It is such a weird day here. It is 100% humidity, I am sure, and warm. Gray, windy and warm. We have already had a record breaking cold front move through last week that gave us our first frost for the season. Now it is summer like temperatures and mugginess. Such is the world we live in now.
Dad and I got up this morning and got down to business. We wrapped the presents for overseas, wrote out name tags and then lovingly packaged them up in the boxes to be mailed in. We sent presents to Spain, The Netherlands and Ireland. OK, the present to Ireland was just a couple bars of my hand made soap to my precious fairy god daughter Annie. Annie is working in Dublin at the campus there from her college in Vermont, Champlain College. She had gone over last year for a semester there and she is a golden child and they obviously recognized that at the Dublin campus because they then offered her the job for the fall semester while the regular person is out on maternity leave. I sent soap to Annie's mother Susan, in Connecticut for her birthday, and I did not want her sending any of that to Annie so I mailed Annie her own soap. Yes, the soap I make is that special, that people who have tried it will do what they have to to get a bar of it.
I love going to the Lamont Post Office, there is never any customers when I go. It is small, the people there are all so very nice and take care of you like they only have one customer. "Looks like you did your Christmas shopping on line this year.", said the Post Master. I had five packages sitting there waiting on me. "Yes sir I did", was my reply. I believe in using the post office. I like sending out Christmas cards, I like using the mail. Email is great, but just not the same thing as hand writing out a note and then sealing it in an envelope and taking it to the post office to be mailed. We got our business done, exchanged the boxes, leaving the ones to be sent over seas and gathering up the ones that had been sent to me. I head out to the car, Dad stayed behind to tell a few jokes. "Stories" as he calls them. He is a good story teller and many of his stories I enjoy hearing over and over. But there are a few that I just do not care for, and so he warns me now when he is planning on telling one of those so I can go ahead and get the car ready for him and not stand there listening. Seems like a reasonable trade off.
This is really crazy for me in that I still need to pick up one or two more things for stockings, but I am 95% done with all of my shopping. I will make a couple more batches of soap, and will have to put together some gifts that will include home made items like scarves and soap, but the hard work is done And Dad has almost all of his Christmas cards done. He uses a program on his computer to make the cards, then prints each one out, folds it, signs and then slips it into the envelope, seals it, places a mailing address label, a return address label and a stamp. I keep reminding him not to mail them until after December 1. I am sorry, I just can not abide to Christmas cards showing up in my mail box prior to December 1st. I love getting Christmas cards and I put each one out somewhere in the house so that they can all be seen. I put a lot on my upright piano and it makes the living room so festive. I not only love sending and receiving Christmas cards, but I love the letters people send in the cards. Yep, I know that most people do not appreciate those long letters bragging about all the amazing things the over achievers accomplished in the same year as normal people managed to survive. But I love them. Dad has one friend who sends out those letters and it is like a novella, always more then one page, of 9 font front and back writing, I think I have seen her send two full and complete front and back pages of letter one year. She had been particularly active I guess, and just reading them makes you feel like maybe you do not have to worry about volunteering to do good, she seems to be doing more then her fair share. And she is a precious dear woman whose husband is as busy as she is. Dad always saves me her letters because he know how much fun I have reading them and laughing at how busy she is. Trust me, I am a sloth compared to this woman.
Of course I write my own Christmas letter and have off and on for more then 20 years now. I started writing these letters when Larry and I were first married. It was not that we accomplished so much, but that we had had a particularly great year for travel and I was talking about that. I also give an update on all of my animals, and my letters used to be quite funny. Even in 2004 when on August 13, we got hit with 186 mph winds from Hurricane Charlie. There was still plenty to laugh about. I am not sure my letters are that funny any more, but they are upbeat as I talk about how grateful I am for everything I have been given this past year. I stopped writing for a couple of years after I over heard so many people talking about how much they hated those letters and the braggarts who mailed them. So I took the hint and stopped. But then I started getting calls, emails and letters from friends who wanted the animal update as they all referred to my letters. They loved the chicken names and the exploits of my "kids". So I started up again, and I have to say last year when telling people about my cancer, it was so easy to just write it one time and mail it out. And the response amazing. I heard from friends I had not heard from in too many years to count. The love and support and good wishes and prayers just poured in over me. Blessing me as I opened each email, each letter and answered the phone. I had never expected to hear from people. I was just letting them know what was going on. But friends are amazing, and so many people just took a minute to let me know they were thinking of me. No wonder I have responded so well to all the treatments with all the good wishes, hugs and prayers sent out to me. This year was another hard letter to write, because I had to tell everyone about Larry. I think most people know, but not everyone, so I wrote about that loss and the loss of Maggierose and Lilly and of so many dear precious friends lost this year, so many of them to cancer. But it is written, and after Thanksgiving and when everyone has headed home, I will start the process of updating my address labels and then take the time to think of each person as I slip a card and letter into the envelope and get it ready to be mailed. One of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Making ornaments, baking cookies and nut bread, sewing bags to wrap the presents in (They are reusable and much more earth friendly then wrapping paper and actually take no more, maybe even less time then using paper) and decorating the house are traditions I shared with my Mother and now that she is gone, I continue with these traditions smiling and tearing up over memories of her. The Christmas pageant is a new tradition to our family. It started last year with a simple one act play I wrote about a present I bought the family. This year we are going to do it up big! Nathaniel will play O Holy Night on the French horn, Jessica will play Away in the Manager on the keyboard; Christopher will play Jingle Bells on the harmonica, and I may join in with him. All of the girls, except Marie whose arthritis is acting up will do a Rockette number. Dad and Marie will sing a duet. My Dad has been in a lot of musicals for community theater, he has never sang in one. He has talked his part, but not sing. He has an.......interesting singing voice, and is always just a little off key. He likes it just fine the way it is. Rob will narrate the story as we move through the pageant ending with the entire family singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Oh and there could be so much more. We will just have to see what I write. At any rate it will be fun. I have asked Nathaniel to see if his girlfriend Heidi could come and participate. Might as well worn here now what kind of a family she is involved with, no need to wait until it is too late. OK, it might already be too late, and I think she has already figured out that we are not a normal family. I am excited about getting down to writing it. I have found that I love writing play scripts. I am not saying that I am that good, or that I accomplish all that much, but I do love trying my hand at it. Judy and I are working on a couple of plays that may or may not ever grace the stage. But we have fun talking and planning and even working on them sometimes. But the Christmas pageant is especially fun because how all of my family tolerates me and goes along with the Golden Child's request.
It has always been easier to go along with me, then to try and stop me. I have a couple of photos that my brother gave me for Christmas one year. One is me looking up at him, he is 4 years older then me, and I am telling him a joke. He is smiling, but looks like he is being patient and trying to get me to stand still for the photo, which appears to be Easter. The other is one with my Mother, tall and gorgeous smiling down on a very small Kathleen who is ripping her hand away. The look on my face is priceless, stubborn and head strong. I look like the word "no" is coming out like a 2 year old, and who knows, I was probably not much older then that. The home videos that Dad took throughout my childhood at some point just saw a blur where I had been or was supposed to be. I was constantly shooting in and out of the movies, while my three brothers stood there like stair steps with a stair missing in the middle where I was supposed to be standing. Today they would probably have put me on drugs. I think they tried that back then, but Mother refused and just said I was full of life. That there was nothing wrong with me. Thank goodness because the drugs then are nothing like what kids take now a days.
I met Rob and Dad in Gainesville at the Cracker Barrel yesterday. They were sitting out front in rockers sipping on orange sodas. We had a good lunch, but I always have stomach problems after eating there. I think it is because my digestive system does not do meat well, and I think they cook everything in bacon fat or ham. I am very careful what I order so that you do not see meat or even suspect that they could slip some in, but my stomach tells me otherwise each time.
Dad and I drove back home with the top up, the front that has caused so much damage today was just starting to show itself yesterday, and just not weather you wanted to drive with your 86 year old father with the top down. We got home and got him settled in. I made dinner and we watched some TV and then I went to bed. This morning I fixed him eggs that my chickens have given us and cooked them just the way he likes. "Brake the yolk and cook them hard, then flip them over and cook them hard on that side. If they bleed I can't eat them." is how he always explains in a restaurant. My mother hated when he would say "bleed" she had a sensitive stomach and dad kept it in turmoil most of time. On Christmas day he would love to bring up stories about the fire from the evening before. It seemed my dad was always out fighting a fire on Christmas eve as I was growing up. Space heaters, Christmas lights, you name, this holiday is a fire hazard and it was just another family tradition at our house for my Dad, and then later also my older brother to be out pulling seared remains of bodies out of the charred house remains. So on Christmas day, Dad could just not help himself and would point at the standing rib roast and comment on how it looked the person he had dealt with the night before. Mother would get up and go into the bathroom where I seriously think she was sick every time. Dad never believed that she was. We four kids would just sit there and listen fascinated by the macabre. Mother did not make it back for dinner sometimes, Dad never seemed to notice. I always did. And I guess I got my mother's stomach and the sensitivity to see how words can affect someone. I got my wicked sense of humor from my Dad. The hard handedness I think I found on my own.
After my last post I had a message left on my voice mail from Pete Girven. He is my friend that is married to Jan and lives in Wakulla. Pete is dying of lung cancer. His oncologist, Dr. Santoli did not do his job properly and for unexplainable reasons went from a treatment that was helping Pete to two other treatments that not only did not work, but gave Pete horrible side effects. Bone pain that felt like it would break this man whose strength at handling these things amazes me. They tried to get their insurance company to let them go see Dr. M. The insurance company declined their request and after an appeal, said that they could go and see him, but any previous visits would be on their own dime. Dr. M did see Pete, but because he did not see him in the beginning the damage was already done, and there was nothing that Dr. M could do. He might not have been able to significantly extended Pete's life if he had been the first doctor. But he would have explained things better to Pete, have made sure that he did do everything he could, and Pete would never have had to suffer like he did on those other treatments, that did not help him in anyway!
Anyway Pete had called and said, "use my name. It will help to make me more human." Well, he is very human, and so is his loving wife Jan. They are a hoot these two, and bless their hearts they have lived a wonderful life together. Everywhere you walk in their home or yard are signs of their teamwork. Electrical power outlets are throughout the yard. Done professionally by an electrician who has a stake in his own property. The chicken coop is another marvel of simplicity and utilitarian purposes, but is very attractive without being ostentatious. And these two people, Pete and Jan, are still such a team. It is not just Pete who is dying of this devastating disease. It is affecting Jan in different ways, but just as hard, maybe harder. Pete is accepting of this disease. He understands what is happening and that there is nothing that can be done to changes things. He is stuck in that time now of purgatory where he wakes up each day, but can not live his life as he is used to. He is on oxygen 24/7 and tires out more easily, and well, he is dying. But he is still alive and folks let me tell you, this is the true curse of cancer. There are so many amazing and wonderful gifts we who contract this disease are given. But this time when your body starts to loose the battle, and you are still alive and your mind still ready to get up and go, and your body has turned on you and you do not control it anymore, but instead live in limbo. Dreading, but not dreading the end. Looking at the woman you have shared so many years of your life with. The woman you raised a son with. The woman who has caused you to laugh and cry with so many many times during all of these years, and you see her pain. For the first time maybe ever, this pain is being caused by you and there is nothing you can do to change it or to help here. That is the worst. But these two as they go through this. The look at each other and that bond, that love is there and it does help both of them. But it is still so very hard. So I promised Pete that I would use their names from now on as I talk about them. Tell the part of their story that I know. Tell how when you are diagnosed with cancer you are shoved onto the oncology train as it hurtles out of control down a track you don't know. How by the time you are able to raise your head and realize that maybe something isn't right, it is so hard to get off that train and onto one that might take you to places that give you a little more time. A little less pain and suffering. A little more care. I brought up getting a second opinion from the very first phone call I had with them. But I know how that train is. You are barely holding on, and getting a second opinion is too much to deal with. That is until you have had enough of their treatments to realize that maybe something ain't right. And sometimes you still have time, others you don't.
All I can say, is that they have fought this battle together over this despicable disease and they are still fighting together. And there are a bunch of us who love them dearly out here rooting them on. So there you go Pete, I will not talk about you on this blog again without telling the world who you are. I am proud to call you and Jan my friends, and I love you both dearly. I am here if there is anything I can do. anything.
So, after lunch at the Rosemary Tree where we learned that Simpson's Nursery has bought the old apron factory, and are fixing it up real nice. Dad and I drove home. I had a load of booty to go through and then wanted to get a post out. Dad took a nap. The dogs have been excitable and just now finally laid down to rest. The storm outside is still off of the main path of destruction, but it is completely dark and I can still see the clouds scurrying across the sky and hear thunder in the distance. It is cooling down from that unnatural warmth and storm from earlier.
Dad is getting up from his nap and I will make us spaghetti for dinner tonight. And maybe I will get to video chat with my friend in Delaware. He always makes me smile and often times laugh out loud. All in all it has been a very productive day, a good day. A day I got to spend with my Dad, lovingly thinking of friends and family and boxing up presents, driving to the post office, and having them mailed across the pond. An entire ocean away. A totally different continent. It does not matter how many times I travel or where, I am still amazed that this giant blue/green marble is so small and accessible, and that there is "family" waiting everywhere to be found.
Signing out for tonight. A little tired. My right arm is going to be the size of a professional league baseball player with as many times as I throw the tennis ball for Bob. He is off of exercise restriction and that boy, that sweet Labrador retriever loves to retrieve the tennis ball. Yes he does. And I can see the change in his body already. He still needs to take off a pound or two, but he is looking sleek and shiny again. A ball held softly in his Labrador mouth, dripping with saliva. His eyes bright and excited, happy that he is once again allowed to run and chase that ball.
Yep, life is good.