Storm clouds gathering

Right now there is an impressive storm rolling through the area, with thunder, lightening, wind, and rain.  I haven’t seen a storm like this since our camping escapade on Assateague Island.

The storm, however, is merely a way to segue into what is on my mind tonight..

Florida 1991

Florida, October 1991

This is my oldest son with my dad for whom he was named. It was taken nearly 22 years ago, before my dad was ever diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease… before he had any symptoms of it at all.  When he retired ten years ago, he and his wife chose to move from Florida and settle in Arizona. No one else in the family lives there.  (We didn’t live in Florida, either; that is simply where his last job was located.)  I took the kids to visit them in 2003, about 6 weeks after they settled into their new home. Good thing, too, because they only lived there for 2 years before his health required moving into a retirement center — and soon after that he began spending time in nursing care facilities. 

I talked to my dad on the phone on Friday. His voice was weak and he was having more trouble than usual with his words.  I didn’t think too much of it because that wasn’t the first time I’d had a frustrating “conversation” with him in the past few years. However, this evening I received my weekly update from his assisted living facility, and I didn’t have to read between the lines on that e-mail to know that he’s been going downhill.

I’ve already made my travel reservations to go see him in the first part of November. In fact, I did that about 2 weeks ago after reading between the lines on previous updates. Each of my brothers will be there in October for a few days.  I’d rather time it to be there with at least one of them, but I had to work around family schedule here along with my own work schedule.  I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me to pay for such a trip.

Not a week goes by now that I don’t fervently wish my dad had considered living closer to family in his old age.  Had they chosen to live within a day’s drive of many of us, we could visit more often and more easily; his wife would have been able to see her adult kids more often, too.

visiting Grandpa in Tucson

When we visited in April of 2012, Grandpa could still walk down the hallway with a walker and a “spotter” (responsible adult), although that was difficult for him — mostly he got around in his wheelchair.

Grandpa with SnakeMaster and H-J

Grandpa with SnakeMaster and H-J, April 2013

When we visited him one year later, he was only using his walker to steady himself when transferring from the wheelchair to his special recliner or another position (bed, toilet, etc.).  Now, just 4 months later, he is needing multiple people to assist him in those transfers because he doesn’t have the strength to help… but he is still trying to do things on his own.  Several falls have not stopped him from trying to do it himself. I really can’t tell if he is being stubborn in giving up his independence (hello? He’s been in an Assisted Living facility for the past several years) or if he is forgetting that he can’t do it himself.   There is some dementia that comes with Parkinson’s Disease.  I suspect there is also despair that comes with losing the ability to care for oneself. 

And the thunder rolls…

TWT: Behind the wheel

Time Warp Tuesday is the brainchild of Jenn who juggles TWT along with the rest of her life. Click here to see the other participants and their photos.

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Behind the wheel (MusicMan at 14mo)

Behind the wheel (MusicMan at 14mo)

When I was 29 months 7 months pregnant with our second child, we had an uncharacteristic heat wave that made staying home unbearable. Sitting around in our underwear helped but we didn’t want to scare our kid, the neighbors or the mailman. Luckily, it was the start of a weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week (hospital employees often don’t have normal weekends) and SuperDad whisked us away to the coast. Three hours in the car made a huge difference as we watched the degrees plummet on our digital thermometer. The Washington coast on the Olympic peninsula was much cooler.  In fact, it was a little bit cold there — we had to put a sweatshirt on MM, who had a great time playing on the beach and in the car. The respite from the heat was such a big treat that I still have fond memories of the trip even with the small matter of the skunk that tried to sleep with us that night.

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Less than 18 years later, my happy-go-lucky boy was a little too confident with his own driving on a dark and rainy night. In what I see as miraculous each time I look at the photos (go here if you really want to see them) , he walked away with only scratches after totaling a car.

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Not everyone is that lucky. I got a call on Sunday morning, letting me know that the MIL and FIL of one of my closest friends had been in a fatal car accident.  My dear friend ~P~ has been through some terrible experiences in her life; losing her dear parents-in-law ranks up there among the worst of those experiences. I am under a heavy cloud of sadness. I can’t begin to understand why some people go through admittedly unfair amounts of suffering. Since I know there are no answers to that question, I won’t beat my head against the wall in trying to understand.

So here I sit, nearly 3,000 miles away, helpless to do anything. And remembering that life is precious.

Friday Five: Wildflower Motley Medley

Microsteris gracillis, a.k.a., slender phlox

Microsteris gracillis, a.k.a., slender phlox

  1. I went back to the park yesterday to take a few more pictures showing the comparative size of the wildflowers (same earrings as before, made by Cassi).

    Okay, I JUST realized that this isn't the same flower as the above pic... but the sizing *is* correct, so let's pretend that it's the same. Okay?

    Okay, I JUST realized that this isn’t the same flower as the above pic… but the sizing *is* correct, so let’s pretend that it’s the same. Okay?

  2. Folks from several local tribes were there, with loads of gravel to spread on the paths as erosion control. I cringed because they were driving ATVs to bring the gravel and tools to various spots… and driving over some of the wildflowers.  I’m cringing again now, just thinking about the smashed flowers and grasses. I like to keep the conservation area conserved.

    narrow-leaf desert parsley   (This was shown in the field of yellow flowers on Monday.)

    narrow-leaf desert parsley (This was shown in the field of yellow flowers on Monday.)

  3. I wish I could take a couple of road trips to meet other bloggers with whom I’ve become friends.

    rock sunflower / Arrowleaf Balsamroot

    rock sunflower / Arrowleaf Balsamroot

  4. My older teen nearly laughed himself out of his chair at the dinner table last night. Granted, I did refer to Harvard as a possible back-up school…  but only because his first choice is [the much closer to home & family]  Stanford.  On the other hand, Stanford has only sent him a letter over the winter to suggest he spend thousands of dollars on a 3-week-long summer camp; the older, more distinguished school has sent him a letter asking him to consider applying to attend college there.  This kid has a lot of decisions to make in the next few months.

    Phlox caespitosa or possibly Phlox viscida (sticky phlox)

    Phlox caespitosa or possibly Phlox viscida (sticky phlox)

  5. Tomorrow is the  “Breakthrough for Brain Tumors” 5k walk. I’m walking in a group of friends and we’ll be surrounding a mutual friend’s family with love and hugs while we honor his memory. It’s going to be an emotional morning.

Mixing Metaphors

DSCN8733  Cathedral

Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin’ for to carry me Home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin’ for to carry me Home

That old gospel song became my prayer last night, personalized for the friend who needed the angels to bring him “across the Jordan” and into the Promised Land.

I can’t begin to express the privilege and honor I felt at being in the room when the chariot swung low to carry him home.

It was a holy moment.

DSCN8755  light art

Author C.S. Lewis would likely call it, “Farewell to Shadowlands” — the title of the final chapter in his book, The Last Battle (final book in the Chronicles of Narnia series), when the characters enter a new world as they are invited to go “further up and further in!”

 Sorrows mix with joy
Faith and Hope give sustenance
Peace attained last night

I’ll Fly Away (Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch)

Evening Skywalk

View from the hospital skywalk

View from the hospital skywalk

DSCN8751  Skywalk Night Reflection

I’ve had plenty of time for reflection over the past 7 days.

DSCN8767  Skywalk Window Reflection

I’ve grown familiar with a part of town I had been able to drive around (literally) in the past. Now I know the most direct route, the parking garages, the elevators, the skywalk from the Children’s Hospital to the main hospital tower. I remind myself that as hard as it is to have a friend in his 50’s dying here, how much harder it must be to have a young child at death’s door.
I’ve said goodbye to a parent, but never a child… never a spouse…
I’m not the one saying a long goodbye to my best friend and partner of the past 31 years.
My part in this is a mere supporting role.
I’m seeing what true love looks like in action from a wife, from a son.
It’s not about me. 

Waiting. Trusting. Reflecting. Praying.