Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Every Day's A Sunday To Me, Honey-Child"

Emma Foote
March 2, 1909 -- July 3, 2010

That's two out of three. Two out of the three individuals who have been most important to me, as well as to my brother and sister - they are gone now. Two out of three people who I have loved most in this world - they are gone now.

The wonderful and most precious Emma Foote died last night. She was 101.

As I have said and written many times before, Emma Foote was quite possibly... no... she was most definitely one of the finest people I have met during my time on this Earth. As I just pecked out that last line, I found myself struggling with the tense. "Was?" To think of Emma in the past that way, as someone who is no longer with us? I have not processed that thought fully yet. That is going to take some time.

It is, of course, a juvenile thought, but the fact is I often found myself thinking that Emma would never, ever die. When she was 80, we'd joke with her about reaching 85. Then, when 85 rolled around, we started looking ahead to that next five-year marker. And when we were slicing into that 90th birthday cake, from Gus & Paul's, most likely - my Lord - that's when the real fun kicked in. That's when thoughts about "the number" kept popping up.

Well, Emma certainly made it to "the number" and then, guess what. She kept right on trucking. Emma just kept on doing what she'd been doing for that first 100 years. She lived. She lived simply. She live wisely and with great humility. She lived a good, God-loving, Christian life until her body just could not live any more.

This entry feels choppy only because, honestly, I'm finding it challenging to write the words tonight. Part of me isn't really dealing with the fact that Emma has passed away. Of course, Emma's death is coming right on the heels of losing my father as well so, you know how that goes.

I hope this doesn't sound cold but it's not as though I'm in any kind of acute pain thinking about Emma right now. It's interesting but, over the years, I have wondered at times if there there some kind of correlation between (i) a person's feelings about death (in this case, Emma's feelings) and (ii) our level of grief when that person passes away. Emma had no fear of her own death, I am sure of that. And so I always figured when the day came that she died, I wouldn't feel as badly about it, just knowing how she felt about it. Does that make sense? A part of me has always felt as though Emma knew something I didn't know, that she had some kind of inside information about the whole ordeal. Whenever I would visit with her as she'd sit there in her rocker, watching her "stories" (soap operas) Emma was always there to pat my hand and say, "Don't worry. When it's time to go home to Jesus, it's just time to go. And we go to a much better place." And so I listened to those kinds of words all these years and now, tonight, it feels good to recall moments like those. Moments when Emma spoke calmly and clearly about such things. I know Emma truly believed what she was saying. And that knowledge now allows me to smile, close my eyes and sleep soundly tonight.

"Teaching by behavior, not by lecture" is a line I have often used when describing Emma. It is, in fact, the very first line in the introduction for Emma's entry in the book. Emma lived a simple, quiet life each and every day of that good life. We've all heard the term "unconditional love" and it is something for which many of us strive in our lives. But who among us are really able to love in that way? Well, I have some news for you. Unless I've been missing something all these years, Emma practiced the art of loving better than most folks I have encountered on this journey. I think about how she lived, how she interacted with her world - the word "calm" always seems to pop into my head.

Here is something she once expressed to me, it must have been about four or five years ago:

'The Lord's been good to me, yes he has. I've had everything. I've had work to do all my life and I’ve had plenty of food to eat and good places to stay and work.

So I’d tell folks to just be good people, you know. And go to church, serve God, and pray every day, that's all you can do to be good. Just serve God and thank him every day you get out of bed for this day. Just keep your hand in God's hand; that's what I pray every day.

Every day seems like a Sunday to me, honey-child; it’s been that way for me."


Emma was my first interview for the book and there were many times I sat with her at her apartment, the tripod in back of me, the camcorder rolling. At first she wasn't sure about the whole recording process; she was shy about it, I could tell. I remember how she would talk with me and, every once in awhile, she'd peer to the side and look at the little red light. But then, once the stories started to spill out of her, Emma would relax, sit back in the chair and smile. I must have ten tapes of her telling us those tales of the deep South, about her home in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. She would tell us about life on the farm, picking cotton in the fields, how she and her sisters would head over to her Daddy's store for a treat after a long day in the hot sun.

One particular moment that comes to mind - Emma once relayed a story about going to a movie show in New Albany (Mississippi) and what it was like to have to walk up four flights of stairs to sit in a separate section, far away from the white audience.

"I went one time," she said. "One time," she added as her right hand chopped down on the rocker's arm rest. "That was enough for me. The others? They'd go and always beg me to go with them but... no, not me. I wasn't going to deal with that kind of thing," she shook her head from side to side as her eyes closed. "No sirree."

I remember when Emma told me stories like that. And when she talked, the strength and wisdom oozed from her. I'll look at those tapes one day. Not for awhile though. I haven't looked at my Dad's interviews either. I suppose a moment will arise when I will want to spend some time doing that. That moment has not come yet.


So tomorrow I'll wake up and head back to Springfield, Massachusetts to meet up with my brother. I was in Springfield a couple of times over the past few months, the last time being just about two weeks ago. That's when I said goodbye to Emma for the last time. I had said goodbye hundreds of times before that, and as each year started to float by, especially after we hit the 90's, (Emma's 90's) those last hugs and kisses seemed to take on a different meaning. As I would lean in for a last minute kiss, I would always make sure to pause, just for a second or so, and really take in the feel of those buttery soft cheeks. And I would always tell Emma I'd be back to visit soon. "I'll be lookin' for you," she'd always say, punctuating the end of that line with her patented Emma laugh. I used to refer to that chuckle as her "Deputy Dawg" laugh because that's exactly the way it always sounded to me. No one laughed like Emma. And the nice thing is, I can hear it now as I write this - the most beautiful sound in the world. It's comforting to me that I will always hear that laugh and see that smile - that special, warm smile.

No one lived like Emma, at least no one I have ever met. And it is that "life" I will remember. Grieve? Sure I will. I will grieve because I know I will never be able to sit and talk with her the way I had always done it over my 52 years. But I think when a person lives to 101 and accomplishes it the way Emma accomplished it, the word "celebrate" seems more appropriate. Yes, celebration. I like that.

For me to now attempt to list memories here - there is no point to that exercise. The memories will come; they'll come later, tomorrow. They'll come for the rest of my life. I'm sure I'll be jotting down notes and smiling about my times with Emma as I fly home later today. Being in the clouds adds a nice touch to moments like these so I'll make sure I have a pen and blank piece of paper handy as I stare out the plane window. As my sister said the other day, when each of us was born, the first faces we saw were my mom's, dad's and Emma's. Emma has been there the whole time. Not as a replacement for my parents, mind you. But rather as the ultimate compliment; my de facto grandmother. I have never, for one moment, taken for granted the blessings conferred upon me and my family and, Emma, most definitely, was a supreme blessing.

Every time I beat an egg, make a piece of french toast, or fold a towel. Every time I do a simple task which reminds me of something Emma taught me as a child, I will think of this sweet, good and loving woman.

And I will smile. And I will feel calmness.

Rest in peace, Emma Foote.
The finest person I have ever known.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Hi, Dad."

Ramon Martin Getzov
February 19, 1925 through April 14, 2010

Hi Dad.

I’m looking at the casket to my left here but, and I feel this in the strongest of ways. I know you’re up there. I know you’re everywhere now.

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ve often wondered – when someone passes away and folks are asked to speak about that person, to talk about a lifetime of experiences occurring, as in this case, from February 19, 1925 to April 14, 2010…. Talk about a challenge. I’ve been to funerals, listened to people express themselves about their loved ones this way and every time I marvel, “How do they do that?” And whenever I experience this, somewhere inside, I find myself asking, “When the time comes, when my own parents pass away, how will I do that? What will I say and will I be able to say it?


Today is that day. And I have to say, I feel pretty able.


Gifts from Dad. Memories of him.
Oh, my Lord…


That voice. That unbelievable, beautiful, soothing voice. When my father sang…. I mean, people loved listening to… that voice.

When I was little, I simply could not understand why my father was not doing all the things, living the same life, as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin - any of the great singers from those days. People who heard Dad perform, (e.g. saw him as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls”), they know exactly what I’m talking about here. Folks who never heard dad sing, play piano, well… I just wish you could have heard him. It really was something special. It just goes to show you – one doesn’t need to have their face plastered all over the newsstands or mega-media to have their talent, their brilliant talent expressed in the form of a precious gift to the world.

My childhood – our childhood, Yosi and Adina’s young lives, Mom’s life with Dad. Emma’s life with him. Sydney’s, Dicky’s, Dino’s, Corky’s, Max and Esther’s (our pets, by the way – To Marla, Stuart – do you remember how, whenever Dad started playing at the piano, how Sydney, no matter where she was in the house – how she would somehow always make her way to the living room, set herself down flat on the carpet directly under the piano, four limbs sprawled out in all directions, the way she used fall asleep listening to Dad singing and playing? I was always amazed by that. All of our lives with Dad were filled with, yes, his music. His very special creative energy.

That voice.

Up until he just could not do it any more, Dad was always at the piano, doing precisely what he loved to do so very much. I remember how he’d play and sing, song after song. How can I list them all now? Special songs that come to mind, for me, (different ones will come up for Marla and Stuart, I’m sure), “Little Toy Poodle”, “Crescendo” “Never Was And Never Will Be” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Autumn Leaves,” “What Kind Of Fool Am I?,” “You’re Nobody To Somebody Loves You,” and a personal favorite, “More.”


No doubt about it.

This was Dad.

* * * * * * * * * *

But as much as Dad’s music meant to him, there was something else that trumped it in terms of what was most important to him, in this life. It was, most definitely, his family.

His beautiful Ethel-Belle, his children Marla, Stuart and Harry J.

How do I know this?

I asked him.

I had the honor of interviewing Dad more than a few times, for my book. When asked about his most precious accomplishments in life, sure, Dad talked about his music and songwriting, what it meant to him to be able to create things... how did he say it? When talking about his songs, he once told me, ““Even when you’re gone, you’ve left something special for others to enjoy.” He often talked about that kind of immortality. I remember how he smiled when he recalled being on the subway in the city, and he’d be sitting, reading the paper, and he’d hear someone whistling, “Please Mr. Sun” across from him. “It felt good,” he said. "I felt proud," he added.

“With your talent,” I once asked him, “With all those voice, dance and piano lessons Papa Harry and Nana Ann gave you, and then success at such a young age, why did you decide to give it up?

This is what he expressed:

“I sometimes think about what could have been if I had gone on with it, sure. But, at the time, I knew I had a wife and a child (Marla) and, you know how the music business is so hit and miss. And I said, “I better get out before I get roped in here.” And, even though my parents kvelled whenever they heard my songs on the radio all those years, they, and I, also felt that music would be too much of a struggle for me in the long run. I couldn’t go in to my dad’s leather business, because it was a one-man operation, but it turned out he had invested in a corrugated box plant in Massachusetts, and… well, you know the rest. And so we went. We went, (raising and finger and pointing) together. Me and your mom. Whatever I had to do when I was in the music business, wherever I needed to go in terms of night clubs or other places where my songs were being played, Ethel went with me, every single time. So when it was time to leave the city, she also went with me. She left her family to go with me, without any questions. She was sad about it, but she did it. (pointing) That’s my wife.”

* * * * * * * * * *

In terms of memories – special gifts given to us, from Ray…

Just the other night I was out with Stuart, eating fajitas, sipping margaritas. It was the night just before Dad passed away, and I found myself asking a question, more than a few times. “When you think of Dad, what comes to mind? What memories?

A few –

-- Dad on the terrace, the Trafton Road house, high up above the porch, over-looking the back yard, tossing pebbles down as we laughed and ran around the yard, with Mom, Emma, perhaps some of the NY family there with us. On the 4th of July, it was heaven when Dad lit up those sparklers and waved them around. It didn't get any better than that. As Stuart said, “He was larger than life to us,” when he was up on terrace that way.

-- Baseball – our shared love of the game. How dad took something so precious to him and passed that same passion to all of us. I remember when the movie “Field of Dreams” came out – Stu called and warned me that I was going to absolutely explode when I saw the film. You know what? I did. Most of you know that scene at the end when Kevin Costner asks his dad to play catch. Well, I was one of those kids who played catch with my Dad. I... we had that kind of relationship with him. Of course, we heard all about the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, Bobby Thomson’s home-run (he was there – not a great day in his life). And then came the Mets. In particular, 1969, the fifth game of the World Series against the Orioles – Dad took Marla and me out of school that day and we drove from Longmeadow to Flushing. He knew how important it was for us to be at Shea Stadium the day the Amazins beat Baltimore to win the Series. Dad kept a handwritten scorecard that day – notating every detail, right down until the last out, when Cleon Jones pulled the fly ball into his glove, his knee collapsing into a slight kneel. I have that scorecard. Trust me. It will be with me for the rest of my life.

-- The getaways to the Cape, South Yarmouth, the shows, trips to London, and then… all those adventures, the drives to New York City to visit with The Mensch and Segal families, to see Nanas Ann And Edith. Listening to William B. Williams on (singing) “WNEW”, with the “More Park’s Sausages Mom! Please?” commercials. The stays at the Hilton, Waldorf, Sheraton Tenney, The Barbizon Plaza (me locking Marla in the closet there). And then… the food, always the food in our family – The Turnpike Deli!! Bill Hongs, Danny’s Hideaway, Clam Box, the Hu Ke Lau (with the Posnick family), Ciro's and the Lido (also often with the Sy, Flossie and the kids, by the way), Friendly's, Ray's and Richard's Grinders. Of course, The Concord, most obviously, a very special memory considering what the mere mention of the word meant (and still means) to my Mom and Dad.

For me, when I push myself to think of a particular memory of Dad – a moment, perhaps, where I felt something special about him, one experience seems to keep bubbling up. I laugh when I think of it because, after 52 years with this man, all those incredible experiences with him and my family, why would this one moment mean so much to me??

Camp Winadu. I think it was 1966. A late August morning, camp had just ended, the campers had already been packed up and moved down to the ball-fields to start their great exodus back to New York City – to the Adventurers Inn. But the Getzov boy, he was from Western Massachusetts.

I was waiting for my father to pick me up.

I was sitting on the steps of a bunk cabin, I think it was Bunk 16, kind of in the middle of the Junior Campus, looking down across a large green hill, and then over and across a very blue Lake Onota. It was perhaps around 9:00 in the morning, sunny, the grass was still glistening with droplets of water, a little steam rising from it. There was that early morning Berkshire chill in the air.

So, there I was, sitting next to my packed trunk, already informed by Irv Dube that Dad had already stopped by to say hello “up top,” and was on his way down to pick me up. I sat, looking around – eight weeks filled with hundreds of kids running around that gorgeous piece of real estate – it was over. It was very quiet.

I was still waiting. I didn’t see him. Where was Dad? I think about it now, I mean, I was eight – I was worried, you know, I was a kid, scared, I guess. I jumped off the steps and took a look in back of the bunk, glancing near the infirmary, no sign.

He appeared from the side of, I guess it was, Bunks 8 and 9, down on the Colt Campus. He walked out from where Bill and Fran Speigel lived every summer. I swear I can still picture this as I talk with you now. The face. Handsome. Brylcreemed hair combed back, it was so rich and dark back then. (Note: it was still rich, if not so dark, right up until Dad’s last breath. This gift, my brother and I are thankful for).

As Dad walked toward me up the pathway, I saw him smiling. That radiant smile. He waved, signaling to me that he was there for me.

I can not possibly convey to any of you here today, just what that feeling was when I saw Dad that day. It is simply not describable. But here I am writing about it, talking about it, today, April 16, 2010. So, you know…

A love for a father. I felt it that day. I felt the happiness – the same way I feel it as I relay this story.

My father picked me up that day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Something else about Dad, speaking again of gifts…

My father could relate to anyone. Truck drivers, union guys on a factory assembly line, as he did at Eastern Container and then, even at M&S Tomato – and he didn’t even speak Spanish! I remember how those guys loved my father – I could tell. On the other side of the spectrum… celebrities, business executives, producers, board presidents, any man or woman on the street. You could tell how much Dad genuinely enjoyed the company of others. When I now notice how Marla, Stuart and I love doing precisely the same thing, I smile because I know we got this, I guess you’d call it a skill, from Dad. In that way, a part of him will continue to live in us.

And it feels great.

* * * * * * * * * *


Saying Goodbye.

While watching the Masters just this past Sunday, I was looking up at the TV screen, but, as I did regularly, I kept glancing down at Dad to see if he was doing okay. This one time I happened to turn my head and was surprised, actually startled, to see him… looking at me – those wonderfully warm eyes wide open and bright. I didn’t say anything. I was looking at him... looking at me. The sound of the golf tournament in the background.

He placed his warm hand on top of mine and tapped it, I don’t know, maybe about ten to twenty times.

He smiled.

Who needs words?

* * * * * * * * * *

Back to one of those songs I mentioned earlier. I was surprised this morning to see that Bobby Darin wrote this.

I want to share the lyric with you now.

by Bobby Darin

(CLICK on this: Bobby Darin 'More', to hear a nice version of Darin singing it, but I'll find one of Dad's and post it at a later time. In the meantime, if you prefer, here's a Nat King Cole version I love).


More than the greatest love the world has known
This is the love that I give to you alone
More than the simple words I try to say
I only live to love you more each day.

More than you'll ever know
My arms long to hold you so
My life will be in your keeping
Waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.

Longer than always is a long, long time
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine
I know I never lived before
And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more.

* * * * * * * * * *

More than you'll ever know
My arms long to hold you so ….

There are no accidents. Of this, I am absolutely convinced.

The way Dad left this Earth, this time … it just can not have been an accident that he left it in Mom’s arms.

Hundreds of times over the past few months, every morning I would hold his hand, shave him, comfort his face with a warm wash cloth, kiss him on his forehead. I remember, one evening, I kissed his cheek while saying good night, wishing him “Pleasant Dreams,” until I’d see him early the next morning.

“Did you feel that?” I asked.

“Every bit of it” he smiled, looking up at me.

We are all so very sure that Dad felt “every bit of it” the other morning.

I am convinced God rewarded Dad with a “bonus round,” wait a minute… With 100 more bonus rounds!! Of course, this was done with the help of so many people and for those people, I and my entire family want to make sure you understand how very much we thank you for being there for us – helping us keep Ray around for just a little bit longer. Every single time we thought “This is it,” He just kept coming back, fighting, holding on to his precious life, day after day, year after year. The fact that this man was given the chance to have all that extra time, to be with – his family – his grandchildren for 8½ years of their lives. The same family that was with him right until the end. The very end.

* * * * * * * * * *

Rest in peace Dad.

I am going to miss you.

We are all going to miss you.

“More” than you will ever, ever know.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Heeeere's Ray!!"

[Written: February 25, 2010]

Small Steps - When I came in today, I found dad to be a bit more "there" - compared to the other days, I suppose. That's the only way to look at this, in incremental steps.

I was thinking about something I learned from my sister years ago. It was when Marla was doing her clinical work after receiving her degree in music therapy from U. Of Miami. She was working at, I think the name of the place was, Sunland Hospital in Orlando? I went down to Florida for a visit, took in some DisneyWorld with Marla and was able to visit Sunland where I was able to see, first-hand, the kind of work my sister was doing. Simply put: I couldn't do that kind of work. Watching her deal with so many sick people, very sick people, severely handicapped and disabled people, most of them young children with short life expectancies. I remember asking Marla how she was able to cope with her feelings about getting close with so many kids only to have them pass away? "Small steps" pretty much summed up her response. "A child can't brush his/her teeth. We teach them so they can do it on their own... That is a huge victory," she explained. "And you learn how to cherish each and every one of those forward movements.

Small steps. Those are the kinds of things I'm learning to appreciate these days.

"Heeeere's Ray!!" - So it was time for Dad's medications earlier today and I could already see he was more lively this morning. When it came time for his eye-drops, (Dad seems to enjoy this process since it brings some normalcy back to his life, something he recognizes as part of his daily routine), seemingly having a better sense of what's going on, I watched as my father lifted his eye a bit wider today. To think I would get so excited about watching his eyebrows lift up a la Groucho Marx - isn't that wild? I say that because whenever we ask him to open his eyes, the first thing we see as any kind of indication that he's about to make his move - that's when the eyebrows edge upward, with his eyelids following close behind. I haven't grown tired of that one-two punch yet.

After Evangeline finished applying the eye drops, the nurses usually do a cleaning of the mouth, tooth-brushing routine. It comes in three stages, each step using a different kind of solution. From appearances, it looks like Dad enjoys this process. Who wouldn't? Not being able to drink any water, one's mouth starts to get pretty funky, especially with a food tube still in there.

So, anyway, there we were, Evangeline and Marion (student nurse) - both Filipino women, on one side of the bed, Dad's left side. I was standing on the other side, Dad's right side. As they were brushing and sucking out liquid, I was trying to imagine what this must feel like for my father. Then, it dawned on me, "Why am I not asking him?" The good news is that, increasingly, we can talk with Dad, and we're pretty certain (not sure), but pretty certain he's understanding us. So I asked him the question of the moment, "Does that feel good?"

Without hesitation, Dad's head started moving from side to side. I laughed, as did the nurses. But I wasn't exactly happy about his response. I mean, as funny as it may have been, I don't want him to be uncomfortable and was hoping he was enjoying having his mouth rinsed like that.

"He'll like this better," Marion said as she prepared the third and final solution for the third step. "I'm pretty sure about it."

At that, Evangeline opened up one of those ketchup-like packets and a white cream or ointment squirted out into a little container.

"Moisturizer," Evangeline explained. "It tastes like mint," she added.

Again I was hoping this would be something Dad would like - something to freshen his mouth.

"How's that?" I asked. "Does it taste like mint?"

Immediately, his mouth moved. Unable to project any sound because of the "trach" tube, all he can do at the moment to communicate, is mouth words. He shaped some words. Four of them.

"It tastes like shit."

Now I don't think this has anything to do with any kind of overly optimistic wishful thinking on the part of a loving family member. I say this because, Marion caught what happened at the same moment I did. And she laughed. Hard. Evangeline? Not so much. I actually found myself apologizing to her.

"He doesn't usually swear," I told her. "We certainly weren't allowed to use that kind of language in our home," I added.

Evangeline smiled and Marion and I shared our laugh but, even after that, I wasn't totally convinced we'd understood the precise words.

That's when I decided to ask the all important follow-up question.

"Dad," I poked his hand, his eyes closed. "Did you just say what I think you just said?"

His head moved up and down.

It was confirmed.

One. That my father said what he said.
And, two, that his sense of humor is alive and kicking.
That's the first time we've seen this since the fall.

It was good to see.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spirit vs. Body

Untitled? - Sometimes, in fact, often as I write these entries, I underline some words, phrases - something that looks like it might be a good title, something catchy. Today, I was finding it hard to find anything that worked.

My father has been ill. Seriously ill, as many of my friends already know. He fell at his and my mom's home a few weeks ago and hit his head. This was the fall we'd been fearing for years. Why he fell?? Honestly, we're not totally positive. He's had balance issues at times but he's been pretty good with his walker over the past years. Did he fall because of something going on internally? (i.e., did the fall occur because of internal bleeding? Did he just slip, hit his head and then cause the internal injury? We don't know. What we do know is that the result was severe internal bleeding, which led to a "nasty" (as his neurosurgeon, Dr. Whitfield put it) blood clot on his brain. "Most folks don't survive a surgery like this one," the doctor told me a few days later. "Especially someone who is 85 years old."

But survive is what my father is apparently in the process of doing.

"Spirit vs. Body" - "His spirit is fighting back against his body," is what my dad's aid and now friend, Innocent, said to me just a few days after the surgery. This was before Dad even came close to opening his eyes. Innocent is Haitian, we think in his early 60's, although we're not sure. To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure Innocent even knows his own age. What we do know is that Innocent is special and I know Dad loves having Innocent at his bedside along side us while he is going through this challenge.

Those words, Innocent's words, have stuck with me for the past few weeks.

"Spirit fighting body."

Every morning I walk into my father's ICU room at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Weston, FL. I put down my backpack, walk over and kiss my dad on his forehead, hold his hand for about five minutes and then change the date and nurse information on the whiteboard which lies in front of Dad's bed. I'm usually there at 7:30 or 8:00 or so, doing my best to get settled so I can catch the doctors, perform my information intake so I then can pass along the info to my mom and siblings.

"It's hard to see someone you love so much going through something like this," is what my brother, Stuart, said to me last week. The day-to-day experience - it can be draining, emotionally and physically. I mean, I'm struggling with it on a daily basis so I can't come close to imagining how my almost-78 year old mom is handling this. After all, Mom and Dad have been married for almost 60 years now. My dream was to be partnered with a woman in life that same way. My folks have accomplished it - so it must be incredibly challenging for Mom to be going through this. I am sometimes awestruck when I watch how she's handling all of this.

Taking A Breath - That has been a key, at least for me. Which is a funny concept only because I'm writing this entry while listening to the hum and squeaking of the ventilator machine to my left. I hear the machine's "breathing" and it reminds me to stop, think and take in some deep breaths as well. And I feel better once I do that a bit. I do it while looking at my father as he rests. The tubes from his mouth have now been replaced by a "trach" and "peg" (feed) tubes in his throat and stomach areas respectively. I've been told and the staff here has assured all of us that these two procedures have helped to make Dad more comfortable, which they seem to have done. Until he can speak to us again, we can only hope he's doing okay. He seems to be resting comfortably and we're all thankful for that.

The good news? It looks like Dad will be moved out of ICU tomorrow and transferred to new location where they specialize in weaning people off ventilators. He's breathing but he's doing it with the assistance of the machine that's whispering over my shoulder. The goal is to get Dad back to where he doesn't need this contraption's help any more.

Wish us luck.

BTW - I've been hesitant to post things I've been writing over the past few weeks as I've moved my way through this experience. Most of it is what I'd call private - cathartic to write, for sure - but, private. Some of what I've written has been important for me to get out of my system and I may choose to post a few things on here, if anyone is interested.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eastward Bound

The Back Burner - It's been a long time between blog posts, I know. Finishing the book, packing, moving things around (including myself) - it's meant putting some things on the back burner, as they say. That explains the disappearance of my blog writing.

But that's changing now. If nothing else, writing more, and doing it daily, often forces my brain to get creative. It doesn't allow me to be lazy, which I can, of course, sometimes be. I remember when I first left NYC and headed to the Midwest, it was the daily journal writing (which turned into the blogs) that kept the juices flowing. And from that writing, everything else seemed to blossom. It's hard to explain, but I know it happened.

City to city, I managed to find some quiet time to sit and reflect on... well... anything. If I ate at a good restaurant that day - I wrote about it. If I visited a national landmark or met an interesting person - I wrote about those things. I miss that aspect of my life. Call it "mundane routine" - something pulled me away from that writing practice. Once settled into the Kansas City phase of my life, I soon fell into a schedule. The adventure part of my journey came to a halt. Work at CBIZ three days a week pushed me into the business world again. And during that set-aside "business" time, I did legislative research for a living, which I enjoyed for the most part. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it's true. And the truth is, that work proved to be the perfect balance against the "other" side of my life. The Eldercation side.

The balance of my week was then spent transcribing interview tape after interview tape, one after the other, day after day, week after week. Once that was "done" (a relative term, since I'll never really be done with this process, I love it so much) - it was time to distill each interview down to a page or so.

And that's a quick explanation as to why the blog writing was put on hold. Some folks seem to be able to do it all - all the time. For me? I made a choice, and my choice was to pay attention to one thing and one thing only: the book.

And I'm happy to report that the book is done. I've taken it as far as it can go.

Onward & Upward - (Actually - EASTward) - It dawned on me that most, if not all, of the folks who are going to help me set up Eldercation are located in the Northeast, so I've decided to head back that way for the time being. I'm keeping my main address in Kansas City and will come back that way periodically. But, for me, it's time share with the world that which has provided so much joy to me all these years. And to do that, it means traveling. Again.

After dropping off some things with my brother in Chicago, I headed East two days ago, stopping for one night some place in Western Pennsylvania. I think it was Clarion, PA? Honestly, I'm not really sure where it was. And it didn't matter all that much. A drive from Chicago to NY means you only have to remember two numbers: 90 and 80. Trust me, there's nothing all that interesting about that particular drive. And there is certainly no way to get lost. I can't remember the last time I drove such a long distance (850 miles or so) and never once did I look at a map. So, in that sense, a pause to find some place to sleep for the night - it could have happened anywhere. Quite frankly, I really didn't know where I was most of the time. I just watching the signs for the big cities on the route, "Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, East Stroudsburg, Newark, New York - and as long as the numbers to those locations kept shrinking, I knew I was doing okay. So, to me, a stop was a stop - it didn't matter where I took my rest. All I needed was a warm bed, shower and a good breakfast. This particular time - it was a Quality Inn - Clarion, PA. (That's what the address on the phone said).

I've Arrived - The sight brought a smile to my face. And I snapped this photo (with my "LCD-less" digital camera. Built-in obsolescence, you gotta love that). I glanced to my right, down the Hudson, looking at the NYC skyline. "I used to live there," I thought to myself. And then I kept driving North on 95 until... everything stopped.

Let me put it this way: it took me 14 hours to get from the front of Stuart's Bikram studio in Evanston (Chicago) to the middle of the George Washington Bridge. Then, it took me almost three hours to get from the middle of the GW Bridge to my Aunt Florence's house in Oceanside (Long Island). Traffic, traffic and more traffic. On 95, The Cross Island Parkway and the Southern State Parkway.

"How do people deal with this everyday!?!" I wondered, over and over again. I remember asking myself that same question most of the time I lived in the city.

And over and over again, as I drove I thought, "I will never, ever return to this kind of life.

As much as I love NYC, and I do love it very much, I can't see dealing with this kind of... what can I call it? Congestion? I lived this life for many, many years. But now, it's all about setting up this fantastic project.

Which reminds me. It's time to go.

Search This Blog