Tag Archives: Mom and Dad

things

I made some reference in my last post about my things – memorabilia, books, clothes – that we moved last week from my apartment. I’m still busy trying to finish the floor, but boxes of my things are all over the house. I’ve found that the context has changed how I look at them. Next week the floor will be done and we will crack the garage and Sepi’s things – mostly furniture – will come out and go upstairs. There will then be lots of storage room for all of my boxes.

But now I think I will be letting go of much of it. I’ve had some discussions with friends about their experiences going through their parents’ house after their deaths. Much had to be thrown away. I’ve known for a long time that the same will be true when Mom and Dad pass on. Most of these things are interesting, up to a point. Taken in total, it’s too much.

Well, that day is not yet upon us, but my day is. We have a huge dumpster in front of our house and it must be returned by the end of the month. Many of my things will be in it.

Dave

A little over a year ago, I posted this story about Dave. Noah’s Dad. This past week, Dave has been in California along with the rest of his family. A group of us met in Lake Tahoe over the weekend for a couple of days of camping and fellowship. They’ve been down in the Bay Area since Sunday and left this morning.

They culminated their visit last night by coming down to Mom and Dad’s house in Santa Clara. They were flying out of San Jose and stayed overnight there. An even dozen of us had a very nice dinner on the patio. The kids played with the toys Mom keeps there, they went over to the park and played in the sand, and they picked lemons off the tree in the backyard and made lemonade for everyone.

During all this activity, Dave was just being Dad: carrying Myles on his shoulders, playing airplanes with Myles, talking with Noah about this thing or that that we were seeing. Just like his comment from 2 1/2 years ago, Dave was always calm and engaged with his children.

I don’t want to imply that Ally was absent in childcare duties. She was not. She did plenty of carrying and playing too. She’s a stay at home Mom now and I think she appreciated having a little break. I’m sure having Zach’s family around her for most of a week had some special stresses. Whether Dave is like this all the time or if he recognized those stresses doesn’t really matter. He was a great Dad this week. I’m pretty sure he’s a great Dad back home too. Yay Dave!

Language can be weird sometimes. I think I am Noah’s grandfather despite having no legal status as such. He has two more back in Ohio. Ally is the mother of this grandson but is not, nor was she ever, my daughter-in-law. Dave is just Noah’s Dad. Whatever else we call ourselves, I am proud to call these people ‘family’.

EDIT: Ally posted this photo on Facebook and I filched it. Maybe not so special in and of itself, but to me emblematic of Dave.

And just to be fair, here’s one of Ally at our Lake Tahoe campsite:

the Fourth of July

I stayed in Pacifica last night. I had to work until 2 yesterday afternoon and got lazy after I got home. I had talked to Mom and Dad about coming down but finked out. Unlike prior years, Pacifica had been fairly quiet in the previous week.

Although it wasn’t fully dark until 9:30, the bombs and skyrockets started in earnest about 8 pm. The back of my apartment complex faces the backs of some houses which all have decks. In almost eight years of living here I’ve seen people on those decks maybe 4 or 5 times. Last night was one of them.

There were a dozen or so people including kids. I could see beer bottles and cigarettes. I was hoping their deck did not go all the way to the house because they were shooting off big fountains and skyrockets right there in the back yard. The airbursts were out of my sight from my kitchen window but I could hear them. The fountains splashed sparks on their roof and their neighbor’s roof. The neighbor’s house was dark so I assume they weren’t at home. Maybe they were on the deck.

Out the bedroom window looking towards the beach we could see several large displays. About 9 pm a police car sped down Linda Mar with its lights on but no siren. A minute or so later came another, then the fire truck from the station up the street. The fire truck put its siren on. There was smoke all over.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen (or heard) police and fire presence on the Fourth of July in Pacifica.

I went to bed around ten. The explosions continued for at least another half hour. I believe I fell asleep about then so I don’t know how late it all went. If there were big explosions later they didn’t wake me up. I am thankful for that. I remember in years past huge bombs at one in the morning.

Also in years past there were big signs posted along Highway 1 in the run up to the Fourth saying that Pacifica had ‘zero tolerance’ for illegal fireworks. The fine was publicized as $1000. I didn’t see those signs this year, perhaps because there is work going on upgrading the highway. Maybe instead of ineffectual signs, the city has decided to actually prosecute the scofflaws.

My favorite guitar forum, TDPRI, had a discussion on fireworks with predictable comments from some about restrictions on ‘freedom’. Another common theme was how communities have banned fireworks but people get them and shoot them off anyway. Sepi says Brisbane enforces their fireworks ban more closely, perhaps because they are right up against San Bruno Mountain, which is covered in dry grass.

I suppose in the big picture of where our country is going, this is a small thing. OK, rant over. Tomorrow we are heading up to Lake Tahoe for a group camp out in honor of Zach. I think I’ll do another whole post on that happy subject.

at Mom and Dad’s

I came down here yesterday because Mom had an issue with vertigo and was going to the doctor. I had the day off and didn’t want her to drive if it could be avoided.

The doctor said basically that there was nothing to be done about the vertigo except rest. Mom had taken some expired medicine she had for sea sickness and thought it had helped but the doc said no, don’t do that.

Anyway, she’s better now. She has an appointment with her dentist this morning to put a permanent crown on so I decided to stay and drive her there as well. Her original plan was to drive up to Jane’s tonight for a Pampered Chef party which worried me. Last night, though, she decided she was not going to go so I feel better.

The weather was warm yesterday, in the 80s, and it reminded me of the air conditioning battle I had waged and lost six months ago. It’s a little after 7 now and I’ve been up for about an hour. It’s beautiful outside but it promises to be warm again today. Mom and Dad close their house up tight every night religiously so this morning the first thing I did was go around and open up some windows and doors. (I had the window wide open in my bedroom.) The temperature in the house has gone from 73 down to 71 in that time. All the fans that were running last night were shut off during the night.

When I lived in Grass Valley, we would set the fans in the wide open windows running full blast at night. The house would be almost too cool in the mornings but we would button everything up by 8 or so including keeping the drapes closed and the house would stay at a reasonable temperature most of the day. I know Mom and Dad want their house to be secure but comfort is a thing too. I am going to try to convince them that there are not burglars going through the neighborhood every night looking for open windows.

Mom did say last night that she will be proactive about going to the library or the movies (for air conditioning) if it gets really hot. I’ve been in my coastal cocoon lately so it was good to get a reminder that it’s summer time in Santa Clara. I’ll watch the weather more carefully.

Jane is finished with school as of tomorrow so she’ll be able to come down more easily for a while.

at Dad’s house

Sepi and I went down to Mom and Dad’s Wednesday. When we got there it was a little early for lunch so I asked what we could do to further the cause. Mom said there were some lemons on the tree that were pretty big and she wanted to harvest them. Perfect!

I went and got the ladder and soon filled the first bag she brought out. Then she got a second bag which was quickly filled. At this point I was having some difficulty in reaching some of the large lemons and also noticed that the tree had sprouted quite a few branches straight up. I knew that Mom and Dad wanted to keep their fruit trees below about 10 feet in height so I asked Mom to bring me some pruning shears.

This is what she brought me.

I remember those pruners from my childhood over 50 years ago! Still, they worked ok. I had to twist a few of the branches I was trying to cut but it wasn’t worth making an issue over it. What was funny was when Dad came out as I was about done. Of course he couldn’t leave the branch cuttings on the ground for the gardener who was coming the next day. He went and got the green compost can and started cutting up the branches to fit in the can.

He immediately said these cutters are no good. (I wish I could remember what he said exactly but I can’t.) I went and got some newer ones and took this picture of the old ones. When we were done it went back into the bin with the others so it will almost certainly make more appearances.

Back in the garage with the camera app in the phone open, I decided to look at his storage cabinet. It’s a microcosm of his thriftiness: reused shoe boxes and hand written labels. There’s an old wired phone that he can’t bear to throw out. In fairness, it probably still works and they do still have a land line.

        

Below those items are another hallmark of my childhood: reused Polaroid film boxes. At work, Dad took Polaroid images of experiments he was running to study and/or document certain things. The boxes would have been tossed – indeed many probably were – but they were sized perfectly for small items as can be seen.

I’ve had occasion to go into some of those boxes in the last few years. What an amazing melange of ancient hardware! They are the result of many years of fixing things and saving the better parts for reuse. The fact that most of them are worn in ways that would make them difficult or impossible to use now is beside the point. Thriftiness in action. How can I not love this man?

busy

I’ve been really busy lately. That’s partly why there haven’t been very many posts, but only partly. The negative reaction of the person I thought was my friend to a post I made has rocked me. Most of what she said in comments on this blog I did not allow to be published because they were raw personal attacks that did not leave room for discussion. Comments must be civil.

I thought about it, though. I take responsibility for my actions and don’t want to hide behind administrator privileges just to make me feel better. The post in question was only seen by three people that I know about (who reacted to it) before I removed it. Her reaction has been much stronger, I believe, because she has seen I have a new woman in my life.

I would like to talk about her but I am cautious after my experience writing about Rose. I will say her name is Sepi. I met her last fall and we’ve been spending a lot of time together for a couple of months now. My earlier post about charged words was inspired by our conversations. Are we ‘dating’? Are we ‘seeing’ each other? Do we ‘love’ each other or are we ‘in love’? Is she ‘mine’ or me ‘hers’? Words can be confusing, or misleading. Our conversations have been lengthy and are ongoing, I believe that is the best part of our relationship. Partly because of the upset around the blog post no subject is off limits. Early signs are encouraging that we have established a strong basis for a good relationship.

One of the most encouraging signs is being busy. Sepi has gotten me out doing new things, meeting new people. For years, my concept of busy was working a lot. Now I am able to do more things socially and it has been a revelation.

I am returning the favor the best I can. I took her to my jazz band concert and today she will be meeting Mom and Dad and other family members at Teresa’s birthday party. There is more to come on both sides.

Here’s a picture of me in my St. Patrick’s Day tie ready to head out for the jazz band concert:

at Mom and Dad’s

I only spent about 24 hours there from yesterday to today which included a night’s sleep. Actually about half a night, but that’s another story.

Yesterday was Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary. They allowed me to join them for dinner out last night. We went to Fish Market in Sunnyvale. Mom kept saying it had been several years since they had been there last. The dinner prices were a little higher than they’d gotten used to paying at Marie Callendar’s or Mimi’s. I tried to pick up the tab but they very firmly (both of them) told me no, I was their guest.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is a big day in the restaurant business and the place was jammed. Mom had made a reservation, though, and we got to a table pretty quickly. There were no booths and the table we got was right in the middle of the action: waiters and waitresses flying by with plates of food, and groups of patrons often with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. One couple had not only a large bouquet, but an even larger heart-shaped silver balloon. I don’t know what he did with it when he sat down. The cooks were only about 10 or 15 feet away so that added to the show.

It was noisy too. Dad doesn’t say much in the best of situations so he really didn’t say much at the restaurant. Mom sat next to him and leaned over every once in a while to say something to him which he responded to. Until the food came, he watched the hubbub very carefully. He applied himself to the food: salmon and potatoes au gratin, coleslaw, a glass of wine. Oh, and bread with butter before. He took a while but he ate everything.

For some perverse reason, I ordered California rolls from the sushi bar at the same time I ordered dinner. It was too much but I ate about half of them. Mom, after eyeing them distrustfully for most of the dinner, finally tried one, complete with ginger and horseradish. Honestly, they weren’t very good.

We got home in time to watch a Nova program about the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. It should have been interesting after having seen the Churchill movie but I fell asleep while it was droning on. When I woke up, there was a guy rhapsodizing about some project involving the islands in Dubai. Dad had had a nap in the afternoon so, despite his huge dinner, he was awake. Mom was out. I went to bed.

sea change

‘Sea change.’ That’s the phrase that kept coming to me last week. Now that I put it down in black and white, I find I’m thinking about what it really means. I’ve been in boats but I’m not a sailor. I live by the ocean and every time I drive by the beach I look at the waves and think about what it must be like out there. Some days it’s flat and some days it’s wild.

But to imply that the difference between flat and wild signifies something important is kind of a stretch. The ocean is changeable. End of story.

But to me, the phrase means an important change and I feel that an important change has happened in me over the last few weeks. Part of it was my trip to Louisiana. Even though I haven’t done anything yet to follow up on my data gathering, I’ve found myself more able to look forward in a positive way. It’s hard to explain.

SoundBox was a professional opportunity that came my way in 2014. It was a tremendous challenge and has been on the whole tremendously satisfying. I’ve always thought of my career as being in live theatre. A live performance – music, drama, dance – has for me a power like no other art form. And, although we as stagehands are rarely visible, it’s a communal effort that has great meaning to me.

My colleague and friend Denise has been working with me in SoundBox as my assistant for over two years now. She ran the floor, moved the microphones and speakers around, kept track of the myriad details of every show. She’s taken classes and studied and for last week’s production she was in the ‘hot seat’. My original intention was just to let her gain more experience by participating in the pre-production meetings along with actually running the show, which she had done before but as I started the week as her assistant, I found that I was happy in my role. Far from being jealous of her position, I found that I was relieved that someone was there who could handle everything.

Although I had imagined telling her this in a serious heart to heart talk, in the event, it happened on our way out Saturday night in a rather casual way. I told her that I wanted her to continue in the ‘hot seat’ for the April set and furthermore, I wanted her to think about finding someone else to train in the system so that I could step aside completely.

This is my ‘sea change.’ That I have a challenging and exciting job in theatre and I’m ready to walk away from it. The prospect of playing music more, of having more time to help Mom and Dad, of being able to visit new (and old) places is beckoning stronger and stronger. I know it’s called retirement and many people do these things but it always seemed unrealistic. Now it seems less so.

writing

Writing is mysterious and beautiful. Good writing is hard. From somewhere I remember a quote from a 18th Century writer of a letter. At the end of a 20+ page letter to a friend he apologized for going on so long. He said he didn’t have time to write a brief letter.

Or something like that. The point is that it takes a lot of time to arrange the chaotic ideas running through one’s head into organized sentences that someone else has a chance of understanding. In this blog, I try to think before writing, thus most of my entries are relatively brief. 20 page letters will not be read by 21st Century readers. Now in the forums sometimes I see ‘tl;dr’. Too long, didn’t read.

I found one previous reference in this blog to the American writer James Gleick. His book Chaos has been a long time favorite of mine. At Mom and Dad’s the other day, I spotted another Gleick book: Genius, The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, and filched it. I had read it before, some years ago, but I thought it was worth another reading.

This morning I opened it and almost immediately I was struck by the quality of the writing. In the Prologue, Gleick tells of a meeting in 1948 of the world’s best physicists:

In the annals of science it was the last time but one that these men would meet in such circumstances, without ceremony or publicity. They were indulging a fantasy, that their work could remain a small, personal, academic exercise, invisible to most of the public, as it had been a decade before, when a modest building in Copenhagen served as the hub of their science. They were not yet conscious of how effectively they had persuaded the public and the military to make physics a mission of high technology and expense.  . . . Next year most of these men would meet once more . . . but by then the modern era of physics had begun in earnest, science conducted on a scale the world had not seen, and never again would its chiefs come together privately, just to work.

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 . . .