Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mom's Final Gift


It's no secret my Mom loved Christmas. She was like a little kid every Christmas morning. We thought it was because she liked getting gifts, but I suspect it was also because she wanted to see my brothers and sisters, and nephews' reaction to the gifts she gave out. Last December was her last Christmas with us.

We were waiting for a diagnosis that eventually revealed she had lung cancer. She got radiation treatment, but when I went to Manistique for Easter she was in constant pain and I ended up doing some cooking and cleaning for her.The least I could do after all these years of her taking care of us.

When I went up Memorial Day weekend she was in great pain and we set up a hospital bed in the living room so she could watch TV and see the birds she fed through the windows on the back deck. She ate baked beans and hot dogs with us (although a small portion for her) and even had a little glass of beer. Of course she added a little salt to it, that was the way she enjoyed it. The following day we took her to the hospital and she had a port put in so she could have her pain managed with morphine. In so doing we realized she was now considered a hospice patient with a DNR order.

The following morning I had to leave to go back to Fond du Lac. She was laughing and smiling and tried to fix me up with a hospital cook. It would be the last time I would be able to hold a conversation with her face-to-face . She was taken home later that day. She wanted to die at home and not in a hospital or up at Medicare where she played the organ for masses for the residents.

Two days later my brother John texted me that Mom had been given last rites. She was no longer conscious and was having difficulty breathing. I was able to make the four hour trip back to Manistique and be with my brothers and sisters before Mom passed away. She was no longer conscious or able to talk to us, but we held her hands and talked to her. Her dog Chewie curled up under the sheets next to her providing the body heat she was having a hard time generating. She died with as much grace and dignity as cancer would allow.

The day after the funeral  we were going through cards and I read a letter from an envelope Mom had marked with the message "kids stick together." The letter contained her wishes as she wrote them in April of 1995 about which possessions she wanted to go to us. Some of them like the car and home had changed over 22 years, but  many times over those years she had expressed a wish that we stick together after her death.

In fact the weekend of her funeral the five us were constantly together. That afternoon after the funeral it rained. All five us were gathered at the door of the back deck when this rainbow appeared. If we hadn't stuck together we might not have enjoyed it. It might not be easy as we get older, but if we can give Mom one final gift it will be an effort to stick together.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

One of the things I've regretted over the years is not taking time to do more reading and writing. My Dad ordered a series of Hardy Boy books for me and my brother John and Nancy Drew books for my sister Diana when we were little. Diana and I read them as fast as they came in. The next logical step was a series of classic books from Airmont Books. While we hungered for mystery, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Jack London, etc didn't get our same attention. 

Sometime last year I decided to start reading all the books I had in my own library beginning with a biography of former New York Jets Quarterback Joe Namath that Diana had given to me. It was warts and all and I lost a lot of respect for Namath as I read how he took for granted his talents and what others had to offer him. 

I went through every book I had including several on writing and style. Best advice "Keep it simple stupid!" Finally on a visit to my Mom's I grabbed a fist full of the Airmont Books and to my surprise began enjoying the classics. So now you have the reading and writing in the title. Further evidence of the writing being this blog and how I used what I learned in the books on writing for my every day job as a news director for KFIZ radio station. 

As for the arithmetic that comes in several ways. I found that in addition to personal libraries and public ones, used books can be quite cheap. You can find them at used book stores, online, garage sales, even at St. Vinnie's. One other thing about arithmetic. My Dad was an accountant. He died in 1980 and I often think of him. Imagine my surprise when several of the Airmont Books I read I found a subtle, but loving reminder of my father. He used adding machine paper as bookmarks and I found it in two or three of the books. My Mom has more at her home. I wonder what other books may have those reminders in them.

Although I have a renewed appreciation for books I have to says that my favorites have always been biographies. Some recent books I've read have included a biography about Lombardi and autobiographies from Frank Deford and Charles Kuralt. All led fantastic lives, part success, part regret, but as human as you or I.

I've included a photo from the Kuralt book I recently finished now on to a Stephen King short story collection. But a few words about the Kuralt book first. His best stories about "A Life on the Road" were about the extraordinary people he met. So it was only fitting that when I opened up the book I found a dedication, not from Kuralt but from the person who had bought the book and given it to a favorite aunt for Christmas one year. From the few words I gathered there was a special connection between them. How appropriate given the book and author. I'm going to pay if forward and share it with someone I love.