Category Archives: Family

family communication

I haven’t written here in almost a week. As usual, there are many reasons, but one big reason this past week is that I’ve spent a lot of my writing impetus writing emails to my siblings. Last year I wanted to get a new car for my mother. I thought my reasons were good, and I talked it over with both her and Dad. We did some car shopping but it got put on the back burner sometime last fall.

Word of this car shopping got out – it was never a secret – and soon questions were being asked, help was being offered etc etc by my siblings. At some point, I decided the best way to keep everyone informed was to send out a blast email after I got back from a visit with Mom and Dad.

I think it’s been quite successful. Lots of discussion has been engendered that otherwise would have taken place over months, if at all. In fact, one comment I made in an email got back to Mom in a way she didn’t expect and now there’s blowback. Not from Mom, but from another sibling, who feels we are going behind the backs of Mom and Dad.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time explaining this or that or defending myself. Now I’m trying leverage all of that into a blog post!

The six of us are lucky that both of our parents are still living and living by themselves in their own house. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that all good things must come to an end. Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. No one knows how that will progress except that he will continue to decline. Mom is in good health now and takes care of Dad with few problems but she is nearly the same age as him so the margin for error is razor thin. All of us help as we can but there are more and more issues that crop up that concern all of us as a group.

For me, the solution is easy. I like to write. I write about my time with Mom and Dad and send it out in a blast to my siblings. This gets everyone the same information at the same time and allows (assuming consistent reply alls) a good discussion of the issues.

I don’t know. Nothing is perfect. Not all of my siblings like to write like I do so it’s harder for them to chime in. If we were to try to do group Skype conversations (for example) it would be agony trying to find a time that would be good for everyone.

The best news is that all of us respect and like each other. I’ve heard stories of other families . . .

sick

Sick. I’ve been sick. I’m pretty sure it’s just a head cold, but it has kept me low for almost a whole week now. Sunday I wrote in a post that I had a headache. That’s not uncommon but Monday it came back and it wouldn’t go away throughout a nice Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s. Sarah had been at Jane’s Sunday night decorating cookies so I went over and did some. Here are our results:

Sarah came and stayed at my place Sunday night. Monday it was the two of us plus Rose in my car going down to Santa Clara. Jane and Joe and Jack came down. Mary was already there since Saturday. Teresa was there until about 2 when she had to go to work. Julian and Lisa came down but they were sick and didn’t stay long.

My headache never went away, despite some rather frenzied applications of medicine: ibuprofen, excedrin. maxalt – nothing worked. The next day I was torched. I stayed in bed pretty much all day and night. The headaches were under control but I was extremely tired. I did check my temperature but there was no fever. Wednesday I was going to go back down to Santa Clara and stay overnight but I knew I couldn’t do that nor did I want to expose Mom and Dad. Jane called me and said she would drive me down just for a couple of hours. It was Dad’s birthday. Jane got him to agree to walk over to the new visitor center at ‘Apple Park’. That was nice. the weather was perfect.Cool but sunny.

Yesterday I felt better and got out to do some grocery shopping. In the afternoon, I went to take a nap but actually felt pretty good so I got up. I still went to bed about 7 as I had every other night starting Tuesday. By now the fatigue wasn’t so bad but the constant stuffiness in my head along with the coughing and runny nose. I take Afrin at night so I can breathe but try really hard not to take any decongestant during the daylight hours. Sometimes I think the Afrin works a little too well, creating a direct path for the cold air to blast through my sinuses to the back of my throat, where there is a tender spot from the post nasal drip.

Well, today I went to work and did ok. Luckily just an 8 hour day and no one was in the building but Tim W and me. Tim put up with my sniffles. I didn’t get too close. Now it’s almost 8 and I’m heading to bed.

One last thing. Mary got this picture of Dad on Christmas Day as he was taking all the torn up wrapping paper out to recycling. He’s still got his sense of humor!

musings

I see that it’s been a week since I went out of my norm and posted on a political theme. The hope I felt only a week ago has been dashed by the passage of the Republicans’ ‘tax reform’ bill. As a side not, I put ‘hope’ in my tag window for this post and saw that it’s the first time I’ve tagged that word. That’s pretty sad that I haven’t written about hope in 18 months of this blog.

I’ve written about goals, which are kind of like hope, I think. One implies the other, although I’m not sure which would come first.

I’m going down to stay with Mom and Dad today. Just one night then home again tomorrow night. Work on Saturday then back down to Santa Clara on Monday, Christmas Day. I believe we’ll have 13 for dinner. That’ll be nice. Tim shared with his siblings the birthday card Mom and Dad sent him last week. Dad wrote on it, which is not common any more, but it was somewhat disjointed. He referred to his having ‘half a brain’. I told Tim that that was the worst of what is happening to him: he knows. It won’t get better so, to me, that means treasuring what we can when we can. Thus, I visit as often as possible.

At work, I’ve been trying to develop relationships with people outside my norm. I try to take time to have real honest talk with some of the Davies Hall ushers, with some of the Symphony staff. Everyone is at work, so we all recognize that is our priority but there are private moments. Working primarily in the front of the house, I hardly have any contact with the musicians any more. The last three or four shows I’ve done, Sarah was playing but I didn’t have time to get back stage at the right moment to talk to her. It’s been extremely hard for me to get out and do things not work or family related.

Just him

Tidying up files today I found this quote from Rosalie, written up by Ashley in January of this year:

A friend stopped by this afternoon to give Rosalie a memory box to keep special things that remind her of Zach. After she left, I asked R some questions thinking I would write down her answers for the box.
“What do you remember about Uncle Zach?”
“Bad news bananas!!!” (Smiles and giggles )
“What was your favorite memory, or something that you remember, about Uncle Zach?”
“Just him.”
“Your favorite part was just all of him?”
“Yeah. Just him.”

tea

I had to look it up. It was Christmas 2011. Zach had moved from Oregon to Louisiana the summer before. Sarah had started her doctorate program in Colorado. Jeremy and Ashley had moved into their own home. I was starting to get back on my feet after the economic disaster of 2008 and 2009.

I don’t remember if I helped to finance, or if I suggested it, but with all five of us in one place at the same time, I wanted to get a nice picture of all of us. Ashley’s brother Ryan had a nice camera and generously agreed to take some pictures. there are a bunch of good ones, but this is the one I picked today:

But back to tea. For a Christmas present, my children got together and gave me a teapot and some tea. I don’t know why exactly. I had not been a tea drinker. I didn’t (still don’t) drink coffee. I had become a fan of caffeine over the years when I discovered it helped with my headaches but I had never thought about getting it via liquids.

OK, I have a teapot now. When I got home, I started trying out the teas that had come with the teapot. Eventually, I developed some knowledge of what I liked. The next year for Christmas, Zach sent me a huge assortment of teas. Here’s my kitchen cabinet after they arrived:

I’ve got some nice glass containers now but otherwise the cabinet looks much the same. I keep lots of different teas and drink whatever feels right at the moment. I have some loose leaf teas but use tea bags most of the time.

I thought of all of this last night when I was at the grocery store getting milk. I always go down the tea aisle, even when I have plenty of tea. I guess I look for stuff on sale. At this point I know what stores have what teas so there aren’t many surprises.

What struck me last night was that the Stash tea was about the cheapest tea there. Stash was the brand of the assortment that Zach had sent me and I thought it was pretty good. It’s an Oregon company so I thought there was some angle for him there. They have lots of teas so I was able to try lots of different flavors.

Today was Oolong. Thinking of you, Zach.

Museum of Flight

Or, as the sign in front say, ‘Museum of Fligh . . .’

Really, it was a nice museum. Yesterday was the day all four of us would have together and going to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle was the chosen activity. When we walked in to the main hall, we were greeted by the sight of dozens of aircraft, some on the floor and some hanging from the ceiling. An SR-71 Blackbird dominated the whole scene.

I thought it looked great, but at that moment realized we were there with a 4 year old. OK, almost 5 but still very young. But at that moment, we saw right in front of us a nice young man inviting us to the kid’s project table. They were going to demonstrate how to build a catapult in just a couple of minutes. Rosalie listened attentively to the presentation using a tablet and stood patiently in line to get her materials but was less interested in the details of actually building it. It was actually a simple little trebuchet built with popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Given the task of decorating the sticks, however, Rosalie came to life.

After it was built, she stood in line for some puff balls to launch and chose two small purple ones. Once explained the technique of launching, she took over and entertained us by launching her purple puff balls for us to try to catch.We walked around the hall. She sat in the SR-71 cockpit with Ashley:She found the kids play area and tested the wind tunnel machine:

Checked out the view from inside a light plane cockpit:

Tried the hurricane simulator with Mom:

Then we had lunch. After lunch was the Hall of Heroes, which is a review of the two World Wars with an emphasis on American planes and flyers. Then we walked across the skybridge to the pavilion which contained, among other things, an Air Force One, Boeing 727, 737, 747, 787, a Concorde, a B-29, a B-17, a B-47 and some others I don’t remember. In other words, lots of planes. We were able to go through most of the commercial airliners and AF One.

About 15 minutes into the ride home, this was the scene in the back seat.

Back at home she perked up. Momma made some chocolate chip cookies for an early birthday party with Gramps. I had found a nice jigsaw puzzle at the Museum store for her so we set to work on that after singing happy birthday.

Hmmm, can’t find the picture. Maybe tomorrow. I got up this morning and drove across the state to Spokane. I am now safely ensconced in a bedroom at Peter and Nanci’s. We took a nice drive this afternoon out Palouse HIghway. The fields, some of which were newly planted with winter wheat, were lit up nicely by the setting sun. About half the sky was clear, while the other half was turning all kinds of colors.

Rosalie and me day 2

The only rough spot we had was last night at bed time, she had trouble because she missed her “Mommy and Daddy.’ All I could do was validate her feelings but repeat that they weren’t here and weren’t going to be here until tomorrow (today).

The last few days, she’s been up pretty early. As soon as she hears some noises downstairs, there she is! Although I had some trouble sleeping – I didn’t want to take a pill as the only adult in the house – I slept a reasonable amount and was still up a little after 6. About 7:15, I went back upstairs to check on her. I thought for sure she’d be playing in her room, but she was still conked. I laid down in my bedroom next door and she came in about 7:45.

Because Emma came over yesterday, my plan for going to the grocery store didn’t pan out. In retrospect, I could have gone while she was next door but I didn’t think of it until later. We were out of milk, which meant breakfast was dicey as both of us are cereal people. So, at 7:45 I suggested that we go out for breakfast. That perked her up!

Due to more confusion on my part, we missed the more traditional cafes in favor of the bakery. Actually, once she got a look at the bakery she wouldn’t go back to the cafe. I was able to get a slice of quiche for myself and limit her to a croissant with a glass of milk. She did notice the ham pieces in my quiche and eat a bunch of them.

At the grocery store, she insisted we take a cart so she could ride hanging onto the front. Besides milk, we stocked up on red pears, avocados and tomatoes. Back at home, we finally had our bowls of cereal for the morning.

Then it was upstairs for play school. She put her witch fairy costume on and tried several hats on me while preparing first breakfast, then packing snack and lunch for me to take to school. She was the Momma and the teacher. Eventually there was tickling. Then we came back downstairs for some coloring and letters and more puzzles. We were doing the USA puzzle for the second time when Ashley came home. That still lies incomplete as lunch was more interesting. Then Mommy enforced a real rest time and I was relieved.

I’m pretty pleased that I didn’t resort to the TV solution during my 24+ hours in charge. Jeremy and Ashley had told me the codes and what channels were ok. Rosalie makes it easier to leave it off as it’s not a priority for her. She didn’t ask me once to turn it on.

Rosalie and me

Jeremy and Ashley left this morning for a little over 24 hours together on Bainbridge Island to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I’m staying home with Rosalie. This morning after some warm up exercises in coloring and puzzle making, I got her out to the Reptile Zoo in Monroe, about a half hour from here.

It was very nice. Unpretentious, but with a wide variety of reptiles including an albino alligator and a two-headed turtle that they feature in their advertising. They brought out a boa and let all the kids hold it and feel it move.

We came home for lunch and not long after that, the neighbor girl, Emma, came over. Grandpa faded from the picture at light speed. Except for fixing the Ply-Doh extruder, I was invisible. Well, they did enjoy serving me delicacies cooked up with the Play-Doh. Then they went over to Emma’s and I’ve been sitting here in the empty house for an hour reading TalkBass.

The sun came out while we were at the Reptile Zoo and the afternoon was bright but cool. We might have hit 50 degrees, but the sun went down at 4:30 and now it’s getting dark. I’ll go get Rosalie in a minute . . .

Mt Rainier

Driving with Jeremy to his work yesterday – I did it so I could have a car during the day – he pointed out Mt Rainier ahead of us, looming on the horizon in the gray skies. He said it looks different every time he sees it. He told me of a place not far away where on a clear day, one can see Rainier to the south and Mt Baker to the north. He wanted mountains and he got them!

To the east are the Cascades. They’re not as dramatic as Rainier but they’re closer and at around 8 or 9,000 feet elevation, they’re pretty dramatic in their own way. We got a good look at them Monday afternoon.

Washington

<Edited Nov 7 to add pictures.> The end of day two of my trip to Washington. It’s been pretty eventful so far. Yesterday when I got to the luggage carrel at Sea-Tac and looked out the window, I saw fat flakes of snow gently falling down. Going through the door to the outside was a shock to this Bay Area boy. Cold, cold, cold!

But Ashley was right there within a couple of minutes and the car was nice and warm. I was in such a hurry to get in the car that I didn’t think of sitting in my usual spot next to Rosalie in the back. That meant I couldn’t really see her unless I twisted myself completely around. That’s not practical at my advanced age but we talked and had fun grabbing shoes. I commented that she can really reach the seat in front much more easily than before. She’s very tall for an almost 5 year old. Ashley said there were two things on Rosalie’s agenda for Grandpa: puzzles, and tickling. We can do that!

After lunch, we did puzzles for a while at first but tickling did ensue eventually.

About 5, we headed out for Jeremy’s Fire Academy graduation. It was held in a hotel in Issaquah. There were all the usual graduation accoutrements: bagpipers, a color guard, a chaplain and lengthy speeches. Various awards were given to high achievers. Each graduate had a family member come up to pin the badge on him or her. (There were two woman graduates out of 21 total.)

When Jeremy’s name was called, Ashley went up with Rosalie. Jeremy, who had been stern all evening, picked up Rosalie with a huge smile on his face and held her while Ashley pinned him. Then they all turned to the audience and got their picture taken. Rosalie was somewhat distracted in Daddy’s arms but the instant she realized her picture was being taken, she turned on a huge smile. That generated a laugh from the audience.

After the pinning was complete, three of the graduates made presentations. One was Jeremy, who spoke of his time in the Atlanta Fire Department and the illness of Atlanta firefighter Frank Martinez. Frank reached out to Jeremy in November 2015 when Jeremy needed people to cover shifts while he was with us all in Louisiana. Frank was very sick at that time and couldn’t do the work, but did it in a gesture of solidarity. Jeremy drew the comparison with that solidarity and the group he was graduating into. He also commented that Frank almost certainly got cancer from poisonous substance exposure on the job and his goal was to reduce those exposures among firefighters.

Rosalie was sitting in my lap at that point and tears rolled down my face during his talk. I wanted to just hug Rosalie instead of wiping my face.

Afterwards, many more pictures were taken and we met some of Jeremy’s academy colleagues before heading out for a late dinner.

Today was very quiet. It was chilly and foggy early in the morning but by around 10 it was lifting and by lunchtime the sun was shining.These are out the back door window:

Jeremy slept in and Rosalie and I played with dolls, did puzzles, colored in her coloring book, read books . . . and tickled. After lunch, we went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. The temperature was around 45 but no wind. It was very pleasant in the sunshine. Several houses had the remains of snowmen still extant.

Rosalie experimented with the icy remains of the snow in the puddle in front of the house. Later we went to a local park where we walked across the Tolt River on a footbridge, admired the Cascades lit up by the setting sun, and played in the play area. Rosalie made ice cream from the bits of grass and wood chips there.

Tonight we all had dinner together and made our plans for the next three days. Ashley had a new living room light delivered today and it had a fantastic box for imaginative girls. Who could that be?