Happy Mother’s Day

I just checked…the apostrophe is where it belongs.  Not sure which mom gets to celebrate but that’s the way it is.  Wouldn’t you think it would be Mothers’ Day?  I mean all of us are in this together, right?  Anyway, here’s hoping all the moms out there have a lovely day.

Jerry and I are doing fine.  Lots of quirky house problems (our ice maker won’t make ice this week and we can’t figure out how to set up our new landline phone) but let’s face it, these are first world problems if I ever saw some.  So all in all, life has been pretty good these days.  Besides, the snowbirds are all almost gone which means there are parking spaces at the grocery store, no waits in restaurants and you can get from Point A to Point B in record time with no traffic.

There is a downside, though, to the end of snowbird season.  Some of my best friends are snowbirds.  It’s hard to say goodbye and I miss them…miss them at yoga, at book club, at library volunteers, at Trivia night, at Dining for Women.  I always get sad this time of year as they all pack up and leave to go back to their other lives. Good thing there are lots of “year rounders” who are still here.  We’ll hold down the fort till the snowbirds start coming back in October or November.

Jerry and I went to Gainesville on Saturday to renew library cards.  Don’t ask…it’s a crazy story and I honestly don’t know anyone else weird enough to drive three hours to renew a library card.  But we turned it into a beautiful day.   It actually was a beautiful day…warm but not hot with a gorgeous breeze.  We went home the coastal route and stopped in a town called Tarpon Springs.  Tarpon Springs is home to a big Greek population drawn to the area by the abundance of sponge beds just off the coast. Sponge divers from Greece and their families came over in the 20s and 30s and in the 30s, sponges were one of the biggest industries in Florida.  The town is delightful…cute shops (tourist heaven) downtown with great Greek restaurants.  We had lunch at one…Mykonos…and wandered around, saw a movie about the sponge divers, checked out the shops and finally got home around dinner time.  Nice day.  There’s lots more to explore in Florida.  Maybe we’ll do a little more while the snowbirds are away.

It’s that time of year again…graduation day.  My niece, Jessica, is graduating from William and Mary this weekend.  Jessica was one of our “practice grandchildren”, who one time came to my house and when it was time to go to bed, said she wouldn’t be able to sleep because she had left “cat blankie” at home.  I’m not sure she EVER did sleep that night.  She really did love that blankie…still does, I think…even as she moves on to a great job in Washington, DC.

I love Facebook…I’ve been seeing photos of former second and fifth graders who are graduating from college.  When I sent a congratulations to one of them, she wrote back, “My goal is to be “that teacher” for at least one student, and you are most definitely mine.”  Oh Gwen, you can’t imagine how good that made me feel.

And when I went into Venice High where I’m mentoring a sophomore, I bumped into a former fifth grader from Cranberry who is graduating from Venice High later in the month.

I need your email, he said, ’cause I’m going to college and then when I graduate, I’m going to get that “rolling chair.” Absolutely, I said, I’ll plan on it…in four years, TJ.  (Back story…the kids in my fifth grade LOVED my rolling chairs.  I had two and they’d fight to sit in them.  So nobody got to sit in them except me.  But I told them that if they graduated from college and let me know, I’d deliver their own personal rolling chair to their door. I think a lot may have forgotten or  lost my email address or just are too shy…Not TJ. He’ll collect!)

Jerry is going golfing tomorrow for the first time since before his surgery.  It’s going to be hot but he’s looking forward to it.  And I’ve got turtle patrol.  We had our first nest of the season this week.  First of 500?  I doubt it.  Last year we had 500 nests but the beach has changed.  We lost a lot of beach over the winter.  Hopefully the girls will find enough beach to make their nests.

I’ve read some good books in the past few months.  Days without End by Sebastian Barry was heartbreakingly gorgeous.  The language, the story, the voice…incredible book.  Once We Were Brothers and Karolina’s Twins were good….not literary masterpieces but great stories well researched on the Holocaust in Poland.  And I don’t know if I ever mentioned Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher but it’s terrific.  I listened to it and loved it.  And now I’m listening to Peter Heller’s Celine, about a 78 year old detective and reading McCullogh’s The Wright Brothers.

Be well, my friends.  And teacher friends…it’s almost over, especially those of you here in Florida.  Up north….well, that’s another story!

Two of my favorite snowbirds working out a knitting problem

 

 

First World Problems and Turtle Patrol

Photo by Kathy Brunt

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back to normal (whatever that is).  Turtle patrol has begun.  We had our first false crawl today which means the girls are out there and will be coming in soon.  Evidently one came in last night, didn’t go far before she changed her mind and headed out again.   Not sure why she was so particular.  She came out of the water at one of the best nesting places on the zone.  Go figure.  Parts of the zone are gone…beach has washed away and at high tide on a rough day, it looks like the photo above.  Should make life interesting this year. Still, no matter what it’s like on the beach, there is something so very special about being on the beach at dawn with good friends.  I just love it.

No rest for the wicked, though.  One of our solar panels was leaking.  We turned off the solar to the pool and called but then we headed north. Came home and it was STILL leaking.  Turns out it wasn’t for the pool, it was for the hot water heater.  Called again…they said they had come but couldn’t get in to the garage…Honestly, I wish they had called us.  We could have had someone let them in.  At any rate, it’s fixed.

The good news of the week is that Jerry’s feeding tube is out.  He’s eating almost everything and doing just fine.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure it would happen.  I thought maybe the poor guy would have it for the rest of his life.  But he’s back to normal (or as normal as he can be..ha ha) almost…anyway.  He went to the driving range today so he really is getting back to normal.  There are still some things that are problematic but considering how far we’ve come in a couple months, we’re pretty happy.

And the bad news of the week is that I have some kind of weird “bug bites”.  Thought they were bed bugs and tore the bed apart, washed everything, sprayed the mattress and spring, never saw a bug.  So I went to the doctor to have her take a look at my five red “things”…Maybe impetigo, maybe MRSA (spent enough time in nursing homes and hospitals lately) No results from culture yet but I’m on antibiotics and, because it’s contagious until you’ve been on meds for at least 24 hours, I’ve stuck pretty close to home.  Went for a walk on the beach rather than yoga, missed breakfast with friends, missed volunteer work at the library last night, missing a Dining for Women meeting tonight.  But I did get the house clean and cleaned out a lot of our files. (have to make lemonade out of lemons, right?)

And I turned 70 last week.  My birthday (week) was delightful…breakfast with friends, lunch with Eileen who told the waitress whose name was also Mary Catherine (check out the birthday dessert), dinner and a play with friends and then

At Gulf View Grill

dinner and another play with Jerry who did just fine on his baked potato and filet mignon.  Cards (mixed in with sympathy cards) and emails and Facebook messages…Honestly, it was lovely.  I was supposed to be on Padre Island with my siblings for a seventieth celebration but we cancelled…The week was supposed to begin last Friday and we were busy with a wake and funeral last Friday and Saturday and by Sunday I think all any of us wanted to do was go home and sleep.

So life is good, no matter what.  The beach is spectacular early in the morning…warm with a cool breeze.  It’s hot in the afternoon but I’m in the pool exercising and reading (at the same time).  When I call Annette to check on her, she’s usually not there which is good because it means she’s out and about AND I get to hear my dad’s voice on the answering machine.

Love to all…And my friends up north…hang in there. It’s will get warm one of these days.

 

Sunshine State Skyway Bridge

 

 

Turtle Patrol…getting hard to make it all the way down the beach

Dad and Annette with my niece, Jill

Dad and Annette on Easter Sunday

Arrangements

Just a quick note since several people have asked about arrangements for the funeral. The wake is on Friday from 4-7 at Dery Funeral Home on Bradford Street in Pittsfield.  Mass is at 9:00 on Saturday at Sacred Heart on Elm Street on Pittsfield.

Memorial donations may be given to the Snapdragon Book Foundation, a cause very dear to our hearts because it is run by my sister, Anne, and her husband.  The money is used to provide books to schools that need them because of dwindling funds to school libraries. Checks may be sent to Snapdragon  c/o Dery Funeral Home, 54 Bradford St, Pittsfield, MA.

The obituary should be in the Berkshire Eagle and on the Dery Funeral Home website tomorrow.  Dad’s name is Frank Thoubboron.

Saying Goodbye

T.S. Elliot called April the “cruelest month”.  And I guess it has been cruel.  But another way of looking at it would be to call it the kindest. Dad has been slowly slipping away since his stroke about eighteen months ago. And it’s been hard to watch a guy who was interested in everyone and everything and would try anything begin to sleep his days away.

He enjoyed every day whether it included cross country skiing, driving dialysis patients for the Red Cross, volunteering at Tanglewood, teaching his grandchildren how to play “oh Hell”, taking his great grandchildren trick or treating, having a morning cup of coffee and doing the crossword puzzle with Annette in bed or simply sipping a Manhattan at the end of a busy day.  The man never stopped and Annette, nine years younger, had trouble keeping up with him.

Yesterday was hard.  Dad had been brought to the hospital on Saturday morning.  He was unresponsive and seemed to be working hard with every breath.  Saturday and a Sunday were long days, especially for Kim and Paula and Annette. I was there by late Sunday afternoon. The medical team was working hard to get his sodium levels down, telling us if they could get them regulated, dad would wake up and begin to get well.

By Monday morning, I think we all knew it wasn’t going to happen. The doctor wanted to do an MRI to determine whether dad had had a stroke. I asked what they’d do differently if they found out that was so.  The answer was “nothing”…so we said no to the MRI.  Shortly after that we talked to the doctor again.  We all knew it was time to stop working so hard to keep him alive and just make him as comfortable as possible.

Dad was moved to a pretty room in their hospice section. A cart was brought in with coffee, tea and water and snacks for the family. We sat with dad, telling stories, playing music on my iphone ( first my church music and then Neil Diamond).  The room was big and that was good.  Five of his seven kids were there, Annette’s nieces came.  Annette sat by his side, stroking his head, massaging his hands with cream. We worried about how hard he was working to breathe and the nursing staff increased the morphine.

I left with Annette about 7:15.  Kim and John were going to take shifts during the night but that wasn’t needed.  Dad died about 8:15. Annette and I went back and sat with him along with Kim and Karen. Annette’s nephew, George, arrived. Finally, about 10:00 Annette and I left the hospital.

Dad would have been 95 next month and even though we’ll miss him terribly, I know it was time and I know, as Paula said, he was probably very happy to get rid of his old, frail body. The next few days will be hard ones for all of us. And harder still will be the days after that when Annette, who until recently never  went grocery shopping without him, has to get used to living alone.

Yes, April is the crudest month…and the kindest  and yesterday was the saddest day but i am so very glad I was here to see a good, good man slip the bonds of earth and fly.

Last week with some of the gang

 

Back to Massachusetts

Happy Easter, dear friends.  And Happy Passover.  I’m in the Tampa airport, heading back to New England for the third time in less than a month. Dad is in the hospital.  He wasn’t well when we were there for mom’s funeral, had failed dramatically since leaving the hospital and going into rehab.  And yesterday he was bad enough to warrant another trip to the hospital.

I’m not sure if he’ll rally this time.  The guy is tough…cross country skiing well into his eighties, hiking, biking, traveling…he and Annette never stopped.  He even went to yoga with me a couple years ago. Wish I’d gotten a picture of him doing  the downward facing dog.  used to tell him, “I want to be like you when I grow up.”

But he’s not good…at least he wasn’t when my sisters were there last night…didn’t recognize anyone, agitated, trying to pull out IV lines and oxygen.  It hurts me just to think of it…just hoping and praying that whatever meds they gave him last night settled him and gave him some peace.

Mom’s funeral was lovely.  The music was beautiful and I was so moved by the people came, so very grateful to them and to all who’ve sent messages of support and condolences  John rented an old farmhouse in the Berkshires with beds for everyone…kids and grandkids who had time to go for a short hike on the Appalachian Trail, played cards, eat, drink laugh and get caught up on each other’s lives.  It was so good.  I wonder if we’ll be renting it again soon.

And on a happier note, Jerry is doing really well…three meals a day (mushed up in blender) and  down to 1 1/2 cans of feeding tube formula.  Well on his way to steak and a baked potato!  And minimal coughing.  I drive him crazy staring at him every time he coughs…so scared he’s aspirating food and on his way to pneumonia.  He may miss me during these many trips to MA but I’m sure it’s a nice break not to have me watching him every minute!

Who knows what this week will bring.  The realization that life is fragile and precious, that none of us will get out of this alive, that we need to come to terms with our own mortality has been so “in my face” these days.  Still, it’s Easter…a reminder that light shines in the darkness, good wins over evil, kindness will ultimately trump hate  ( my stupid iPad automatically puts a capital T on trump…what’s that all about?)

Say a prayer for my dad and for Annette.  They have been so joined at the hip that it was only very recently in their over forty year marriage that she went grocery shopping without him.  I prayed all the way to the airport…May they have peace, may they have joy may they have courage and loving kindness.  And may all of you have the same.

 

Mom

Mount Greylock

My mom died this morning…95 years old.  I was just there, left yesterday morning to come back to Florida.  I’m so glad I saw her before she left us.  She didn’t have an easy life and the final years were especially hard but I think she was at peace in the end.  Hospice is so good and the people at Craneville Place, her nursing home, loved her and cared for her.  I don’t know if she recognized us at the end.  But when I left her she seemed peaceful and relaxed.

Still it’s hard.  Incredible how hard it is.  She certainly was ready to go, had wanted to go for years.  She wasn’t happy and we all knew it was time.  But it’s still so sad.

Funny the memories that come back.  I’m laughing remembering a time I walked in from school and found her sitting at the kitchen table tying knots with pieces of rope.  She had some book in front of her and kept checking it.

What are doing?  I asked.

Learning to tie knots.

Why?

So I can teach you at Girl Scouts tomorrow.

And she did teach all the little girls how to tie square knots and slip knots and whatever the next day.  She was a really good teacher.

And I remember when I was in high school.  Our geometry teacher was just awful.  She had no control (the class showed her no mercy) and she couldn’t explain anything.  So we had no idea how to do the homework.  I’d show up at home with a couple friends after school with our geometry books and we’d wail, “We can’t do it.  It doesn’t make sense.”  And mom would tell us to get a snack and watch the little kids (my brother and sister were toddlers)  and she’d go into her bedroom and read the lesson and then, about ten minutes later, she’d come out, sit us down and explain what we needed to do and why.  I think we were the only ones who’d have the geometry homework done those days.

She had a stroke quite a few years ago but the month before she had a stroke, she drove through a blizzard to my brother, John’s house in Richmond, Vermont, for the annual family gathering at Christmas.  No cell phone, nothing…just mom on her own.  Brave woman.

After she and dad were divorced, she started a business with a friend of hers…a home care business.  When the red tape from Medicare got too annoying, she was ready to just walk away from the whole thing but I think it was her lawyer who convinced her to sell it instead.  And she did and between that and her investments (she really understood the market unlike her daughter who has no clue) she’s never run out of money.

Seven children…can you imagine?  That’s what good Catholics did back then.  She wasn’t born Catholic.  Her mom was Jewish and her dad was Lutheran but they hadn’t really gone to any church or synagogue.  She got interested in the Catholic Church because she noticed, when she was in college, that the Catholic girls got up and went to Mass every Sunday no matter how late they had been up on Saturday night.

Five of the seven kids are in the Berkshires already.  Only Eileen and I are left to go.  We will most likely head up there tomorrow once the arrangements have been made.  You can’t imagine how much I want to be with my brother and sisters right now…that common history, I guess.

Here are a few pictures I could find…Paula has some really good ones.  I need to get copies of hers!

Engagement photo?

Mom and Kim

Mom and Paula

Mom with Declan and me in 2010?

Key Lime Pie and Other Treats

Big Gulf, Little kids

Jerry left rehab last Friday and we haven’t had a minute to catch our breath ever since.  Ryan, Anne and Grace arrived Saturday afternoon.  Erin, Brent, Lana, Calli and Declan arrived Sunday night. (You should have seen our house at night with people sleeping everywhere)  Ryan and Anne left on Tuesday morning and Grace stayed an extra day hang out with her cousins and to go to Mote Marine Aquarium.  Now we only have Erin and her gang and they’re leaving tomorrow for Harry Potter World at Universal in Orlando.  I imagine we’ll head to the beach this afternoon.  Those kids are crazy.

It’s been cold, really cold but the kids have been at the beach every day.  I don’t know how they do it.   And they’ve been doing swim team practice at the outdoor pool at our local YMCA in the evening. Brrr.

In the meantime, Jerry and I had tons to do.  He had an X-ray and met with Dr. Fong, his surgeon, in Sarasota on Monday for his post surgical visit. He’s healing beautifully.   X-ray showed clear lungs (yay, no more pneumonia), all systems go.  He can start driving (with supervision), needs to talk to his cardiologist about the cardiac program at the Y, no pool because of the feeding tube but everything else looks good.

Then on Wednesday we met with the out patient speech pathologist.  Jerry had begun trying foods at the hospital and we just assumed he’d keep on going at rehab.Unfortunately, the speech therapist at rehab didn’t want to try foods with Jerry…first because she didn’t have the records from Sarasota Memorial and then because he had pneumonia (or maybe she was just chicken).   Unfortunately, gradual return to eating was the whole purpose of rehab (for us anyway) and we were massively frustrated to spend two weeks there just doing swallowing exercises.  So when we headed to outpatient speech on Wednesday, I brought a container of yogurt and his morning meds already crushed and ready to go.

If she won’t try foods, I told Jerry, we leaving and we’ll find another therapist.

We walked in and the therapist immediately started asking about food and what he was able to eat.  I put the yogurt and meds on the desk and we began there.  We LOVE this therapist.  She gave us a list of things for Jerry to try and so far, so good.  Yogurt, mashed bananas, mashed potatoes and gravy, scrambled eggs, and best of all, key lime pie (minus the crust).  He’s still getting most of his nutrition via the feeding tube but slowly but surely he’s on his way back.  Yes!

It’s been a long journey and we know we have more to go but we’re getting there.  And our record for surviving rough times so far is 100%…can’t see any reason why we won’t come out of this one.  We’ll just keep on keeping on…and count our blessings (many of whom we saw this week!)

Love to all

Cousins

In the Gulf (brr)

Sweet Calli at the beach

Sharks at Mote