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Welcome to Club 82, Mom.

On January 12th, we would have celebrated your 82nd birthday together. Instead, those of us who knew you best wore pink and red in tribute to your love of those colors together. Of course some of us still question that combination.

I remember you always loved our family celebrations. Celebrating those you loved so dearly was one of your greatest passions.

I know you would enjoy being here with us. Seeing, holding, and playing with your great-grandchildren would be one of your many pleasures. I can see you talking with them as you cuddle the little boys and discuss a great many things with the older little girls. You were a wonderful grandma and I know this from having you for a wonderful Mom and through word of mouth and deed from my nieces and nephew. You would have been a super-wonderful great-grandma.

I know you would still keep in touch with your family and friends through your letters, still hand-written, and via email and now, Facebook. You would have really liked connecting with people through Facebook — so many messages, photos and links to more information. I still have some of the letters you had written to me.

Cupcakes for Stuart's birthday.

Cupcakes for Stuart’s birthday.

We celebrated Stuart’s birthday on January 8th. We all gathered at Laurie’s. Had a nice dinner, something he would have liked and cupcakes, complete with birthday candles. We lit the candles, sang Happy Birthday to him, then your great-granddaughters blew out the candles. I know this is something you would have done….. so, we did it. This made Stuart’s birthday not as difficult to get through.

Yesterday, we again gathered at Laurie’s. This time to celebrate Natalie’s birthday. Of course we had her favorite food, BLTs. And, as was your way, we celebrated with ice cream and cake. Another party you would have truly enjoyed. Family celebrating family.

On your birthday, besides wearing red and pink (eesh), I went to a favorite Mexican restaurant of yours and had enchiladas and a flan, in your honor, for dessert. Oh my, was I full. That evening, I made a custard pie and learned that Jeff really likes custard pie. Yet, no one I know, or will ever know, will like custard pie as much as you did. Mine was not the best, it was not yours, but, it was custard pie all the same.

I wished you welcome to Club 82 on my Facebook page and I know you would have been a great member of the club. I hope to be one, some day.

Custard Pie for Mom's 82nd Birthday

Custard Pie for Mom’s 82nd Birthday

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A Year of Firsts ….. Times Two

“Year of Firsts”

That first year after a loved one passes away.

The first time going through any holiday without them — through an anniversary without them — through any birthday without them, especially their birthday.

Simply trying to go through any significant yearly life event without them, that first year, is tough on anyone.

This year, we have had to endure these “Firsts” once again. We had to first endure them when Mom passed away, nearly thirteen years ago.

Many times when a family goes through what I have often heard called their “Year of Firsts” they don’t have to consider a multiplier of two. This past year our family lost my Dad, to a tragic car accident and my brother, Stuart, to that vile and nasty monster, cancer.

Thankfully, I have some photos of some happy times in our lives…. a look at the other FIRSTS in our lives, back when I did not know the pain of having to be without these two wonderful men. Me, after my FIRST birthday, with my Daddy. And, my brother Stuart, at or near his FIRST birthday with me and our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

A happier way to for me to look at a “Year of Firsts ….. Times Two”

 

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday

Me and my Daddy, after my first birthday.

Stuart and Me, 1963, with Beadie our grandparent's parakeet

“Breakfast with Beadie”
January, 1963.
Stuart and me sharing breakfast with our grandparent’s parakeet, Beadie.

Being 5

Cadence n quilt

Remember being 5?

My great-niece does. Her 5th birthday was last Easter. We had a family party to celebrate. A double celebration. She shares her birthday with her Daddy. Best birthday gift ever.

When she turned 5, she got a new dress, new roller blades and all the protective gear. Was great fun to watch her try out her new gear…after she changed out of her beautiful dress. She was a good sport as she skated and fell. Fell again, as the skates rolled out from under her as she tried to get up. She kept focused and managed to master the skate thing to her 5-year old ability. She now has a new bike, just her size and WITHOUT those training wheels. She asked her Daddy to take them off. —- Tenacity runs in our family. Her Grandpa, my brother is battling stage 4 thyroid cancer, our Mom battled leukemia. — This 5-year-old will conquer those roller blades as she’s already conquered her bike. May conquering FUN obstacles be the some of the hardest things she has to tackle.

She also got a brightly colored quilt, especially made for her. To celebrate her 5th birthday. Yes, that’s her and the quilt I made with her brilliant, young personality in mind.

OH, to be 5 again.

She’s started kindergarten. She’s made new friends. She’s even had a few ‘boyfriends’ much to her parents’ concern. She got to experience her first Christmas break. “I am on vacation for 14 days,” she said as I faced going back to work. I was happy that her birthday was on a Monday this year. She could have her first school birthday. Well, not yet. Her school is on Spring Break now. But, how cool to be on Spring Break on your birthday.

I have a few decades between me and me being 5. I do have some memories of being 5 though. Right now, I mostly remember looking forward to being 6.

Do you remember being 5? My great-niece does…. but, Today, she is 6.

Happy Birthday, young lady. Don’t grow up too fast. Enjoy being a little girl. Enjoy being 6, as much as you enjoyed being 5. I love you. ❤

Eleven

Mom, my post about eleven and the calendar made me think of things over the past eleven years since you passed away.

I wrote down the years and noted some personal and family events that have happened since January 26, 2003.

2003

  • Dad and I kept each other moving forward, one step at a time. Days blurred together, but when you’re going through Hell, you keep going.
  • One of my best friends, Gary, passed away in June. At his graveside service tears were streaming down my cheeks, a gentle breeze came to oh so softly dry them. Thanks Mom. I knew that was you.

2004

  • In honor of your 70th birthday, I donated blood for the first time. Thanks to your great example, I had the courage to go through the process and do my part to try to give back.
  • Dad bought a candy apple red Toyota double-cab pick up. You would have enjoyed it too.
  • Your granddaughter, Kylie, graduated from high school.
  • Your granddaughter, Ashley, and Nathan were married in July. A beautiful ceremony.
  • For the Light the Night Walk annual event, in Portland, to raise awareness and money to fight blood cancers, I single-handedly raised close to $1,500.

2005

  • This year must have been a blur or simply uneventful, as I can’t remember much of anything really important.

2006

  • Your granddaughter, Natalie, graduated from high school.

2007

  • I spent my 50th birthday at the Oregon Coast (I know that ‘surprises’ you ;)…. ) with a great friend, who’s name just happens to be Helen. 🙂
  • Your granddaughter, Ashley, graduated from Eastern Washington University.

2008

  • Your grandson, Grant, graduated from high school.
  • Dad got a great report from his doctor. Cancer free for five years. What a relief. You would be pleased.
  • Your great granddaughter, Cadence Anne, was born at Fort Lewis.
  • You brought Jeff and I together. I know you picked him out for me. Thanks. 😉

2009

  • Jeff and I along with Kylie and Natalie saw the musical Wicked in Portland at the Keller Auditorium. The same place we saw Cats, twice.
  • Ashley’s husband, Nathan, was deployed to Afghanistan. Ashley did a great job holding things together, especially considering her daughter Cadence had such a hard time with her Daddy being gone.

2010

  • The Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. I remember how you loved to watch the Olympics and how you were so supportive of my opportunity to move to Vancouver for work and encouraged me to make that step.
  • Jeff and I became engaged during the time of the Winter Olympics.
  • Ashley and Nathan had their second daughter, Piper Joy. Another great granddaughter for you.

2011

  • Dad battled chronic kidney disease. On the brink of needing dialysis, he did what the doctors said and turned the disease around. He still is mindful of it, but doing much better.
  • On 9.10.11, Jeff and I were married in Athena, Oregon and in spirit Mom, you were right there with us. We had an awesome day.
  • Jeff and I spent our honeymoon in British Columbia – Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Nanaimo.

2012

  • Natalie and Scott got married in May. Kylie and Eric got married in September – a week after Jeff’s and my first anniversary. With Kylie marrying Eric you gained another granddaughter. You’d love Mila. And Scott and Eric.
  • Your granddaughter, Candice graduated from high school.
  • Stuart was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. Surgery and treatments followed.

2013

  • I was able to purchase a new sewing machine for my quilting and sewing projects. Mom, you would love it and like see what it can do.
  • Stuart was sent to the Mayo Clinic for more testing/evaluation. Surgery was set up at a hospital in Seattle. Then things changed. The cancer had become more aggressive and surgery was not the best course of treatment, no longer an option.
  • Another great granddaughter was born, Harper Lee.
  • Stuart endured 8 weeks of radiation treatments five days a week and chemotherapy one day of that week. The treatments took their toll, yet, following your example, he battled back.
  • Cadence started kindergarten. I can see you encouraging her in school. I know you would dearly love the little girls.

2014

  • Good so far – the best news is that Stuart is feeling stronger, recovering from the radiation treatments.
  • Dad’s health is much better. Encouraging reports from each doctor visit.
  • Mom, your Seattle Seahawks won their division, won their conference, and next week they will play in the Super Bowl. I know you would have been so excited to see their playoff games and the ‘big game’ certainly. I know you’ll have the best seat in the house for the ‘big game.’

Happy 80th Birthday, Mom.

Happy birthday to a wonderful woman. Mom.
A grand day to celebrate, today would have been your 80th birthday.

Today, I choose to think of the joyful life events in our family over the last eleven years that you would have been so happy to see and take part in.

Your grandchildren all graduating and going off to college, graduations from college, the weddings of three granddaughters (getting to know the wonderful men they married).

The birth of three great-granddaughters and the addition of another – playing with them, teaching them silly songs, cuddling and hugging them and enjoying their energy and personalities.

Also meeting Jeff in person – you  would had fun helping us plan and prep for our wedding. I know would have loved celebrating our wedding and being a part of our relationship.

I can see you reveling in our family gatherings and having a good time seeing family and friends. You and Dad would have shared retirement and been happy to travel to see both familiar places and discover new ones.

You would have liked being on Facebook and Pinterest.

BTW… the Oregon State Beavers baseball team won two national championships. I know you would have cheered them on. OH…. and I must mention that during those eleven years, your Seattle Seahawks went to the Superbowl and now have a chance to go again. I remember that you LOVED football at all levels – I think your favorite was Touchet High School Football and then any college football. And you truly loved the Seattle Seahawks from the beginning. I did not understand the attraction until I was older, now I get it. Just ask Jeff, I get it. And, oh Yes, I am a big DUCKS football fan….. but, you really do know all this, that I am sure of. 😉

You are with us, guiding us everyday. I miss you physically being here, but thankfully, I don’t have to miss your spirit.

I love you Mom. And, based on all the comments on my Facebook page today, many others do to. 🙂

I am still oh so proud and happy to be your daughter. HUGS.

Thanksgiving…. for now…..

Thanksgiving, in our county, is this coming Thursday.

Thanksgiving, in our family, came today.
Actually, today’s Thanksgiving is just one of the many Thanksgiving celebrations we will have.

You see, today, my brother returned to grade school, so to speak.
Today, he received a certificate of accomplishment. A major accomplishment.
He got to ring the bell — the big gold bell…. a well deserved reward.

Today, my brother had his LAST radiation treatment. Quite something to celebrate.

Since early October, he has endured being secured to a table – under a mask, contoured to his  face, neck and upper body, to keep him still and in the same position to receive radiation beams every day, five days a week. He as also sat quietly while chemotherapy drugs coursed through his veins on one of those days each week. All to try to arrest the metastatic papillary thyroid cancer that had become more aggressive…. now, an angry cancer with a mean streak.

While the mask has not been the most comfortable thing, he and the mask have been through a lot and the mask helped to keep him still and in the same position so the radiation beams could be targeted to bombard the cancer, to knock it back.

The initial discomfort of the mask now pales in comparison to the current radiation burns on his neck and chest, his ravaged and raw throat complete with thick mucus that he has to cough up or choke on, the awful metallic taste in his mouth and the nausea and vomiting he battles. Then, there is the fatigue…. only rest and sleep… and more sleep can help that.

There are new medicines to take: painkillers; anti-nausea; cream to sooth his radiation-burned skin; a liquid to swallow to cool and coat his throat and esophagus.

Nutrition now is high calorie ‘shakes’ several times a day, when he can keep them down. Intravenous fluids when he can’t – that really helps him to feel better.

All these radiation treatments and chemotherapy infusions are a direct result of a visit with doctors/specialists in Seattle late last September….when he was to have life-saving surgery. He (and the rest of our family) was mentally prepared for the surgery when everything came to a crashing halt. The cancer had changed, spread, became more aggressive. Instead of surgery, more testing. More waiting and uncertainty. More agony. More sleepless hours for my brother. The testing done, he, along with his wife and middle daughter went into consult with the team of specialists while Dad and I stayed in the waiting room. I felt Mom sitting right there with us… and I was hoping that my brother felt her presence too…. he needed her there… we all did. I know she was. Mom was there to bolster us all as we learned that the life-saving surgery was cancelled. (How can that be? What does that mean? Are they giving up?) The cancer dictated what would take place in his life now. Cancer was much worse than expected. It had spread a lot. Surgery would mean removing his voice box, possibly his trachea and maybe a carotid, maybe more, totally devastating his quality of life and without guarantee it would be all gone. He was sent home, back across the state of Washington to get set up with radiation and chemotherapy at a cancer center in Tri-Cities. The new plan was to try to arrest the cancer, slow it down, anything else was to be considered a bonus. Stunned, does not really describe how we all felt.

He’s endured much, since he was first diagnosed over a year ago. The other day, at his latest appointment his radiation specialist told him that as bad as he feels now, he will surely feel even worse in about two weeks….. then the long, long road back to feeling better. Feeling better will come more slowly than feeling this bad did.

Thanksgiving for the seemingly little, yet GIGANTIC accomplishments like receiving a certificate of accomplishment and the privilege of ringing a big gold bell are worth every blessed moment of celebration.

And… Thanksgiving always reminds me of Mom.
Mom always loved celebrations, any reason to celebrate was reason enough.
Mom always loved celebrating Thanksgiving.
Mom always loved celebrating her family.

Thanksgiving for now will be giving thanks that my brother is still here… still fighting on.
Thanksgiving for now will be giving thanks that my brother has endured his radiation and chemo treatments.
Thanksgiving for now will be our traditional family dinner… yet my brother won’t be able to enjoy the food, just the company of his loving family, the energy of his beautiful granddaughters.

Thanksgiving later…. when he feels better and can eat food again… will be a feast…. a GRAND CELEBRATION. A truly thankful Thanksgiving celebration.

Great timing.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Timing is Everything.” Something I live by, yet, something you can’t force.

Today was one of those “great timing” days. And, it certainly happened at a great time.

Today my brother and sister-in-law flew from a small regional airport in southeastern Washington on a direct flight to Minneapolis, MN. Then, caught a shuttle to Rochester, MN.

This morning, before boarding the plane in WA, my brother told me he was a little nervous about the flight and getting connected. I said,  “Direct flight, Right?” , “Connection with the shuttle, Right?”, “Everything will work out fine.” And… just as I assured him, their trip turned out fine. Direct flight and connection with the shuttle was made. Timing was great. They arrived at their hotel, ready for the rest of their adventure.

They decided to head out for some lunch.

Meanwhile I had called the hotel they told me  they were going to stay at just to confirm that I had the correct one. I did.

Then, I googled florists in Rochester, MN. Google delivered. And what a great one. I always read the reviews and usually take them with  a grain of salt. I read about the top florist, it was near the hotel and so I decided to call to talk about what I wanted to do.

My plan was to order a bright, colorful bouquet of flowers to send to my brother and sister-in-law since they will be gone away from family on their 32 wedding anniversary. I wanted this to be a total surprise – I told no one, but the florist, until after I placed the order. The florist customer service rep was so helpful and offered to expedite the order so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their flowers longer. All with no extra charge. She told me they would do their best to deliver the flowers still today. Keep in mind that where I was calling from is the Pacific time zone, two hours behind Rochester, MN.

Later, when my brother and sister-in-law returned to their hotel, the flowers had been delivered. Tears where shed. Flowers were brightening up their room and their adventure.

You see, the flowers I ordered were not only to celebrate their 32 wedding anniversary, since we can’t be there with them – that surprise bouquet of beautiful flowers were there so show love and support for a couple we care about greatly.

My brother has been battling thyroid cancer for nearly a year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Early last October he had his thyroid and some lymph nodes removed. In December he went through a pill-form radiation treatment. Monitoring and more testing showed that not all the cancer was gone. It was hiding and smoldering. More monitoring. More scans. More blood tests. Recent scans and blood tests showed the smoldering cancer becoming aggressive.

Now at Stage 4C, the absolute worst,  his local DR recommended treatment at a better equipped facility, more specialized care. The Mayo Clinic was the choice. She holds the Clinic in high regard, trained and worked there. My brother listened to her, listened to his options and made the easy choice to travel to Rochester. Easy because of treatment options, not so easy because of his family being based in Washington and Oregon. He and his wife are the only ones to travel back to the Mayo Clinic. Not another family member with them to be with there for whatever news or treatment options (such as surgery) that the specialists determine beneficial. We are all at the other end of our phones waiting for news. Praying for good news.

A bright, colorful bouquet of flowers seemed like a great reminder of the love and support our family has for my brother and his wife. Was the one thing that I could think of that we could do that would make some difference and let them know WE are with them.

Tomorrow is his first appointment at the Mayo Clinic. Tomorrow more prayers, love and support.

Today, timing could not have been better.