Tag Archives: Dad

Good Grief!

20 Jun

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It’s been about seven weeks since my Dad passed away and my moments of grief have come unexpectedly.  For example, a few weeks ago I walked into a store and saw the men’s department and the first thing I thought was “what does Dad need” and immediately remembered, “he doesn’t need anything.”  I was both relieved and deeply saddened by the realization that I will not be caring for my Dad anymore

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Baking pies for friends has helped with my grief… it’s something I can do on autopilot.

Another day I ran into a friend who’d always asked how Dad was doing.  She looked at me and began her question, “How is he… ” and my eyes grew moist as I gently shook my head. We talked and cried and finally hugged.  Later, my friend said that she felt bad for asking but I was grateful to have had the chance to release the tears.

On several occasions I’ve found that when I mention the news about Dad’s passing that it seems like I’ve given permission for others to share their pain.  I’ve found myself in the aisle of a store with a friend laughing and crying as we listened to each other’s stories. Clearly we both needed to share, and in doing so, were given the opportunity to heal just a little bit.

Then just a week ago I was asked to take in a dog that is going through a loss of her own. Emile’s Mom had to move into a place where dogs are not permitted.  Now her dog, Lily, and I are both experiencing loss and somehow we have to figure out how to live in the new world we now find ourselves in.  I hope that I can help Lily as much as she is helping me.

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Perhaps what I am most grateful for at this time is that my Dad took care of legal matters years ago and that has made things much easier than they might otherwise have been. Truly, these last months I’ve felt like I was walking around in a fog and if I’d had to be making difficult decisions I don’t know how I’d have done so.  I encourage everyone to start thinking about taking care of those details for your loved ones.  This site is a great place to start:  www.gyst.com.  The initials stand for “get your shit together.” Think about it –  the death of a loved one is hard enough to handle without having to locate a will or figure out passwords.  Please take action soon – I know your family will thank you.

“Tears are the silent language of grief.”  Voltaire

A future without him

9 May
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The last photo I took with my father in April, 2016

One week ago today, my world changed forever. A nurse from the rehab where my Dad was staying called with news. The woman had an accent and at first I was confused… so I asked her to repeat what she’d said. “I’m so sorry but your father has passed away.” This time her words were clear and all at once it felt like the floor was falling away beneath me. Even though I’ve known that this day would come, those words were still so very hard to hear.

The last week has been filled with a “busyness” I’d never have chosen to go through. Thankfully, I’ve been able to weather it with the help of my husband, Emile. He has been the rock I needed and has held me as I sobbed, made me eat when I didn’t even know I was hungry, and helped me to be patient when all  I wanted to do was scream (think Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment). I’m so grateful that he was with me to help me navigate this life transition in as graceful a way as possible .

When I try to make sense of my sadness, I think it’s because for many years I’d wanted for my Dad to be happy and yet, try as I might, I always felt like I’d failed. I wonder how I thought I could have ever have made up for the life situations he faced? As a child he saw much hardship—and then before he was 25 he lost his Dad, two brothers, and a child. In later years, he lost my Mom to cancer and my sister, Nancy, to Cystic Fibrosis. His world wasn’t just half-full, at times it seemed damn near empty!

Throughout the years, Dad and I rarely found a way to talk about the pain in his life.  That wasn’t something we knew how to do.  The last time I was able to take him out to dinner, however, he sipped a glass of wine and told me a few stories that were new to me. As I listened to him, I wondered who he might have become under different circumstances.  When I took him back to his assisted living facility, he joked with his nurse and then they both laughed out loud.  That laugh brought a smile to my face, and Dad said, “You don’t even know why we’re laughing” and I replied, “It’s not important… I’m just so glad to see you happy.”

Dad was never one to offer words of praise… I guess because he’d never heard them himself.  That’s probably why I’ve been amazed to find so many pictures, emails, newspaper articles, and other mementos of my sisters and our families stuffed throughout his condo. Clearly, even though he didn’t know how to say it, his family meant the world to him.  That knowledge will help me face a future without him.

This journey of loss has just begun. I ask that you please be patient with me as I travel it.

“One should never be ashamed to cry.  Tears are rain on the dust of earth.” Charles Dickens

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A quiche I baked for my father’s neighbor in Florida

A Quick Visit to see Dad turns into “Bienvenido a Miami!”

20 Jul

Just a few days ago I was sitting in a window seat at a coffee shop in Miami watching the rain fall and wondering how I got there. Well, actually, I know how I got there… but as many times as I’ve been to Florida I’ve never ventured much beyond my Dad’s little town of Greenacres. Okay, that’s not entirely true because I’ve driven to Boynton Beach countless times but never quite this far.

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A sampling of the Wynwood Walls

The neighborhood I found myself in is called Wynwood……. and it’s an art community famous for the many murals that are painted on the sides of its buildings. There’s a youthful excitement there that I have not experienced in West Palm Beach… and I really enjoyed it. Alexandra was with me and while she was off working on a project for Warby Parker, I sat sipping a latte watching the people, and the storm clouds, go by.

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Alexandra with Grandpa

Alexandra and I met in Florida to visit my Dad as his 80th birthday is this month.  I won’t be able to be there for his “actual” birthday but felt it important to spend time with him and see how he is doing.  It’s been more than two years since his stroke and while he is doing remarkably well (given the severity of the stroke) he is still upset that he cannot do what he used to do.  And I struggle (still!) because I can’t fix things for him.

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One of my Dad’s neighbors.

So what can I do? Take him out to eat!  One day he wanted to get lunch and instead of the usual fast food burgers I suggested pizza… at a “real” restaurant.  Since I am somewhat unfamiliar with the area, I used my iphone and found a wonderful place (thank you Siri!) called Zuccarelli’s.  I ordered a Marguerite Pizza and it was sooooo darned good!  The aroma of the fresh basil was intoxicating and the crust was perfection. (Can you tell that I really liked that pizza?)

Pizza with Dad at Zuccarelli's

Dad at Zuccarelli’s

The next morning, I decided to make an asparagus and white cheddar quiche for one of Dad’s neighbors.  Barbara has been a tremendous help to me since Dad had his stroke and I wanted to do something to show her my appreciation. Without a rolling-pin, I had to improvise, but I think it came out rather nicely, even if I do say so myself.

quiche prep for barbaraasp quiche for barbara

Now I am back in Oregon, and I still wish that I could do more for my Dad.  It’s got to be really hard for him to deal with a changing mind and body.  If there was a switch I could flip that would make him better, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Until then, I have to let him live out his days as best he can. And make sure that I fully enjoy every moment that I have…  to spend with my kids, my husband, my friends.  Even if that means posing for silly selfies now and then.

Alex and me

Sharing our funny faces at the pool.

When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard”, I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”

Sydney J. Harris

What happened to November???

2 Dec

So much has happened in the last month!  I’m chagrined that I did not write once in November but hope to explain that I was not off on vacation.  It’s been a time of loss for several of my dear friends and as they are traveling their road I have tried to help in the ways that I know how. For me that means bringing soup, being there to listen, and of course, by offering pies.  Pies, in and of themselves, are not going to do much to assuage the pain of loss.  However, if my friends feel a little more loved for a while, then my efforts have been well worth it.

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Another reason I did not have time to write this past month was due to a different kind of loss.  In early November I helped my Dad move back to Florida.  He had lived there for almost twenty years before he had a stroke in March of 2013. After three trips to Florida that Spring I decided that he needed to come back to Oregon with me.  My goal was to be able to take care of him AND (try to) live my life.  To my great dismay, that plan did not work out.  My Dad did not like being in Oregon and longed to be back in Florida near his girlfriend.  After much deliberation, and with the blessing of his doctor and his social worker, I arranged for my Dad to move to the same facility where his girlfriend lives.  Friends ask, “Is your Dad happy now?” and I answer, “I think so” but what I know for certain was that he was not happy here with me.  Knowing that makes me a little sad but I have to honor his choice.  It is, after all, his life.

Before I left Florida, I made sure to bring a Pumpkin Pie to the woman in charge of the kitchen in my Dad’s building.  It was a way to thank her in advance for her care and attention.  Then I made some Pecan Shortbread cookies for the director of Nursing.  It is my hope that they will help her to think fondly of my Dad.

Pie and Cookies for Brookdale

The rest of the month is a bit of a blur.  A few days after I came back from Florida was the first night of the season for our church’s homeless shelter which I am helping to coordinate.  It’s my first time in this role and I am humbled to be able to help those in need in a tangible way and honored to work together with all the caring people who make this shelter possible.

Then last week, I helped Ashland High School Nordic Team bake 42 pies to raise funds for ski equipment.  It was a long day but it was fun to work together with friends helping our student athletes.  As you can imagine, the church kitchen smelled absolutely delicious afterwards!  I could not imagine leaving that wonderful aroma in the room without also leaving some food, so I took some of the leftover apples and put together a quick cobbler for our shelter guests.  I found this note when I came the next day

thank you napkin

That simple note made my day!  I believe that kindness is something we can all give to one another.  Often the cost to us is minimal, but the difference it can make in the lives of those around us is immeasurable.  I’d love to hear your stories of how an act of kindness made your day… either as the giver or the receiver.  Your story might inspire someone to do something they might not otherwise have done…. at least that is my hope!

Blessings!

“My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”  The Dalai Lama

parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Lastly I wanted to share a photo taken on Thanksgiving as my husband was cooking.  My son called this our family’s idea of “being funny.”

Family, Friends, and a word about Kindness

11 Jul

So many things to share… and this time, I hope to do it with pictures (well for the most part!)….

Here is a photo of me and my Dad.  We took a drive to Crater Lake one Sunday… and he really seemed to enjoy it.  I’d forgotten how cold it could be… even in the summer!

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Then, a few weeks ago, a group of friends, many of them Rotarians, met to bid farewell to Lucka, our exchange student from the Czech Republic.  It was a wonderful year for her… and for us… and now Lucka is back home with her “real” family.  But we know that she made lasting friendships while she was here… and I’m sure it won’t be long before we see her again!

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Lucka’s Going Away Party

Recently, I’ve been lucky to have been asked by a few friends to cook for them…  what fun!

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And of course I found time to make a few pies.  One pie, a sausage, roasted pepper, and broccolini quiche found its way to a friend who has MS.  The high heat of summer makes her symptoms worse and so I thought this might be a way for her to enjoy a few meals without having to turn on the oven.

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Another pie, an apple blueberry, was made for a friend who was first diagnosed with cancer 25 years ago.  He is battling the disease once again, and I wanted to offer him something delicious – fresh from the oven… to feed his belly and his soul.  We’ll be praying for you, Caballo!

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Lastly, I wanted to share a message from our friend, Len, who passed recently.  He asked that rather than sending flowers, that his friends do something kind for a few other people instead. He wanted us to find people in need and instead of just giving them some food or money, that we also spend a few minutes talking with that person, asking their name, etc.  The gift to them would then be greater because we would also acknowledge their identity and hopefully grant them some dignity… something we all need.

My first “gift” was given yesterday.  On a very hot day I sat for a few minutes with “Henry.”  I met his dog and offered him a sack lunch and a cold bottle of water… which he said he would share with the dog.  At first I wondered how it would go… but It was really so easy to do and, not surprisingly, it felt like one of the best things I’ve done all week.

John Prine

Here is a link to the song entitled, Hello in There, by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, John Prine, that shares a similar sentiment.   Enjoy!

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.  Mother Teresa

Mother’s Day… and a few pies

12 May

The last few weeks have been a bit crazy.  My Dad was sent to the hospital once again because he had an infection… and I had a few events to cater.  At times it felt like I was barely keeping my head above water, but somehow everything worked out.  Dad is home and doing better… and all of my events went well.

wedding photoThe Wedding Table

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I woke up feeling a little blue.  I know that I was lucky to have a mother that loved me… but I still mourn her passing all these years later.  I know that I am not alone in sadness.  I am very aware that this day is hard for many.  There are grieving mothers mourning the loss of a child… and many children mourning the loss of their mother.  And so while my husband slept I got up and started making pies…  it’s something that helps me feel better. Each of us has our own way of coping…  baking just happens to be my way.

The first pie that I made was a quiche for a friend of mine who lives nearby.  She is not only a mother, but also a grandmother, and she and her husband are raising their special-needs grandson.  I admire them both so much for what they are doing… and when I see them with their grandchild, I am humbled by their love and dedication.  If more people could be like them, this world would be a much better place.

quiche for ellie

Mushroom and Pepper Quiche

Next I began prepping a Strawberry Rhubarb pie for a man at church who recently celebrated his 97th birthday!  Two years ago I baked a cake for him on his 95th birthday, and amazingly he is still going strong.  Last week he wasn’t at church because he was attending the 75th reunion of his college class… not surprisingly only one other student made it to that celebration!  I am so inspired by this man’s love of life! I just hope that I can live out my years as joyfully.

dan's pieStrawberry Rhubarb Pie prep

And now I would like to end this post on a very happy note: I want to mention that this week my husband and I are preparing to leave for a long-awaited vacation in Italy.  We both have been to Italy before, he when he was just 7 years old, and me when I was 18. Clearly, it has been a very long time… but we are both looking forward to this exciting adventure.  And just so you know, I will be packing a few pie tins in my bag… just in case I get the chance to gift a pie! Wouldn’t that be fun?

Caio for now!

 

“All that I am, or all that I hope to be,  I owe to my angel Mother.”  Abraham Lincoln

 

 

It’s Springtime!

25 Mar

P1000824I’ve always loved springtime… daffodils popping up in the yard, asparagus and strawberries appearing at the market, the chill of winter fading, and a sense of new beginnings circling.  Last year at this time I was traveling to Florida because my Dad had a stroke.  During that time I barely noticed the world around me because I was busy learning medical jargon and trying to make sense of things.

This year, life still is presenting challenges, my Dad’s health being one of them.   As always, for me the hardest part about this journey is that I am not able to “make him well” and that is hard to take.  I want to know that my efforts have some effect, but the truth is that sometimes they don’t.

When things are out of my control (and aren’t they always?) I gravitate towards areas where I feel like I am making a difference.  One of those places where I have found myself doing that has been at my neighbor’s house.  Anny and her new baby boy, Sebastian, are living there.  Sometimes I can help Anny by holding Sebastian while singing and rocking.  If I am lucky and he falls asleep in my arms I almost feel as if I have been awarded the Nobel Prize. In other words, my skills have been validated.

Yesterday I baked an Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Chicken Apple Sausage Quiche for Anny.  I know that taking care of a new baby (and nursing him) is very demanding… and I wanted to give her a special treat for doing such a great job as a new Mom!

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I also baked several batches of Pecan Shortbread cookies this week.  I LOVE those things.. and really, what’s not to love? These cookies are a simple combination of sugar, butter, flour and pecans… and they’re delicious!

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Some of those cookies made it into the hands of the men who delivered my new Kitchenaid oven yesterday (oh my goodness… it is so lovely!) and some of them were given to a homeless man who held a sign saying “Anything helps.”  I’ll admit, I ate two of them and could easily have polished them all off!

Finally, yesterday I made a Chocolate Cream Pie for some friends at a local radio station, Kool 103.  Once again, I was the lucky winner of a prize… and to thank them I dropped off the pie.  Making goodies for them has long been my tradition… and I think that there’s a slight chance that they might even look forward to me winning!

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Tonight I send good wishes to you all for a Happy Spring… and if you are in the mood, try out this recipe.  You’ll be glad you did!

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour until just combined and then add the chopped nuts.  Take tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough and roll into balls.  Roll the balls of dough in sugar and place on cookie sheet; gently flatten each dough ball.  Place pan with cookies into oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are beginning to brown around the edge.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and let cookies cool.  Enjoy!

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”  Julia Child

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