Tonight we had calling hours for my mother, and I think that my assistant principal summed it up perfectly when he said, "You have an amazing family.  I have never been to such a happy wake in my life!"  We are a very happy family.  The happiest times of my life are those spent with my siblings, and Mom and Dad are directly responsible for the harmony that we enjoy. 

Never doubt that we are people with strong opinions and all kinds of quirks, but we communicate honestly-too honestly sometimes, but we never stop communicating with one another-and we compromise and, most importantly, we forgive one another for being human.

My brother in-law and sister made a 655 picture slide show for the wake.  They also put a bunch of these pictures on a website for friends and family to view.  Feel free to check them out, but do forgive us if we look grungy-a lot of the pictures are after days of raking the cemetery, bringing in hay, clearing land, etc.

Mom took her last breath just before six tonight with most of us "kids" holding her hand or stroking her hair.  We will have calling hours on Monday and the funeral on Tuesday.  We have a family cemetery that we created when my father died, so she will be buried beside him and not far from my second sister who died at 55.  I am okay.  I wondered how I would be, and I'm sure that I will have emotional moments-or I think so-but my Mom never cried so I might be more like her than I thought.  I don't see death as an end, but just as a transition, and she is far better off than she was in that sick and aging body.




That word about sums up the last few days for me.  Wednesday afternoon I couldn't get warm, but the heat also hadn't been working on my side of the building (a very chronic problem) so I explained it away.  Just after midnight I woke on a wave of nausea and barely made it to the bathroom in time.  About every two hours after that until 11:30 in the morning I was making the same rush.  Although I know it was a bad stomach bug that is still bothering me today, I will probably never eat homemade macaroni and cheese again.  It will join lobster and rum on my list of never to be touched, smelled, or looked at again.

Mom also began a quick decline this week.  On Wednesday she was "stuck" in her hall, unable to use her feet to move.  So we are now on 24/7 detail to keep her company and make sure that she can get about, etc.  My sister who is one year younger than me has been doing the bulk of the work, but she is now on a much-needed cruise (in addition to caring for Mom every morning she is in her 20th and last year of teaching kindergarten twice a day and also running a bakery, catering, and nutrition counseling business).  So last night I spent the night on Mom's couch and will be doing it again tonight.  There are plenty of people to take care of her, but only three daughters nearby and only two of us in town, and Mom is extremely modest so she's much more comfortable with one of us attending to personal needs (I'm just like her that way).  So while I'm more than happy to be able to care for her, and consider it a privilege in fact, it is still a big Ugh!
30 Years Ago This Summer
(I graduated at 16; Mom would have been just short of 52)

Yesterday I went and got my oldest sister from the nursing home she is currently in and then picked her husband up at their house so that they could come see my mother.  My sister and her husband live about 75 or 80 miles north of us.  So it was a long trip up, back, then up and back again, complicated by her walker and his wheelchair, but definitely worth it.  On the first leg of the journey, I was missing my sister Kathy terribly (1948-2004) and wishing that she was with me.  Pretty teary stuff-I found my sister on her floor as she lay dying-I miss her all the time.  Anyway, I looked up and through the rain in the Notch was the biggest rainbow I've ever seen in my life, arcing over the Notch and touching all the mountains.  It was gorgeous.  I think that Kathy sent it down, to help both on yesterday's journey and on the long journey that my mother is approaching.  Here is a picture of the drive that I made, but without the cloud cover, rain, and rainbow.
My mother is on a new diet.  Liquids and morphine.  She is still living on her own with one of my nephews and she will die at home when the time comes.  There will be no i.v. treatment if and when she becomes dehydrated or malnourished.  There will be no hospital visits or surgeries.  I pray that when things get worse, she slips into a coma and does not feel the end.
This week I will actually be on vacation.  The grandsons will return to daycare full-time and Aidan and I will have five days, more or less, for the two of us, before I go back to work next Monday.
I will miss the brothers, of course, especially since the younger one has just learned to enjoy coming to our house and being away from his mumma.  He is a true outdoor guy and would spend every minute, except for lunch and freeze-pop breaks, outside.  Outside, outside, outside is, in fact, his favorite refrain.
He and Aidan really enjoyed one another's company on the days that it was just the two of them.  Here they are, just like grown men, hanging out in their comfy chairs in the garage, having a drink and listening to music.
Ricky and Aidan, meanwhile, are just like brothers/cousins/uncles and nephews are when they are close in age.  Every day they have an argument and a crying jag.  Then every day they are the best of buddies for the remainder of the day.
And then there is their handsome little cousin, who comes once a week.  He and Ricky are actually great playmates.  They are alike in most of the ways that count-smart, quiet, sweet-and different enough that they usually don't pose a threat to one another in terms of affection or toys.
This past week Mom went to the oncologist to say that she does not want any more chemotherapy.  She did two rounds of 21 days at 50% dose and didn't like it.  She felt that it stole some summer days from her because of the restrictions on exposure and activities and this just after she had recovered some strength following the placement of a stint in her intestine.  She had never wanted chemo anyway; she only tried it because some of us asked her to give it a try.  So she won't be doing it any longer.  Seven of us siblings and a nephew went to her appointment with her so that the doctor would know that we support whatever she chooses and so that we could ask questions.  The time left to her is uncertain, as it always is with cancer, but she probably won't be enjoying next summer with us.  Here is a picture of her enjoying her annual birthday hike to the top of the mountain, back in 1987:
There is no news on the adoption front.  G's medical has been sent to China to have them pre-approve it and we are waiting for the response to that.  We have been waiting three weeks; I contact the agency each Monday to ask if there is any word yet, so I will ask again tomorrow.
If you've never been to New England before, I need to explain what we're like before continuing or you won't understand.  We are masters of understatement.  If someone asks how you are, you answer not bad.  That means you're actually good.  If people say great! you wonder about them-are they a little weird, possibly drunk, possibly manic?  If you are a visiting minister at church or a performing artist and nobody speaks or shows any expression during your time before them, don't let it get you down-chances are, they love you!  If you talk about your own health and well-being with any frequency, you must not have any interests in life or too much time on your hands.  So in many respects we keep things close to our chests. 

My mother is a typical New Englander.  Add to that the fact that she is a quiet woman with an overabundance of modesty and you definitely have to know how to read her when trying to find out how she is doing.  She is not being secretive; there are no hidden meanings or innuendoes in what she says.  She just doesn't say much.  So when I ask, how are you feeling?  and it's bad, she says with a shoulder shrug, Eh.  If it's good, she says okay or not bad.  This week she had her first oncology appointment and is now waiting for an appointment for further tests.    After her appointment I called and asked her how it went.  She said, well, we got one piece of good news, at least I think it's good news.  I said oh, yeah, what's that?  and she proceeded to tell me that the thing (growth) on the outside of her liver turns out to be accompanied by six or seven like it on the inside of the liver.  So that's one less thing to worry about (her words-translation, they can't do anything about it).  Most people wouldn't put it quite that way, but you can't argue with it when it's true.
Okay, first, the temperature has dropped to a mere 80º outside, which is a relief from the midday heat we had.  Second, the humidity is only at about 50%, which is really great.  But that won't last, of course.  The temps will drop into the 50s tonight but the humidity is going to be 100% before dawn breaks, climbing at about 10 % every couple of hours from supper time forward.  It has been a beautiful weekend.  Sunny and hot, but with a breeze.  So of course it will change.

This week my cousin's wife was named community citizen of the year by our town Grange.  That was a very nice ceremony.  I love our Grange.  When I was young, that's where our school Christmas programs were held.  Even the smell of the building makes me happy.  Suppers, square dances, Christmas programs, it all comes to mind the moment I walk into the building.

Mom made it to church today.  She has had a great week, probably because she hasn't been vomitting constantly and actually has had a return of her appetite-a nice change from two Saltine crackers a day for an 81 year old weighing 85 pounds!  Her best friend is also back for the summer-she goes to Florida each winter-so Mom can now get out with someone her own age who enjoys a lot of the same things that she does.

Yesterday we had our monthly family breakfast with "the big kids" and their children, this time at our daughter's house.  The three grandsons are all so different.  RB (Ricky) is bright, loving, serious, stubborn, and eager to be good.  He showers me with affection, so of course I think he's just great.  BB (Brody) is a little reserved, doesn't waste words, is happy, stubborn, extremely smart and amazingly sure-footed.  He never talks baby talk; his vocabulary is extensive and he speaks in sentences at 20 months old.  He adores G.  Then there is MB (Matthew).  He is charming, snuggly, a little bit precocious, and not afraid of much except being away from his mother.  We expect him to be the one that comes up with all the neat ideas for the three of them to pursue.  Then, when they get into trouble, the older ones will say that it was the baby's idea (and it will be), but most people will think that they should know better than to follow the youngest.  So we can't wait to see if this comes to pass. 

Today MB went to church with Aidan and me.  Afterwards, we played outside on the swings and in the sandbox.  It felt just like summer-I hope that when summer actually comes it doesn't feel like spring!
Little Baby turned nineteen early this week and Aidan turned six.  On Saturday we had his party with puppy dog decorations and toys, including pin the pawprint on the dog.  Then in the evening we went out to eat with the two youngest kids, Golden Baby and his son.  Pretty Baby's boys were wiped out from the birthday party, so they stayed home.  Today G and I went with Aidan to Mom's sandpit and filled buckets of sand so that he could fill his "big" gift-the covered turtle sandbox.  Our oldest dog will go to the bathroom wherever it is most comfortable for her-soft sand, freshly tilled garden, shoveled walkways, etc.  So a cover is a must at our house.

Mom had a rough afternoon and evening yesterday, was not able to go to church today, but recovered somewhat as the day went on.  She hadn't eaten anything but a piece of toast by lunch, so I made some corn chowder for her, put the leftovers in the fridge, Little Baby made cookies, we went to the store for some of her favorite foods, and Pretty Baby is going to make baked beans tomorrow night for her.  Mom has been craving her mother's baked beans.  My grandmother died before I was born, so Mom hasn't had them in more than 45 years.  She says she follows her mother's directions, but her own are never as good, and thinks it's because my grandmother's beans were made on the woodstove.  But we'll see how she likes Pretty Baby's beans-my daughters can really cook!  Pretty Baby excels at baked beans, corn chowder, meatloaf, and pies.  Little Baby makes the greatest banana bread-she's going to make some for her grandmother tomorrow.  So hopefully we can keep her eating and she can keep the food down.  Wednesday is her biopsy.  She did say that one kidney had spots and there is, of course, the liver tumor.  A lot will depend on what else they find.  They think the cancer has spread from somewhere else-the question will be, from where?  When that is answered, Mom will know what comes next.  She's okay with living without part of her liver and without a kidney.  So we'll have to wait and see what this week brings.
The big kids decided that they want to have breakfast together at least once a month, so we began this past Sunday.  Normally  Sunday is out for me due to church, but Mom and I both skipped it.  I did so because of my company; Mom did so because she was sick, again.  She is currently awaiting a date for a liver tumor biopsy. 

Since early March she has been sick with vomitting, to the point two weeks ago that she lost four pounds in four days, and she only weighs about 85 to begin with.  So they put her into the hospital for a couple of days, ran some tests, did some more tests this week, and now she's waiting for the next step.  I will never understand cancer.  This is a woman who has never smoked, never drank alcohol, never drank carbonated beverages, ate all of her vegetables daily, and every day gets fresh air and exercise.  Her favorite sandwich is wheat bread with cottage cheese, lettuce and raisins, for pete's sake!  I am hopeful that this is isolated and can be treated locally.  But we just have to wait and see.