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Lucky No. 7 on Friday the 13th (and some bad news, too)

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Big little Zuzu turned 7 on Friday the 13th – a lucky day for us.

Ah, me. I’ve been very remiss with The Lolly Diaries. So much going on, so much energy expended with the resistance, and so many appointments with Mother, partly because of a new serious new wrinkle in the fabric of our lives. And we’re still reeling a bit from the gaping hole left in our household by Tess’s departure, especially Zu. (She will get a baby sister for an early Christmas present – we hope she’s happy about that.)

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Zuzu has just never loved opening presents, as all our other dogs have. But she was intrigued by what might be inside.

I grieve for our country, and for the first time in my life, I start each day wondering what fresh new hell that man occupying the White House hath Twitter-wrought. But this is supposed to be a politics-free zone (my Twitter account is another story), so I’ll move on to other topics, mainly Mother’s newly diagnosed condition.

For tortuous weeks we’ve awaited a diagnosis, since we discovered in July, shortly after she turned 82, that Mother is losing her vision at an alarming rate. Now we know she has auto-immune retinopathy, which, in layman’s terms, means her body is rejecting her retinas. This is in addition to, and not caused by, her rheumatoid arthritis. AIR, as it’s called, is very, very rare – that’s how we do things in this family. No treatment for Mother, so we’ll just ride it out.

Of course she can’t drive anymore, but we’re making do. Wednesday she had back-to-back doctor’s appointments and my battery died in her garage (!), so she had her first Uber rides. She is a remarkably resilient woman – a wonder to behold. She intends to keep painting, though she’ll probably have to go rather impressionistic or abstract from now on. I just got her two packs of playing cards for the visually impaired, since she’s still in at least two bridge clubs and will host one at her house Thursday.

And fortunately and fortuitously (or maybe nothing’s by chance), my daughter finished her master’s degree this spring in orientation and mobility for the blind, so Mother has someone who loves her and looks like her to help her adapt as her vision worsens. We’re hoping it will go slowly. It’s already gone so far.

John and I did get away for two fabulous weeks in Sicily and Southern Italy last month, which I’ll talk about another time. I turned 62 in Marsala – a good place since it’s hard to feel old an area formerly populated by Phoenicians.

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That’s me looking through a street in old Pompeii toward Vesuvius. John, who took this photo, said he loves the juxtaposition of the little modern woman looking down a road to the past at the same distant view the ancients saw – I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the drift. (The three random black dots were permanent fixtures on the camera lens of his old iPhone, which he just replaced.)

 

 

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The merry, harried month of May

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Day lilies in the front yard

May was an insane month around here – insane in a good way, but no time for blogging. John and Liz took their trek to the base camp at Mt. Everest, leaving very early May 4 and returning very late May 25. Brent and I took care of the three kiddos – and, in the big news I hinted at before – got their family moved in right next door! The timing wasn’t great, but they never dreamed they’d sell their house the first showing in the first hour of the first day it was on the market. The trip had been scheduled since December, so what do you do?

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Looking from our second-floor exercise room at Liz’s and Brent’s new (but old) forever home.

We hated like hell to lose Matthew and Alyssa and Little Rose (as Luke calls her) as neighbors, but what a great turn of events! The dogs are in heaven with three of their five children next door (though they’re still working things out with Fancy, who lives with the kids).

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Miss Don’t Come Near My Kids

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Miss Walk on Me, Pull My Tail, Just Pay Attention to Me

Taking care of up to five kids at a time at 60 is very different from being a young mom, but we survived. The days I had all five kids in Liz’s van, we called it “The LollyMobile.”

An important date in May was the 12th, when Tessie turned 11. She was very pleased with her new birthday bunny, though it lost its squeak quickly from all the playing.

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Not bad for 11. And she still loves opening presents.

We had an exciting two days with baby cardinals – several fledglings were hopping around our back yard, which I noticed after seeing the parents dive-bombing the kids and dogs. I put one in a safer spot (but he/she ran under our deck to join a sibling), then herded all the kids and dogs indoors, and we went upstairs and watched the parents rescue them. Pretty cool.

The next day wasn’t so successful. A very tiny cardinal had fallen on his back in our bamboo – I saw him from the laundry room window. The parents couldn’t help him, and he’s now buried in our hydrangeas out back – Liz’s children saw him die in the little temporary nest (bowl and washcloth) we’d made him. “Make him alive again, Lolly,” Silas implored, but though he called me SuperLolly for days, that was one I couldn’t fix. Oddly, about a foot from the unfortunate little cardinal was an intact robin’s egg, so we had an impromptu lesson on how eggs and baby birds work – and a nice distraction from the funeral.

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We’ve still got the little egg. As Jude said, “Two baby birds didn’t make it today.”

Sylvia had her preK graduation recital Tuesday night and Annabelle’s was Thursday. In between, Ben took me to Dave Matthews. We had great seats.Dave.jpeg

On the 24th, my sister, three friends and I saw Purple Rain at Riverdale. The music is timeless; the movie, oh, my. People laughed out loud at the ’80s hairdos and clothes (and the acting) and gasped at the sexism but applauded the musical performances. It was a fun night in a blur of a month.

The next night, after rain delays, the trekkers made it home. John showered me with riches from Nepal, but I’ll just show you what he brought for the children. We’re not sure where in the house Mr. Tiger, as Silas has named him, will live, as he doesn’t match our decor, but he’s very popular.

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Tiger, tiger, burning bright ..

And now it’s 2016 …

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Practicing on my late friend Franchelle Owen’s Wurlitzer piano, which is tucked into our foyer now, is one way I’ll be spending time in 2016. 

Four days into a new year, almost four months into my 60s and about four weeks since I last touched The Lolly Diaries. Time gets away.

But making better use of my time is one of my intentions for this new year. I don’t make resolutions – too stern a word for me and a recipe for failure for many. We need to be kind to ourselves and do the best we can.

Unless we need someone to (metaphorically) crack a whip to keep us going  – sometimes that’s called for, too. And I’ve been known to employ the “fake it until you make it” method repeatedly in my 60 years. Whatever works. We must progress.

Speaking of progress, or, really, lack thereof until now, I also intend to get my ass in gear with the Climate Reality talks. John gave me some no-excuses Christmas gifts – a projector, projector stand and really big portable screen. Seems like eons ago that I was in Miami for training, but only three highly eventful months have passed.

Many, many years have passed since I’ve parked my ass on a piano bench to practice, much less play, but it’s coming back, albeit slowly. I’m so grateful to have a piano to practice on – and I’m very pleased that it belonged to my friend Rhonda’s mother. That makes me smile.

Another thing that makes me smile is that John and I have resumed work on the upstairs. (Hooray!!) Right now it’s him – I don’t build cabinets or do wiring – but we have tile to lay (once we can agree on which tile) and will have cabinets to paint. I’ll share photos, of course.

One last thing for the hopping-back-in-the-saddle post: We kept the youngest grandchild this weekend while the big kids went to the Liberty Bowl (Woo, Pig!). He was a delight and was delighted when we pulled out his big brother’s little Thomas the Tank Engine inflatable bed that I found somewhere about seven years ago.

Probably not as excited as Tess, though. She remembered the tiny bed well and couldn’t wait to join Silas. When I gave him the giant fluffy bear Pop bought for Jude all those years ago, Tess ran and got her giant fluffy stuffed dog and plopped down on the bottom half of the bed.

The wee one was asleep within minutes, all warm and cozy with his bedmate. He even slept through both dogs howling (Tess had moved to her own bed just past the foot of Thomas by then, but Zuzu stood right beside him) when sirens and flashing lights went off at 2:20 a.m.

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Tess is still cuddling her stuffed toy a couple of hours after Silas crashed. I did tuck him back in before we left the room, and at the 2:20 howling, he was still nestled tight.

Such is life downtown.

Here’s to 2016. Let’s make it count.

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

The other night, shortly before my mother-in-law, Doris, fell and broke her hip, I was singing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to Annabelle, who turned 4 today. She turned to me with her enormous eyes widened and said excitedly, “You used to sing that to me when I was very little.”

Yes, I did, when she was months old and I had the pleasure of keeping her when her mom first went back to work. We listened to music every day. (I’m constantly singing to the grandkids – one of those grandmothers. I was as impressed as she was excited that she remembered.

And since it’s such a cycle-of-life-affirming song for this spell we’re going through (albeit an alternative lifestyle), it seems the perfect backdrop for this dual purpose post.

In case you missed it before, not only did our darling Doris break her hip two days before Christmas, she died in the early  morning two days after Christmas. John and I made a hasty trip to the Yakima Valley (in Washington) and it’s been a confusing and blurry time.

She was 93 and had been lost in confusion for years, but what a great little lady she was.

I’d like to share a few sweet photos from her lifetime.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Little Doris Hardy, sometime in the early 1940s, I'd say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her

Doris (the little one), sometime in the early 1940s, I’d say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her “big” sister and is still a ball of fire).

Doris in her prime – definitely around her birthday, and I'm guessing in the vicinity of 40. Kitty, can you correct or confirm?

Doris in her glorious prime – at her 40th birthday party.

We saw her for a moment before she was cremated, and as her beloved Walt (Allan, her second husband, to whom she was married for 38 years) chose to be scattered in the mountains he loved to hike, her ashes now rest in her mother’s grave. She adored her mother, so it’s a perfect resting place.

But Doris resides in the hearts of all who knew her.

We came back flight-delayed in the middle of the night – and well into January – with our bedraggled Christmas tree still standing – I undecorated it yesterday, just before Annabelle’s party, and John carried the sad little thing to the curb today.

Life goes on.

In three months, Mother and I go to Italy. I’ve got to get my head back into that trip, book our train tickets, learn Italian (OK, refresh myself enough to get by), etc. etc. The good new is that Mother’s health is on a definite upswing at the moment.

John is hanging in there. He and Mother have a  mutual admiration society and deep love for each other, so that helps. But losing your mommy when she’s been a good one, no matter your age  …

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle's party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle’s party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Life goes on, happy ever after – despite the all-too-frequent bumps these days – especially when you get to be Lolly and Pop to five precious grandkids.

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Until next time – ob-la-di.

Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand)

When Jude heard the news about his Pop's mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We're lucky grandparents.

When Jude heard the news about his Pop’s mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We’re lucky grandparents.

As much as it pains me to type these words, the fact is this: My little mother-in-law, the woman who raised the man I love, slipped away Saturday morning, at about 9 her – Yakima, Wash. – time. She was 93.

We fly out tomorrow, as already scheduled (though it won’t be pretty – when John checked us in online, he was immediately notified that at least one flight is overbooked). We couldn’t get anything workable sooner – this time of year flights are scarce.

I’ve put off writing this, but this morning, as I was ironing John’s shirts for the trip and listening to Aretha Franklin Live at the Fillmore West on my new little retro record player he got me for Christmas, I realized that I could and must reach out and write this.

Reaching out and touching each other is how we get through these times.

Doris and I didn’t know each other that long in the big picture, having just met about a dozen years ago, but it was instant love, partly because we shared this wonderful man. She thanked me repeatedly over the years for coming into his life and I thanked her each time I saw her for raising a gentle man to love me and never think I’m too weird for words.

She started slipping mentally a few years into our relationship but she never lost her ability to love, not even in the later years when she hardly knew which end was up at times.

As I’ve written before, she really said her goodbyes to us in July, when she had a few very, very lucid minutes. She told us she’d had a good life and to take care of each other and love each other.

We do and we will. But we’ll miss her being around to occasionally remind us.

Goodbye, little Doris.

Doris didn't like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She's with her very long-lived mother – the mother she's been searching for as the dementia worsened. I hope they're together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.

Doris didn’t like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She’s sitting with her very long-lived mother – the mother she’s been searching for for a couple of years as the dementia worsened. I hope they’re together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.

 

Babes in Toyland

December has been a blur – as is much of life at 59 – and we’re ending the month and year with an impromptu trip to Yakima. John’s little mother has fallen and shattered her hip and things are very grim.

The sadness is palpable in our house, yet as death approaches, life goes on. That’s the beauty of life and generations.

Most of the month has been good hectic, though (I’ll skip over the icky parts). For one thing, this is the year I bought Disney’s Babes in Toyland to show the kiddies. I saw it with my friend Kelly when we were 6 and loved it then bought the VHS when my kids were little. Liz has told her kids it was her favorite Christmas movie.

A full-fledged musical, Babes is both excellent and lame, depending on the scene, but Annabelle and Luke, who saw it Dec. 12 when I kept them, loved it. Sylvia and Jude liked it when they saw it here the next Friday night. (Sylvia loved the wedding scene, as did her mama when she was little.)

We kept them until around 1 Saturday, when their other granddaddy picked them up, but we kept Silas until Sunday afternoon. He and I made vegan gingerbread to take to Mother’s for Christmas at her house that day.

Since Si is so allergic to milk and eggs, all my baking (which was not much compared to year’s past) was vegan. In addition to the gingerbread, we had dark chocolate zucchini/cranberry loaves for Christmas Eve and pumpkin streusel coffee cake for Christmas brunch.

At Mother’s we had lasagna, too many sweets and present pandemonium. Mother outdid herself for a 79-year-old – in addition to gifts that thrilled the wee ones and pleased the adults, she had red “Peace, ya’ll” shirts made for all us women – said she wanted something “in your face” to make people notice the message.

Mother loves to give gifts, but she still gets as excited as a little girl about getting them, too.

Mother loves to give gifts, but she still gets as excited as a little girl about getting them, too.

I’d like to think she’s taking after me a bit in her older age, or at least that I’ve rubbed off on her some. I got her a “Coexist” bumper sticker for her car (she wanted one). We also gave her a CD copy of “Rubber Soul” – she always had to rely on my Beatles records, but now she has one of her own.

All the men got nice flannel shirts – but you can see a hint of little Johnny Hardy in this pic. You can't take the boy out of the man, can you?

All the men got nice flannel shirts – but you can see a hint of little Johnny Hardy in this pic. You can’t take the boy out of the man, can you?

Monday I was sick, of all things, right out of the blue (fever gave me an excuse to cuddle up and watch Kinky Bootswhich I’d been trying to fit in – you should see it, too), but by Tuesday, the day we learned about Doris, I was at work. Anita graciously sent me home to be with John and help him find us a flight – hard to accomplish this time of year.

Christmas Eve we closed an hour early and John and I scrambled to clean the house (construction mess + muddy dogs = super yuck) and get the food out before friends and family arrived. Brother Paul was in bed feeling puny by that point, so Cathy came alone.

Our friends Marsha and Lee picked up Mother. Our next-door neighbors/surrogate kids Alyssa and Matthew joined us, and my former coworker and friend of pushing-30 years, Helaine and her husband Dre rounded out the crew.

Christmas Eve conversation.

Christmas Eve conversation.

The dogs opened their gifts from Grandma,

Tess and Zuzu consult over their gifts from Grandma. Zuzu never touches a toy without permission from the bully big sister.

Tess and Zuzu consult over their gifts from Grandma. Zuzu never touches a toy without permission from the bully big sister.

and the adults posed for fun photos. It was nice.

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Not a bad looking bunch!

Christmas morning I got up early after staying up late and started baking the coffee cake, then we had our Christmas before the kids and grands arrived. What a marvelous morning/early afternoon we had.

The togetherness and how the little ones love each other was the best gift of all.

I could go on, but I won’t. At least not today. Maybe tomorrow.

I don’t feel very profound. Just aware of the joys and sadnesses that make up a good life.

’Til I can gain control again

So, I’ve lived long enough to realize we really can’t control anything except our actions and reactions – and even that’s only true for folks without chemical imbalances or other incapacitating problems – but since first falling in love at 19 with Emmylou Harris’s version of “’Til I Can Gain Control Again,” that’s the song I hear in my head when life goes a little crazy.

Life has gone a little crazy lately. Some hectic good, some holy-shit hectic.

Makes even more sense to have been hearing it recently in anticipation of seeing the great Rodney Crowell, who wrote and also performs the song, at South on Main last Thursday. Fabulous show, great seats right by the stage and wonderful company – Julia and Susan – barring the weird dude who was seated at our table but wouldn’t acknowledge our presence.

His deal, not ours.

Need another disclaimer here – “holy-shit bad” is a relative term, and anything I’m about to say pales in comparison to some of the things my friends have been dealing with, like an out-of-nowhere cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy. Like caring for a mother recently diagnosed with ALS – and finding the disease has worsened exponentially just since the recent diagnosis.

All things considered, my life is excellent.

So let me start with the good. We just had Marie-Noelle here for 10 days for Thanksgiving. As always, the time flew – if we still had clocks with hands, they’d have spun out of control during those 1o days.

John/Pop, his lookalike, our lovely Marie-Noelle, and Annabelle at Mother's on Thanksgiving.

John/Pop, his lookalike, our lovely Marie-Noelle, and Annabelle at Mother’s on Thanksgiving.

The Monday before she arrived on Friday evening, we lost a day of preparation time to an unplanned trip to Hot Springs. Had to go – we snagged a heckuva-deal Folke Ohlsson Danish Modern dining table and six turquoise upholstered chairs – perfect for our upstairs – that my friend Gwen Crownover Moritz found on Craigslist and shared on Facebook.

Three of the beautiful but stinky Folke Ohlsson dining chairs. The oval table, 6-feet that extends to 9+, also smells like smoke and is coated in nicotine. Pee-eewww.

Three of the beautiful but stinky Folke Ohlsson dining chairs we recently bought over the phone. The oval table, 6-feet that extends to 9+, also smells like smoke and the legs are coated in nicotine. Pee-eewww.

Let me just say that smoking is so far out of our frame of reference that it never crossed our minds to ask if the elderly couple who’d bought the furniture new 50-or-so years ago smoked. At least one of them did. Ugh – had to throw away the three otherwise-very-nice naugahyde tablecloths that came with the set. I’ve vacuumed the chairs once, mega-Febreezed them twice and wiped some of the yellow nicotine ick off the legs.

Now we’re trying Nag Champa bombing, which seems to help. More work to come, but it is getting better. At least they’re upstairs out of the way for now. Worst-and-probably-inevitable case, we’ll steam clean them. And that’s just an inconvenience.