Monday, August 25, 2008

Random thoughts

I've had a hard time collecting my thoughts to put together a blog this last week. I'm trying to get back in the swing of things - but my mind has not been ready to go back to the blogs I was preparing from my Colorado trip about mining, reclaimed mining land, pine bark beetles. They'll come . . . eventually.

I watched the first night of the Democratic Convention . . . I've been considering writing down some things I've been thinking about this election year. The problem with writing about politics is that people tend to have very strong political beliefs - and you know that old phrase . . . never talk religion or politics . . .

For whatever reason, my readership seems to have gone down since my last contemplative religious post . . . but I've titled this blog, Mary Ann's View, so that it is based on what I'm seeing and experiencing at any given time.

Tonight, I came in on the end of Jimmy Carter's interview on PBS. I really appreciated the PBS coverage - listening to historians putting some of this into perspective.

I was impressed with Caroline Kennedy . . . by why aren't they using her married name as well????? Being raised in the panhandle of Texas, my political beliefs have seldom agreed with Teddy Kennedy, but at this point in his life, you have to give him a lot of credit for standing up for what he believes in, for working hard, and for the way he has been such a strong support for his family - in particular the orphaned children of his brothers. The camera kept panning back to both Maria Shriver Schwartzeneger and Caroline Kennedy during Teddy's speech. They both noticeably had tears in their eyes. Teddy came against the advice of his doctors . . . this could easily be his last major public speech. And he put all his heart into it. Whether you agree with him or not . . . at this time in his life, you've got to respect him for what he has accomplished.

I was also impressed with Michelle Obama. I have to confess I've had other things going on in my life this year and have only half heartedly paid attention to the campaigns. No one has really captured my imagination. No one is talking about the issues I care about. So I've only read about the sound bites . . . the misspoken words, etc. Learning more about Michelle Obama, there is much to respect, much to appreciate - she seems to be an amazing lady.

I don't know yet if I'll reveal my private political thinking via the blog, but I'm thinking about writing about it, if for no other reason to clarify my own thoughts as to how I should vote this year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


People deal with grief in many ways. Henry, as a writer, put together a book of the family history from files his parents left on their computer. I took a several photographs of the entire family and have spent some time working them up to look as though we were in a photography studio.

I also found myself playing mindless games with the new apps for my IPhone.

I also spent time around the dock and in rooms of the house journaling my memories. As I sat on the dock, the tears flowed from the sweet memories. Those wonderful memories are of an era that has passed.

Evelyn and Gene bought that wonderful lake house for a number of reasons. Gene loved to fish and he loved getting out in the boat. The lake provided daily opportunities for him to throw his line out. They also wanted a place where their grown children and grandchildren would want to come and visit. Each of their grandchildren have very special memories of their visits to the lake.

The lake house may end up passing out of the family, but the opportunities for making special memories won't end. Mary has created special memories for her grandchildren as she provides art supplies and helps them explore their artistic side. Henry and I helped our children create special memories in Colorado - camping, fishing, and skiing. My kids have travel memories from many areas around the United States.

As I remembered all the good times with Evelyn and Gene, how special they were, how loving - I allowed those tears to flow. Tears are cleansing, an expression of honest emotions.

But I don't want to stay focused on the good things of the past. I'm encouraging the next generation to go create new special memories for their kids. We live in the present. Good things are happening all around. If we stay locked into the good memories of the past, it may rob us of opportunities for joyful living now.

When I went to church last Wednesday night, I was surrounded by loving caring people who wanted to be supportive of me. I have another older friend who is battling serious infections. I am praying for her recovery. I am trying to get back into a "normal" routine - back to living, back to enjoying the life God has given me.

There will be more tears in the days to come as different things will trigger memories and emotions. Perhaps I won't be as efficient. I learned long ago that after I've had a death in the family, the chores and activities that I can normally juggle with ease seem to fall apart. But gradually my productivity returns. I will need to take some time to rest and "destress," But from past experience with the deaths of other loved ones, I do know that while we will miss Evelyn, life will eventually return to its ordinary patterns.

I talked once with my grandmother about death. She told me that it hurts really bad when it happens, but that in time that it
does not hurt as much. I have found that to be very true. Time heals many things.

I alsofound these comforting words in Henry's grandmother, "Mom's" funeral book. Evelyn had placed it there, it was written in Velma's handwriting:

"Don't grieve for me because my "troubles" are over and I'm happy. I was ready to go - My work here on Earth was finished. God Bless and keep Everyone that's been so sweet and wonderful to me. I saw God's love for me magnified in friends and loved ones. God Blessed me so abundantly."

I don't know whether Velma wrote these or copied them, but I found them very comforting last week.

Yes, I miss Evelyn, but I picture her now in heaven. She wanted to go "home." I can't help but wonder - will her new home in heaven look a lot like her favorite home here on earth - are they now at the "lakehouse" up in heaven? I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Green Heron

I've been spending time on the dock behind Evelyn and Gene's house soaking in the serenity and remembering.

Bird watching is good down there. Two different evenings I've seen a turkey hen and a solitary chick. The first night they roosted in the tree just above where I was sitting. Last night I disturbed them and they moved on around the lake. The chick would linger and then run to catch up with the hen. They finally came back around and roosted in a different tree near the dock. I could also hear the big flock of turkeys across the road as they were settling in for the night.

I had been watching a green heron fly back and forth across the cove. It landed on some dead branches right over the water. Looking intently at the water for some time, it suddenly leaped into the water. Now I know for a fact that the water drops off steeply here. I think of herons as wading birds, not swimming birds. It flapped around for a few seconds in the water and then popped out of the water back onto the branch with a good sized perch (4 or 5 inches long) in its mouth. Even with the binoculars I could not tell if it had stabbed the fish or just had it tightly in its beak. Rather than trying to eat it where the fish could escape back into the water, it hopped back along the branches onto the grassy shore (out of my sight) to enjoy its catch.

While I always enjoy watching the hundreds of vultures settle in for the night, the heron's leap into the deep water was the highlight of the evening.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Family Photos

The last time we pulled out the old family photos as a group was at Evelyn and Gene's 50th Wedding Anniversary. It was so special and fun to watch Martha's kids go through and organize 70 years worth of photos.

Martha's family went through and sorted the old photographs. Each of the siblings has a box with photos of their family. There is another group of early photos of Gene and Evelyn and their parents. I'm hoping to scan them next month so everyone can have a copy of Evelyn and Gene in their early years and some of the ancestors.

Today we have gone digital and many times we don't print our photos. Computer crashes and hard drive failures require that we keep our digital photos backed up in more than one place. I have to wonder if some priceless memories will be "lost" as digital photo formats change and morph and people don't keep "saving forward."

Word to the wise: Keep multiple copies of your priceless family photos. Burn them on CD's or DVD's. Back them up on external hard drives. Give copies to other family members so they are stored in more than one geographical place - fires, storms, floods, and even internal water leaks can damage or destroy heirloom photos. And keep up with the photo format changes - I shoot RAW, so I need to be sure that as the technological changes that are inevitable that I can still retrieve and view my most important photos. It is easy to think that .jpeg and .tiff will always be around . . . but we used beta video recorders and are now in the process of converting those to DVD format. Even had we used VHS, we would still need to convert them to DVD's as video recorders are disappearing and people are using DVD's and DVR to record and view their videos.

The future generations of your family will thank you for preserving visual memories of the family history.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rolling back the clock

As we've stayed in Evelyn's empty house the last few times, memories of the past kept coming back. Memories of times when the kids were young and when all the grandkids were home visiting "Grandma and Grandpa." I've been wishing we could somehow miraculously roll back the clock to those happy times.

Friday night we did - as the kids fished the dock, the two youngest great grandchildren played. Ava, the youngest at 10 months was being held by her grandmother and parents. Jaycob, six played with remote control cars in the den and fished on the dock.

Later we had the traditional fish fry, with enough fish for all of us . . .

We are the last ones to leave . . . the house is quiet . . . but the memories remain . . .

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sorrow, tears, and laughter

As Evelyn grew weaker and weaker over the last couple of years, we knew our time with her was limited. This time when we got "the call," we knew the end was coming. I could tell when I saw her the first night at the hospice, that she was the weakest I had ever seen her. By Saturday evening, all the family that could get to the hospice had gathered.

The BSA hospice was really a wonderful place, her room was large and the adjacent room and courtyard allowed plenty of "spillover" space for all the family that was gathered. While Evelyn had been wanting a big family reunion, these were not the circumstance that she had in mind. Evelyn slept most of Saturday. She knew we were in the room, and we regularly gave her ice chips and let her know we were there. She even ate a little lunch, which gave us a little hope. However, her breathing was ragged and she quit taking much liquid around 6:00. At one point, her breathing became ragged and as Mary tried to help her take deep breaths, she did not immediately respond. We had an instant of panic that perhaps she would not wake up, but Mary said in a louder voice: "Roger is almost here - he's going to be here soon." Her eyes popped wide open, and she woke up a little bit. When Walter came in and told her Roger was here, she perked up. She knew we were all there and immediately asked, "Is anyone taking pictures?"

All we had was our cell phones, but out they came. In spite of the sad circumstances, we got photos of the family as we shared a unique time of family fellowship. There was laughter mixed with tears, joy that all of her kids were together for her this one last time. Glad that she knew we were all together. As I realized that all of the Amarillo grandchildren and great grandchildren were here, I called my children. They had that one last conversation with their grandmother - and she was able to answer back, however weakly. During this incredible two or three hour window, she was the most alert and coherent she had been all day.

It had elements of a party, a family reunion, where there was that special joy in being together as a family, but there were tears because we knew she was leaving us, but a peace because we knew she was going to a better place where one day we will join her. She was going to join her beloved husband. I know that the prayers being lifted up on our behalf from all the family's churches help give us a special sense of peace and comfort that night.

When she died the next day, we all realized that we had been given one of those special gifts from God - that last time as a family with her mentally present and with us.

Sorrow, tears, love, laughter . . . we had a special bittersweet time Saturday night . . . Sunday she slept most of the day, rousing to tell Martha, "I'm tired, I'm tired of fighting . . . I want to go home." As her breaths became farther and farther apart, she went home. I know she was greeted by Gene, her sister Louise, her parents and grandparents. We are going to miss her so much, but some part of her remains with each of us - our memories of what a special lady she was.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The House Comes Alive!

Houses becomes homes because of the people who live there and the memories created. When Evelyn moved first to skilled care, then 24 hour care and then assisted living, the house had a very empty feel. Its people were missing. This week the house came alive one last time. All the family came "home." And each of us in our own way celebrated the lives of Gene and Evelyn. All of the grandchildren had memories of coming to the lake house and going fishing. The last few years when the family tried to fish, the fish weren't biting. Gene had been telling us that the fishing at the lake was not good anymore. But in two special "miracles" once after his death and then again this week, the grandchildren and great grandchildren came "home," threw their lines in the waters around the dock, and the fish were biting. Lorien, Jon's wife caught her first fish today as did her son, Jaycob. The great grandchildren all caught several fish. In fact, there were enough fish caught that we ended the day with a fish fry. And as in true biblical miracles, all of the fish - both great and small-were sufficient to feed 24 people!

The house was filled with love, laughter, and such a wonderful sense of family!

Already, people are beginning to head home, the house is getting quieter by the moment, but in one last glorious week, it was like old times, the clock had rolled back and we were all together again!

Thank you God for such a wonderful blessing!


So much has happened this week! It is hard for my mind to process everything. I have so many things I want to blog about while they are fresh, but so much is going on there is not time to get my thoughts collected.

Today was the funeral for Evelyn. Sad, sad time, but filled with the blessings of so much family together in one place - and it is a loving family.

I hope i can pull my thoughts together for a few more blogs related to times mixed with sorrow and laughter, the blessings that God so obviously sent us, and lessons I'm learning.

Blogging or journaling has a way of focusing my thoughts and emotions. But for now, it is late and it has been a long day in a long week.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Memorable People at the hospice

Our time with Evelyn at the hospice was mercifully short. A couple of the people there were so helpful.

Evelyn's day nurse was such a sweet thoughtful person. She was always cheerful when she came into the room. It turns out that her grandmother died in the room next door. The experience at hospice was so profound for her that she went to nursing school specifically to come back and work here. When Evelyn died she came back in our room with her New Testament in her hand.

The nurse practitioner was also so kind and helpful. She was so careful to explain what was happening to Evelyn's body, what medicines they were giving her and why . . .

There are times in life when such small acts of kindness mean so much!

Memorable People at Assisted Living

Some people leave an impression. When my mother-in-law entered assisted living, the staff at Canyon View really impressed me. When they would answer the her call for aid, they were friendly, compassionate, and caring. They came in with a cheerful smile and a positive attitude.

One of them told us that when she was hired, she was told that it was part of her job description to treat the residents as though they were a member of their own family. This same aid said that she tried to treat the people under her care the way she would like to be treated when she is old.

When you have loved ones who can no longer care for themselves, it is such a comfort to know they are being cared for by patient, loving, and tender people.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sissy, the dog

We've known Sissy since she was a puppy. She joined Evelyn and Gene's family when my children were growing up. I don't remember how old she is, but I'm guessing somewhere between 10 and 14 years old. She has been a good companion to Henry's parents. We brought her home early in July when Evelyn entered assisted living. She enjoyed the ride to Amarillo - checking out all the scenery as we drove down the road. The roadside parks were filled with interesting smells to be explored.

When we got home, she attached herself to Henry, spending much of her day at his feet in the office. Her bed is in our room and she sleeps on Henry's side of the bed. She goes out when Henry goes out for his morning swim. She goes with him to the post office. She seems very happy and contented for which I am very grateful.

She went with us on our camping trip to Pedernales Falls and seemed to love it. So many trails to explore and new smells to investigate! And thankfully, she does not get carsick!

We're back in Amarillo and last night Sissy spent the night in Debra and Jonathan's room. She has now attached herself to Debra, she did not leave the room until Debra was up and at 'em. She's looking for Henry, but Debra is "her people" as well!

It is amazing to me how a dog's mind works!