Katherine’s Children

Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943) and three of her eight children: Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986), Theodore William Chomiak (1922-2013), and Lillian Elizabeth Chomiak (1915-2016).

It’s simply amazing what comes into the light when cousins start exploring family history, too. Several weeks ago I shared a picture one of my maternal cousins discovered and today I’m sharing a portrait found by one of my paternal cousins.

The woman is my grandmother, Katherine, who died long before I was born. I’ve always been curious about her because she is the one grandparent I never knew.

Катерина Фюшяк (Kateryna Fusiak ~ my Aunt Lil showed me how to write her name in Ukrainian) was born on 19 November 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Ukraine, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She died on 22 October 1943 at New London, Connecticut.

Katherine’s parents were land-owning farmers. When her husband William, the son of peasants, left for America, she was pregnant with her second child and they already had a small daughter, Mary. According to my aunt Mary, who grew up with her grandparents in Ukraine, Katherine’s father, Konrad, who did not approve of his daughter’s marriage, was furious about not hearing from William, and with great resentment sold a cow to buy passage to America for Katherine and her new nursing baby boy, Jon. At the tender age of 22, on 19 February 1910, Katherine and 5-month-old baby Jon sailed to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, arriving in New York City on 4 March 1910. She had no ticket, but was in possession of $19 which she used to pay passage for herself and her son. She was 4’11” tall with a fair complexion. She was identified as a “Ruthenian” on the passenger arrival record, a term used to refer to a group of Ukrainians living in Ruthenia and eastern Czechoslovakia.

Mary stayed behind with her grandparents and so Katherine did not see her firstborn daughter again until Mary was 18, when she finally joined her family in America after World War I. By then, Katherine and William were living on a farm in Montville, Connecticut.

Katherine was a devoted mother who admonished her eight children to stick together no matter what, as she believed that family was all they would have in this difficult world. Her grandchildren called her “Baba.” Katherine died of a strangulated hernia at the age of 55. She lies buried with her husband in Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Three of her children did not survive into adulthood. Jon Stephen died when he was 9 years old, of appendicitis. Augustine was about two when he got into some pills or something that poisoned him. Olga, a toddler, met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, a horrific accident that my aunt Lil was old enough to remember first hand.

In the portrait above, daughter Mary is missing because she was still living in Ukraine. Jon had already died. My Aunt Jean is on the left, my father is the little boy, and my Aunt Lil is on the right. My Aunt Em was not born yet.

Katherine had a very hard life as a farmer’s wife who made it through the Great Depression living off the land. Her husband was a harsh, bitter man, who regretted leaving Ukraine and apparently hated this country. I admire her courage and fortitude.

My father always spoke of his mother with great fondness and missed her dearly. Even during his last illness he asked for her. He had enlisted in the army during World War II on 4 February 1943. Sadly, only eight months later, on 22 October 1943, his mother died. Only 22 years old, he came home on leave for her funeral and then returned to duty. I am struck with a little synchronicity here because Katherine was 22 when she saw her mother for the last time, and my father was 22 when he saw his own mother for the last time.

My father often credited his mother with raising him to respect women and appreciate their strengths. As an example, he often told the story of her ability to drive a hard bargain. A butcher came down from Norwich to the farm in Montville three times trying to buy a calf for less than the price Katherine wanted to sell it for! But she got her original asking price, impressing her son, and the sale was finally made!

adventures in geology

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Geology is not my thing, but, I was willing to tag along with my sister to visit relatives and rocks in West Virginia last week. The only thing I really know about these outcrop pictures is that the black seam is coal and that Beverly was impressed with the photographs my camera was able to capture. Perhaps she will use them in her classes.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia ~ using Beverly to illustrate how massive this outcrop is
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We had a lovely time visiting our aunt and our cousin and her husband on their farm. The first night we were there Beverly woke me up at 2 o’clock in the morning to see hundreds of lightning bugs sparkling in the nearby woods. It was magical.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We saw deer and heard about bear sightings. We took long walks and ate whole foods, both at a farm-to-table restaurant and from Kappy & Bruce’s kitchen. We watched movies with Aunt Em, who will be 90 in August. I will miss enjoying the margarita Aunt Em made for me each evening with dinner, and the early morning chats over our black coffees. 🙂

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Beverly collected quite a few rocks for her collection and packed them up, cushioning them in her dirty laundry, to mail home to Connecticut. It was heartwarming to see her having such a good time. Bruce & Kappy paid close attention to the geology lessons they received as they were carting us around. We had such a wonderful time!

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Farewell, Auntie Lil

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux (1915-2016)

Last autumn we lost our aunt, who lived to be 101 years old. The various stories behind the above drawing presented a puzzle for us but after comparing memories we finally decided that the sketch was probably drawn on one of Auntie’s cruises. She kept it hanging above her bed for as long as I can remember, flanked on either side with the senior high school pictures of my sister and me.

Following is the obituary I wrote for the newspapers:

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux, 101, of Storrs, Connecticut, died on October 27, 2016, at Mansfield Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, after a short illness.

Lillian was born on January 30, 1915 in New York City, the daughter of the late William & Katherine (Fusiak) Chomiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. She married Leo Oscar Rioux on November 30, 1934 at Montville, Connecticut. Her husband died on June 5, 1957, leaving her a widow for 59 years. Lillian was predeceased by their two sons, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984) and Lance William Rioux (1950-1979).

Lillian was also predeceased by six siblings, Mary Riback, Jon Stephen Chomiak, Augustine Chomiak, Augusta Jean Hereth, Olga Chomiak, and Theodore William Chomiak. She is survived by her sister, Ludmila Sabatiuk of West Virginia, her grandchildren, Leo Rioux, Jr. of Montville and Sarah James of Tennessee, seven nieces and nephews, four great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.

Lil was a graduate of Norwich Free Academy and was a seamstress employed at Hendel Manufacturing Company in New London for many years. She was a long time resident of Montville and later moved to Juniper Hill Village in Storrs to live closer to her brother. An avid traveler, beach bum and shell collector, she loved to sew, cook, grow orchids, do jigsaw puzzles and work with her hands.

A memorial gathering will be planned for next spring. Memorial donations can be made to Mansfield Town Senior Center, 303 Maple Rd, Storrs, CT 06268.

We had our memorial gathering for her on May 6, spreading her ashes on the graves of her parents and her husband and two sons, as she had directed. My Aunt Em read to us her memories of Aunt Lil’s earlier years.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s parents, William Chomiak (1882-1965) & Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943), Comstock Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut

Every year on Memorial Day, my father would drive Aunt Lil to these two adjacent cemeteries, so she could plant geraniums in front of the headstones, each one a different shade of red or pink. When my father could no longer drive, my sister and brother-in-law stepped in to take her. As he has been doing for years now, John once again planted the geraniums that meant so much to her, this time with family spreading ashes and telling stories.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s older son, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

The story Auntie told me was that it was not permitted for her to be buried in the Catholic cemetery with her husband and sons because she never converted to Catholicism. But she married a Catholic and had her sons baptized in the church. It was her wish to join them in the cemetery by spreading her ashes on their graves.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s husband, Leo Oscar Rioux (1913-1957), and their younger son, Lance William Rioux (1950-1979), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

At the last grave Tim read a poem my sister Beverly wrote in memory of Auntie for the occasion.

They were worker’s hands, never soft, never still.
It took me fifty years to catch them, hold them, keep them safe and warm.
A thousand times I watched them go:
knit and purl
peel and chop
turn the pages
stir the pot.

If hands could talk what would they say?
It took me fifty years to hear them, know them, find out how they spoke.
A thousand times I felt their love:
show and tell
hug and pat
acts of kindness
pet the cat.

I’d come to love her knobby hands
that always showed me what to do.
How those hands have touched my life!
They’ve one more job before they’re through:
stitch and mend
my broken heart.

~ Beverly Chomiak
(Her Hands)

Then we all went to eat at one of her favorite restaurants, Old Tymes in Norwich, finishing the meal with dishes of Auntie’s favorite black raspberry ice cream. ❤

birthday #99

1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Aunt Lil and her great-granddaughter, Ashleigh ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
the collage Ashleigh made for the occasion ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
good job blowing out the candles on the birthday cheesecake ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Aunt Em and Aunt Lil ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Chelsea and Aunt Lil ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
a quiet moment with my sister, Beverly ~ 1.30.14 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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.

crossing the bridge

2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Papa walking on his path in the woods ~ 2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
2001 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

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 ~ Montville, Connecticut
Bachelor of Arts in Bacteriology ~ 1953 ~ Montville, Connecticut

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 ~ ?
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.

September 1985 ~ ?
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.

Grandmother Elm

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.

5.14.13.5403
5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
~ Hal Borland
(Countryman: A Summary of Belief)

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Zoë ~ 5.13.13
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flag flying outside our fish market today ~ 5.14.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.

Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind.  Enjoy!

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a nuthatch ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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pansies for Bernie ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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branch shadows playing with the roots of my hemlock tree ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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trillium ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden steps ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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primrose ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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life and death on a maple leaf, spider eating a lady bug ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden whimsy ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

train of thought

4.27.11 ~ New London
4.27.11 ~ New London, Connecticut

There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Travel)

The past few days have been a whirlwind of planning, juggling and preparation – and we finally boarded a train yesterday to come visit Tim’s brother Dan and his family here in Woodbridge, Virginia. By car the trip should take about seven hours, but in recent years it usually winds up taking us eleven hours because of traffic jams, pauses to pay tolls (even with EZ-Pass), rest stops and driver fatigue. Enough already! Tim calculated the cost of gas, wear and tear on the car (last time we came we lost a hubcap!), tolls, food, etc. and decided that the train would only cost slightly more and would save us tons of aggravation!

We hopped on the train in mist and fog at Union Station in New London at 12:46 p.m and arrived at Union Station in Washington at 6:30 p.m. About six hours! This is surely the best way for us to go! Whenever the train ran along I-95 we were going faster than the cars on the road and found this knowledge so thoroughly satisfying.

Had plenty of time to relax and let our thoughts wander or disappear…

Between Old Saybrook (1:08 p.m.) and New Haven (1:35 p.m.) I enjoyed the Connecticut shoreline scenery. Skunk cabbage was everywhere swampy, and in the marshes I saw an egret with two babies! I also saw an osprey pair sitting on their nest on a platform constructed for their nesting convenience.

Around Bridgeport (2:00 p.m.) the marinas and seascapes disappeared and the warehouses and truck lots started appearing, and lots of graffiti, some ugly, some artistic. At Stamford (2:25) my thoughts turned to daughter Larisa and her boyfriend Dima, because his parents live there. They emigrated from Russia to Connecticut when Dima was seven years old. Then the sun started to come out!

New Rochelle, New York (2:45 p.m.), we started seeing jets coming into the various airports in and around New York City. My cousin got married in New Rochelle in 1974 but I don’t remember the details much – the past is gone. Pennsylvania Station, New York City (3:15 pm.) – perhaps Tim & I will be getting off at this station in the near future, Larisa is planning to move to the Big Apple in July to join Dima, who is already living there and working there, doing research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. This was the longest stop as the train took on a new crew for the rest of the trip. I pulled out my Kindle and started reading Falling into Grace by Adyashanti.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and didn’t pay much attention to the scenery in New Jersey. We made one stop there in Newark (3:50 p.m.). Two good things – I was not getting motion sickness reading in the train – maybe I grew out of that problem! – and it was a good thing I had my Kindle because if I had Falling into Grace with paper pages I would be underlining almost every sentence! Wished I could talk with Kathy about believing and not believing our thoughts!

As we approached Philadelphia (4:50 p.m.) a hot flash power surge, as Laurie would call it, decided to come over me. Tim was sleeping soundly beside me and it was all I could do to struggle within the confines of my window seat, getting my hoodie off and my indigo blue Japanese fan out of my bag, without elbowing and poking him awake! But I did succeed! Tim has a stepsister and I have a cousin in Philadelphia – I hope we can visit them in July when Jeff has his photography show there, too! Perhaps we’ll take the train…

Wilmington, Delaware (5:15 p.m.) and then Baltimore (6:00 p.m.). My thoughts turned to Dad and Aunt Lil and how they used to take the train to this station to visit their sister, my Aunt Em. We used to drop them off at Union Station in New London in much the same way as Nate dropped us off there earlier. It’s funny when you think about it, how we often repeat patterns from the lives of older relatives. Dad used to drive to Maryland, as we used to drive to Virginia.

And I have a feeling we won’t be driving to Virginia any more. The train was full, even though it wasn’t a holiday weekend. Many middle-aged and elderly ones with suitcases, not just businessmen. If you live on the east coast you probably know what a nightmare traveling on I-95 has become. I heartily recommend the train to anyone!

Washington, D.C. (6:30 p.m.). Dan and his daughter Erica were there to greet us! They work in D.C. and fetched us after work. Fran and her son David had a yummy taco dinner ready for us! We are now safely arrived here with Dan & Fran, even if we were under a tornado watch this morning. But the sun is out now and the weather looks to be improving so we should have a wonderful time catching up with each other!

4.28.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
our home away from home ~ 4.28.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

hurricanes and heart attacks

“Storm Landscape” by Franz von Stuck

The mixture of the calm with the storm is not haphazard. Quite the contrary. My growth is at the center of each. I will trust its message.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

It’s been an unsettling week, to say the least. We’ve been keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Earl since Sunday, hoping it stays on its predicted course and brushes past us to the east tomorrow with minimal damage. The tropical storm watch was upgraded to a tropical storm warning today at noon. Cape Cod is now under a hurricane warning and for some reason I have a desire to go there.

Sometimes it seems that all there is to talk about is the remarkable weather. Yesterday and today we’ve had a heat index of 100º. Today many towns nearby are letting their schools out early because of the heat. The weed pollen levels are “very high.” And there is an air quality alert to boot. The advancing storm should be eliminating all these problems when it arrives. I don’t usually watch the news at noon, where I learned all these bits of information, but I was curious about the hurricane.

Any threat of hurricanes stirs up frightening memories for my father and his sisters. The Great Hurricane of 1938 descended on my father without warning as he was walking home from high school in the afternoon. Fierce winds were snapping branches off trees and other trees were being uprooted as he struggled to keep walking. According to Wikipedia it “remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history.”

When Dad got home he discovered that his mother wasn’t home, only his father, two of his sisters, and a baby nephew. At the height of the storm they were all trying desperately to keep walls from crashing in on them, bolstering them up with heavy furniture and the weight of their bodies. Still, the hardest part was not knowing if his mother was safe, and his sister’s husband, too.

After the storm passed by Dad’s mother returned home. She had decided it would be safer to stay at the neighbor’s house where she happened to be when the hurricane struck. Auntie’s husband was caught at work in New London which had flooded with the storm surge, so he stayed there to help rescue people. Not knowing what had become of him for several days was hard for the family to endure.

Well, thanks to modern technology we can worry a little less about the storm coming tomorrow. And modern technology was at work for Tim’s family this week as well.

On Monday Tim’s younger brother, age 51, had a heart attack. He lives overseas in Luxembourg so we found out about it on Tuesday. It was such an emotional jolt. Since Tuesday Tim’s been trying to make contact with him at the hospital using Skype and finally this morning they connected and had a long conversation, comparing notes, etc. This is still more evidence of a genetic factor at work here, their maternal grandmother died of a heart attack at age 54 – the age Tim was when he had his – and their great-grandmother died of a heart attack at age 52. Tim has four more younger brothers and it’s pretty sobering contemplating the possibilities, although we can all be very grateful for the advances in medicine that no doubt have saved two lives so far.

Our inner selves understand the journey; a journey destined to carry us to new horizons; a journey that promises many stormy seasons. For to reach our destination, we must be willing to weather the storms. They are challenges, handpicked for us, designed to help us become all that we need to be in this earthly life.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

blessings

Bernie by the succulent garden ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie by the succulent garden ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

As difficult a day as Wednesday was, Thursday I started feeling less flustered and more grounded. And a bit sheepish.

Before I went up to Dad’s I stayed home a while to watch The View to see the interview with President Obama. I came away from it with a restored feeling of hope… I won’t go into politics, but listening to him talk without the pundit filter reassured me that he is still the same man who I came to trust, respect and admire while reading his two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. I like that he is so even keeled and doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. It set the tone for a much better day!

We had a good visit from Dad’s “baby” sister. Aunt Em is 81. She’s a vivacious widow who lives in Maryland near her children and grandchildren, and still drives by herself on long trips like the eight-hour one from Maryland to Connecticut. Her presence is a tonic to Dad and Auntie. Together, they are the three surviving siblings of a family of eight children.

It was hot and humid, perfect weather for Papa who, like many elderly ones, always seems to be cold. There is a space heater in every room he occupies, and they are used often, even in the summer. So he wasn’t a bit hot in his flannel shirt! We wheeled him out to the landing on the wheelchair ramp and got a chair for Aunt Em, and left them to have some time alone together.

I went for a non-walk with Bernie. It was too humid for him to move around, I suspect, but he decided to soak up some sun on a stone wall. Cats are solar-powered, you know. But he could do without the humidity, being a cat hailing from arid New Mexico! It fascinates me that to the naked eye, Bernie’s blind eyes look a dull solid yellowish-gray. But the camera reveals all sorts of colors, each shot making his eyes look like multicolored marbles.

Since Bernie didn’t seem to be going anywhere, I snuck around the side of the house and surprised Aunt Em and Dad. “Paparazzi!” I announced, while climbing up the outside railing of the ramp, aiming the camera between the bushes. At first Dad didn’t understand the joke but Aunt Em found it hysterical. She stopped laughing long enough to explain the humor to him and then he started laughing, too. Got two snapshots – it’s been such a long time since Dad has laughed out loud!

paparazzi shot, Dad and Aunt Em ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
paparazzi shot, Dad and Aunt Em ~ 7.29.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Aunt Em treated us all to a take-out dinner in the evening after Auntie and Larisa arrived. Spending a few moments catching up and making plans with my daughter was wonderful…

When I made it home, tired after the hour-long drive, I found a tube of natural progesterone cream on the kitchen counter. After work my darling husband had made the trip through heavy summer tourist traffic to the nearest health food store. (The progesterone already seems to be helping!) I am grateful and blessed.