Filling Grampa’s shoes
Monday October 21st 2019, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So much to say so I’ll just start randomly.

My sisters wanted to dive right in and so we did: we spent a morning going through Dad’s closet, the book shelves, magazines, giving away, recycling, throwing away, putting some things aside.

The twenty-year-old Fodor Guides to various countries? Out, with a wistful smile in the direction of how thoroughly our father had traveled the world. The ones that were only ten years old? Nobody’s going to look at those, you can get current information online. Out.

Sharkskin shoes. Dad had sharkskin shoes? Who knew?

Ten and a half was too small a size to tease my lawyer son with so they went to my niece’s four teen- to young-adult sons to try on. They looked comfortable, and someone would definitely get a kick out of them.

(The year, in Dad’s hand)

We found six–wait I think it was six–pieces of paper stapled together: one long narrow sheet per child with our Christmas wish list, probably cut just exactly so from printer paper on Dad’s old heavy office paper cutter with the scissor arm I remember being about as long as mine. I think it stayed in Maryland when my folks moved after retirement.

If you don’t give us a whole page we can’t write as much, but I think I squeezed the most in and I would have been turning six that month. Note that I’m the only one who added the bribing-pleading Thank you.

My 17-months-younger sister copy-catted the greatest of my ideas–especially that Mickey Mouse Telephone. Writing didn’t come as easily for her yet though so her list was a lot shorter.

The older kids all asked for a watch. We two younger girls asked for a play watch.

It occurs to me that I forgot to turn to that last page to see if my baby brother had scribbled anything. I don’t know if Mom still has it to go check or if it just got swept up along with so much other stuff in the tidying-out, but I’ll bet someone who looked at it (we all did) remembers.

I spent today at my own house massively tidying-out.

P.S. I did, I got the Hands Down game! I remember playing it!



A quick note
Sunday October 20th 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family

It felt so strange to walk across the folks’ front entryway and not be lifting my feet and carefully looking for that green tubing that ran from the oxygen machine set up there across their home.

For my mom: the plane was late but we made it home.



For naturalizing at home
Tuesday October 15th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life
The surprise from Afton: a gorgeous Calla lily in memory of my father, for which I am very grateful.

I chuckled over my little sister’s demand on Dad re waiting till after her son’s wedding was over with.

It occurs to me that he’d also waited for my family.

We flew to go see him in April, sure then that it would be our last chance. Even with the oxygen generator that was always attached to him, the ten steps it took him to go from his favorite chair to the kitchen table plunged his oxygen levels down below 80%, even to 70%, and he would shudder working so hard to get air into his lungs.

I was the one close person he knew who had been through oxygen levels like that and knew what it was like–but I’d been in a hospital bed, and I’d had it set off alarms with nurses coming to the rescue. He was doing all this on his own, and upright (getting down as soon as he could), and it was just unfathomable to me how he could do it. There were a number of times I simply held him as he wheezed.

I told him he amazed me. Because he most certainly did.

He spent more time in that chair after we left, and eventually Mom started bringing his meals over there.

I didn’t put it together but I should have: Sam was expecting, Sam was very high risk, and he wanted to see her through it with his prayers added into the mix and he wanted to see pictures of her baby alive and here and well and both of them having made it through. He wanted to be part of that.

And so he quietly held on for them, too.

Dad’s obituary.



Going out. Way out.
Monday October 14th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dad was the original foodie.

My mom always delighted in his ability to find his way back to a restaurant he’d last/first stumbled across years before.

I can remember twice when I think she was the one who started the do-you-remember, he did indeed with great delight, and then he had to find it. He was a homing pigeon for great food–and always made a point to exclaim over Mom’s cooking too, for that matter. She’d helped take over the kitchen at twelve years old when her mother had broken her hip: she’d learned early and she’d learned well.

But you can’t eat at home when you’re on the road.

One time was when my niece Emily got married in Seattle. My folks, my brother and I were in a car together afterwards and there was this wistfulness back and forth between the folks about that seafood place from that trip from the time when I was I think two.

Dad said it was on the waterfront.

Mom said You’re right it was.

Dad started off that-a-way and after awhile my brother and I were…a little doubtful. That did NOT look like anywhere you’d find a restaurant.

We went over a drawbridge. They still have those?

Dad used the Space Needle as his mental compass, which means it would have to be…wouldn’t it be that building over there?

Ivar’s! Yes! Tadaaah! And it was still there!

I’d never seen a restaurant before with an indoor–hill, for lack of a better description, with a sidewalk/aisle rolling upwards and down to match.

Canoes hanging from the walls. Pacific Northwest Native art. And the best clam chowder I’d ever eaten in my life.

Another time that comes to mind: we were way down South somewhere (that was the trip with the camper where an armadillo raided our marshmallows in Florida) and Dad said there was this barbecue place we had to go to. He found that one, too.

It was put together by lots of hard work: the tables were just picnic tables, nothing expensive at all.

But they had been sounded down so fine that they felt like velvet. Seriously. And they trusted us kids with sauce near that? I was nine that trip, and we were all marveling and running our fingers back and forth on the perfect surfaces. How had they done that?

Sand paper and a whole lot of time and elbow grease, Dad said. And then had to explain that no, not grease grease, elbow–and expanded my vocabulary.

And then that barbecue!

If anybody has any idea where that restaurant is or what its name is I’d love to be able to give them a shout-out for the happy memories all these years later.

The trip when I was sixteen to see the last Apollo lift-off in person. Dad found the place again that had the old-time jukeboxes and Brunswick stew so good that years later I realized I just had to learn how to do that. (Although they and I went with chicken, the traditional squirrel meat being hard to come by these days.)

I’m with Dad: I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Just like he did.

Celebrating his memory.



So now you see how I got this way (I flatter myself)
Sunday October 13th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My 37-year-old daughter was in I think middle school when I bought a cotton Christmas sweater at Costco that my mom liked enough that I bought her one, too. Or maybe I just thought she would and then she did, I don’t remember: a white goose wearing a blue scarf inside a Christmas wreath with sparkly red plastic beads, cheerful and vivid to celebrate the season.

The tag said dry clean only, so I did–but those beads came back melted right into the fabric. The owner of the little shop was horrified at ruining it and said it was the manufacturer’s fault for mis-tagging it, it should never have come there, take it back for a replacement; I waved away her worries by saying, a) it was a one-time thing at Costco, I can’t replace it now, and b) it was only $15, c) she did her best and d) it’s not like I’d be wearing it every day all year anyway.

I quickly warned Mom, though.

She hand washed hers.

I hadn’t seen it in years, but then I don’t live there.

She put it on it for their Christmas card picture this past year.

The goofy tray-holding butler bear (the tray serving as its platform heels in the shot)? That’s totally on Dad.



My dad
Saturday October 12th 2019, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family
One of the amaryllis bulbs he sent me for Christmas last year.
Dad last November.
Not sure when this one was.
Dad in April this year.

My sister posted a picture on Facebook last night of Dad after having visited the folks and I instantly felt the time was short.

But he’d hung on for so long and surprised us all, I reminded myself, not wanting to hear it.

I woke up in the morning with a conversation with Richard about booking a flight without delay to go see him again.

And then the phone rang.

My sweet father–nobody could laugh like my dad, nobody loved a pun or any kind of fine wordsmithing like my dad, nobody cheered on their kids like my dad–had quietly slipped away from those scarred, broken lungs some time in the night. At home.

I’m so happy for him that he doesn’t have to fight for every breath anymore.

But. But. But… I never was going to be ready.

The funny part is that my little sister married off one of her sons last weekend and had told Dad that sorry, he was not allowed to die till that was over, she just could not handle one more thing right now and too many people’s travel plans were too set in stone for that.

He’s the kind that would enjoy a good guffaw over that and then say with a twinkle in his eye, Yes, dear. And then crack up again.

And now they’re all freed up.

And so is he.

Love you forever, Daddy.



Bubble bubble toil untroubled
Friday October 11th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

Babysat the doorbell today.

The replacement Sunbubble came in the afternoon. It was in a 49-pound box and I knew I was going to need help getting it inside while it was too expensive an item to leave unattended.

FedEx Guy turned out to be the type who was glad that he got to help someone out today. Which was a relief.

Now that it’s here, my question to myself is, do I just tape together the torn greenhouse for one more winter to extend the future of the new one? (Googles: yes, contact paper does still exist. I could double-side it to have no sticky parts exposed while connecting the walls to the sides of the zipper.)

So far, you can’t buy Sunbubble covers separately.

There are no mango flowers nor fruits to protect this winter, at least not yet. So the tree doesn’t have to stay quite as warm as last year.

It did bloom about six months ago but that time the buds all died back due to mold from the moisture buildup inside that tent after that one extremely wet winter. I toweled it off from the inside every morning and left the door open when it was warm enough but that wasn’t enough (and I’m too short to open the overhead vents.)

My Alphonso has since recovered nicely, proving it is indeed the resistant variety they said it was, and it has put out a ton of new, healthy growth where all of that had been.

I figure when it’s ready, given the size it is now, we will get a ton of mangoes. We just have to be patient.

And I just have to get all of the details right. Working on that.



It’s blue, anyway
Thursday October 10th 2019, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

Well, if I want to say I added another hat to the pile for the guy to choose from I’d better go hurry and finish the thing.



Her son
Wednesday October 09th 2019, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had just pulled out of my driveway when I saw him at her door. It had been a long time but that had to be him.

I stopped the car and rolled down the window.

“Are you Jon?” I called over.

“Yes. Are you Alison?”

There was a mutual sense of relief in having a face to match the messages. And in each other’s willingness to be there for his mom.

He brought me up to date: in the hospital still but doing well now, but she can’t come home yet–her house has to become more elderly-friendly first.

The work has begun.



Pouring the new chocolate
Tuesday October 08th 2019, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Knit

Saturday night, working together: hold the heavy bowl, pour, I can do that part your back’s bothering you you flatten with the knife–fill one mold, two, three…eight, nine…

And a half. Well we’ll just give it a bit of a swirl as we scrape the last cooling bits off the spatula so it’s not just random blops wherever.

The Madagascar variety turned out to be a particularly strong chocolate with an acidity your throat will notice. The Chocolate Alchemist had warned that it warrants roasting this one just right, so for once we’d let him do that part for us.

It wasn’t till the batch had set that we realized what we’d made. It so fits.

Turn the ship! Here Be (just one) Dragon!



She lived alone
Monday October 07th 2019, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Well, that was a day.

The phone rang this morning right after I got home from dropping Richard off at work: the next door neighbor, saying the son of the neighbor on our other side had called him wanting to know if any of us had seen his 84-year-old mom this weekend. He and his sister hadn’t been able to reach her.

We had not. This wasn’t unusual; she can’t walk much anymore and is rarely outside. I’d put her recycling bin away for her.

I went off to an event that I was one of the organizers for so I had to be there–but I dithered awhile first, waiting to hear more because somehow this time something felt… I didn’t know, but like I wanted to be there for my neighbor.

There was nothing to know, though, as far as I could tell, so I finally got on my way, and for various reasons I’m glad I did; it went well.

I came back a few hours later and the wife of the man who’d called was getting out of her car and we compared notes a moment. I stepped inside my house and the phone rang: the husband wanted to let me know.

In the few hours I’d been gone, the police had come, had broken in the door, they’d found our elderly neighbor in dire straights and the paramedics had gotten her into an ambulance and away. He figured that that meant she was alive, and we were certainly glad for that.

She’s probably just as happy there wasn’t one more person watching her being wheeled away, but that’s assuming she was in a condition as to be able to notice.

I had contact info for her daughter and texted her a heads-up, figuring she surely already knew but I couldn’t risk that she didn’t. At the very least I could let her know we knew and we cared and we were all here to help.

She answered a bit later and thanked us for looking out for her mom; yes she did know, and her brother was flying out tomorrow.

I offered to go to the hospital to keep her mom company in the meantime, or after, or any time at all and she decided let’s wait till he gets there and talks to her.

She did let me know her mother was not doing well.

Hang in there, Sandy.

And for everybody else who has or is an elderly parent: make sure the neighbors and the kids and the parents all have each other’s phone numbers.

In this case it surely helped save her life.



Do-over
Sunday October 06th 2019, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Knit

The woman at Fillory who helped me find a sturdily washable worsted merino? She also happened to mention a favorite baby alpaca shawl she’d made, that she adored, that her husband was stunned to find that the shrunken mess he’d just pulled out of the laundry had been that. He didn’t quite believe it could be till she affirmed it.

I remembered how crushed my son-in-law was at how badly those first handknit hats for his baby had miniaturized.

I’d thought I could stretch any possible shrinking out because of the silk. I was so wrong.

That all stewed in my brain for a few days and then today at the start of two more two-hour blocks of Conference watching, I went into the stash room, pulled out an 1175 gram cone of that cashmere/cotton 50/50, and cast on.

I just couldn’t do that to him again. Or my daughter or their daughter. That baby alpaca/silk blanket was marvelous but it had to find its own purpose later.

The highest grade of both cashmere and cotton, the listing said. I believe.

I’ve gotten to see a baby blanket I’d made out of it after it had gone through a year of both washer and dryer. It wasn’t fluffy anymore but it was still very very soft. This was not going to be a come-down.

I don’t really have to worry anymore about the cotton part not being warm enough, which is the reason I didn’t use it in the first place–they’ll have moved away from Alaska by the time they get it, which I didn’t know then. But which is why they don’t already have the original: they didn’t want to worry about losing it in the move.

That’s still an Alaskan-born baby it’s for and I figure she still needs that landscape and her moose, and so does her daddy, who’s leaving the area he’s lived in since childhood.

I’ve finished the seed stitch bottom edge.

This time I have more than a sketch on a page to go by and the little details that I thought of after the fact that I wished I’d done I can now do. It will be better than the original.



My greenhouse
Saturday October 05th 2019, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Garden
(There you go.)

It’s Conference weekend where the Mormon church leaders address the members and I finished the red baby hat and knit a good half of a cowl as we watched the Saturday sessions. I’ll add a picture I took of them when the silly thing makes the transition from my phone to my reluctant other-big-company account.

Meantime, the plastic tore away from the zipper on the Sunbubble and I put off and put off going through the hassle of trying to get the one-year warranty honored. Some companies make that as unpleasant a process as possible. The time limit was coming right up though and it would be too stupid to just ignore it, so I finally went to Wayfair’s chat help yesterday.

Their one request was for me to send pictures while they waited.

I thought, it’ll take hours for my old iPhone to get them through but what can you do so I went outside, snapped them, and sat back down at the computer with a small Help me? sent upwards in a snatch of prayer.

I did a doubletake as the photos showed right up. It quite made my day. Thank You!

The help desk apologized for making me wait, and it was two, maybe three minutes while I was left wondering if they were asking a manager for permission or denial or what.

Instead it was because they were checking the inventory and setting up the paperwork. Good to go! They sounded like they so enjoyed a job where they got to do the right thing and make people happy in the process.

My new Sunbubble is arriving next week. Not just a new cover, the whole thing is being replaced.

This first-time customer came away definitely happy.



Florida native
Friday October 04th 2019, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

And…38F again at 7:30 am.

After posting about the cold mornings last night, I finally got up the gumption to go email a friend who’s gone missing. This is someone we’ve had over while finishing up a batch of chocolate level of friend. I told him he had said I didn’t even remember what anymore but that it had left me thinking, This guy needs a hat.

So I’d gone through my small stash of Malabrigo Mecha and knitted him a simple beanie.

Didn’t see him at church the next Sunday, so I thought, good, because sometimes his friend comes too and I wouldn’t want to leave him out. If both come, they both get one, if not, then he gets to choose. Not that anyone’s really going to get excited about thick wool in the heat of the summer.

No sign of either.

I had a good laugh at myself as I went down to Fillory that Friday for my informal knitting group, and this time I went through the skeins, razzing myself that he didn’t come because he was avoiding having to tell me he didn’t like them. This time I was going to get the color right!

Mottled browns, this time in a pattern with more pizzazz.

No sign of him.

And then we went off to Alaska for the new baby and we sure didn’t see him there, either.

I wrote that quick post about our unseasonably cold mornings and then it nagged at me: so, at long last, I sat down and sent him a note. Tossed the idea of any kind of surprise and simply told him the story of the three hats.

I had no idea.

He wrote back that he’d spent the summer out of the country and that he’d just come back Saturday–with a knock-out case of the flu, while home was cold cold cold compared to where he’d been and he was freezing.

I read that and thought, and none of your friends knew to come help.

He ended it with his gratitude that God knew he needed that divine ‘hey you, I know you’re there’ just then.

On a side note but on second thought it was clear it was not, Richard happened to mention this evening the same thing I’d been thinking: we’re overdue to make another batch of chocolate.

I know who could use a bar of the good stuff.

—————-

(Edited to add: After he got home from his ham radio meeting we did indeed get that batch started tonight. For my records, it’s Madagascar 2018 Organic Trinatario-Sambriano Valley from Chocolate Alchemy. The kitchen smells divine.)



Cold feet
Thursday October 03rd 2019, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Knit

39, 38, 46, 37, 39.

Our outside thermometer readings these last five mornings a half hour after sunrise.

Good thing I started zipping up the mango tree at night, but what on earth is it doing being in the 30s here in September and October?? The average low is supposed to be 55. Next thing you know we’ll be making snowmen.