Friday, December 19, 2008

a blizzard of emotions

A nor’easter dumped about seven inches of snow today. It would’ve been enchanting, the first real snowstorm of the season, if we hadn’t seen a lot more of it last week in Oscoda. The puppies loved it, though I didn’t take photos. I framed the shots in my mind and thought about the angles and the light, but I’m just so enervated I didn’t get the camera out.

We buried my Mother on December 9. Visitation was the day before. I held it together through most of the Mass, but cried when the Ave Maria was sung and then again at Our Lady of Hope, which is where it really hit me that my beautiful, brilliant, wickedly funny mother is gone. I know I really lost her two Christmases ago when she didn’t notice the irises we had placed in her room when she and Dad came to visit or the wonderful glass artworks we have hanging in the windows—flowers and art have always been our bond. But this was so final: I’ll never hear her laugh at Stanley having to chase a cat or wait anxiously for her rating of the meal I cooked.

When I rode with my father, sisters, and brother in the limo on the way to the cemetery, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that my parents raised six kids who are, despite time and distance and the occasional disagreement, close and loving and who pull together and want to take care for each other and Dad despite our enormous pain.

And I am so grateful to Stanley, who pulled me through and held me up and helped me despite the pain he was going through at the loss of his brother just days before Mom died. His brother’s memorial service was the same day my mother died—I tried hard to be there for him but was so numb I don’t know how much support I was for him.

We boarded the cats and took the pups with us and stayed with my brother Scott in Wyandotte. We invaded, rather. We probably drove Scott crazy, but we felt so comfortable there it was a relief. It was also so good to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins, nieces and nephews, family friends. I didn’t get enough time with any of them and I hope we can all get together again for a happy event, like we did for Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary party. (Maybe this spring with the birth of TWO great grandkids—I’ll be a great-aunt twice over!) We went with Dad to The Grind, a good coffeehouse on Biddle in downtown Wyandotte, and discovered it is the same storefront where Dad had a paint store in the late 1950s.

We went up to Oscoda to spend a couple of days with Dad and to begin sorting things out. Stanley got the flu, but was mostly better by the time we had to go home on Sunday (he won’t let me drive. Which is just as well because he is a maim-worthy passenger at best.) Then I got the flu on Monday. It was not pretty. I’m pretty much over it now. But we’re both just so tired—thinking about it, I realize it’s been three weeks since the first loss and no time to breathe since then. There are a lot of things I want to do, but recognize that I don’t have to do them right away.

It’s been really hard getting back into my work—I did get quite a bit done despite being sick, but I’ve been feeling like a stranger in a strange land. The loss sucker punches me at least a couple of times a day—Stanley said he went through this too when his mother died. Though I miss my mother, I am also glad that she didn’t have to suffer through the end states of frontotemporal dementia because she was so terrified of the indignity of it all after having watched her own mother’s terrible end from the same disease.

Dad is due in Natick in a few days—I am really happy we’ll get to see him this winter and I would worry way too much if he spent the winter in Oscoda. I think he’ll like spending time with Maureen and family and maybe even getting to know Boston well. Jamie is coming out with him—a chance for us to spend Christmas with her before she’s in the land of Grandmahood!

I want to thank my friends, too, for your cards and emails and phone calls of support—all with such compassion and each of you with the uncanny ability to use the words I most need to hear at just the right time.

posted by lee on 12/19/08 at 08:59 PM

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Alice Fleming, August 25, 1934 - December 5, 2008

Alice Elaine Fleming, May 10, 2008
Alice Fleming, taken by James Fleming, on May 10, 2008. (click to enlarge)

Mom died this morning. She got up at some point while Dad was still sleeping and left the house, wandering outside in the snow in 10-degree weather. By the time Dad found her, she had collapsed. They tried to revive her in the ER, but it was too late. We’ll never know why she left the house like that because she was never a wanderer like so many dementia patients are and even before her dementia rarely left the house and would never have thought of walking up the road.

Stanley and I are going to Michigan tomorrow morning. I don’t yet know what the arrangements are. I am so numb.

Update: Visitation will be on Monday at Czopek Funeral Home, 2157 Oak Street, Wyandotte, Michigan 48192. Mom’s funeral will be on Tuesday morning at St. Patrick’s in Wyandotte. Burial will be at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown, where her parents are buried.

posted by lee on 12/05/08 at 11:46 AM

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

she’s only 4.5 months old and already ... !

Ruby is a sweet, sweet dog with, so far, only one significant problem: she likes to explore. It wouldn’t be so bad if she came back when we call her, but she’s not there yet. You can work her back, but it takes a lot of time. Definitely needs her leash or a fenced-in area. She’s very strong and beautiful and loves to cuddle and loves Slink, who finally tolerates her licks.

Bingo, on the other hand, is a sweet puppy too but she’s a character already. She’s bossy. She tattles when Ruby escapes the gate or if Stanley leaves the room—she’s only happy when all of her sheep are together, even the cats. She steals things she knows she’s not supposed to have—she swiped a piece of bread from the counter, for example, and took off with it. She steals the rocks out of my plants (to protect them from The Very Bad Cat Slink) and we find them all over the house. She is ripping the linoleum tile off the mudroom floor (to be honest, I’m glad—the tile is so old, crappy, and ugly I’ve wanted it replaced for years now). She rips up her pee pads, steals my shoes, and has a sock fetish. She has gutted most of the cats’ toy mice. She walks Ruby, which makes Ruby crazy, so they end up tangled together fighting and they forget they’re walking. Bingo also regularly tackles the cats—Slink loves rolling on the floor with her, but Twitch will only put up with about 30 seconds of her nonsense before he yowls to get away or swats her, claws out.

But just when I’ve seen it all, there’s more:

December 4, 2008 - Bingo discovers the windowsill
Bingo climbed on top of her crate and got into the big window! (click to enlarge)

Bingo in the window 12/4/08
Of course, once she got up there she couldn’t figure out how to get down—only way down was forward. She managed to munch on a few leaves along the way, but at least she didn’t tear the curtains down like Slink usually does. (click to enlarge)

I just hope she doesn’t try it when she gets even bigger—and besides, the cats have claimed that window (at least on sunny afternoons). We spent Thanksgiving weekend in Natick with Maureen, Jeff, Kate, and Ben. Good food, good conversations. And we helped work on getting the house ready for my parents’ stay—Stanley did repairs in the bathroom and I sanded and helped clean stuff up and other odds and ends. It’s so exciting seeing more rooms coming to life in that house! We took the pups and both cats. Slink only came out when everyone else was asleep and, of course, didn’t allow Tattoo near him until the very last day. The dogs had a blast. Bingo, of course, tried to boss Tattoo around, but Tattoo was having none of it though he did play with the puppies once in a while instead of growling at Bingo. Ruby bit Tattoo, but he didn’t seem to mind. It was definite role reversal, as Ginger used to act exactly the same way towards Tattoo!

Let sleeping dogs lay 11/29/08
Worked hard, played hard, slept hard. Ruby is keeping watch over Stanley, probably hoping I’d give her a cookie for being so good. Bingo was just snoring away along with Stanley. (click to enlarge)

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Sleeping in a full-size bed is interesting. As you can see, Bingo likes to tuck in. That’s Twitch walking over Stanley’s head to get some cat treats. We had to fight for every inch. (click to enlarge)

The pups got to spend a lot of time outside, more than we intended (see the first paragraph ... ) Bingo just loves it outside.

Bingo wants to go out and play; Ruby just wants to see what Bingo is looking at. 11/30/08
Bingo watching the neighbor boys play football with the goldiedoodle down the road; Ruby just wants to figure out how to get up there and look too. (click to enlarge)

Bingo did find every single “lost” sock in the house. Bet she can’t wait to go back and find more. Ruby fell in love with Ben and Ben’s girlfriend Holly—she was kind of mopey on Monday because he wasn’t here. She’ll see him again this weekend, I think.

NOVEMBER ROSE

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Stanley brought this rose in around November 20—it smelled wonderful, and made the whole office smell lovely. It lasted for two or three days until Slink discovered it and tried to eat it. (click to enlarge)

posted by lee on 12/04/08 at 11:26 AM

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