Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Lifetime Ago

So much has happened in the last several hours that it seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote yesterday's entry. 

But it wasn't a lifetime ago.

It was two lifetimes ago.

Something I have kept from this journal for a very long time now, because it wasn't my news to share, is that Char's sister, Flo, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and for the last couple of months has been on Hospice care.   Char knew that there was a good chance she would die while we were on our trip, but her primary caregivers, other than Hospice, has been Char's absolutely terrific kids and she knew that she was leaving Flo in good hands.  She was comfortable knowing that "the call" might well come during the trip.

Walt and I returned from Jenny's...whatever night that was (it seems like 6 weeks ago).  In the morning Jenny and I shared the latest bits of information we had about Mike's condition:
Basically he has aggresive pancreatic cancer that has metasticized to the stomach, liver, and probably the lungs, with a tumor surrounding his aorta and other major blood vessels (making it inoperable) and another one perforating his stomach causing the leaking of acids and gasses into the abdominal cavity and likely causing lesions on his lungs.  His kidneys and gall bladder may also be affected.  There really doesn´t seem to be anything they can do except provide for his breathing and fluids, and relieve pain and discomfort.
That left little room for anything but awaiting the inevitable.   

That was followed by another message:
Dad is only doing worse. His kidneys are failing and his heart is having issues.  There is nothing they can do to make him better and they have tried to ease him back to consciousness with no success. So now we are basically waiting for him to pass. A priest has given him last rights. The doctor says it could be days or hours.
They found a priest and he received the last rites.
We asked about a priest. They said it might be difficult. This is not a religious area - former East Germany. Priest did come, very nice guy with fairly good English....It was nice, prayers and anointing. Mike would have been pleased.
Jenny had received the messages while she was at Flo's to check on her.  Her message to me was short and sweet:  "I'm at Flo's and it is not good here either."

Shortly after that message came, the phone rang and it was Jenny.   Flo had just died.  She was going to be dealing with hospice, with the undertakers, with lawyers and with the dog walker and she wanted to know if I could go to her house to be with her girls.  Walt and I were on the road within 15 minutes.   This time I packed to stay overnight.  Walt couldn't stay because he had to get back for a meeting in Davis.

The girls and I had more pizza for dinner and Jenny finally got home after 9, drained from her day dealing with the after-death affairs of Flo.  We watched the end of the World Series Game 1 and then went to sleep. There were plans to Skype with the Germany group and people here in California at 7 in the morning.

In the morning we eventually got on the Skype call, 4 computers -- the two daughters in Germany, the two sons-in-law at two different computers in California, and Jenny and me on the fourth computers. It was essentially the same information. We learned that in Germany you can't choose to remove a patient from life support, but the doctor could reduce the oxygen level and up his meds so he was not in pain. The doctor couldn't say how long it would be, possibly days, but maybe just hours.

Jenny's husband, who had been halfway across the country trying to settle the estate of his mother, who died 3 months ago, was flying into San Francisco and Jenny set off to pick him up.  She was gone a couple of hours and when she walked in I could tell by her face that it was bad.  She had just received word that Mike was gone.  We cried together and then set about letting people know.

This is pretty much how Jenny and I spent the afternoon.

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We both had our cell phones; she had her laptop, I had my iPad and with text, and e-mail and FaceBook messaging and any other social media form we could use, we managed to contact lots and lots of people.  And we were both getting back messages of sympathy.  At one point I realized that I was getting sympathy messages to ME from Char's relatives, who have followed our travels on Funny the World over the years!  And occasionally Jenny would get calls from friends of Flo.  It was just Death Central all afternoon. 

But I've learned that after a death, the busy work of making arrangements and spreading the word is very therapeutic.  I remember during my times of deepest grief, after Gilbert's death, after David's and after Paul's I always said that I never cried so much...but I also never laughed so much either.  The body can't sustain deep grief.  There has to be a break to laugh...or just talk about something else.

In spite of all the trauma and emotion, somehow Niki seemed to take it all in stride.

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Around 4, we Skyped with Germany again.  This time it was everyone, including Char, and it was more a nuts and bolts kind of chat.  Tomorrow they have a list of English-speaking mortuaries to contact to find out about cremation and shipping Mike home and then, as soon as they can, they will be heading back to California.   Char says she is thinking about writing a book called "The Taxis of Magdeburg" because she has become an expert this week.

And then there are not one, but two funerals to plan.

This was the day I planned to be having chocolate croissants in Paris.  Walt, bless him, picked up frozen croissants at Trader Joe's, and we will have our croissants anyway.  

And we will think about Mike and remember the adventures we have had over the past 55+ years.  Char and her kids agreed that Mike always liked to do things the hard way and that, at the end, he really outdid himself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trivialities

I don't know which is more difficult -- knowing, or not knowing.

Since Mike was taken to the hospital, we've been trying to figure out what they were testing him for, what his condition was.  Char was hampered being in a hotel with no wifi in the rooms, and having to use the computer in the lobby, which was a German keyboard and German instructions.  So we weren't getting the whole picture.

Yesterday, Walt and I went to spend the day with his daughter, Jenny (closest to Jeri in age) because being together was better than being apart.  We were also able to share what information we had each been given.   Jenny's four siblings were on a plane to Germany. She was home with her two girls (one of whom was sick), as her husband was out of town when this all happened.

Jenny went off to work before we got there because she couldn't stand being at home alone and needed the distraction.  Walt and I settled in, Walt on the couch with Niki, the dog, and me at the dining room  table fielding e-mails.

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When Jenny got home, we sat and talked over pizza for a very long time.  We compared notes and neither of us had a clear picture of what was going on.   We knew that Char's grandsons, Cody and Casey, who were already in Germany attending a semester at a university there, were headed to Magdeburg to be with Char and that Jenny's brothers and sisters would be arriving there probably in the afternoon, flying first to Berlin and then taking a train to Magdeburg.  

Finally the first message came from Casey that they had arrived at the hotel at 2 a.m. and Char said she would see them at breakfast.  Walt and I stayed until nearly 11, hoping for more news, but finally came home.  When I got home there was a message from Char which had probably arrived about 10 minutes after we left Jenny's house.  But it was just letting us know that the boys had arrived, the others would get there later and that she was still having trouble with the German computers.  She also let us know if we wanted to stay down to be with Jenny, we could use their house.

In the morning we finally got a definitive diagnosis.  Char's son wrote that Mike is on a ventilator and non-responsive and that they found cancer in his liver, pancreas, stomach, and lungs.  How in God's name the Kaiser physician he has been seeing for months missed this I don't have a clue, but I expect there are going to be angry confrontations when the family returns home.  Everyone has been so frustrated with Mike's complaints for the past six months or so and he has had tests and exams and everything, his doctor says, is "OK."  That's why they felt it was fine to take this trip.

There is a weird comfort in reading the words and knowing that there is not going to be any sort of a miracle to pull him out of this, but Walt and I are walking around here today feeling like zombies with lead weights on our feet.  We hug a lot.  Walt is dealing with Viking and all that is involved with maybe getting some of our money back from the trip we aren't taking. I'm back to fielding e-mails and trying to answer questions.  It's all I can really do at a distance.

I've logged into Facebook, but somehow political squabbles, animal videos, and what everyone had for lunch or dinner (I am guilty of sharing all of these things) just seem so trivial, as we sit here wondering how much longer our friend is going to live.

Sometimes life really sucks.  And other times it sucks even more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We'll Never Have Paris

This morning I had an e-mail from Char saying Mike was in a coma and the doctors say he won't come out and that it is "a matter of days."

I don't have the details.  They're irrelevant now.

We have canceled our trip.  Four of her kids are flying over to Germany to help and I'm going to be with the fifth, just because crying together is better than crying alone, 100 miles apart.

This is surreal.  I can't even wrap my head around it yet.

I was never destined to love Paris, I guess.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Ok let’s talk travel, do you like to travel?
Well, if this isn't a timely Sunday Stealing, since we are leaving for Europe in two days!  (Note to would-be thieves:  our 3 dogs are home, along with our dog sitters, Ashley and David, and their dogs, so don't even think about it...)

Where have you been?

We have been fortunate to do a lot of travel in our nearly 50 years of marriage.   I think we've been to most of the states (missing some in the middle and south), and to I forget how many foreign countries, but more than I ever dreamed possible.   I've seen  the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pizza and the Pinnacles of the Nambung National Park in Australia.  I've walked the Great Wall in China, toured Anne Frank's house, walked on both Red Square and Tianenman Square and drove over Lucky Boy Pass to Bodie. I have been a very lucky person. 

Next place you want to go?

Paris.  On Tuesday.  Chocolate croissants for breakfast on Wednesday.

What is something you MUST take with you when you travel?

My camera, my computer, and something to read (usually on my Kindle)

How do you like to travel? (mode of transportation)

I used to love to fly, but now I just tolerate it (barely).  I do love river cruises.

With someone, or alone?

Definitely with someone.  It validates whatever you're seeing when you can say "Isn't that terrific?" to someone else.

Do you dance in your car when there are other people with you?

I don't dance anywhere, alone or with others.

If you're quiet what does it mean?

I'm thinking of something.

Favorite scent?

The ocean, coffee, freshly baking bread, and they way roses used to smell.

Favorite store?

The Tattered Cover in Denver.

Say you wanted coffee.. what kind is your favorite?

Peet's French Roast

Favorite kind of pizza?

Sausage and Mushroom

Do you get embarrassed easily?

Very, very, very easily.  I can embarrass myself sitting at home alone.

Do you mind people asking you personal questions?

Not usually.  Depends on how personal.

You have a tank of gas, $50, and the day off… what do you do?

I think I'd like to drive up to Apple Hill, where I haven't been in a very long time.   Take pictures, eat stuff, and wander around and then bring home a freshly baked apple pie for dessert.

Favorite tv show?

The Daily Show, Big Bang Theory, and Scandal.  (And then there is  the STARZ mini series Outlander!!!)

Song you turn the volume up all the way to listen to?

The overture to Phantom of the Opera, some of the choral stuff from The Lion King, and Judy Garland singing "Stormy Weather."

Something you keep in your car?

Cords to all of my electronic gear, bottles of water

Highlight of your day?

If we're talking about every day, then I guess it's Jeopardy.   (How pathetic is that?)

Something you do everyday that you wish you didn’t have to do?

Plan and cook dinner.

Do you mind if people just show up at your house unannounced?

Yes.  I never know what sort of condition the house is going to be in.  I'd like a little warning, enough to corral the dust bunnies and trick the dogs into going outside..

What do you do when you disagree with someone?

I'm not really confrontational, so I'm likely to let it go and seethe.

Do you enjoy rain?

Love it!  Of course I haven't seen any in years....

Who’s your favorite person in the whole world… besides me?

Well, I could get into trouble for naming one person in the family so I am going to assume this question means favorite person OTHER than family members.  It would have to be a toss-up between Steve Schalchlin, whom I almost never see any more, but who gives the world's greatest hugs, and Char, who is the person who has shared most of my life for half a century.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our "Helen"

We went to see The Miracle Worker at the Woodland Opera House tonight.  It was a very good production and the young woman who played Helen did an excellent job.

I never see this show without thinking of our friend Georgia Griffith, our own Helen Keller, who died in 2005. As my friend, Tom Sims wrote in an article called "The First Woman of Cyberspace," She graduated cum laude from Capital University where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She had been a music teacher, could play 12 instruments knew at least 7 languages. She was featured in Discover and People magazines, conversed online with the Vice President, had an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution and was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She single-handedly designed the IBM Special Needs Data Base and held the highest certification as a Braille music proof-reader for the Library of Congress. For eighteen years she managed some of the busiest and most volatile forums on CompuServe with a membership of thousands. She was a woman of deep personal faith.

(I encourage reading all of Tom's article for a real in-depth view of who Georgia was.)

After corresponding with Georgia through the CompuServe Issues forum, I met her in 1997 when she came to San Francisco for a conference of Braille readers and she invited Walt and me to be her guests at a banquet, along with several other friends.

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Later that year, she was honored by the Smithsonian Museum for her contribution to information technology for the handicapped ("Handicapped" was her preferred term...she frequently said "I'm not disabled; I'm handicapped, like in golf.")

GGMedal.jpg (174702 bytes)We were able to travel to D.C. to be with her for the Smithsonian honors.  She was recognized along with about 30 other people in one of the most bizarre ceremonies I've ever seen where the recipients were kept standing in the blazing sun while the dignitaries partied in a covered area with hors d'oeuvres.   

The way they awarded the medals to the recipients was strange n that they read their names off like a graduation ceremony, with two or three different people giving out the medals, but you couldn't tell who was who, or who had done what.

Then there was the "banquet" on one of the porches of the Smithsonian building.  The tables looked lovely but the food were all in colored Chinese take-out-like boxes.  It was as if they had gone to the Dollar Store for food.  Each box held something different, but there was absolutely no cohesion whatsoever.  You might have had chow mein or cold slaw or a cookie.  Nothing was labeled and you didn't know what you were picking.  I've never seen anything so weird.

A reporter came to interview Georgia and couldn't seem to get it into her mind that Georgia could not hear her

But it was a unique event and I'm glad we were there.  And after we went to see the exhibit about Georgia in the museum, we met with Ohio Senator Mike DeWine.

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I found out later that he and I disagreed on most social issues, but it was nice being in his office while they met each other.  I later wrote him a note about the death of his son (who had been killed in an auto accident), and told him and Paul and David.  He sent back a lovely hand-written letter, so I kind of forgive him for his stance against gay marriage.  Sort of.

Georgia could speak, because she spoke for more than 30 years before losing her hearing.  You either drew words into her hand and she would answer you by speaking or you sat at a machine called a versibraille.  You typed on a regular keyboard and it raised pins on her keyboard so she could read your comment in braille and then she answered you by speaking.

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Georgia chatting with Sean Friedman

 I watched her converse with people in 3 different languages one night.

Walt, Georgia and IWalt and I visited her with my mother when Jeri was doing summer stock in Ohio and we stayed at Georgia's house.  She lived independently, but relied on her sister for everything.  She had also lost her balance and so could no longer stand at a stove and cook, and her house had hand rails everywhere, that she either hung onto, or she crawled around the house. 

She had several computers in her office, but only one monitor and when I asked to use a computer, she crawled around the snakepit of electric cords to find the one that would connect the monitor.  It was an amazing sight to watch how expertly she knew all of those cords.

I remember getting up before sunrise on the morning after we stayed there and seeing Georgia sitting on the couch, just waiting for her sister to arrive with breakfast.  It took me a second to realize that of course she would not have turned on a light because she lived in darkness.

She may have lived in physical darkness, but that brain was as bright as Einstein's.  She was one of the most memorable people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Today at Logos

My day started today with Coffee #4, with Jessica Cox.  My report is over on the Coffee link, but it was fun...and I put off having breakfast so I could enjoy a Peet's berry scone with my coffee.

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After we ended our coffee, I went to Supercuts to get a much-needed haircut, so I'm all ready for France now.

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In the afternoon, Walt dropped me off at Logos.  Sandy and I, who learned the last time I worked that we were both Judy Garland fans, today discovered we both loved vanGogh and we compared notes on our respective trips to the jaw-dropping vanGogh museum in Amsterdam.

An old man interrupted our chat, looking for a book about John Muir and/or Yosemite Park.  His eyesight was poor and he had difficulty looking on low shelves, so Sandy helped me find the right section to look.  He finally ended up buying "100 Years of Yosemite" and said he would take it home and read it with his magnifying glass.

A girl dressed in a most beautiful shade of salmon, accented with black, and perfectly matching her tan skin tone and hair, came in to ask if we had any job openings.  I explained that we didn't have paid employees and she left.

A professional type with black Albert Einstein hair bought a book about Roman History.

For the next hour+ there were no customers in the store.   Finally a guy came in looking for a book by an author I thought was John Belaire (but I can't find that name or anything like it on Amazon). He didn't find it and left.

Bruce came in with a book he had purchased earlier in the week.   It was a Guide Book to Diego Rivera frescoes.  It was a small $4 book and he said that he has very sensitive skin and something in the printing process made his fingers tingle, so he wanted to exchange it.  The policy is no returns or refunds, but Bruce is a good customer, so I just let him exchange the book.

My friend showed up at 4:10 and bought a book on architecture.   I told him about our upcoming cruise and he wished me well and said he'd see me when I get back.

A business type woman, carrying a lanyard and a book on sound innovations marched in, checked a couple of shelves and then left, but she turned to say goodbye as she walked out the door.

A smiling kind of roundish man with curly hair came in, a messanger bag over his shoulder.  He dropped the bag on the chair by the desk and went to check out the old books.  He ended up buying two of them, plus a book from the literature section.  His credit card didn't go through the first time, but it did when I tried it again.
A couple came in.  He was wearing a Pink Floyd shirt.  She had hair down past her shoulders, with a grey stripe down the middle of it, the hair held off her forehead by a clip to the hair on the back of her head.  She spent a lot of time looking through cookbooks and eventually bought one book about bread and another about ice cream.

Another couple came in, he with an Assassins Creed shirt, she with a topknot on her head the reminded me of something worn by one of the wives inThe King and I.  They both looked through old books, but didn't buy anything.

One couple came in, not to look at books, but to look at the new artwork on the walls, many of which are beautiful depictions of the South West.  Art works are by Don Harting and Larry Woelfel.

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A guy came in with an amazing shirt celebrating H.P. Lovecraft, writer of horror fiction.  I don't know what he was looking for because Peter arrived, with Walt shortly after him, so we left to go home.

As we started to drive off from our parking place, we were passed by this group.

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The bushes cover them up, but every person in that group has a large-ish dog on a leash, some had two on leashes.  Mre than a dozen dogs.  I don't know where they were coming from or where they were going, but they certainly made an impressive sight on the street.

We ended the afternoon glued to the TV watching the amazing 5th game of the NLCS, where the Giants won their slot into the World Series (all of which we will miss because we'll be in France).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Blue Meme

This has been floating around in my files for awhile, so let me do it now and then I can delete it

26) Are you happy with the person you've become?
More or less.  Happier with parts of me than other parts of me (and I don't just mean that physically, though that certainly applies too)

27) What's a sound you hate; sound you love?
I sound I hate--skreeching tires followed by the sound of a crash.  Sound I love--Brianna and Lacie laughing.

28) What's your biggest "what if"?
What if I had graduated from college?

29) Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes.  I've never seen one, but I do believe in ghosts, I do believe in ghosts.

30) How about aliens?
I think it is egotism in the extreme to think that in the entire cosmos, we are the only intelligent life. Of course there are aliens.  I just don't think they are here yet.

31) What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
Hard to pick just one.  Looking back over my life the decision Walt and I made to have children, my decision to work on the Lamplighters history, our decision to take in a guy from Brasil for a couple of weeks, moving my mother to Davis.  Lots of decisions which, looking back, turned out to be very good ones.

32) What's the worst place you have ever been to?
I'm not sure, but it must have been a ghost town in Nevada.  Or maybe that hole we drove an hour to stand around because there were supposedly fish swimming around so far below the surface that nobody could see them.
 
33) Can insanity bring on more creativity?
I've been to the Van Gogh museum so I think that the answer to that is definitely yes.

34) Most attractive actor of your opposite gender?
Matt Bomer

35) To you, what is the meaning of life?
Some folks will tell you that it is 42, but I believe it is 63.

36) Define "Art".
I can't definie it, but I know it when I see it.

37) Do you believe in luck?
Yeah, I do.  I don't know if you can predict luck or create luck, but I have certainly seen that some folks are much more lucky than others, and definitely people who seem to have abominable luck.

38) In your opinion, what makes a great relationship?
Friendship, a sense of humor, and shared experiences

39) What's a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
"Grandma's Feather Bed"

40) Where were you yesterday?
I went to Atria for lunch and then spent the afternoon at home.

41) What's the worst injury you've ever had?
Falling off my bike and dislocating my shoulder, and in the process wrecking my knee for the rest of my life.

42) Do you have any obsessions right now?
Not really.

43) What's up?
Nada.  It's all extremely quiet at the moment.

44) Ever had a rumor spread about you?
If there was one, I never got wind of it.

45) Do you believe in real magic?
You mean like Harry Potter magic?  No
.
46) Do you ever hold grudges against people who have done you wrong?
I forgive, but I don't forget.

47) What's your favorite (non-pet) animal?
The elephant

48) What is your secret weapon to get people to like you?
I'll let you know if I find one

49) Where is your best friend?
Somewhere on a river in Germany right now, I think.

50) What do you think is Satan's last name?
We have not been introduced, so I don't know.