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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.’

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.

Fruitcake, how could I forget?

Yes, how could I forget fruitcake? Believe me, I’ve tried!!!!

I don’t like fruitcake. Yet, I’ve made it once. Only once. That was only because Mom was battling leukemia and could not make it herself. She had made it for years, her mom’s recipe. Mom made fruitcake for Dad and my brothers, then later, my young niece. How this beautiful little tomboy could like fruitcake, I will never know. Maybe it was time spent with her “Grammy” to make the fruitcake.

Amazingly, all these family members actually LIKE fruitcake! Amazing. How could they?

Yes, even though I don’t like fruitcake, at all, I made it. Just that one time!

I made the fruitcake that year with my young niece…. out of love. Love for my Mom. Love for my niece. Love for my Dad and brothers. But, I mostly made it for Mom…. she would have made it herself if she were able. She was simply too weak at the time and, with her illness, should not be working in the kitchen regardless.

Mom’s fruitcake, using Grandma Booth’s recipe, uses a LOT of ingredients. And, it takes a LOT of time. Well, a LOT of time for a first-time fruitcake maker and her young seasoned apprentice. Even though Mom was sitting at the dining room table watching the ordeal and giving us instructions and encouragement, Natalie and I struggled to make the fruitcake (a double batch, all at once). It seemed like it took us forever.

After quite a time of adding ingredients and stirring, again and again, I exclaimed, “Making fruitcake takes a long time. This is EXCRUCIATING!”

Mom quietly said, “Think how it looks from my viewpoint.”
“I could have done this in far less than half the time.”

Thankfully, Mom was a patient teacher and we all laughed.

I will never forget that time making Mom’s fruitcake with my niece for our family. And, while I still don’t like fruitcake, at all, I LOVE that fruitcake-making memory.

Christmas Cookies – traditions old and new

I remember Mom LOVED Christmas time.

Her family would gather. She could once again treat them to traditional holiday enjoyment.

Besides the Christmas decorations, a holiday dinner on Christmas Eve, a family drive to look at Christmas lights before returning home to exchange gifts, Mom would make sure her family had some traditional Christmas treats.

Among the treats, Cookies. Christmas Cookies!!!

Mom taught me how to make sugar cookies.

Green Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie

Green Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie

Christmas Trees like Mom used to make.

Christmas Trees like Mom used to make.

Sugar cookies are a favorite Christmas cookie tradition. So are my Grandma Booth’s Swedish Jelly Cookies. I did not have the recipe handy, but I did locate one online. Ahhh, technology. 🙂

Grandma Booth's Swedish Jelly Cookies

Grandma Booth’s Swedish Jelly Cookies

While using my laptop, looking for the Swedish Jelly Cookie recipe, I also spied what just may become a tradition of mine to add to the mix. Cocoa Coffee Crinkles. Okay, they had me at “Cocoa”, so I thought they’d be worth a try and I was oh-so-right. YUM….Decadence! Dark chocolate, coffee and cinnamon in an easy to make cookie. This recipe called for some instant coffee, not having any I used some fresh finely ground coffee instead. Perfect.

Cocoa Coffee Crinkles

Cocoa Coffee Crinkles, a possible added tradition

 

Recipes I found online.

Sugar Cookies
I added a bit more Vanilla Extract (1/2 tsp) and a teaspoon of Almond Extract.
Also, I did not level the teaspoons of Baking Powder, but they weren’t super heaping either. … so actually just a bit more Baking Powder. And I added Green Food Coloring until the dough was the green I thought it should be. Be sure to refrigerate the dough. When you roll out the dough to cut the shapes, be sure to work with a small amount of dough, placing the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator. Roll out and Repeat. Bake for 6 minutes at the temperature given, Cool, Frost and EAT.

Swedish Jelly Cookies

Cocoa Coffee Crinkles

Christmas Morning Looking Back

Shortly after getting out of bed on Christmas morning 2012, I looked in the mirror. I saw my ‘little girl self’ looking back at me. I smiled, then laughed. That image made me think of a photo of me taken at Christmas when I was about two and a half years old.

Yes, at that moment, I was my ‘little girl self’ once again.

Me and my doll, Genevieve, having tea on Christmas morning. December 1959

Me and my doll, Genevieve, having tea on Christmas morning. December 1959

Mom must have taken this photo of me. At least Dad and I think so.

We were celebrating Christmas with my Grandma and Grandpa Booth – Mom’s parents, in Salem, Oregon. While I don’t exactly remember this special tea party, after all I was just barely two and half years old, I do remember the tea set; the ‘my-sized’ table and chairs set; my other doll and the cradle; my grandparent’s piano, even the photo of the snow bound mountain hut and the Christmas card tree on the piano; and the special ornaments on the Christmas tree.

I am thankful to have this wonderful Christmas memory. Glad that my Mom saved this image for me.
This Christmas, looking back to that Christmas moment is priceless.
Another way I can still share Christmas with Mom.