96th Birthday * Yay for Our Team * Let the Celebration Begin * Thelma and Louise * On the Road Again * Hell-o-oh * 70th Birthday Party * A Wonderful Adventure * The Tree Guy * Easter
To read "My Diary" from the beginning, go to "Scenes from the Trenches" June 14, 2017, in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog page. To continue reading, scroll up in the archives from June 14, 2017, and click on each individual diary post. If you have difficulty, message or email me and I'll walk you through it. I didn't know, as I was writing, that I was capturing the last year of my son's life. His voice comes through loud and clear. For me, in these pages, he'll always be alive.
APRIL 7, 2014: 96TH BIRTHDAY
A birthday whirlwind weekend. I drove Jim and Sharon to the airport this morning after nonstop eating Saturday and Sunday. Michael prepared a delicious arugula salad with candied walnuts and pears poached in sauterne and, of course, his French bean, sausage, and duck cassoulet. David made Brussels sprouts in a Dijon mustard sauce. The lemon layer cake with rosemary and whipped-cream-cream-cheese frosting didn't disappoint. Sunday morning was Michael's quiche and more of the poached pears.
Thirteen adults and three children joined GG for her 96th birthday fete. Kerry hung 12 gold helium balloons over the dining room table. She tied double-sided family photographs to the end of each balloon string. Cousin Annette sent two dozen pink roses from Kansas City.
Mom beamed. "It's the best birthday party I've ever had."
She blew out two candles on her cake — a nine and a six — and made a wish. "Can I tell everyone what I wished?"
"Mom, you can do whatever you want."
"I wished that all of you will come back here, in four years, to join me for my one-hundredth birthday."
"We will. We will."
Happy 96th Birthday, GG Moon.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: The great thing about walking your dog in the park on a leash is that, if you get caught up in an awkward conversation with your neighbors, the dog will drag you away and you don't have to excuse yourself from the conversation.
APRIL 8, 2014: YAY FOR OUR TEAM
Annette calls. She wants to make sure her roses arrived. She also wants to tell me about her blind date.
"How did it go?"
"It went well. Jim picked me up, opened car and restaurant doors, showed me around his beautiful white-everything house, and kissed me good night. He's invited me to dinner again next Thursday. He wants his friends to meet his girlfriend."
"Wow. His girlfriend?"
"That's what he said on the phone."
This gentleman owns several houses, a boat, and flies his own airplane — at 82 years of age. Annette says, "I'm not ready to go up in the air with him."
Yay, Cousin Annette. At 75, you're a spring chicken and a fine catch.
APRIL 9, 2014: LET THE CELEBRATION BEGIN
I'm going to Bend, Oregon, on Sunday. This is a surprise trip from Marisa and Kerry for my 70th birthday. A little early, but it's Easter break and they can get away for a couple of days. Kerry, Regan, Ayla, and I will drive from Lincoln to Bend. Marisa, Sam, and Elise will drive from Seattle to Bend. Marisa has reserved a craftsman-style house in the center of town.
I'm adjusting my calendar — canceling dentist appointments, bridge dates, my shift at Snap it Up, and arranging a cat sitter for Jazzy. This morning I wake up with a scratchy sore throat. Drat. I have to will this sore throat away. I'm happy and excited to be preparing for this unexpected Oregon excursion with my daughters and grandchildren.
Let the 70th birthday celebration begin.
APRIL 12, 2014: THELMA AND LOUISE
I'm running around, getting ready to go. I've been laid up with this cold and I'm catching up. I hate colds. You feel like you're not really sick but you're really not well, either. Actually, you feel like shit. I'm drinking orange juice, using nose spray and eye drops, and taking antihistamines and cough syrup. Probably, all together, they're a lethal combination. But, I don't have time to fool around. We're leaving tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. on our road trip to Bend, Oregon.
Lay in cat food and kitty litter. Check. Water houseplants and outside potted plants. Check. Print off a map. Check. Fill the gas tank. Check. Buy birthday favors for the grandkids. Check. Sounds like I'm leaving for four weeks instead of four days.
This will be a Thelma and Louise adventure with a seven-year old and a five-year old. I'm raring to go.
APRIL 13, 2014: ON THE ROAD AGAIN
On the road again. Can't wait to get on the road again. Kerry, Regan, Ayla, and I are settled into my 2006 Prius. Kerry's driving. I'm assigned the passenger seat and the role of navigator. Kerry's phone is programmed to Siri for directions. My old-fashioned printed directions are a backup in case we lose cell phone contact.
Regan and Ayla, still in pajamas and buckled in their car seats, sit surrounded by blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and kid-size electronic gadgets. Kerry and I agree on some ground rules:
- The driver's always right.
- The front seat passenger is allowed to scream once. Only once.
- What happens in the car, stays in the car.
- Because I'm the Birthday Queen, Kerry and Marisa can't call me out — for anything — for the duration of the trip.
According to my Google map, the distance to Bend is 424.3 miles or seven hours and five minutes not counting pit and food stops. Ten minutes out of town we run into a dead end. How did we get off the main road? Was it the driver or the navigator? Oh, boy. This could be a long trip.
Back on track, it's a clear day with blue, cloudless skies. We pass a reasonable mix of green and brown grasses, given the drought situation. Lake Shasta is low. A wide swath of black, muddy earth rims the perimeter. Half way to Bend, Kerry and I realize we haven't turned on the radio. We've been "banterizing." Kerry makes up this word. We're laughing and teasing each other. We're having a good time.
The girls are getting restless. Now I'm driving and Kerry's navigating and directing car yoga. Ayla throws her feet up over her head in her car seat. Regan's a swirl of hair flying from one side to the other.
We pull off the road in Weed. Kerry sees a photo op in front of a "Welcome to Weed" sign. She asks Regan to run as fast as she can to get an action shot and to use up some of her kid energy. Back on the road, we're driving through northern California outback. We pass an adult superstore. Gun shops and signs for certified NRA instructors appear like Golden Arches - with predictable regularity. Looking for lunch, we pass a restaurant that advertises, "We now serve good food."
Hmm. Think we'll keep looking.
As we approach Bend, we call Marisa. We're a little bit ahead of her and will arrive at the rental house first. Marisa gives Kerry the code to gain access to the house key. Our get-away is about to begin for real.
APRIL 14, 2014: HELL-O-OH
NW Federal Street is our Bend address. The owners live in Cleveland, Ohio. This house will be their retirement home, along with an East Coast home in Florida.
I claim the downstairs bedroom. It's not the master bedroom but it means I don't have to climb the steep, narrow stairs to the second floor. Marisa and Kerry are sharing the master bedroom. A third bedroom, on the second floor, has a single bed for Sam and a double bed for Ayla, Regan, and Elise. The kids want to be together. This morning, the four of them are up at 4 a.m. There's too much excitement for young cousins to stay asleep.
Marisa and Kerry walk to the Back Porch Coffee Shop to buy coffee and breakfast treats. I brought ground Yuban, my coffee of choice for many years, but it doesn't meet M & K's minimum standards. It comes in a plastic container from the grocery store. It's not tall or short or blended. My cup of "real coffee" from the coffee shop doesn't impress me. I like my Yuban better.
The unexpected magic, though, is in the breakfast rolls that Kerry and Marisa bring home to all of us - Ocean Rolls, a Bend exclusive from the Sparrow Bakery. Oh, my. This is a true discovery. A cross between a breakfast roll and a croissant and flavored with cardamom. The seven of us share two of them. We all agree these are among the most wonderful, delicious concoctions we've ever tasted. Kids and grownups fight over the last few crumbs.
I don't eat breakfast rolls and I'm not a fan of croissants, but these Ocean Rolls are over the top. Why they're called Ocean Rolls isn't clear. Bend is far from the Pacific ocean or any ocean. Cardamom is native to the evergreen forests of Southern India. Nomenclature is of no significance, however. The roll is the roll is the roll.
At lunch time, we pull in at the Ten Barrel Brewery a few blocks from the house. The day is much warmer than we were expecting. We sit outside at a polished picnic table. Crayons and coloring paper are provided. Halfway through our meal, the drinks for the kids haven't arrived. I spy our waitress across the yard. In an instant, in Bend, my life changes forever.
"Hell-o-oh," I yell. "Hell-o-oh!"
The waitress turns around. Marisa and Kerry duck down. Customers at other tables are staring at us. Sam and Elise are laughing. What did Mim just do? This is so embarrassing. The waitress comes to our table. "We're still waiting for the kids' drinks."
"Oh, right. I'll get them for you."
"Hell-o-oh" becomes the vacation catchphrase. I remind everyone of the trip rule. No one can criticize the Birthday Girl.
This afternoon we hike in Shelving Park which has level walking trails, lots of big and little sticks, and water running over rocks and logs. Perfect. "Hell-o-oh" everyone shouts through the forest. We stop at a covered bridge for a group photograph.
Back at the house, the evening's filled with games like "I'm going camping and I'm bringing..." Everyone has to guess the secret code to be allowed to come on the camping trip. The kids love this game. They take turns making up the rules. After a while, the game deteriorates into knock-knock jokes involving butts and poop. Butts and poop are as funny as "Hello-o-oh" and all are mentioned, often, to fits and giggles.
The walls in this house on NW Federal Street are blushing. They've never heard such goings-on. It's a good thing the owners live far away. In Cleveland.
APRIL 15TH, 2014: 70TH BIRTHDAY PARTY
My 70th birthday party continues. Everyone's up before me and there are more Ocean Rolls this morning. About one quarter of an Ocean Roll is left for Mim. That will teach me to get up last.
We pile into Marisa's white Honda Odyssey mini-van. We're driving to Sisters, a little tourist town about half an hour from Bend. Turns out it's not a good time to walk the main drag. The streets and sidewalks are all torn up for a major renovation. The make-over will be finished in a month for the summer tourist season, but right now, walking is a pedestrian's nightmare — plenty of opportunities for tripping and stumbling. I watch my feet and where I put them.
We head to a restaurant famous for its fish and chips. The girls order from the kids menu — their third meal of mac-n-cheese. Sam joins M & K and me in sharing an order of fish and chips. The fish and chips come and they're good. We order another basket. Kerry orders a diet Pepsi for the second time as it has not yet arrived.
Our chatty waitress says, "I used to live in Seattle. I lived there seven months. I didn't like it."
"Was it the weather you didn't like?"
"No, it was the traffic."
M & K take the receipt to the cash register to pay for lunch. I sit with the kids. And sit with the kids. This is taking a while. Ayla's upset. She wants her mom. The woman at the cash register rings up three baskets of fish and chips instead of two. She charges $3 for the diet drink that never came. Eventually, all is adjusted and Ayla finds Kerry.
Back at our NW Federal home away from home, I pass out Easter Bunny PEZ dispensers with candy refills. They're received with cheers, thank-you's, and hugs. I had Popeye and Mickey Mouse PEZ dispensers when I was little. PEZ candy was invented in Austria in 1927 as a breath mint. The name comes from the German word for peppermint — "pfefferminz." in 1948, the first PEZ dispenser was designed to resemble a cigarette lighter to encourage people to quit smoking. In 2011, PEZ, Inc. opened a visitor's center in Orange, Connecticut. A true product success story.
With PEZ dispensers in their hands, the kids disappear upstairs. M & K open their laptops on the dining room table. They both have work to do for their jobs for Williams Sonoma. They work from home and away from home.
I opt for some alone time and drive to Bend's main street shopping area where restaurants and clothing boutiques abound. I examine a few items on racks — a blouse, a jacket, a skirt. They each cost the same. $324. Time to move on. At the market, two blocks from our house, I buy cheese, crackers, wine, and the makings for noodles and tomatoes for Sam and the girls. The grownups are having Happy Hour for our last evening in Bend.
We open the wine and drink a toast to my birthday. We play Simon Says and Sorry with Sam and Ayla. Regan and Elise are upstairs. M & K go back to the market for another bottle of wine. I pick up dirty dinner dishes and load the dishwasher. The grandchildren are dueling each other with the long, plastic tubes their PEZ dispensers came in. Packaging is always so much fun.
M & K return and there's a commotion in the dining room A sparkler's blazing on top of a cupcake. My two daughters and their four children are singing "Happy Birthday." We have a choice of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting or vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting. And, if we're good, we can have one of each.
This birthday celebration is my best, ever. Marisa and Kerry have gone above and beyond — making the plans, renting the vacation house, paying for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I'll pull this memory out of my memory box and relive it again and again.
"I love you Marisa, Kerry, Sam, Elise, Regan, and Ayla. Thank you for sharing this birthday with me."
My 70th birthday road trip is coming to a close, all too soon.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: Thank God it's tax day! Now maybe all the idiots who dress up like the Statue of Liberty and stand on the street corner and wave signs and wave at traffic will go away.
APRIL 16, 2014: A WONDERFUL ADVENTURE
This morning we're packing up and getting ready to leave Bend. We walk to a nearby bakery. The first thing Kerry and I notice is the absence of Ocean Rolls. Oh, my. What shall we do? Back at the house, I say, "I have to leave for a few minutes to run an errand."
"How long will this errand take?"
"I don't know. Maybe half an hour. This is still my birthday celebration. I'm still the Birthday Queen."
"Well, okay, but we have to leave pretty soon, you know. It's a long drive home."
I back my car out of the driveway and consult Siri for directions to Sparrow Bakery. Yesterday, Marisa and I stopped by the bakery to check it out. I gathered the necessary information while Marisa used the restroom.
"Yes, you can freeze Ocean Rolls."
"No, we don't have an online site for ordering them."
"No, we don't ship them."
"Yes, you can order them by the dozen."
I ordered three dozen Ocean Rolls to be picked up tomorrow, which is now today. As I pull into the bakery parking lot, my cell phone rings. "Hi. This is Sparrow Bakery. We're holding your order for three dozen Ocean Rolls."
"Thank you. I'll be right there." I don't want my Ocean Rolls sold to someone else.
Heading back to the house on NW Federal, the car vibrates with the smell of warm, baked-this-morning Ocean Rolls, I walk in the house and give a box to Marisa. "For me? All of these?"
"Yes, we each get a dozen."
On the drive home, for an hour and a half, Kerry and I talk about Ocean Rolls. How we'll freeze and reheat them. How we'll try to find a recipe or make one up. How cardamom may be our new favorite spice — ever. An hour and a half. Is this what you call mother-daughter bonding? I don't know. Whatever it is, I want to pack it in a sealed container and preserve it forever.
We arrive back at my house. Ayla and Regan move their car seats from my car to their white Honda SUV which is parked in my garage. They're eager to get home. They want to see Daddy.
No matter how wonderful the adventure, it's always good to get home. I'm home. I'm tired. I wouldn't have it any other way.
PATRICK'S FACEBOOK POST: My official job title is auto parts delivery driver but a more accurate title would be Sirius Satellite Radio Operator as I scan the dial all day while cruising though the Northern California gold rush communities.
APRIL 17, 2014: THE TREE GUY
The tree guy's here. Over the winter, five of my podocarpus trees have croaked. And the African sumac, in my front yard, is drooping with large sections of brown leaves. When I look at it, I feel like I live in a southern swamp. Maybe it can recover but there are other issues.
This African sumac tree grows like a weed. It's evergreen yet drops yellow leaves all year long and it's encroaching on my roof top and gutter line. It's building my case for getting rid of it, even though I hate to remove, okay kill, any plant or tree.
The tree guy says these trees need major pruning every year. Like $300 worth of pruning. Case closed. The dead podocarpus trees have to go. The still-living African sumac has to go. Damn. The other thing is that there's a finch nest in the African sumac with two baby birds inside. I don't know this until the tree guy points it out. He can move it to another tree. I inhale.
"Move it to another tree."
We wait. The mother finch flies to the new tree with a worm in her beak. She's figured out the relocation of her nest. She's found her lost babies. She's on it. "Go, Mother Finch. I'm for you, not against you."
The African sumac comes down. The podocarpus trees come down. Huge holes appear in my yard. I'm having a yard identity crisis. "Wait," says the tree man. "Live with your yard for a while. Think about what new trees you might want to consider."
I need someone to hold my hand in this endeavor. I need a good tree guy. I think I have one.
APRIL 20, 2014: EASTER
For me, Easter is about family getting together. We had Easter egg hunts, forever, when my children were growing up. If not in our own yard, in GG's yard. When my kids were 18, 19, and 20, they still wanted to hunt for Easter eggs which, by then, were plastic and some included five-dollar bills.
I'm at Kerry's house this afternoon watching the custom continue. Two hundred plastic eggs, some with dimes and nickels in them, are hiding in Kerry's backyard. Regan, Ayla, and their friends, Evan and Grant, run around all the bushes and trees. In five minutes the hunt is over. Everyone has a basketful of eggs and a chocolate rabbit. As much as the hunt, sitting down on the entry way floor to count their loot is part of the thrill.
Among our clan is GG, of course, and Doug. Doug is Regan's and Ayla's great-grandfather on their father's side. His wife, Joyce, recently passed away. (My perky polka-dot umbrella story.) Doug, age 85, brings his homemade desserts — a banana cream pie and a lemon pie. I take a slice of the banana cream pie. It's really good. Doug and Joyce were married for something like 65 years. He's making an adjustment. He's hanging in there.
Doug represents what Easter's about — hope and renewal and our individual lives playing out without fanfare. Living, suffering, and living on. It's the best thing about us. We rise up each day no matter what.
Happy Easter, Everyone.
COMING UP THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2018
April 21, 2014 - May 2, 2014: Having a Moment * Keeping Promises to Myself * Mom * Irene * Deviant Normal * ALL THE MEANING IN THE WORLD * My George Clooney * For Crying Out Loud * Happy Birthday, Kerry Colleen
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