Love by chocolate
Tuesday February 13th 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

My friend Karen dropped by today to pick up the amaryllis I’d promised her (thank you, Dad!) and we ended up chatting awhile.

One of the things she told me was something that in 30 years I’d never known about her: that her family had had an older neighbor who’d never married and had no family around and they with their seven sons had just kind of adopted him as their local grandpa and he loved it. They had had him over for dinner at least once a month for forever and made him theirs.

When he could no longer care for himself and needed to go to a memory care unit, they helped him with that move. He’s 96 now.

She was talking to someone who worked at the nursing home and that is how she found out that the residents got fruit for dessert: but no chocolate. Never chocolate. There was just no reason for it in the caretakers’ eyes, I suppose, nor for the expense.

“Not even, like, brownies?”

Nope.

Well that was definitely something she could do something about–she knew how much he loved the stuff and went to his room and asked him if he’d like some chocolate.

Now, he might have some dementia but he remembered chocolate. Definitely yes. Yes please!

So now she has something she know she can do to cheer him up, to connect to him wherever he may be in there, every time she comes.

And I thought I would pass the good word along. If you don’t know how to visit or what to say to someone in a nursing home–bring them chocolate.

And if it’s ever me in there, dark would be great, thanks.



Hoping for seconds
Monday February 05th 2018, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

When the baby steals your chocolate chip cookie and suddenly realizes that your food tastes better than his food…



Yes you
Thursday February 01st 2018, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History

A story I got to hear my dad tell last week.

When Reed Smoot arrived in DC from the then-new state of Utah, his fellow Senators challenged him and refused to seat or have anything to do with him. And not only was he ostracized for being a Mormon, his wife was shunned, too, and she found herself very, very lonely in their new town.

Note that my grandmother’s book tells of how, in the early 1950’s when she was the new Senator’s wife from that state, her husband being a freshman, she was expected to put on white gloves, a hat, and go from home to home in order of seniority of each of the other Senatorial wives bringing her calling card. One was to comply with longstanding tradition. My Western-raised grandmother found it all very strangely Victorian.

The Smoots arrived nearly fifty years earlier. I imagine there were no such getting-to-know-yous–Mrs. Smoot’s presence was not wanted.

My parents as newlyweds attended the same ward (Mormon congregation) in DC as the Smoots’ son.

And this is what he told Dad:

The President was throwing a party at the White House, and when the President threw a party, the protocol was that no one was to leave before he did.

He knew full well what was going on.

(I should let Dad tell this, and correct me if I got any details wrong, Dad.)

When the time was fully spent, Teddy Roosevelt announced that it was time for him to head upstairs to bed. He then turned to her and her alone and pronounced, “Good night, Mrs. Smoot!” Then away from the crowd and was gone.

And that act of acknowledgement and kindness changed everything for her.



Timing
Wednesday January 31st 2018, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My father-in-law opted for cremation, which meant that when one of his kids wanted everybody to put off the funeral for a month to when her kids could more easily come, sure, that worked.

She had no idea.

We had no idea.

But that is why we were in town when David was. That is why we were in town just in time to see our nephew Taylor and his family on their way out. Ordinarily, we would have been there and gone well before any of them showed up.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing them for anything.



Baby Nicholas
Wednesday January 31st 2018, 12:02 am
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

My sister’s son and his wife had a baby at Thanksgiving, and they were flying to, you guessed it, Salt Lake City from Atlanta that same week to show off the baby to her dad. We so wanted to see them and to meet their little boy but the overlap time on our trips was tight.

We got up early (our time) Friday morning and hoped that the rush-hour traffic would allow them to make it.

They showed up late and apologetic because the baby had soaked through his clothes just as they were leaving…

We chuckled. Hey. Babies’ superpower is wrecking your walking-out-the-doors.

And so we got to meet her dad, who was driving them to the airport, and to spend about fifteen minutes together. I surprised them with a soft wool hat. (Color in link.) Washable, because hey, I remember what it’s like. (My daughter said her nine-month-old, while his diaper was being changed last week, managed to spray himself in the face rather than them and was quite outraged at the indignity.  Clearly, washable hats are all the more the way to go.)

It is amazing how much living can cram its way into fifteen finite minutes. It was a privilege to see the two of them so happy in their new parenthood as their wide-eyed little one took in the new faces and scenery around him before being whisked off to the crowds and the skies and at last, home.



David
Tuesday January 30th 2018, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

We are home today. So let me first tell you one story that was not from the funeral.

My cousin David was flying in to Salt Lake City and was going to be playing piano at our aunt’s house. Now, when I say piano, you have probably never heard someone who can play like he can. I’m quite serious. And that house was built by our grandfather and concert-pianist grandmother so as to bring out the best in the music.

He invited all the cousins to come who could and offered to accompany them for anything they might want to sing or play. David being the one who, as a teen, would spend two hours on public transit to watch a show on Broadway, two more hours to come home, and sit down at the piano and play every piece he’d heard note-perfect. And now he’s a professional composer and musician in New York.

It just so happened that our trips to Salt Lake were happening on the same weekend.

I showed up late, with apologies; the funeral and family reunioning afterwards had gone into overtime and I had needed to be there, too. (Richard, grieving his father, decided on one-on-one time with my dad, who was not up to going to that, too, while I went to the concert. My mom was already there.) There were lots of people and lots of chairs set out but I saw none that were empty and simply plunked myself on the floor by the door. No biggy. It’s about the music and the people, not about the seating.

Aunt Joyce stopped David (who could not see me from behind a wall) between pieces and motioned over to me: there was an empty chair over here for me, and here, let’s set up more over near the kitchen for any other latecomers. Which were indeed put to use.

Now, there were several rows to the right where she was and then there was this one single chair forward of everybody else and kind of in the musicians’ faces. And that’s where they put me. Close to the piano, close (and almost in the way of) the vocalists. At least two of whom sing professionally on Broadway and, wow. Sitting there was like I had my old hearing back.

David declared it the last piece, and after that, stood and invited everybody to join him now for cake.

It was his birthday, a milestone birthday at that–I’d had no idea. Well then that makes this all the better.

I caught his eye from up there in my front row of one and kind of raised a finger halfway in a gesture of “wait” and then hesitated a moment, because this was his party, his celebration, his gift to us, and I didn’t want to distract from that in any way. And yet it just seemed a good time.

“I have an original composition.”

I had mentioned no such thing to him while he was planning this. He was surely jet-lagged–it was quite late his time–and he had no idea what to expect from his musical cousin who had lost most of her hearing. He looked afraid that this was somehow going to turn awkward, or, or what, but I was pulling this on him after he’d already said the playing was over and he didn’t know what I was up to and he wasn’t quite sure how to react.

And then I reached down to my unzipped purse and quickly handed it to him kind of folded and scrunched inside my hand and watched his face as he realized what he suddenly was holding.

The surprise. What it was. The crowd roared as it saw. I wanted to say it was from all of us here in thanks for what he’d just given us but I didn’t want to interrupt him in that wordless moment.

He held the black and white soft wool piano hat out for all to see. And then he put it on his head and folded up the brim. “It’s PERFECT! I LOVE it!”

I had wanted to make him one for a long time, and the chance to give it to him in person got it to finally happen.

A little later, as people were chatting and enjoying that cake, Aunt Joyce, who teaches flute, plays professionally herself, and who’d done a duet with him a few minutes earlier, asked me how long it took me to make that. She was quite taken with it.

I don’t yet know how to make a flute hat, but clearly pianos were acceptable–and so I pulled a second one out of my purse, with brown at the brim and the top that made it go perfectly with the outfit she had on.

“No!” in disbelief.

I grinned.

What I didn’t tell them was, I had made that three-color one first. It was in a yarn new to me that took some tweaking of how I usually knit that pattern. I wanted it not too thick looking but quite warm. I liked it–but it came out just a tad slouchy and it seemed not quite the thing. It was good but I strongly felt it needed a do-over. Take out a row here, here, and these few too. I felt very pleased after the second one: I’d gotten it right for him this time.

So then but who was the other one for? There are a lot of musical people in the family to choose from. I would have to find out.

And then when she, the hostess of the evening, picked up his, not hoping nor asking for one in any way but simply appreciating the artistry that went into it, the question answered itself.



Glass and yarn chicken
Thursday January 25th 2018, 12:03 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

The phone rang: could I….

I had to drop something off for my daughter. It was dark and raining. I couldn’t see to adjust the mirrors, so I put the front passenger window down halfway to get a better view of that one.

The window would not go back up.

I tried the others (this may have been stupid) and they were fine. I turned the car off and on again. Reboot? Didn’t work. I debated going back inside and asking for help/advice/commiseration, but there was a tight time frame involved and I just had to go so I did.

I stepped in the door at home a little later and told him the problem as I gathered up plastic wrap and tape: at least the rain had mostly let up while I was out there with that down, let’s at least keep the water out, or more of it, anyway.

Did you…? he offered helpfully.

Three times.

Did you try it from the passenger side?

Twice.

It might be the battery…?

But if the battery were going then it wouldn’t have turned back on so easily and the other electrical things would have had a problem, wouldn’t they?

Say a prayer? Other than that we’ll just have to take it to the dealer next week. But try turning the car on again.

I had and I had (not the dealer part) but I did and I did, and this time I tried all the buttons on the door because hey, why not: the lock button, the auto button (thank goodness the driver’s window still went straight back up) while sending up yet another prayer, because heck, *I* didn’t know what to do. The rain of course was picking up again.

And suddenly that passenger window moseyed on up all casual-like like it had never been a problem. I just kind of sat there and stared at it a moment. I was not expecting that.

I ain’t touchin’ it. Neither is he. I think I’ll go put tape across the buttons to remind us. Up it stays.

——

And then I came inside and played yarn chicken on the last third of a hat, knowing I had a bit left from a previous hat as a back-up, knowing that splicing tightly-knit chunky yarn wouldn’t look great, but trying the thing on again and again as I went and knowing it needed that last plain row after a decrease row before going straight to decreases in all rows no matter how short that strand was getting, knowing the skein had only had 93 yards to begin with and I’d used a few on a previous project…

Somehow I made it. With a yard to spare, which is far more than I thought possible. And the hat is long enough. (I’d have done one more plain row after the k3 k2tog row if I’d known, but this will definitely do.)

I have no earthly explanation really for that either. Oh and did I mention my dad spent the night being checked out in the cardiac unit at the hospital? They sent him home yesterday and he’s peachy fine. One funeral of a father at a time is enough, thanks.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, all you can do is sit down and finish that hat. Something you can mend the splicing effects of if you need to. Something you can rip out and do over in baby size if you have to. Something you can make do what you want one way or another even if you have to change what you want out of it to get it.

And I didn’t even have to do that.



Flight and feint
Saturday January 20th 2018, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Richard was at the wheel. We were past the toll booths, the marshes were at high water just a few feet below the freeway, and almost to the bridge over the Bay.

Tucked right at the water’s edge there in the strangest location–with no turn-around at a one-lane dirt road running a short distance between where the shore and the freeway give it just that much space from the Bay, and a mystery unto itself–is a shack with the call sign announcing that it houses a radio station. And coming in at the top of that shack, wings wide, swerving sideways at the last with talons outstretched for a fight, was a peregrine falcon! Right there!

A second one (there! There were two!) standing on the roof seemed to start to respond in kind but flinched at the last and scrambled away. Which was the tipoff that it wasn’t an exchange of an unseen fish, this was over territory.

Well, that’s one way to change the station.

In that blink we were too far past to see more.

 



Space X last month
Tuesday January 09th 2018, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

I promised you guys and then forgot to post it after we got home–here’s Richard’s best picture of Elon Musk’s Space X. We were heading into a restaurant in La Jolla, 300 miles south of where this took off from, at the time we looked up to see why everybody else on the sidewalk was staring up into the sky. There was much speculation about what on earth that thing could be, till someone successfully Googled it.

Doesn’t it look like a fish that swallowed a fish?

Looks like you can embiggen the photo this time–scroll to the right. The bigger picture gives you a better sense of just how enormous this was in the sky to us.



Well, at least one of them did the right thing
Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I’m spoiled. I’m used to Southwest, which doesn’t charge change fees, doesn’t charge for two bags, and if you have to cancel a flight right up to the beginning of boarding time they’ll let you apply the funds to another flight within the year. (If you want full refundability, you have to pay top price upfront on the flight, but you can do that.) The people who work for them are better treated than some in the industry, and it shows.

Alaska Airlines is also a pretty happy group to fly with, and if you get their credit card they’ll waive the $25 fee on that first bag and at the moment offer you a BOGO on a flight. Cool.

But if you want to be able to avoid large change fees or cancel your flight with them and get a refund you need to pay an outside company that they contract with for flight insurance.

Maybe one answer to today’s experience is, don’t ask a question on a major holiday, but…

A month ago we asked my sister-in-law when she was going to need to be out of town so we could plan ahead to cover for her on taking care of DadH. March? Booked, done, thanks, we’re coming, enjoy your trip.

I contacted that secondary company and explained why we could no longer go to see my father-in-law.

They emailed back that we could only cancel and be reimbursed if there were an emergency from their restricted, specified list, which she did not give me, and she offered her condolences but implied we were not eligible.

My jaw hit the floor. Death?! Is not considered an emergency re the trip?! I could see my husband again, phone in hand, worried over what he’d just heard as his dad gave out on him, dialing his brother to find out what was going on and to make sure his brother knew something was wrong right now, wishing he were there himself so he could do something. Thanks, customer rep, it was emergency enough for us.

Their last paragraph, they told me to contact Alaska. Uh, yes. Most definitely.

The airline guy said okay: we need a form from the funeral home and then for you to call us back after you have it; I have a note on your file now, and they will let you reapply those funds to any travel within the year after you do so. I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

(They were doing what they should do. Good.) I thanked him, relieved to be working with a decent human being who cared.

It sounded like he was required as part of his job to ask me this next, given the wince in his voice with: Was I sure I didn’t want to fly to Ft. Worth in March?

Sir, he’s gone…

I’m so sorry…

But that flight insurer. I’d always checked that expensive box on Alaska Airline’s website the three times I’ve flown with them, because autoimmune flares can squirrelize any plan. I think we’re done.



Continuing resolution
Sunday December 31st 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Someone playing with his best friend…

And two hats that need to go in the mail in the morning, Malabrigo Mecha on the left and baby alpaca on the right, a little extended Christmas in a box (after I run those ends in).

Assuming I don’t come down with the flu like my sweetie did Friday morning (yes, that morning, after the travel and exposure and the stress and the worry and the late-night messages.)  And if I do, well, those hats will get out there in their own good time, then, but I think I simply need a good night’s sleep.

Meantime, a Happy New Year to all, and may 2018 brighten our hopes and strengthen our compassion.

 



We were not ready. But he was.
Saturday December 30th 2017, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Photo: my father-in-law at his granddaughter’s wedding last summer.

Now that the grandson in Chile has gotten the word I can share the story.

Christmas day, my husband called his father across the country to wish him a merry one. As one does. To his great surprise, his dad was only able to get out a few sentences and then gave out and ended the call.

Dad?!!

Richard immediately called his brother, whom Dad was staying with for the holiday, and it turned out he’d been trying to talk Dad into going to the ER. But that was the last place Dad wanted to spend Christmas in.

The next day he simply took him in.

There was some hope of recovery that first day and maybe even the next, and Richard wanted his father to be allowed to make the decision whether he wanted him to fly in to see him in that condition: autonomy is a thing too easily taken away from the elderly. I wanted to book the ticket like right now and he wanted to honor his dad’s wishes whatever they might be and we both struggled over which was the most right way to look at the situation when, as the far-away kids, we knew the least.

You know when the phone rings at 2 a.m. your sister-in-law’s time it was not good news. But he was still with us.

Meantime, I confessed my dilemma to the good woman at University Electric that afternoon as she wrote up the sale and she moved us up in the queue and got that washing machine delivered the next day. (I went back today to buy an extended warranty and so I could tell her in person what a great job her installer had done. She was very happy and proud of him to hear that–but, she wanted to know, how was my father-in-law?)

Oh honey. Thank you. But…

Richard’s sister had called again in the dark hours our time yesterday morning: Dad had slipped away.

He had missed his wife. He had missed his daughter who died of cancer at 48. He was a good man and a funny man and I will forever remember as a kid asking my mom what that word meant when my father declared of his old friend, “He’s the most gregarious man I know!” (The most like Greg? Greg who?)

While Dad seemed past the point of being able to respond, his son-in-law at his bedside named each of Dad’s children and grandchildren by name and told him they loved him.

Spencer told us that when he said Mathias’s name, for the first time, Dad smiled. (Photo: Mathias’s first Christmas, playing with the box.)

That is a gift to my sweet grandson to carry forward for the rest of his life. I am so glad my daughter and her family made the trip from Alaska recently to let her Grampa meet her baby boy. While they still could. Because you never know.



And so we wait
Thursday December 28th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

On the list of things that suddenly really don’t matter, but still need doing, and knowing I would regret it for twenty or thirty years if I didn’t get to it before the January 1st cut-off when they get taken off the market: I did, I found a local place that still stocked it. There was even a slight discount on the closeout. I bought my all-metal-parts, all-mechanical-controls, no-electronics Speed Queen washer this afternoon, this one. (Time.com’s a fan.)

Tomorrow the new one will be installed and the old one will go.

Our new Speed Queen washing machine will probably last us the rest of our lives.



Not quite the typical conversation on Christmas
Thursday December 28th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

See if you can see it, Mom.

I looked at the close-up photo of their dense bush. It looked like a near relative of my California Coffeeberry. Uh, I see leaves, lots of leaves. Um… Nada.

He insisted it was there.

Huh. I looked some more, wondering how I could be missing such a thing. Okay–wait, there, I see the edge of a paw? Maybe?

Yes, and… He gave up and pointed it out: see the jaw?

No.

There.

OH! Is that the teeth?!

This (he swiped a finger wide around) is the rest of the jaw.

Ohmygosh!! And your hand was right there reaching in to retrieve that ball!?!

My son found out they really do have possums living in his area after all while playing with his kids. He’d never heard of any around there before; clearly, they hide really, really well. And dense bushes where nobody could see them, with tasty dark blue berries? What more could it ask for?

Food. It was what was in its Christmas stalking.



Bags
Tuesday December 26th 2017, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

And we are home. So much to tell. This isn’t one of Richard’s shots of Elon Musk’s Space X launch, it’s the one I took several minutes later. We were 300 miles south of where it took off and it still took up a huge chunk of the sky (this was the small part).

We said goodbye to our son John at the airport as we went our separate ways tonight. Same airline, different gates, our baggage checked in by different agents.

Arriving home, my smaller bag (thankfully mostly empty) was AWOL. He called just a few minutes ago to say that while he was waiting and waiting and waiting for his big bag (just like we had just done), lo and behold, mine, with our tag and name and airport on it, had shown up instead and he’d recognized it. Had his shown up first of course he would have been long gone.

He needs his a lot more than I needed mine. We’re holding out hope–hey, it worked for the two of us; meantime, that’s one $50 Southwest voucher for us when we retrieve ours at the airport when it gets in instead of making them deliver it.

The most surprising moment of the trip happened at church: I saw an old friend who with his family (a few years younger than ours) had moved out of our ward probably twenty years ago.

I knew that his wife had been very ill of late. I knew she had been in a coma for some time with her survival by no means certain–but I had heard nothing since and I didn’t quite know how to ask.

I asked how she was–and he, beaming, motioned, She’s right here!

Oh. My. Goodness!!!

Hale and hearty and enjoying a family reunion, just like we were. I tell you. That was one great moment.

Of many.