, headed for Yakima. (Once again, Cathy was the travel agent extraordinaire.) It was a scenic drive through a part of the US I've never seen. For that matter, once our plane left Houston a week before, it was all part of the US I'd never seen. Anyway, we arrived in Yakima and spent a little time with my nephew Joel and his family.

Joel is one of our American heroes. We are so thankful for his service. He has a beautiful wife and two sweet kiddoes. I didn't check with them about putting names and details on the world wide web, so I'll just leave it at that. It was a treat to visit with them.

After we visited with Joel and family for a bit, Loren and Carrie arrived to take Mom and me on the next leg of our journey. We hit the road and headed for Loren's new place. Here's the sweetest part: Loren had Carrie drive and me ride shotgun, so that he could sit in the back with his mama. He was ever the attentive son for the whole visit. Unfortunately, there were no cameras associated with this part of our trip, so you will just have to take my word for it that we were there, and it was beautiful. Actually, we all have to take Loren's word for it because most of the sights were masked in cloud cover or mist for most of our visit. I guess that's life in the temperate rainforest, right?

While at Loren's place, we visited Zane at his job and sampled a huckleberry shake, drove through the wildlife refuge up a mountain, and saw geese, turkey, a fox, a badger (and a great closeup of the mountain while Loren looked at the badger while driving), and deer. No moose. No bear. Sorry Mom! We saw the lake we only knew from pictures and lots of pretty countryside.

And we got to visit Mary Jane Butter's Farmgirl Store! It was very inspirational and a little covet-inducing. Carrie, Leah, and I, and even Mom really enjoyed looking at each little thing. I do have to say though that the Farmgirls might be a little over the top in MJB worship. When I pointed out the cute buttons in mason jars around a high shelf, the shop girl oozed, "Those are Mary Jane's own buttons!" Uh, okay. Being at Carrie's very nicely decorated farm house and then at the farmgirl store made me want to come home and, well, punch things up a notch.

And as if a visit to Farmgirl Mecca wasn't enough, I then got to see my brother order at the Pita Pit. Sort of like Subway, but it is pitas, with options like hummus and baba ganoush and guacamole. So we all went through the line, pointing and saying exactly what we wanted on our pitas. Loren came last and ordered a tuna on wheat. "What would you like on that, sir?" "Everything." Mom always did say he was a happy eater. I'm laughing just thinking about it.

All weekend, Carrie stuffed us full of good food, Zane and Leah shared a room to accomodate us, Loren burned into his store of winter wood to keep our southern bones warm, and I guess everybody pretty much catered to our every whim. Mom loved spending time with her youngest boy and seeing his place. She said over and over, "It is so good that we came. It's the perfect end to our trip."

Finally, Monday morning we boarded our plane for the long trip home. The travel went well and some dear friends picked us up at the airport in Houston. It was good to be home. Our minds and hearts are full of shared, once-in-a-lifetime memories.


I got sick. As a dog. On my husband's birthday weekend.

I just hate it when physical weakness keeps me from doing what I want to do! On the plus side for Mom, my brother-in-law Rich and nephew Luke are in town this weekend. At least if Mom had an emergency, she had someone available to help.

Ev ran a fever yesterday, so she and I are recuping at home together this morning. You know a mom is feeling better when...she starts a load of laundry. Hopefully I can put two thoughts together later and wrap up the cruise stories.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guessing Game

Tonight we attended a fundraiser banquet for Dave's dad's ministry. We hosted a table and asked Mom to come as our guest. Dave did the inviting to up the "yes" factor for Mom. Earlier I popped in to visit Mom and look at some mail she had asked about. While I was looking at some books she wanted to show me, we had an interesting conversation.

Mom: I've decided not to go tonight.

Gwen: Really? Why?

Mom: Well, it is at night.

Gwen: Yes, it is. I was planning to pick you up.

Mom: But you are so busy.

Gwen: I'm bringing Karis to work at 5:00. I thought I would just pick you up around 5:15.

Mom: But then you would have to bring me back home.

Gwen: Yes, that's true. I'll be picking Karis up from work at 10:00 anyway. Even if I wasn't, I'd have to come through town to get home. The only way to get straight from the banquet to my house is by boat. [Different sides of the lake.]

Mom: Well, okay. If you would be coming this way anyway.

This obsession with not being a bother is really getting old! It forces me into a guessing game. Does she really not want to come? Or is she just trying to protect me? And from what? Time with her? Argh!

I took advantage of the captive audience time while Mom and I drove out to the banquet. I told Mom that yes, I'm busy. Who isn't??? But the day I get too busy for my kids or my husband or my MOM, something is really wrong! I sure hope I got through.

Mom did say on the drive home that she enjoyed the banquet and was glad she had gone. I guessed right. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Last Day at Sea

We slept in again til almost ten. Mom sat up in bed and announced, "I woke up with a mohawk!"

We had a late breakfast at the buffet, then wandered back to our room. Mom wanted to catch the naturalist lecture at 1:45. As the hour grew closer, we asked Mom if she wanted to eat before the lecture. She said happily, "Lunch??!!" Very Pooh Bear.

The ship docked at Victoria, but the weather was rainy and the only place Mom wanted to visit was closed at night. So we had a last lovely dinner in the formal dining room and then listened to the string quartet (the girls) until midnight. A most satisfying day.

Here we are ready for bed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday

It's my birthday too yeah.

Lest I grow too maudlin about my parents, let me tell you about my birthday. In fact, let me start with last year's birthday.

Dad was in the hospital because his blood pressure kept plummeting. He had not slept well since his first stint in the hospital last August and kept waking throughout the night. He was not quite in his right mind and when he woke up he felt like he needed to go to the bathroom. The trouble was, he still had a catheter. When he felt he needed to pee, he tried to pull out the catheter. So, there I was, standing over my dad in the middle of the night, trying to pull his hands away from his privates, when Dad looked over my shoulder at the clock and saw that it was after midnight. He said, "Oh, happy birthday, honey!" Oh my. That's a birthday wish to remember.

This year, Mom told Gayle that she wanted to be included in our birthday celebrations. Gayle told me and I told Dave and so Mom came over today after church to have lunch with us. Can I just say that direct meaningful conversation is not my family of origin's forte? My kids prepared and served a wonderful meal. Mom and I sat and visited while the preparations were being made.

I took the opportunity to tell her again who is planning to be available when she needs care. (Mom has been forgetting things and she has seemed confused about this, even asking about hiring someone.) Mom took the opportunity to tell me that this set of hand-me-down couches is the nicest we have ever had. "I mean at least they all match", she amended. Then we moved over to the table and she said, "I'm glad to see you've found some dining chairs that hold together." Yikes! Backhanded compliments, anyone?

After a lovely lunch of lasagne, garlic bread and salad, we moved over to the matching couches to open cards and presents. Very fun! But conspicuosly missing a card from my mom.

You know, as I type this out, it sounds really petty. I know Mom is occupied with the hard work of dying. I know life is not all about me. I'm not sure why her comments and lack of card bother me so much. Maybe I'm just being the baby. I guess I'll never stop looking for my parents' approval and longing for their unconditional love.

Meanwhile, Back on the Cruise

After our day at Skagway, we had another sea day. We slept in until 10 in the morning. Mom commented, "It's sad because we're leaving Alaska. It's almost over."

We went for a wonderful brunch buffet in the formal dining room. The serving tables were decorated with ice sculptures, cheese sculptures and fruit sculptures. Mom found her long-desired crab legs. We had shrimp, salad nicoise, little quiches, fresh fruit, sushi, salmon, smoked herring, crepes suzette, our favorite breadsticks, and really, really good hot coffee. We each filled two plates and then shared a plate of dessert fondue.

We stayed until the buffet closed down at 1:00, then Mom and I had a nap. I took claritin and advil and meclazine to deal with allergies and headache and a little seasickiness. Mom took only her regular meds. Everyday she would slip some rolls and bananas into her ever-present tote to have with her afternoon meds.

Before dinner, we went to hear On Tap's (the boys) last concert. They sang a lovely version of Billy Joel's Lullaby. The day before, I read this John Muir quote in a book in Skagway: Death is a kind nurse saying, "Come, children, to bed and get up in the morning", a gracious mother calling her children home. Listening to this beautiful, tender song brought me to tears as I thought about Mom's approaching night. Incredibly, that was the only time during our cruise that I felt the shadow of death.

Mom and I went to bed right after dinner. Gayle and Cathy went bar hopping. :)

Note: The boys are a little off key in the youtube clip. (It's from 2008.) They were spot on in concert. You can youtube the Billy Joel version if you can't get past the pitchiness.

Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes,
And save these questions for another day.
I think I know what you've been asking me,
I think you know what I've been trying to say.
I promised I would never leave you,
And you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away.

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to sleep,
And still so many things I want to say.
Remember all the songs you sang for me,
When we went sailing on an emerald bay.
And like a boat out on the ocean,
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark and deep, inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me.

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream,
And dream how wonderful your life will be.
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby,
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabys go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reality Check

Mom passed blood in her stool this week. She is having so much diarrhea that her skin is raw and her hospice nurse brought by a prescription cream. She told her hospice nurse and she told me. I am proud of her for telling and thankful she is willing to share information. I'm so sorry for her symptoms to be intensifying. The immediate future is a scary place right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


My dear sister in law Cathy was not only the researcher, planner, and facilitator of our Alaskan cruise; she was also our photographer. She and my dear brother Bill sent a cd of pictures from the trip. I'm going back to put some in previous posts and will put up more. Thank you Cathy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"It's a Gift"

Did I mention the weather?

All the way to Alaska and back, the weather looked like this.

Our entire time in Alaska, the weather looked like this.

(Isn't our ship pretty?)

The locals kept exclaiming about the weather. One guy said, "I don't know why it is like this. It's usually raining sideways this time of year." We would just smile and say, "It's a gift from God for our mother."

Monday, October 4, 2010


Tuesday morning dawned sunny and warm on us in Skagway. We all went up the mountain on the White Pass narrow gauge train. We learned about the crazy history of the area and took in a lot of gorgeous scenery. After the train ride, Mom and Gayle went back to the ship for lunch and a nap. Cathy and I shopped in the quaint town. We asked at the chamber of commerce for locally-owned shops with locally-made merchandise and found some we really liked.

Cathy and I headed back to the ship for lunch and returned to town with Gayle and Mom in tow. We stopped by a little museum and the ranger station. At the ranger station, we enjoyed an unintentionally hilarious video about dealing with bear encounters. And then, Mom shopped! Voluntarily. Happily. Strange days, indeed. She enjoyed the train depot shop. She suffered through some jewelry shops and then went off to find a bathroom. She didn't find the bathroom, but she found the Sarah Palin store.

When we were finally through shopping, I began looking around for the shuttle to take us back to the boat. When Mom realized what I was doing, she asked indignantly, "Are you waiting for the shuttle because of me???" Then off she marched toward the pier, with the three of us scrambling to keep up. Quintessential Mom.