Tag Archive | Yakima Valley

All things must pass

John, Sweetie and Doris on a very good day during our visit.

John, Sweetie and Doris on a very good day during our visit.

Life can be so sweet and so bittersweet; all things must pass, which is hard to abide when those things are a parent – or a parent’s memory.

We baby boomers are all in it together; we’ve lost a parent, are losing a parent or know it’s coming. That’s the cycle of life.

Some situations are harder than others, and watching dementia or Alzheimer’s take a loved one someplace else is high on the list of horrible.

But you make the best of it and love the moments you get.

John and I just made a trip to his home town in Washington for what may be our last visit with his mother, sweet little Doris, who has a nonspecific dementia and failure to thrive syndrome. At this point, she’s just fading, no matter how much she eats. She can remember a few things from the 1940s, but you have to go way back to her childhood for her to really remember anything of substance.

Little Doris and her daddy await the boat to Catalina in the late 1920s. Those are the years Doris remembers these days.

Little Doris and her daddy await the boat to Catalina in the late 1920s. Those are the years Doris remembers these days.

Otherwise, she’s on a loop about the weather, the wind, her beloved cat, Sweetie, and the time. But occasionally she’ll throw something in that gets your attention, makes you laugh.

The long-suffering good girl, Sweetie, who was the chosen cat of three who moved from the orchard to the tiny apartment.

The long-suffering good girl, Sweetie, who was the chosen cat of three who moved from the orchard to the tiny apartment.

Doris now. You can still see a bruise from a fall a few weeks ago – but you can also see the woman behind the curtain of confusion.

Doris now. You can still see a bruise from a fall a few weeks ago – but you can also see the woman behind the curtain of confusion.

My first day back in Little Rock, I saw a friend I haven’t seen in years – she popped into Esse Purse Museum & Store, where I hang out – and told me her mother-in-law died last year from nonspecific dementia and failure to thrive syndrome. She just faded away physically and mentally over about two years.

Doris has been fading longer than that – looking back, it’s hard to say when the confusion really set in, but it’s been a good long while.

As of a few weeks ago, she’s in hospice care at home, which is an assisted living facility now. Many days she thinks she’s traveling and is ready to come home; the really bad spells are when she’s frightened, doesn’t know where she is and is frantic to get home.

John’s sister, Kitty, deals with the bad spells on a sometimes several-times-a-day basis. For our trip, though, Doris rallied. She dressed most days – something she rarely does now – and even went to the dining room for a few meals, with or without John, much to everyone’s surprise.

John texted a mother and son selfie to Kitty and me, much to our delight.

John texted a mother and son selfie to Kitty and me, much to our delight.

Kitty and I slipped away to give Kitty some respite time and fun, while John soaked up every moment he could with his mother. We did get to visit with our niece and nephew – which is always a treat – but this was a Mom-centered visit. She doesn’t leave the facility now and most conversations are on an Abbott and Costello-style loop, but we still loved basking in her gentle and sweet presence.

The Yakima Valley is wine country, and we made the most of it this night – in the Inaba's kitchen. That's me, Kitty (in her Eiffel Tower apron that commemorates our trip to Paris together) and Norm.

The Yakima Valley is wine country, and we made the most of it this night – in the Inaba’s kitchen. That’s me, Kitty (in her Eiffel Tower apron that commemorates our trip to Paris together) and Norm.

In some ways Alzheimer’s is easier to deal with – at least that horrid disease has an anticipated trajectory. With garden-variety dementia, anything goes; somedays are horrible with short-term memory that holds for 10 seconds or so, but occasionally you get the person you miss back for a bit. Then she’s gone again. All you can do is cherish those moments.

And remember that everyone, no matter how lost, has something to say. You just have to listen for the message in the mania, the explanation in the inertia. Or meet them where they are, even if that’s in 1928.

John spent hours showing Doris photos on our phones – the same ones entertain her over and over. But here she's explaining to us every detail of photos from her childhood. The mind is a peculiarly fascinating organ.

John spent hours showing Doris photos on our phones – the same ones entertain her over and over. But here she’s explaining to us every detail of photos from her childhood. The mind is a peculiarly fascinating organ.

When it came time to say goodbye, Doris was back with the wisdom of her almost 93 years. She told us what a long and wonderful life she’s had – yet how time flies. She talked about how lucky she’s been to have such wonderful children and how pleased she is to have me as a member of the family – that John found me, as she puts it. I thanked her again for raising such a wonderful man for me to marry.

“Take care of each other,” she told us. She was 100-percent lucid in those moments.

We assured her we would. And we didn’t cry. The goodbyes were sweet and tender and strong.

All things must pass. Acceptance is hard but resistance is harder. If The Beatles are right, and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make, Doris will be a wealthy woman when she gets home from her travels.

And we’ll be poorer for her absence, even though in many ways she’s already gone.

 

Somewhere over the rainbow

Mother and I didn’t truly go somewhere over the rainbow, but I did get to take her to the Emerald City and beyond.

Our trip to Seattle, Victoria and the Yakima Valley was perfect in every way. Mother enjoyed everything and blossomed before my eyes, turning from a grieving, lost lady into an older version of the feisty woman we’ve known and loved.

Mother and I along the waterfront in Seattle. She got to see just enough drizzle that morning to get the weather stereotype, but most of our trip was glorious sunshine and warmth.

Mother and I at the waterfront in Seattle. She got to see just enough drizzle that morning to get the weather stereotype, but most of our trip was glorious sunshine and warmth.

I’m going to let the pictures and captions tell most of the story, so you’ll see lots of them. But let me add that though Mother didn’t receive any ruby slippers, we both were given beautiful ruby earrings – Mother’s birthstone! – by my friend Julia’s cousin Alyce and her husband, Clay, two of the finest people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Alyce has the fabulous Design Theory Jewelry, an online store that once was a store-store in Ballard, the very neighborhood in which our friends Dave and Nora Nehls live   – a store that our friend Nora and I have visited, which is now the website from which I ordered earrings before I knew Alyce was Julia’s cousin.

Small-world coincidence? Fabulous luck? Semi-charmed life? Good things come to open hearts? I hope the latter, but I will say we are lucky in friends and family.

Mother with Dave and Nora Nehls, our darling friends who put us up for two nights and devoted their time to making my mommy's every dream come true. This is a fabulous alley off Pike's Place Market.

Mother with Dave and Nora Nehls, our darling friends who put us up for two nights and devoted their time to making my mommy’s every dream come true. This is a fabulous alley off Pike’s Place Market.

In that alley, which is also the site of ghost tours, you'll find the gum wall, an impromptu art installation that grew out of what some would see as a nuisance, used chewing gum.

In that alley, which is also the site of ghost tours, you’ll find the gum wall, an impromptu art installation that grew out of what some would see as a nuisance, used chewing gum.

Which proves almost anything, no matter how gross, can become amazing, if not beautiful.

Which proves almost anything, no matter how gross, can become amazing, if not beautiful.

Dave Matthews Love

Dave Matthews Love, chewing gum style

We headed to Canada via the Victoria Clipper, leaving the drizzle behind. We disembarked and walked to our waterfront hotel, the Coast Victoria Harbourside, as the skies were clearing and awoke to this view the next morning.

Couldn't ask for any better.

Couldn’t ask for anything better. Looks like a Maxfield Parrish, huh?

We just happened to be there for the Victoria Classic Boat Festival, so this was also part of our view.

The boats just kept sailing in.

The boats just kept sailing in.

After an early afternoon at Butchart Gardens,

A beauty in the wildly beautiful.

A beauty in the wildly beautiful

Mother and daughter in the arch

Mother and daughter in the arch – a kind woman insisted upon taking our picture.

Grammy discovers gelato in the Garden.

Grammy discovers gelato in the Garden.

we hopped off the tour bus at The Empress for high tea. We couldn’t begin to finish the spread, but we took dessert back for a late night snack in our lovely room.

High tea for two – ever so civilized for two rowdyish southern girls.

High tea for two – ever so civilized for two rowdyish southern girls.

The next morning the Clipper left about 10 minutes late, for which the captain apologized and offered $2 off champagne, which meant we had to have some – and put us next to a pod of frolicking orcas! People pay big money to see what we happened upon by happy coincidence.

Back in Seattle, Dave and Nora met us at the pier and off to Seattle Central by monorail we went. Mother enjoyed seeing the Space Needle, but the coolest things were the singing solar flowers.

Dave among the singing flowers. They glow at night and make you feel as if you're in Oz – or a Dr. Seuss book.

Dave among the singing flowers. They glow at night and make you feel as if you’re in Oz – or a Dr. Seuss book.

The next day it was off to Selah, in the Yakima Valley, where John, Kitty, Dave and Nora grew up and where Kitty lives on a glorious piece of land on a hill. We visited a few wineries. Mother got to meet Lisette, Jeff and Emma (Kitty’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter #1) and Kitty and Norm’s friends Nancy and Ron and Pam and Wayne.

Mother outside Windy Point Winery in the Yakima Valley.

Mother outside Windy Point Winery in the Yakima Valley.

Most importantly, our mothers finally got to meet and visit twice. Doris may not remember it for long – she may not remember by now – but it was lovely and they truly enjoyed it in the moment.

Doris and Willette, mothers of Pop and Lolly, at long last.

Doris and Willette, mothers of Pop and Lolly, at long last.

Mother and Kitty on our last day there

Mother and Kitty on our last day there

And I got to meet our new nephew, Farmboy Westley, the precious labradoodle baby.

Young Westley is the apple of Kitty's and Norm's eyes. And that's in the heart of Washington apple country, no small love.

Young Westley is the apple of Kitty’s and Norm’s eyes. And that’s in the heart of Washington apple country, no small love.

So-long selfie to mark a magical time.

So-long selfie to mark a magical time.

Now we’re back. Mother’s doctor’s appointment upon return showed her blood work to be considerably worse in some areas, not so good in others. But she’s still perky, upbeat and seems to have turned a corner. We’ve discussed Italy for her 80th in two years, if her health allows.

But no matter what, our trip showed her to be out of the woods emotionally. She had it in her all along. All she had to do was visit the Emerald City and kick up her heels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk of life

I’ve had a post about bad haircuts rattling around in my head for days but haven’t had a chance to get it written. And now, instead of that one, which will have to jell a bit longer, I’m taking time to talk about the walk of life.

That’s not just one of my favorite Dire Straits’ songs, it’s what’s been keeping us hopping this week. And it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.

Some of it’s been general maintenance things that are part of adult living. We got a new (refurbished, but fabulous) vacuum, which has taken us out of the vacuum-cleaner hell we’ve been in since impulsively buying a Bissell upright super-duper pet hair vacuum. It started off poorly and got progressively worse. Don’t know why we fought it so long.

Nasty creature.

The bright blue Kenmore Intuition has made life so much more pleasant for people who have to vacuum at least once a day – often more – to stay ahead of the dog hair and construction dust. Why did it take us so long??? 

On the appliance down side, our trusty little freezer in the laundry room up and died – with no warning. We don’t know how many days it had been dead when John discovered the corpse, but the food inside was warm, limp or bloated, and just starting to stink.

Could have been much worse, but it was already pretty vile. And who knew a bag of frozen edamame could swell to the bursting point? Not us, and fortunately, we caught it just this side of exploding.

Labor Day marked our eighth anniversary of living in one-quarter of this giant restoration project. It’s coming along, but doing it the pay-as-you-go way with John doing most of the work probably makes some people think we’re insane.

I know sheetrock dust makes me feel that way sometimes. Is there anything more nefarious?

John’s such a perfectionist that we couldn’t hire work done nearly as nicely. There’s that, too.

On the other end of the familial spectrum, we’ve spent lots of time Skyping, talking on the phone and emailing with Kitty over the past week and a half. The upshot is that John flies back to the Yakima Valley of Washington state on Tuesday.

Our beloved Kitty on a happier day, modeling her VernaJewel apron before a party at her new house. She’s managed to keep her terrific smile during these trying times.

We’re joining the other thousands of baby boomers with a parent in assisted living.  Doris, bless her, made it nearly to her 91st birthday (that’s next month) before making the move, which happens next week.

The time is right and it’s got to happen. John and Kitty have a rough stretch ahead of them, but they’ll get through it as a team. I love you two.

In October I’ll head up to help with whatever is left to do – and to meet Kitty’s new granddaughter, who should arrive while I’m there. That’s the plan, anyway.

Mother and Bill carry on. They’re not as hale and hearty as they were, of course, but we’re grateful for what we’ve got.

And as my 57th birthday comes around next week, I find I don’t have quite the stamina I did at 30, when Dire Straits performed this upbeat tune. I still work out, I still move fast, but my running days are long behind me.

My rear end, unfortunately, is not. Seems to have dropped off somewhere along the way. But that’s another story.

The point is, life goes on. The pace doesn’t slow down, but you don’t have to break your neck to keep up. Just do the best you can. The tortoise overtook the hare anyway.

Sometimes that’s hard to remember. Especially for me.

Just breathe

Just breathe is good advice, and appropriate, considering my overnight flight back from SeaTac this week. Sometimes you need to slow down and get some perspective.

(Surely you know and get the connection, but in case you don’t, Pearl Jam is from Seattle. And Just Breathe is a Pearl Jam song, if you didn’t click the link.)

One bit of perspective I got was that, barring overseas flights when it can’t be helped, I’m too old for overnighters. Especially when they’re an hour late because you’re waiting on flight attendants (I’m talking to you, United) in a small terminal packed with unhappy travelers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled due to strange weather all over the country.

And when you have to semi-run in your Birkenstocks (ouch, blistered toe!) to catch your hop home from Houston at 7 a.m. The fun part was that I got to semi-run with Dero Sanford, my neighbor from down the street. Crazy. We even ended up on the same row on the flight from Seattle.

Enough about that. The real “just breathe” advice of this column is of a different vein. People you love get sick, get old, fade away both physically and mentally. At least you’ve got them, or at least you had them.

When fighting it does no good, stop. Do what you can to make things better but accept that you can’t work magic.

Revelation: We can do a heck of a lot, but we can’t work miracles. We can’t stop time. We can only breathe and take what we’ve got right now.

•••••••••••••••••••••

What we had last week was family time – and, for Kitty and me, some serious fun. Part of my duty – somebody’s got to do it – was play with her while she took a caretaking break and John spent time with his mother.

John’s still there and enjoying every minute with Mom. He and Kitty face some unpleasantness, but they’re excellent children and will do things right.

Doris and John are seriously into their Red Velvet Berry cobbler, our July 4 festive dessert.

Kitty and I lunched, shopped, got pedicures (my nail polish is called “108 Degrees,”  which was a no-brainer choice considering the weather here lately) and saw “Magic Mike” with Nancy and Pam. I’ll have to see it again here with my friends.

Oh, darn. Good-looking, talented male strippers. Twice. Again, somebody’s got to do it.

We had a fab Fourth of July in Selah, which included Independence Day for Little Bunny, whom Kitty and Norm rescued from one of their cats, who was using the tiny thing as a bean bag.

Little Bunny, moments before liberation.

The Inabas are nothing if not nurturing, and Bunny thrived. He hung around us a couple of days after liberation, but now he’s hopping around happy and big enough to survive cats and other critters, we hope.

The week started out coldish, but by Sunday it was 102 in the Yakima Valley, and we had a storm that rivaled Dorothy’s, minus the tornado. Monday it was back to Seattle, via Chinook Pass, which still has a crazy amount of snow for July.

Chinook Pass, where I busted my ass – soft snow and Birkenstocks don’t mix, especially on a steep incline.

But enough words. I’ll let photos take over from here. Tomorrow, historic Ellensburg and a close(ish) encounter with Mount Rainier.

Kitty waits to see if LIttle Bunny will exit his cage. He debated it for a while.

He’s out!

Little Bunny tests his freedom. Soon he was frisking all over.

Kitty, Ron and Wayne at our July 4 festivities. Kitty is a master gardener, as you might be able to tell.

Norm is a master farmer – Inaba Farms is big league. Check out the purple cauliflower.

Great-niece Emma (who made me a very cool bracelet as a gift), yours truly, and niece Lisette get in some serious girl talk.

Just us kids

When John’s friend Dave is in town (or we’re in Seattle), it’s like getting a glimpse of the past. They’ve been friends for so long that they almost revert to the kids they once were. Men will be boys, you know.

Though they met in first grade in tiny Selah, Washington, they didn’t become constant companions until sixth or seventh grade, and they further bonded in two years of wood shop under the tutelage of their beloved Andy Anderson.

I’ve heard stories.

After high school, John took off for the University of Washington in Seattle, never to return to the Yakima Valley except for visits.

Dave went to college closer to home, then ran his own business in Selah. A few years back, he retired, and he and Nora are living the cool life in the hip Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

We’re all friends now and don’t get to hang out often enough.

But it’s getting more frequent. Dave and Nora have made a few trips here lately, and Dave has come for some long visits, during which the boys have the biggest time, especially when they’re tool-slinging.

Dave (at left) and John acting like boys as they hang Sheetrock in our stairwell upstairs.

Our restoration-project home is looking the better for it, too.

The boys and their toys.

And we love spending time with them in Ballard.

Dave was here last year for Jude’s 5th birthday – Jude calls him “Uncle Dave.” Uncle Dave just left yesterday after another visit, and John’s already feeling the loss.

Old friends mean a lot – they share your past, remember you “when” and comfort you by existing, even when they’re not by your side.

I’m lucky enough to have Anita right here in town and Pam a couple of hours away. Kelly, my friend from when we were 3, is in Springdale, but it’s shameful how infrequently we get together these days. We do always talk on birthdays and our moms keep us up on what the other is doing in between.

My own kiddos are lucky to still be besties with their best friends from junior high, Camille and Jessica for Liz, and Jack for Ben. They all live in Little Rock/North Little Rock and can see each other frequently, and them having each other makes me very happy as a mother.

John’s other best friend, Mike, moved to Antigua (tough job, but somebody’s got to do it), so we see him once in a blue moon, though we did have a fabulous trip to see Mike and Shonnie at the Blue Moon a few years back.

Mike, John, Laura and Shonnie in amazing Antigua.

So that makes the time with Dave all the more precious for John-boy. Grandkids and Nora were tugging on Dave’s heart, so it was definitely time to head to the great Northwest, but I know he left a bit of his heart here, too.

John will take good care of it for him. I’ll help.

Dave is secure enough to model my first dude's apron. He's been a huge cheerleader for my apron-making efforts.