Birthday #99

1.30.14.9524

…Aunt Lil and her great-granddaughter, Ashleigh…

Thursday Tim & I briefly came out of our seclusion to attend my aunt’s 99th birthday party at the nursing home she moved into last August, a few weeks before my father died. It was heartwarming that so many of those who love her were able to take off of work or school to attend an afternoon party on a Thursday, so she wouldn’t be too tired to enjoy one later in the day.

1.30.14.9506

…the collage Ashleigh made for the occasion…

Auntie’s doctor approved the celebration and gave her permission to have as much champagne, cheesecake and black raspberry ice cream as she desired.

1.30.14.9510

…good job blowing out the candles on the birthday cheesecake…

I had not visited Auntie at the nursing home since August because of the illnesses and deaths of my father and Tim’s brother. She looks better than I thought she might have and I was pleased and relieved to see that she is being well cared for. Hopefully we can visit more often now that the dust is beginning to settle around here.

1.30.14.9513

Aunt Em and Aunt Lil entertained us with stories from their “hen party” days. When I was a child, my four aunts, Mary, Jean, Lil and Em, their cousin, Aunt Julia and her friend Stella, and my mother would gather at Aunt Em’s house when she lived in New Jersey. In January because most of their birthdays fell in that month. They would go into “the city” (New York) for the day and evening and leave us children with the fathers and uncles.

The fathers and uncles let us get away with all kinds of mischief. They’d be watching football on TV and drinking beer. One time one of the cousins tried to do a somersault over a chin-up bar and whacked his head on the ceiling in the process. Uncle Andy exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call using your head!” We laughed about that bit of irony for hours…

My Aunt Jean was the first of the gang to die, in 1986. She was my favorite aunt – we shared a birthday, a love of cats and children, the color purple (when I grew up blue became my favorite color), a lot of personality traits, and the A, RH-negative blood type. And now I’ve learned that she also shared my sensitivity to alcohol. It didn’t take much to get her tipsy and very sleepy. Aunt Em and Aunt Lil remembered one time when she fell asleep with her head on the table at a luncheon. And another time when she got home she climbed into the crib with her son and they eventually found her sleeping there.

1.30.14.9514

…Aunt Em and Aunt Lil…

Aunt Em took the train up here from Maryland – she usually drives, but not in the winter. If I live to be 86 I hope I will be as vivacious as she is! Aunt Em and Aunt Lil are the last surviving siblings of the eight children their parents had.

1.30.14.9518

…Chelsea and Aunt Lil…

Chelsea is the wonderful caregiver who worked full time for us for a year, until my father died, making it possible for Aunt Lil and my father to live at home. We all became very attached to her, especially Auntie.

1.30.14.9523

…a quiet moment with my sister, Beverly…

When it was time to go I got a big long hug from my Auntie and we both started crying and told each other, “I love you.” Beverly had explained to her about Toby’s untimely death and she seemed to understand what a rough time we’ve been having. She held hands with Tim for a moment.

What an emotional roller-coaster we’ve been on this past year…  Like my sister, I wish I had the resources to care for our aunt at home but I’m relieved to know she’s safe and well cared for. And I hope she will treasure happy memories of her 99th birthday party.

Provincetown Signs

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

On October 18th, the Rodgers branch of the family headed out to Provincetown, at the very end of the Cape Cod peninsula, where we spent many a vacation when our kids were growing up. We thought it would be deserted, since the summer season is well over, but it was Women’s Week, and the streets were crowded with visitors. Exhausted from the emotions and activities of the previous day, we had lunch and did some shopping, but didn’t stay too long. But before we left I kept taking pictures of signs – there were so many creative ones…

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

 …a couple enjoying Women’s Week festivities together…

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

An historic fishing port, Provincetown is situated at the tip of Cape Cod in an area of spectacular natural beauty, surrounded by miles of dunes and beaches. Provincetown has a diverse and singular history. The Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown in 1620 and signed the Mayflower Compact, a declaration of self-determination and radical thought that characterizes the history and people of Provincetown, even today. Provincetown has been home to sailors, pirates, fishermen, painters, and authors for centuries. In the nineteenth century, Provincetown, with the largest and safest natural harbor on the New England coast, was one of the greatest and busiest seaports in the country. The rich texture of cultural and social influences has produced a sense of place that is uniquely Provincetown. For over a century, these special qualities have attracted artists, tourists, and bohemians who have then blended with the local population and produced a unique community character. Provincetown is truly like nowhere else.
~ Town of Provincetown website

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

…looking towards Pilgrim Monument from out on MacMillan Pier,
where fishing and whale-watching boats are moored in Provincetown Harbor…

10.19.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts

…granddaughter Eliza found her own “sign” to bring home…

Dominic’s Dragonfly

Dragonfly by Dominic Delgado

On October 16th, Tim & I drove to Providence to pick up Nate, who was flying in from Georgia.  Then it was on to Cape Cod where we had rented a big house (six bedrooms, five bathrooms!) for several days, so the family could gather and bury my father’s ashes together.  When Nate unpacked, he gave me this beautiful gift he brought for me from his nephew, Dominic, age 5.  I kept it standing on my dresser while I was there, a cheerful image to behold each morning when I woke up.  Thank you so much, Dominic!!!

Little did I know there would be more dragonfly magic the next day…

When You Cross the Bridge

2001-Dadscanned

As many of you already know, my father died peacefully at home, in his sleep, on September 19.  I’m still in a daze and it still seems like a dream.  When I finally got to bed after he died, I started thinking it would be nice to have a memorial for him on my mother’s birthday, October 17, at the cemetery where his ashes will be buried next to hers.  The next morning my sister called me and said she hoped I would like her idea, and her idea turned out to be the exact same idea that I had.  So it was settled.

2001-Dad2scanned

When we were little we always went to visit our beloved grandparents on Cape Cod for our mother’s birthday.  So we are both looking forward to one last trip up there with Papa, bringing his ashes in a beautiful biodegradable wooden box my sister found for him.  The gravedigger will have the earth ready for him before we arrive and we will all stand in a circle and say whatever we want to say before we lay him to rest.  I’ve never planned a funeral or memorial before, and I’ve never been an executrix before, either.  For some reason the planning is comforting.

2001-Dad3scanned

We’re renting a large house nearby.  Even though it was closed for the season the owner has kindly opened it up for this special occasion.  When the owner sent an email to confirm the days, he wrote, “We should be ready for you to check in anytime after 1:00, but give us a call when you cross the bridge and we will meet you at the house.”  When I read this it made me cry.  All Cape Codders and all of us who love the Cape know what “when you cross the bridge” means.  And the funny thing is there are two bridges crossing the Cape Cod Canal, and either one will do.

1953-BATedscanned

…1953, Bachelor of Arts in Bacteriology…

The first three pictures were taken by me in 2001.  In 2000 my father fell and crushed several vertebrae.  He was in the hospital for a while and needed to use his cane afterwards.  Papa had made a trail meandering through the woods on his property and he maintained it while taking his daily walks.  Walking through the woods with him countless times is a memory I will always treasure.  He would use his cane as a pointer as he identified various nuts, leaves, wildflowers or the entrance to an animal’s den.  Or he would point it up into the tree canopy when he heard a familiar bird call.  The cane was carved and used by his father and now I have it for safekeeping.

1983-Easterscanned

…Easter, 1983, my parents…

Sadly, in 2007 Papa fell again, this time breaking his femur and his pelvis.  He never made a good recovery from that unfortunate accident.  There were no more walks in the woods. He was mostly in a wheelchair after that and suffered from dementia.  The last six years have been so difficult for all of us, but especially for him.  When I found these pictures taken at an earlier, happier time, they helped me to overlay the recent memories with more pleasant ones.

1985-Septemberscanned

…Labor Day, 1985, my parents with three of my aunts…

Many thanks to our Aunt Em, who came up to visit us from Maryland last weekend, and to visit Aunt Lil, too, who seems to be doing as well as can be expected in the nursing home. Aunt Em brought and gave us some of her pictures – the last three are from her.

Papa

Under a full harvest moon, my father drew his last breaths. How fitting for a man who grew up on a farm and who loved his garden. The scientist died peacefully, in his sleep, in the house he and my mother built for themselves and my sister and me. It was how he wished to die, and we are thankful it happened that way. Farewell, dearest Papa. I love you.

Effulgent

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

dragonfly by Barbara Rodgers

Is it a mistake to look to the world to tell us the meaning of our plummeting lives? Maybe we all have the power to shape our own structure, the structure of our metaphoric wings, what lifts us – our character maybe, call it our spirit. We all in our own ways catch the light of the world and reflect it back, and this is what is bright and surprising about a person, this rainbow shimmer created from colorless structure. Maybe there is no meaning in the world itself – no sorrow. In fact, no good or bad, beginning or end. Maybe what there is, is the individual way each of us has of transforming the world, ways to refract it, to create of it something that shimmers from our spread wings. This is our work, creating these wings and giving them color.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore
(Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature)

Time seems to fly by so quickly, and yet, each day seems so long in the living. Especially in August. Please! One crisis at a time!!!

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

Near the end of August my sister and I finally and reluctantly decided that our aunt, who is 98, required more care than we could reasonably provide for her. The family doctor pulled some strings and found her a place in a “good” nursing home, much to our relief. She is now “settled in” there.

Our father, who is 91, is doing a little better, but is still on oxygen and remains very weak. So far my sister and brother-in-law feel they can manage him at home. He will probably never walk again, even with his walker… But I have to keep a watchful eye on my sister’s well-being – she has done more for the ancient ones than most people, including myself, would have or could have done.

8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

At the end of the month I spread my wings and accepted my daughter’s invitation to fly to North Carolina to visit her and my son-in-law in their new digs. It was the first time I flew by myself, although I had a flash of insight on the plane – I wasn’t flying by myself at all – there were many other people on board, fellow humans all with their own ways of transforming the world. All of us one. The flights there and back were spiritual highs for me!

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

…Larisa at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Visiting Dima & Larisa for five days was wonderful! Very humid weather put something of a damper on outdoor adventures, but we had fun gardening in the early morning hours and decorating the living room and kitchen together one fun afternoon. We explored Durham in the air-conditioned car and talked and talked and talked. And had some great meals out and even better meals from their kitchen and grill. Had loads of fun taking pictures! I also came home with a lot of spider and mosquito bites for souvenirs. :)

8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

…I think this is a tropical quail (?) who lives in the
Magic Wings Butterfly House at the Museum of Life & Science

The trip did me a world of good – thank you so much for your gracious hospitality and welcoming arms, my wonderful kids!

8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

Indian Pipes

8.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

“Indian pipe” by Barbara Rodgers

That without suspecting it you should send me the preferred flower of life, seems almost supernatural, and the sweet glee that I felt at meeting it, I could confide to none.  I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering Child, an unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.
~ Emily Dickinson
(Letter to Mabel Loomis Todd, September 1882)

“The preferred flower of life” Emily is referring to is the Indian pipe, a ghostly flower with no chlorophyll.  Like Emily, I was captivated by Indian pipes as a child, whenever I found them while playing in the woods.  Native to New England, the flowers are about 3/4 of an inch long, and bloom from June to September.  In one of her poems, Emily compares it to a spirit: “‘Tis whiter than an Indian Pipe -” (#1513)

My father has been in the hospital this month with a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lung.  He is too old (91) and too frail to tolerate a treatment with clot busters, so the doctor is opting for a conservative treatment with blood thinners.  Time will tell if this will be helpful or not.  Now that he is home he is hooked up to oxygen around the clock.  It’s been a very stressful time for all of us, and I’ve spent many hours at Dad’s bedside, leaving Tim here to cope with his terminally ill brother.

These Indian pipes were growing near Dad’s house in the woods, and the sight of them stirred up some pleasant childhood memories for me.  I put the camera on the ground for this shot and was delighted with the results!  A bug’s eye view!