Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's the Small Stuff that Does You In

Hard day today. All kinds of small stuff that was so hard to handle. I found HPs favorite silver ankh pendant, which he'd worn day and night for many years on a silver chain, until he went to the hospital two and a half years ago, after which he couldn't safely wear jewelry like that again. It was in a drawer I was tidying.

And then the cherry tree he loved, that huge branch coming down, most of the shade on the patio he loved now gone. The logs from part of it on the hearth waiting to dry and season and be used on the fire.

And while I was looking for a hat to go out walking, I saw his shoes, the ones his physio used to put on him for his standing exercise, now back on the shelf. I freecycled his ankle weights today to a grateful receiver.

Something at every turn. Notes with his writing on them. A Valentine he gave me last year, shopped for by HS but written painfully in HP's own writing, among papers I was sorting. Almost the last thing he ever wrote.

His eyeglasses, which I parceled today and sent to a charity which will use them for people in countries who can't afford the cost. I knew he knew his situation when he finally refused to have his glasses on. He was helpless without them, had always been very quick to want them on in the morning. So when he said quietly, no, I don't think so, when I asked him if he wanted them on, I knew, too. About ten days before he died.

Wanting to point out the birds on the patio today to him -- the male cardinal feeding two babies on a branch, the mother nowhere in evidence, probably at a shore house resting up, and a hummingbird, very rarely seen here, hovering around the feeder and the tree, who settled on the tree for a moment then darted away.

This is the hard time, when other people have returned to their lives, and I have to figure out the new shape of my life, but there's so much yet to work through and so many emotional landmines going off at any time. And I'm so tired. Now that I can afford to be tired, I am.

I keep remembering the labyrinth's advice: let it come, let it roll over you, then let it go.

Monday, August 29, 2011

First day of the rest of our lives

The dramatic change in the indoor scenery

and the equally dramatic change on the patio, with most of the big cherry tree gone in the hurricane,

reminds me yet again that every day is the first day of the rest of our lives. I can do all the physical stuff required to change objects around, and compensate for what is now gone forever, but the emotional part poleaxes me every now and then, and I have to sit down and just breathe a bit and watch birds at the newly reinstalled feeder.

In a great juxtaposition of old and new, I caught our neighbor R., adjusting his new giant telescope

in the street this morning, watched with interest by his father in law, visiting from India from the summer. He is a respected guru at home, a holy man who has visited all the sites sacred to his religion, and our Indian neighbors have been paying him respectful visits.

He teaches at an Indian university in the academic year and is here with Mrs. Guru for several months. He's also a friendly old grandfather, playing soccer with his granddaughters and their friends out behind the house, and very amused by his son-in-law's do it yourself projects around the house and garden. He's a wonderful summer visitor to the neighborhood. And yes, I did carefully obscure the faces of both men, just a respectful thing.

I'm getting near the end of the chicken which I cooked ahead of the storm so as to have good food even if we had no power Since we never lost power, unlike some friends in nearby towns with a different power company, I cooked jasmine rice today to go with it, finished off a batch of smoothie, and called it lunch. But I've had enough chicken for the moment, and the rest will go in the freezer for when I'm in the mood again. Hurricane Chicken served me well!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Damage Report to Date 7.30a.m.EST

It looks as if the major part of the storm has now passed, after howling winds most of the night, and the continuous heavy rain which will go on and on and on.

The only downed tree in the neighborhood that I can see is mine!

the lovely old wild cherry on the patio is now more or less resting in the yard next door. What you see is sky where there was a huge tree, planted by birds many years ago.

It did not fall on any people or houses, though, and was nowhere near any power lines.

In fact we never lost power at all, good old PSEandG, and we've had worse nor'easters than this so called hurricane. But there's flooding everywhere, and will be more. The town I live in is on a sandy soil, so the drainage is terrific, but friends in other towns may not be as lucky.

All in all, Irene did not live up to her billing, and I'm glad of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Preparedness Indoors and Out

As of this writing, it's humid and warm and overcast, several hundred miles north of the current position of the hurricane, the laundry is done, and I'm doing a nice batch of chicken and hot biscuits here in progress

edible regardless of whether we lose power.

Outdoors the patio is emptied of hanging plants and bird feeder, chairs now indoors, other stuff flat on the deck.

the birds trudging around whining about where did the feeder go, and the wren's nest is safely stowed, in its hanging bowl, in the storage unit. I plan to ask if the libe would like it for the children's area, as a nice example of avian architecture.

My hurricane shopping was all about potting soil, parmesan cheese, olive oil, tomato paste and other such basics. The checkout lady pointed to the potting soil and said, this is hurricane prep?? huh? so I explained that since the plants had to come indoors a bit early this year, I may as well do the fall potting up while they're in already and outside won't be a good place to be. And I'd used up the other stuff in the process of making pizza and pesto, needed to replenish supplies in case the urge strikes.

Everyone else was buying useless stuff like water and bread and toilet paper, I ask you, where are their priorities?

I did charge up the computer battery and the cellphone, though, to be in the spirit of things. Speaking of which, the Social Security lady was supposed to call me at 1.45 yesterday for a phone meeting to establish if I have a claim for a better SS benefit based on HPs account, and I had to have various original docs. ready to quote from and give chapter and verse. Now, being a nervous and conscientious type, I had all this stuff ready in a file on the table, complete with notebook and pen.

This was just as well, since she called at 11 a.m. I always thought the gummint was too slow to be last, but here she is at me hours early. Good thing I wasn't at the supermarket or something when she called. So we got it done promptly, and I needed to track down my original marriage certificate. Folks, what? it was 1963, on another continent, another planet almost, the church probably long closed, the brits famous for flatly refusing to cooperate in matters like this with furriners, particularly furriners who were once brits....anyway, I flew over to my bank in the next town where the safe deposit box (grammar note here: it's not a safety deposit, even if bank people themselves sometimes get it wrong, where was I?) oh yes, where the box is. And phew, found the doc in there.

This is fortunate since for decades I had no idea where it was, and HP figured it was safe somewhere, he couldn't remember where, and it never seemed important, our not knowing we might be called on to prove it sometime. Then when he was unable to run his own planning and financial life, and we had exchanged Powers of Attorney, I invoked mine and after a brisk conversation with the bank officials where he had his box, who had to be virtually threatened with legal action if they didn't acknowledge that ALL financial dealings of all kinds included the box, duh, anyway, there it was with a lot of other stuff most of it sentimental rather than legally vital.

I swept it all up and closed that box, moved the stuff to my own box in a different bank, leaving the bank officer a bit angry that I'd emptied it and closed the box for HP! I felt like saying, folks, this is POWER of attorney in action, not feeble attempt at power...

Off to my own bank, and at that point got HS to come along and be officially recognized as the other person who can access my box, gave him one of my keys, and had him sign the card and actually do the transaction of putting the stuff in with me, showed him all the items in there already. This will smooth his way if he should ever have to get in the box on my behalf.

Soooooo, long story slightly less long, I found it, and now the feds want it and other originals, too, to prove I was once married, and subsequent adventures, which did not include another marriage, lucky escape I had, actually I had a few lucky escapes, but that's for another blogpost, or my exciting memoirs (!) and then, and then, they will process the claim. Gosh, not a bit of bother. And they promise the docs will come back to me.

How is this hurricane preparedness, you ask? well, if we lose power guess who will be closed for who knows how long? the banks, that's who. And guess whose roads between here and my box will be impassable if we have the flooding they're promising? well, ours. So I decided to have the doc with me just in case.

Off to have a nice cup of tea now. HS expected any minute, coming over to shut the window in the loft for me, which requires climbing. I have delegated that bit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Da boids have flown! Wren Chronicles conclusion

The wren family has hatched, fledged and left their nest. I noticed no activity for a couple of days, no signs of anything wrong, so I guess they moved their young fast, since there was a bluejay around and they are predators on young birds. But I heard wren calls this morning a close by, so they haven't gone far. I never got to see the babies, but oh well.

Then the pre hurricane preparation under way, I took down the bird feeder for safety, and all the hanging plants. So I uncovered the nest, and found it was as I thought, a wonderful piece of architecture, built around the curve of the inner pot that held the plant.

There was fluff and hair at the bottom, looking like Duncan's fur, in fact, that I'd thrown out after I groomed him, and pine needles around the walls, and then mosses all packed in to hold it in place against the wall of the outer pot. And they had worked around a branch of the begonia which you see left there when I took out the pot containing the plant.

Their timing was impeccable. They were the last life on the patio that HP could distinguish and enjoy, they built their nest and I reported to him on it daily, they fed their young after HP left us, and now, their work complete, they are off to the next chapter in their own lives. As I said much earlier, the Wren Chronicles give me something to live by!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Pesto

When the hurricane threatens, and the torrential rain started a while ago, the cook gets busy harvesting herbs for pesto, before the patio gets drowned and blown about.

I ran out this morning and cut a lot of herbs from my containers, second harvest this year, to make pesto. I used to make basil pesto, then realized, duh, you can make pesto, which only means paste, after all, with any leafy herb. So my last batch now finished was sage/basil, and I have a nice harvest here to decide how to mix and match, or whether to throw them all into the one batch of pesto. I don't like pine nuts in pesto so much, and prefer crushed walnuts. And the usual garlic and olive oil and parmesan.

So here, reading left to right: oregano, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary. All pulled off the stems, the kitchen smells wonderful, and ready to be processed. I put the made pesto into ziplock bags, flatten the bags so that the contents are very thin, then freeze them on end like books. That way you can open the bag and just break off the amount you need at any time.

This is more productive for me at the moment than trying to organize paperwork ready for the next stage of business to do. The stress of the documents and being forced to think about it makes me forget where I put things, forget the name of what I'm looking for, completely forget where I put an entire file and so on. Better to just cook a bit for the moment.

Last evening HS came over to do a few bits of things for me, replacing high up light bulb type things, and eat my homemade pizza (I used Indian nan bread for the bases, made four individual pizzas, and oh, look at that, they're all gone), and then go through a stack of photographs to see what he would like to have of his father.

It was good to do, but the candid shots I had of HP, from the back, or reading on the sofa, or petting his cat, or out and about with his dog back when he was walking, about did me in. Hence the inability to process paperwork very well today. A song came into my head as I was driving yesterday, and I have now added to my repertoire of crying, which is crying while reading, crying while knitting, crying while watching a mystery movie, add now crying while driving. But it's okay, it has to happen, and it's a bit better later.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gosh, I made the earth move!

Bereavement Studies part two: it took four, count them, visits to banks plus an emergency online sortie to the IRS (the fed. tax people) to get HPs checking account closed, an estate account opened in my own bank, and new numbers and paraphernalia applied thereto, notwithstanding and heretofore.

For the benefit of other people in this situation: you have to open an estate account in the name of the person whose will you're administering, meet with the bank where the account now is, give them originals of every document since the Magna Carta, and get them to cut a cashier's check in the amount in the account, which check you take to the bank of your choice, together with new originals of all the docs.

And then you find that they can't proceed, despite all your preplanning and stopping of payments into the account, etc., because the estate account has its own legal existence and needs its own ID. Which means applying to the IRS for same, but they blessedly do it fast online and I nipped home, navigated the IRS website despite their arcane architecture which requires you to enter as if registering a small business in order to get to Door Number Two, ID for an estate account, got back to the bank to continue the interrupted meeting, with it in hand, all printed out.

So we got it done, finally, and just as we were wrapping up the meeting, the Great Earthquake of 2011 started. Everyone in the bank, this not being an equake zone, looked around in wild surmise, and I commented to the officer in my meeting, gosh, I knew we were doing something significant here, but I didn't think it warranted this kind of a reaction. Not quite in tune with this form of humor, she solemnly said, we have opened the estate account, Mrs. A., is that what you referred to?

But I think God really needs to get a nice hobby. First storms and floods to stop my friend M and me from meeting, ah, Thou Shalt Not Have a Nice Cup of Tea! and now that I get a tricky legal maneuver completed, ah, Don't Think I Didn't Notice! maybe I should suggest knitting a nice family of dolls or something.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, this morning the cats are cautiously seeking assurance that it was only an earthquake, not some Big Dog in the house, and that it's done now. Duncan finally came out from under the bed

when I showed him the local headlines

and he and Marigold studied them

before Marigold went off to inform Fluffy of the All Clear.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bereavement 101

For people unfamiliar with the American educational system such as it is, the title refers to the kind of course that beginners take in college at the start of learning a new field of knowledge. As usual of course, I can't help seeing a Monty Python take on this, oh well, some of us are hardwired to be frivolous.

But learning is happening around here. One thing I have learned in the endless meetings I have to have, in person and on the phone, with officialdom, where I have to announce HPs death yet again, is to start with: this meeting is very hard for me, bear with me. that puts the other people into a possibly sympathetic, possibly anxious, frame of mind, but it works better than just plunging in.

I got the meeting done at HPs bank yesterday, closed out his account, got a check to take this morning to my own bank where I want to open up the estate account, all of which is already owed to me, having picked up the slack since I couldn't access his funds recently. So I'll have ANOTHER meeting, proffering various documents and letters of whatever the surrogate calls them,but my skills are improving.

It's going to be another of those skillsets I hope never to use again, I can see it.

The Monty Python side of me can also see that bereavement is going to be a card I can whip out to drive people mad. I HAVE to be at the front of the movie line, I'm BEREAVED!!! whaddya mean, you're out of my shoe size? don't you know I'm BEREAVED?? and so on. But I think it has a limited lifespan before people start to catch on and say, wait, wasn't that ten years ago? back to the end of the line, lady.

I'm higher up on the roller coaster this morning, because I had a wonderful afternoon of playing music with the quartet, who welcomed me back, had kept a place for me all this time, and were nearly as happy as I was to see me back with them. And the huge luxury was that I had no need to be nervously checking the time to get back home for the respite person to leave.

Another close friend advised me to learn to stop wearing a watch, unless I had specific reasons for knowing the time, just to get out of the anxious habit of checking. I like this, but it's hard. It's in my pocket...can't quite leave it at home. But I wear a bracelet instead of it now. And I didn't look at my watch once during the music session, though I wore it to make sure I got there on time. So this is progress.

I actually have a very good sense of time, usually can guess the hour and minute without checking, which is a compensation for having no sense of direction at all, so I think I'll be checking my bracelet out of force of habit, and getting a good idea of the time anyway.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday, and the furniture's moved

The transformation from hospital type living room, organized for an invalid, back to ordinary living room for mobile people, is pretty much complete. I just moved a few bits of furniture around, to use the space better and to make it feel better. There's a great sense of disloyalty in doing it, though, as if I'm sweeping away HP's dear memory, but I need to live here and I have to deal with the feelings about it. I know our cleaning couple will be all sad when they come and see it changed, and no doubt will once again be I cry, I clean, like last time, but his empty bed and chair broke them up, as it did me.

Everything is mixed, with memories rushing at me the whole time, HP asking me what I'm reading, what I'm knitting, asking me to explain the plot of the mystery movie. Now I don't need to explain, but it's sad to remember the mental deterioration that made it impossible for him to follow the plots of the sort of movies he used to love to watch with me.

I borrowed a few DVDs of Midsomer Murders to watch, because they're funny, I like them, and we saw a whole lot of them together a couple of years back when he still followed them. I set them up like matinees when he was too tired to watch in the evening and the weather wasn't right for being on the patio.

Watching them myself now is still good, but it's also a way of desensitizing myself so that I can get back to enjoying them and not avoiding this sort of thing, just because of the memories. It's too soon to have a perspective on what is good to remember, what is better to get past, and how to handle this now that I have time to actually think.

Friends are coming through just great, though, dropping in if I need company, tactfully not if I don't, bringing food --another neighbor has taken up the relay!! Indian food again, but from a different state, different kind of food, still very good indeed.No, I've no idea what I ate!

Tomorrow I go to HPs bank with the probate documents to get his tiny account turned over to me. At least that's the plan. The surrogate's office worked with the speed of light to probate the will and get the stuff back to me, which surprised me quite a bit. I guess I got them on a slow day. Or perhaps using the credit card speeded it up a bit, no need to wait for a check to clear.

But the good news is that tomorrow I play quartets!!! harpsichord and three recorders. This will be a reunion with my group. Since it's late afternoon, there's little to no chance that any vital calls will come through at that time on a Monday. So I felt okay agreeing.

It's just very hard to relax and do this kind of thing when I'm all het up about official business, but I'm hoping that if I can at least get the bank squared away, that will be a great help for my immediate financial life. Then I can stop banging on about it!

Looking ahead a little bit: HS and I have decided to scatter HP's ashes in a place where we all planted daffodils as a September 11 memorial, and do it on 9.11, because that would have been the tenth anniversary of our last reunion, the one that really did last till death. The daffodil planting at that time was HP's idea, as is the daffodil planting in his own memory that's going on all over the planet this year.

At that time I'll explain about how this came about, and have other memories to share, and I hope blogistas who have known both of us or just me, and him via me, will join in with memories, funny ones as well as poignant ones, at that time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Horoscope comes through

My recent horoscope reading, for us Sags: You have moments of being surely loving and accepting of what is, even when "what is" is changing rapidly. You'll move with the changes.

Well, let's hope so!

The artwork at the header is a wonderful watercolor by Donna Senopoulos, who mounted it on card and sent it with a beautiful note. It's an original from a really good artist, so I framed it instantly, and it now graces the place where the white on black drawing of HP used to hang, before I sent it as a thank you to his doctor. I had to photograph it off to the side, because as usual I forgot to do the pic before I framed, and would have had a spot of glare in the middle if I'd pictured it straight on. One of these days I'll remember to photo first, but I'm not holding my breath.

I have been so blessed with literally dozens of emails, cards, letters, lovely flowers, edible treats, truly useful items (bird feeder! seeds!! loaf baking pan!!!) and visits from friends, food cooked and brought, it has been wonderful, and now I have to ease back from drama and crisis and return to the more day to day stuff of life. Which involves finding out once more what that is, after close on ten years of home nursing, long before HP's disability became so profound.

Meanwhile, yesterday I played music and chatted for two whole hours without needing to hurry back, wonderful time, and my wise music and art friend S. who has been through similar stages to my current one, pointed out that it will take a long time for me to get used to not having to rush about all the time! that's one change I hope to make.

And while I was caring for HP I used to cook us great meals, then he had to move on to easier food at the end, including smoothies, which I made every morning for him. he managed a few teaspoonsful at each meal, and really liked them, up till he decided he was through eating and drinking.

I realized that I now need similar easy, nutritious food sitting in the fridge for when I just don't feel like cooking, so each morning sees me in the kitchen loading the container with milk, yogurt, honey, peaches, bananas, canteloupe, whatever is fresh from the farm, berries if there are any. And the handy new blender works just fine, so I have about a quart of liquid food there in the fridge for each day.

I am the Queen of the Smoothies!

And I'm starting to recover the concept of the weekend off. No bureaucrats will call at the weekend,so I'm free of demands and anxiety and general angst for the moment. The official executor duties are only just beginning, far from over,but I have two days free of them. This is good.

And if it ever stops pouring and lightning and thundering, I'll make it to the Preserve for my first unbounded walk in years. Yay.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Treasure Everywhere! the journal, home again

Thanks so much everyone for taking part in this wonderful artwork. I have been marveling at the contributions, some funny, some seriously good artworks, some both (!) and what a treat it is to have it back with me. This one I created using a lot of art I put into it, with plenty of room for other contributions, and I think it worked nicely.

Since it started its journey around half the globe, many of us have had major life changes, some losses, some great additions, so this journal celebrates the Great Us!
And the words to live by, on the cover, accompanying the Japanese woodblock print from the nineteenth century, a real one, rescued by me from a fleamarket, are If at first you don't succeed, use a bigger hammer! which is what the workmen in the print seem to be doing.

Hali's paintings, that bamboo is wonderful! then the color work, just lovely

Eepy in top form here, this detail shows the poem, click to enlarge and read, and a bit later you'll see the complete pages.

Dogonart, aka Irene, bust out in all directions, with collages, ATCs some with pebblehead figures, some stitched, art embroidery. Watch for more of these as you read.

MaryAnn, endless talent and great fun, all in one double spread. She makes it look so eeeeeeasy...

More Dogonart as promised

Here's the whole spread from Eepy as mentioned earlier. The poem is obscured in here, which is why I did the detail above

Heather ALWAYS has a different and new take with thoughts to study

Joyce took us on a trip! I like reading about travel..let someone else do the pedalling..

More dogonart, like I said, she went mad creating, and I'm very glad she did

Annie's contribution is just lovely to look at and think about.

Thank you everyone for your marvellous contributions and your patience in what turned out to be a longer chronology than we expected, but, oh well,life is short, art long. Vita brevis, ars longa.

Both are wonderful!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Final How-Tos for Caregiving Families

This post is in the nature of a public service, and please feel free to forward to any family members or friends you think it will help. I've learned a lot in the last couple of weeks, and yet more happened this morning. But this might help other people the dismay, wild surmise and other such emotions that have been surging regularly through my poor old frame.

About finding new homes for equipment: people not in this situation may not realize that if you have US Medicare and have had equipment prescribed, you pay a rental while Medicare picks up the bulk of the cost, for 13 months, after which the equipment is considered yours to keep if you continue to need it. This is nice until you no longer need it and have to find a destination for it. This is why we were left with large equipment and stuck for how to dispose of it in a way that made it useful again.

I found that the nonprofit here which is always suggested as a good place is actually a good place to buy from very cheaply, if you don't have insurance coverage, and a lot of people don't,and is a good place to give to if you can get the items to them. But it is hopeless if you can't do the trans. yourself, and not very happy about being asked.

In the middle of writing this post, that agency rep. called, very nice woman, offering a pickup at the end of August. I explained to her what had happened, she was very upset to hear it,and I did explain that I had found new places for all the items, and suggested a refresher for all personnel that when someone says there was a death the previous day, to say something like "I'm sorry for your loss". Anything rather than "Oh. Well, what do you have to give us?" that I got. She is determined that will not happen again, so that's fine.

The next agency suggested was very nice, but amazed that I needed them to pick up, but promised to check into it and get back to me. Has not done so. So, we move along.

I used Freecycle to move the hospital bed, and had in less than a day, four different parties who were in need of it were in touch. It left, thanks to the brother of a friend who used his truck and his colleague to move not only the bed but the great big very expensive excellent airflow mattress to use on it, and took it right to the old couple who needed it.

Freecycle was how I found great new homes for HP's clothes, and made new friends in the process. And Freecycle again was how I passed on all the diapers, pads, masses of supplies, because in this situation you buy by the caselot, and they went to the family of an old lady who were tearfully grateful for them. This stuff is never covered by insurance as far as I can tell, and is a continual drain on resources. I received a lot of this kind of supply via Freecycle back when our saga started, and was determined to repay when my turn came.

Then the catheter supplies, much too delicate an issue for the boards of Freecycle, and the nurse who promised to pick them up never did, I had to think again. I had a rush of brains to the head and called the people where I'd bought them, who before I finished explaining, even, said, no problem, ship them right back and we'll credit your card.

This was substantial money, in the hundreds of dollars, again an expense not covered by any insurance, and a great relief to have them back in possible use and not be out of pocket. That's a possibility that literally nobody had suggested to me, so it's worth knowing, might be a help.

And just this morning, of all times when I paid the surrogate officer to process the will, etc., I found that my checks are now void because the bank had insisted on imprinting them with the POA (Power of Attorney) of HP as well as the other info. I knew his checks would be void, but had no idea that my own would need to be reissued without the POA or they could not accept them. And since I drove over half an hour to get to their office, it would have been good to know this. They didn't notice till I got home.

But here's the new learning, too: these offices, funeral homes, surrogate's office, various official agencies, always instruct you to bring a check. But when you get there you often find you can use a credit card. No need to sweat the check after all. I gave the surrogate officer my credit card number when she called me, and she processed it right away. But they do give the impression that only a paper check will be accepted. Not so.

And I have learned always to ask if there will be documents the next of kin must sign, in case you are not the NOK, which I was not, not being married to HP. At least not when he died. Years before, yes. And if you have the same last name as the departed, LOUDLY insist they listen when you say you are NOT the surviving spouse, rather than just say it, as I did, expecting them to hear and understand, to avoid the knots they tied me into.

And arrange to have the NOK come along if they need to sign. All sounds obvious, but it isn't when they tell you you can sign then snatch back the papers at the last minute saying, oh, being executor and sole legatee and signer of the living will, and payer of the funds from your own account, none of that is enough for this document.

So out of this difficult learning process for us, maybe it will be smoothed a bit for other people. Please share, letting them know that this happened in NJ, in the US, so that they can adjust to where they live.

Okay, folks and I leave you with a bit of black humor that has had me rolling ever since I heard it, even among being ready to throttle the dolt Frank, as one of my friends referred to him: in the course of our meeting I explained about the POA and every time he referred back to it, he called it the DOA. Well, folks, what kind of a funeral home would have clients who were not DOA?? I ask you...even the worst day has something funny about it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Household matters outdoors and in

I have now officially finished giving, mailing, shipping, loading and sending off all the various materials, supplies, equipment and so on relating to HP's last illness, and it's such a relief that now the traces of his suffering are gone, and as one nice friend said this morning, now there's room for the good memories to come back in. Too true. I am taking deeper breaths now.

I did pick out an artwork to ship as a memento each to his saintly doctor and his physio, and both have significance to them, so that feels excellent to me. I'll get them off this afternoon, but that won't be a chore, unlike most of what I've been up to lately.

Meanwhile, after all the UPS biz and PO biz and paperwork roundups, I spent a while outside with my camera watching the household goings-on of the birds. They are now quite fearless around me and just go about their business as if I were part of the furniture.

I noticed suddenly, sitting in the dish of the feeder a baby cardinal, noshing away, and just sitting quietly to rest between bites. Evidently under cover of the wrens noisy setting up of their household, the cardinals quietly had a late clutch, and here was a little male. Eventually he remembered how to climb out of the feeder and flutter to the nearest tree branch, where his father was patiently watching and waiting. The baby's tail feathers, such as they are, are coming in bright red, so I know he's a male. The female cardinal is beautiful but a muted olive color more than red.

Meanwhile, the chipmunks are having a great time playing daringly with the wrens

and being pecked firmly when they get too near the nest.

The mom this morning flew right through a houseplant on the patio table to ambush the chip, and he sort of shouted and flew through the air! even the squirrels are being firmly routed by both parents acting in unison, pecking all available tails till they flee.

Here's one parent on the fence, giving what I now realize is an alarm call, asking for backup

and the other is answering from somewhere out of sight, before coming to rout a squirrel. Then, if you look carefully, parent two can be seen, at least the rear end of parent two, climbing into the nest with food. I suppose that's why he didn't come right away, what do you want from my life, I'm slaving over babyfood over here!

This was an inspired gift, just totally transforms my day to see all this activity.

Inside the house, rather less competence reigns. It seems that I must have burned out my immersion blender when I was making all those smoothies for HP, because I plugged it in, there was a flash of lightning, and half the house went dark with a big pop. Including the fridge, sigh.

So, undaunted, I went outside to check the circuit board and tried all the likely switches that had labels such as small appliance, lights, etc, but leaving alone the two that ominously had no labels, thinking danger, danger, Will Robinson, who knows what might happen. Then I got desperate and flipped them left then right and lo, there was light. And refrigeration. And I dumped the poor old blender. Honestly, I've only had it abut 20 years and it cost me ten dollars from a store long since defunct. They just don't make good STUFF any more...I wonder if I could get my money back.

I have now replaced it with a space age gizmo which is cordless, recharges itself and I guess won't fuse the house if it burns out.

Came complete with charging stand and mixing thing and it all looks faintly clinical and a bit xrated. But never mind, I'll throw a cover over it if I have company....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Treasure Everywhere!

This doesn't refer to the Field and Fen round robin journal, which, courtesy of Hali, made its way back home recently, during a period when I just couldn't attend to it, but the Dollivers took charge of it. When I get a break from long distance calls about pensions and benefits and stuff, I will get pix, because the journal's a real treasure now.

No, what I was thinking about was this wonderful day I just had. HS and I had agreed that we had not subtracted one person from our three person family, but that the kaleidoscope had been shaken again, and we both have a new chapter to design, with different shapes and sizes of threads to weave on with.

I started the day with final arrangements for the taking away of the hospital bed and the high end mattress, to an old person far from here, that the brother of my friend heard about on a contracting job, who desperately needs a hospital bed and much better mattress. So said brother and friend gallantly came, loaded it on the truck and set off to deliver it. So far so good.

Then a stern call from one of the corporate blinkums who keep on wanting stuff from me, and I'm so tempted to say I'm not your employee! never was in fact, when the angry lady from Houston calls to say I ASKED for a death certificate and I didn't GET it.

Whereupon I explained that I only got them yesterday, which hardly constitutes a delay and anyway I'd sent an original to HQ in Philly already. To which she snaps, well I want it HERE!! my silence reminded her what she was about and she amended, well, a copy will do. So I treated her to the kind of elaborate courtesy that she would construe correctly about half an hour after I hung up, and went trudging off in search of a xerox machine to make the &*&*&&* copy for Ms. Blinkums in Houston.

Then I met HS for his birthday lunch at a buffet restaurant he likes and I loved it. Perfect place for us to have dinner once in a while, our new way of being and enjoying each others' company. He found the place and has often dined there alone, being one of those souls who go out to dinner alone if they feel like it, and enjoy it. It was clear that the wait staff knows him. So that was one big shake of the kaleidoscope.

And here's another: I went to have a depressurizing chat with dear Carol Q., always a source of terrific good humor and a first class listener, in the course of which she proposed a neat road trip, day out in the Fall, to take in for intensive care the two antique chairs which have been um, reshaped by the large butts of the various medical personnel passing through here lately. They need to be reseated. The chairs, that is. Now this sounds like a great treat, and I think we'll do it, yay. I had to keep remembering I can now DO this without a special mass of arrangements and anxiety all day.

Then home again, to freecycle HP's clothes to a young woman who works at a men's homeless shelter in upper NY, where the winter starts early. It was a pleasure to give her, and her mom came too, these lovely warm jackets and coats and boots and unworn beautiful suits for job hunting purposes, not all homeless men are street people, and they hauled off four large garbage bags of nice stuff. HPs legwarmers will warm the legs of men out in bitter cold, and his wristwarmers and fingerless gloves and hats and all that. Cosy handknit slippers to go inside boots. Very good feeling. The clothing will be delivered next week, and be distributed right away.

And I have made two new friends in the process. I broke down several times in the course of the exchange and they were perfectly wonderful, calm and accepting and they really got it. The mom has had her share of grief.

Turns out they are neighbors. And then we got to talk about art, mom's a photographer, and they ran around exclaiming at the stuff on my walls. It may be that another of her daughters will come to me for some lessons in my studio, we'll set it up in a little while. She's a teen wants to paint, has talent, but is annoyed with her self teaching.

What riches! a proposed trip in the company of a dear friend, two new friends made in no time, kindred spirits, and back into some teaching, possibly.So the bed and mattress and clothing left, for good destinations, and new life rushed in.

Treasure everywhere, yes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Home again

The storm rolled away, the sun came out, and we went to pick up the ashes. HS, at my request, took charge of the velvet bag thing holding the container, and it was a poignant moment for both of us when he reached out and lifted up his father.

He sat with the ashes as I completed the paperwork, and drove us both to his place, where he took custody of the container until we do the scattering. He was fine with doing this, as a last service, of so many services he did, generously, over so many years. I wonder if anyone has had a better son.

Then he and I went for a walk by the marsh, behind his building, where Irene and Anne and Bob and Trish and Kristi and Megan and Joyce and Maureen and Carol and Jinny and MC and Paul, and other blogfriends have visited me back when I lived there. The water was so high from the recent record breaking rains, that ducks were swimming close to the paths, very happy with their new pool.

In earlier blogposts I've shown you pictures of HP and me at our wedding, in 1963, and now here's a shot, one of very few, of our second honeymoon on our reuniting in the late 80s.

Cape May on the beach. We stayed at the hotel I still stay at when I go down there.

And here's a picture of my gnarly old hand wearing both our commitment rings, as of August 8 of this year, photo taken today.

when I catch my breath from the significance of today, I'll recount some memories of him and me and all of us and his pets, and I'll invite you, dear blogistas, to add your memories of us and you, too.

Is it really only a week?

This evening it will be a week since HP died. It seems so much longer, but now we have been through all the days of the week. It goes like this. Then a whole month, then a year, so the cycle of the year is completed.

This afternoon HS and I go to collect HP's ashes and bring them home. HS has some great ideas about scattering them in a way that HP would like and probably find funny, too. But we have to wait till this giant storm is over. Days of torrential rain with more days to come, flooding all over the place, and I hope we can get over the roads between here and the funeral place.

The hospital bed and mattress are leaving either today or tomorrow, to go to an old couple one of whom desperately needs them. His clothes are going tomorrow to a homeless shelter, whose worker will pick up tomorrow, with great thankfulness. Aside from the usual tshirts and shorts and suits, there are winter boots and a good stormcoat and good sweaters and legwarmers and wristwarmers, mittens, all that, very useful to men who are outside in winter weather.

And I fired the tv service, thankfully. The thing about having worked in television is that you don't much like seeing it at home. It's like driving a bus all day then going home and driving your relatives around all evening. The pressures of that life stay with you forever, and come back with each glitch you see on the screen. Not a change! but I had it running for HP since he loved his sports and news programs and it was his only evening entertainment, so I gritted my teeth and knitted!

If I want to see the small screen, I'll slip in a movie from the library.

I'm really sorry for HS, because not only does he have his dad's death to deal with, his longed for week's vacation, supposedly taken with daytrips to the shore, is instead pinned down by torrential rain day after day. He's a man of inner resources, so I've no doubt he'll manage, but I did want him to just loaf on the beach this week.

so that's us!

I will be making a post about memories and fun stuff about HP and about him and me, and him and HS and me, and I want to give blogistas a headsup, those of you who have known me or all of us for years, in case you want to chime in with something you want to say about his life and times. Probably I'll be able to do that tomorrow or whatever the next day is, the calendar is a bit foreign to me at the moment.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Walking for HP and me

This morning I walked the labyrinth for HP and for me, but mainly for me. I have done this at the deaths of other friends, and at crisis times in their lives, too, and this time it was purely for me that I did it.

Since this is the case, I will depart from my usual rule which is never to tell what question I went into the labyrinth with, nor the answer I came out with unless it's valuable to the person I'm walking for. The answers come to mind as if another person is talking, simple declarative sentences.

This time my question to the labyrinth, which is really like the pathways inside your own brain, was: how can I remember the good parts of HP without conferring sainthood on him, and how can I remember the very difficult parts without anger?

Halfway through to the middle, the answer came: let whatever feelings come, just come, let them pass, don't dwell. Okay, good enough for now.

Then I left a single red rose, which I took from the bouquet his oldest friend brought to the house yesterday, in the center of the labyrinth, where walkers put small significant objects.

I thought it was okay to leave that token of love from all of us, including blogistas.

Then as I began to walk out of the center, the thought came: your work with HP is now done. I looked down and saw what I thought was a piece of tortoiseshell, or at least a mottled rock, picked it up and found it was a leaf eaten out by insects, and that what I thought was solid was merely dark shadow. Then when I put it down again, it looked like a shell once more.

A reminder that optical illusions are what we put a lot of faith in, better to keep an open mind and not decide what is until we take a second look. What seems to be perhaps isn't after all. And I realized that this image relates to my entering questions: what looks like one emotion or impulse might really be its opposite.

And that,in either case, it's just fine.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

When HP's doctor used to call to ask me how I was doing, I'd usually say, oh, you know, one foot in front of the other! no need to fill in the blanks for her; she knew I meant that I was just moving ahead a minute at a time. Doing that now, only in a different way.

I'm not used to being able to come and go without special arrangements and explanations, and I keep on reminding myself that if I need to shop, I can just go shop! Minimiss reminded me that I had planned to the labyrinth today, and I just realized, again, that I don't have to have HS over here in order to do that! he just started a hugely needed week's vacation, too.

And we will do that dinner in a few days' time, meanwhile I will be playing music one day next week, and back into my quartets the following week, yay, it's been so long, I can hardly remember how to play quartets. They'll have to bear with me! two of the other players follow this blog,so they are now warned...

The picture at the top here is of friend Carol's wonderful cheerful sunburst assemblage artwork she created and gave me as a great gift during the hospice time. The Dollivers immediately decided this is our kind of artist, and commandeered it for the photoshoot, along with the Field and Fen Treasures Everywhere Journal, which arrived home a few days ago, and which I will show you as soon as I get my act together. Also in the picture is the hospital bed, awaiting pick up, but with several candidates for it, with HP's favorite kitty rug thrown over it as a disguise.

So this picture is past, present and promise of future!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hard Day, but with compensations

Today was the first day I came downstairs with most of the invalid equipment gone, and the furniture looking as if it's a living room, and at exactly the same time realized, oh, he's really gone, and, oh, this is the first day of my next chapter.

Then the morning was all about official calls to his employers, and repeating the announcement to all the different offices that needed to be informed, none of them connected, since the investment people are in Boston, the pension people in Dallas, the main HR people in Philadelphia,the other HR people in NJ, etc. By the time I had done what I could, not finished yet, I was emotionally and mentally spent.

HS left a message on the other phone during all this, about something or other I evidently had arranged to do, and I simply could not remember what he was talking about. I got back to him all puzzled, and got him in person later, asked if I could have a few more days before doing whatever I'd agreed to, since I simply have run out of steam for the moment. It was a dinner we were going to go out for, to celebrate his birthday a bit late. He's good with waiting on it.

What did me in was that the date of death I was reporting was the same as HS birthday, which is also on all the documents in front of me, and the combination was just a bit too much.

So I took the afternoon off, went to the libe to hand over some nice old towels and the sheepskin things I'd made for HP's chair and footrests, for use by old rescued animals, and a chat with friend Carol in the process. She works at the libe, the rescue is her volunteer work, at least some of it, she's wonderful.

Then I sat on the patio watching the madhouse of birds of all sizes and shapes dining in state out there! and took pix of various lovely offerings people have sent, a few of which I will show you here. The open box is chocolate dipped fruit, aie, so good, and the fruit bouquet was actually a bit ravaged in this picture, since we'd been at it with joy before I realized a pic might be nice! the flowers are just wonderful, and Duncan has taken a few bites out of a few of them...as I said, there are compensations!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chop wood, carry water, part fifty eight...

So today was a time of calling important places to stop direct deposits that don't relate any more, stop endless deliveries of meds, newspapers, you name it, that don't relate any more, to start on the legalities of the will and other such mysteries, to get the tv service yanked, to figure out when to yank the landline which we only kept in order to test HP's pacemaker, to return various bits of electronics, to struggle desperately to get equipment and materials picked up/freecycled/disposed of legally.

At the start of the day I was in despair, since seeing that empty bed and chair still there just fell on me like a mountain collapsing, and nobody seemed to be able and willing to take the stuff away. Even the oxygen gear, a rental, I had to pursue to get picked up. Turns out that the hospice people failed to make the calls, despite their repeated assurances that the stuff would be gone by next day to save me pain. But to be fair,their nurses are expected to do all their own clerical work in addition to patient care, hardly a reasonable burden.

So I made the calls, and when I explained the sit., the oxygen people said OMG, we're sorry, now that we know about the situation we'll have someone out in the hour. Which they did. And this prince of a man they sent out, Tom by name, agreed also to take the chair and the Hoyer, which he would present as a donation to them, and took the bed apart into component pieces though he couldn't take it away, they wouldn't take it. None of this was his job, just a nice favor to me. He pointed out with great insight, that even if I could throw something over the bed in pieces and stacked against the wall, and not have to see it that would feel better.

Meanwhile, the nurse never having got back to me as promised yesterday nor today, to pick up the extra supplies, I decided the hell with her, and put up a notice on Freecycle at 6 this morning (I'm up at five, and by six I'm at work!) and by seven I had a taker, very very grateful for a lot of the stuff. By the end of the day, a taker for the sling from the Hoyer, and another for the package of other specialty supplies, a woman who works in a facility for the aged, and she may take the rest.

My living room is now so much easier to be in. Most of the evidence of HP's suffering is now moved on to better homes. And the bed may go to a very very good place indeed, for a young profoundly disabled girl whose parents are having insurance problems. And there's a back up if they don't take it.

All this I had to do myself, none of the appropriate agencies having got around to it, or, frankly, cared enough to try. I dealt with two, one of which was frankly rude and defensive, acting as if I was imposing on them by offering several thousand dollars worth of excellent equipment as a donation, the other polite and courteous but still taken aback that I couldn't singlehandedly load a hospital bed and the other stuff in my compact car and bring it to them.... I feel a lot better now that I've succeeded in rehoming (!) all this stuff. And I have the official word on how to dispose safely and legally of the medications in the house, another worry solved.

And since the arrival of the gift from a dear blogista, Heather, a terrific bird feeder which has even baffled the squirrels up to now, the patio is a madhouse of birds feeding, all kinds of them, and wrens thrilled to have a diner open right near their home where their kids are being fed. So the peace and amusement of watching them pursuing their lives is a great antidote to my little concerns.

I have not uploaded pix yet, what with one thing and another, since all these activities are punctuated with intervals of crying, but I'll get there. The crying is fine, and it keeps happening just now and then, so whoever I'm talking to has to wait till I can go on, and people understand and either wait or chat to me.

To date, the best people to deal with in terms of accuracy, kindness and overall understanding have been Social Security, followed by the big pharma that sends the meds, whose Robert not only was kind and patient, but credited the card with the stuff that just came and had been charged, on account of they were sorry it added to my stress. And the pacemaker monitor lady in Minneapolis, who sounded quite like someone in a Coen brothers movie, (do you sound like that, Ari?) and was lovely, made it easy, too, to return that stuff.

Rather lower in the animal kingdom was the nonprofit whose job it is to arrange pickup of donated equipment, but their churlishness was cancelled out by the princely behavior of the rental company, different outfit,who went far beyond their requirements because they thought it was disgraceful not to help me.

All in all, the day went well, Mrs. Lincoln. My living room closely resembles a florist's,smelling wonderful, and with additional fruit bouquets, chocolate dipped fruit, fun artworks, and other such cheering items, cards, notes, and it's so wonderful to be surrounded by all this warmth and help.

The flowers lend a cheeriness that I really need right now, the edible gifts a terrific hostess thing, so that visitors can take a piece of fruit and go mad with joy over it, and we can all watch the birds on the patio between chatting. Great orchestration, folks! thank you all.

Farewell visit from HP

Some of you dear blogistas will remember that I've spoken of some psychic powers I have that I don't mention much, because it tends to scare people, for reasons I don't quite get. And some of you have them yourselves -- Jean and Mran, you will definitely get this. Perhaps others, too, that I don't know of.

What happened is this: yesterday I went to rest a few minutes, and woke with a great sensation of receiving some kind of information. I was fully awake, but too lazy to get up yet. I had an experience next that I have had before: I can see, literally see, not imagine, images on the inside of my eyelids.

This time it was dear HP's face, in death, which changed gently into his live dear old face, and smiled a little, then my own face and a closeup of my own eye, as if I were looking down at my own face, all in a kind of sepia color, like an old movie, very muted in tones. There was more,but this is the gist. I think he was telling me all was well. I looked at the clock and realized that the cremation was probably complete.

What a gift.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Doing a Frank

This has become a new family joke, since yesterday, when I went to the funeral place to have the final arrangement meeting with them, with another director, and found that the helpful and lovely Frank of the first meeting had made so many blunders on the paperwork that we had to simply start from scratch. I might as well not have had the preliminary meeting after all.

From having me make out the check to the wrong party, to failing to find the POA document I sent him, to missing the parts of the Trust document that would have validated the arrangement, to ignoring my explanation that I was caregiver, not spouse, even though I signed it that way, he simply blew up the whole thing and the nice lady, Kate, who met with me helped me get it straightened out.

Literally everything that Frank said was either wrong or backwards. I had to make an emergency call to HS to come right away to sign the cremation authorization documents, since as the next of kin his was the required signature, not mine as Frank had confidently and inaccurately said! fortunately he was nearby and available and took care of it, and read the documents and found even more mistakes that had happened....and Kate said, well, simply write us a new check with the correct designation, and it will work. But as I pointed out, the POA expires when the person does, and I no longer had the legal authority to write that check again on those funds in that account. Oh. Ah.

So we settled that I will pay the lot when I go and collect his ashes (another Frank mistake, he said I need do nothing further, they would be sent to me, sigh) and now we think things are set.

Today the cremation will happen somewhere in Pennsylvania. First time in many years HP has traveled out of state! But human errors aside, it really is okay, dear blogistas.

Our friend next door, from south India came over and established that we like and can enjoy south Indian spicy food and said, right, that's settled, you do not cook, I will bring you dinner every day, don't even think of cooking. She ran home and made a huge batch of rice dumplings there and then, brought them over with lovely mixed vegetable soup and a chicken curry, then finally got off to work! what a wonderful lunch that was, perfect strengthening food before the funeral meeting in the afternoon!

I have been instructed by the friends who have taken to dropping by daily to check, chat, offer errands and so on, to STOP thanking them, they want to do this and they like it. I realize that when people want to help and don't know what to do, it's kind for me to figure out a task I really need done and ask them for it! an expected duty at the moment.

In fact the wonderful friend who came over when Andy died and we were waiting with the hospice nurse for the funeral people to come collect him, asked if I would let her wait with me, she knowing the funeral world, let the hospice nurse go to her next patient, and she and another friend waited in the house with me, supervised the removal while HS and I waited in another room, and called us down after it was done and he'd left safely.

Then they spent the evening chatting and laughing with us about all kinds of things, and I told them they'd fulfilled on of the great Corporal Works of Mercy, one of the cornerstones of the Catholic religion which I still observe, to bury the dead and comfort the mourner. And they thanked me for letting them do this!

They commented on how peaceful he looked, and I explained that I had closed his eyes and straightened his dear body, arranged his hands comfortably, because he had been in a crooked over position before, supported by pillows to help his breathing, but all on one side, legs bent, needed to be reorganized after he died. I knew he would be hugely amused that even then I wanted him to look neat! it was one of his endless jokes about my compulsive straightening habits.

I was so fortunate to be the person there who had the privilege of doing this last thing for him. His aide had attended him that morning and realized he was close to death, so she shaved and combed and bathed him beautifully. She thanked me for letting her do this. I would have done it if she had not been there, but I was glad to let her.

And HS helped with one last nice task to give his dad dignity before he left -- he and the nurse dressed him with shorts and socks, no more diaper, and he already had his favorite bright orange shirt on, the one I used to say made him look like a deer hunter. So he left us dressed the way he liked to be.

And now our new life has started. The days are so much longer now that I'm not constantly on the clock, but it will be a long time before I stop glancing over to see what he wants. I am waiting for the people to accept my donation of his equipment, a nonprofit which takes items like the bed and Hoyer lift and chair, for re use by other people who don't have insurance to cover them. Meanwhile it's all still here, and that's hard to see the empty chair and bed, but we will get through this.

One last typical family joke thing: when we came home from the funeral place yesterday, through yet another torrential rain, carrying a goodie box they'd given me, square cardboard thing with a solemn purple ribbon, I was struggling out of the car, swinging the box by the ribbon while I got my umbrella going, and a neighbor who doesn't know us well, but was aware of what had happened, though vague on when, came over to say how sorry she was, and was mesmerized by the box, which puzzled me.

Until we got into the house and HS said, Mom, I think she thought that was Dad's ashes you were slinging about there! we just laughed like drains over this, and now I want to set it up on the table very officially looking and see if people treat this box of candies and nuts and treats with great reverence....but my friend who was there last night said, no, no, you should put it by the dumpster and see who does what about it!!! we are BAAAAAD people.

But we have good friends who know when it's okay to laugh!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Handsome Partner says goodbye

Handsome Partner, June 27 1932-August 8 2011

HP died peacefully, without a moment's distress or fear, at seven p.m. EST tonight, August 8. We think he held on to have one last birthday with Handsome Son, before he left us to go home.

We have had almost continuous company, with friends, neighbors, hospice people, and feel surrounded by love and help both in real life and in the ether, with you, dear friends. Your cards, flowers, notes and letters have been wonderful.

You can not know how much help you have given all of us for years, and now we have all succeeded in getting him to the end of a long difficult journey, happily and with great peace and acceptance.

After I made one last picture of his hands

I took off his commitment ring, and I'm wearing it next to my own on my ring finger.