What a week it’s been. Hopefully I can write more soon. However at this moment…
…we are on our way back to San Diego!
What a week it’s been. Hopefully I can write more soon. However at this moment…
…we are on our way back to San Diego!
It’s 6:20 A.M. in San Diego. We, Fearsome and myself, just boarded United Flight 307 to Chicago. Our final destination is my hometown, Roanoke Va.
Life in our (The Better Half, Fearsome, 7 dogs and myself) San Diego home of more than 25 years will change dramatically at the end of this next week. We will be flying my mother back with me to her new home which is our home.
I’ll spend the week keeping Fearsome out of the moving boxes and suitcases as we pack up the final items left in my family home. Mom has lived in that house since 1957. Dad passed about 2.5 years ago and my oldest brother followed him a year later. The era of our core family in that house has passed and Mom is totally cool with that. It’s time for a new family to give it new life and it is time for Mom to head west to her final horizon.
Emotions will ebb and flow this week. Memories both happy and sad will surface. Laughter, tears, love, hope and gratitude will be shared.
The time has come. Mom is ready to move out of my childhood home. She’s lived there since 1957 and raised 3 boys there. Dad passed more than 2 years ago. She finally retired in December. Her last dog passed at the new year. The house is too much work for a little 86 year old lady.
It’s her decision. She is ready. She has decided that she wants to live with us in San Diego rather than with my brother in our hometown. She hates winter and loves dogs.
I’ve spent the last two weeks back east helping her sort, clean, decide, pack, throw out and donate. Her ticket has been purchased. I fly back Mother’s day weekend. We spend the week finalizing. She flys back with me, first class, to her new home in San Diego on May 18, 2018. Her new home is the first floor bedroom of our house.
Fearsome has been a big part of it all. From getting stuck on packing tape to literally getting himself caught in the recycle bin when the lid fell shut. He’s there all the way.
So now you know. We’ve been beyond work distraction to major life changes. We need to reflect on this more. We will post more about aging, emotions, family, changes, life, blessings and gratitude.
Gratitude for the opportunity and ability to support the one who once supported me into her final phase.
I’ll call it what it is.
We are blessed. We have two families. The one we were born into and the one we choose.
Our natal families folded into one larger family after we settled into our life together. I into The Better Half’s, he into mine and ours into each other. This made for one big family that blessed us even more.
Living away from our family for many years allowed us to choose a chosen family of good friends who care and love each other as if we had always been and will continue to be. This family is large and blesses our home with more than 30 holiday celebrants each and every Christmas Day. Our blessing overflows.
Our friends extend beyond or natal family and our chosen family into our work, interests, neighbors, bloggers, vacation acquaintances and just plain old good friends who live both near and far. Our bounty of blessings humble us.
Love, respect and sincerity are the basis of this blessing we call family.
This most recent trip filled our cup. I met with two blog buddies for a wonderful dinner. Unfortunately the third wasn’t able to join due to an illness but we sent our love to him in hopes that better days lie ahead. We, the better half & I, then set off via Amtrack to New York with part of my natal family for one of those experiences that money could never buy (but definitely helps with😉).
You see after the loss of my father I asked my mother, who had been caring for him, where had she always wanted to go. She said New York to see The Rockettes. That was her dream. Not Paris, not London, not even Hawaii. I promised her then that we would take her to New York. It took two years and she lost her oldest son before it happened, but it happened. We made a family trip out of it with Mom, me, The Better Half, my brother, sister-in-law, niece, her husband, two great grandchildren and a nephew.
Nothing, no nothing will ever mean as much to me as my mother grabbing my hand after the curtain fell at the end of The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular as tears streamed down her face as she said “I have never seen anything so beautiful!” They exceeded her expectations and believe me she had high expectations.
For her to have her family with her on a trip she had only dreamed of all of her life, a dream she probably thought would never come to be, was truly a dream come true. I cannot express my gratitude for the blessing that that moment, my family and life truly is.
The moral of this post, at least for me, is that this is our one life, so live it, love it, share it, and give it. Give it to your natal family, or your chosen family, or both. Give it to someone you meet, you work with, you run into or even to someone you don’t know at all. Give a smile, share a laugh, respect, understand, forgive, serve and most of all love. Just love.
Fearsome and his family take on The Big Apple!
Wow! What a game. Back and forth scores, multiple home runs and even an opposing team (SF Giants) grand slam and our Beloved Padres eeked out a 7-6 win over San Fransisco’s Giants. It was a down to the wire fun to watch nail biter! In other words a well matched good game. Baseball, at its best!
After our return home we settle into bed to find out that Pentanonix just posted one fucking incredible remake of one of Rock Music’s best classics.
Wow, just wow! …oh yeah if you even slightly enjoyed Queen, this will be so worth your time.
A couple days ago I started organizing my paperwork for my tax accountant. I’m one of those who has a big file drawer who throws the entire year into it unorganized but in the drawer. Each February I empty the drawer in order to separate all receipts, bills, documents and the like into a proper order for accumulating the data necessary to file taxes for a self employed person. It’s quite the monumentous task.
I have rituals to make it a tolerable task.
First I go in knowing have planted some cards or notes that I have received in the past in that drawer the year before to stumble upon to break up the monotony. I started this years ago. I move the cards back into the drawer each year from the year before so I can find them Year after year as hidden treasures. Each year a new card or note makes its way into this collection, something that is special and evokes personal emotion. The cards get mixed up in there so I never know when I will happen upon one.
Then upon emptying the drawer I find the place on the internet where the Maya Angelou Master Class, which I posted a couple days back, is now located. It’s always bootleggely posted somewhere until the powers that own it find it and then it will show up in some other obscure place. I then proceed to play this 42 minute Master Class on a continueous loop as background listening. It motivates me while it reinforces my personal values as well as those I strive to obtain.
Once my drawer is dumped out on the sorting table (a desk in the guest room) and Maya is playing in the background, I commence opening each crumpled receipt, paper and card. I read each one and start making piles on the guest room bed. Piles of organization for filing, tabulating and organizing.
This year I was stopped in my tracks by this:
Betty Evans was the lady across the street when I was growing up. My mother worked for the parks and recreation department of our city, Betty was a stay at home mom who’s kids were a little older. Mrs. Evans was my baby sitter and second mom. She wasn’t the most refined of ladies. She was not blessed with money or an easy life. She was just a woman full of love and a woman who loved life. She loved me as if I was one of hers and I loved her as if she were my mom.
Mrs. Evans became quite ill later in her life and this card from 1998 was the last one I ever received from her. By the time she wrote this card she had sold her home across the street from my parents and moved in with her son. I had apparently tucked the card away in the back of our antique china cabinet. Last January we sold that Art Deco dining room set and I had found the card cleaning it out. In my receipt drawer it went.
Finding that card brought back a rush of childhood into the mundane yearly task of receipt sorting. It helped to bring me to a place of gratitude for the life I have been blessed with so far, the life I’m gifted with at this very moment and the bright future that lies ahead.
Betty (Evans) Drummond taught me that no matter what happens, no matter when life deals you a bad card, to always get up with a smile on your face and share love with those around you. She taught me that love always makes everything better.
May Mrs. Evans beautiful smile full of love touch your heart today.
Mom is doing much better. Big relief. Physical therapy has worked well for her. She is much more herself.
Her birthday party was a success and she absolutely loves her new Apple Watch. She is calling everyone from her wrist. Seriously!
Yes, I made the cake. Kentucky Butter Cake! (You can find the recipe HERE)
After a wonderful time with mom, Fearsome and I boarded our flight to start our journey home. Due to the tumultuous weekend of policy changes by decree we figured we may see a bit of discourse along the way. San Diego International did not disappoint.
Outside baggage claim thousands of peaceful protestors as far as the eye could see, even on the upper level drop off area. We added our cheers of support as we made our way through the crowd having to walk to the smaller domestic flight only terminal for pick up. It was an uplifting walk after a weekend of disconcerting news.
We are glad to be home safely with our family. We pray for everyone that are separated from families/loved ones and for all those that are displaced from their home/homelands that are simply seeking safe refuge in order to live.
Mom turns 85 this week. Mom is recovering well from the mild stroke she had back in early December. I’m flying out Tuesday to visit mom to celebrate her birthday this week. I got her a gift from my local Apple Store.
Mom lives alone. Mom occasionally falls. Mom wants to remain in the house she and dad purchased in 1957. Mom cherishes her independence. Mom needs some type of device to call for help just in case.
I’ve researched the Life Alert buttons, the call center monitors and the like. All of them scream you are old and you have to now wear this horrible looking button around your neck. Plus you must now have an ugly two way monitoring station connected to some call center in your home with a monthly fee. And, oh by the way, don’t venture out of range of this station unless someone is with you. Stay Put! Wear This House Arrest Button …FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY DAMMIT!
Enter Apple products. Mom already has an iPhone, an iPad and has WiFi in her house. If her phone is with her she is covered …such as when she leaves the house. However she doesn’t carry the iPhone with her in the house. Last summer Apple added an SOS feature to the Apple Watch OS. By giving her this new watch I will put a life alert system right on her wrist. One that she can even wear in the shower.
The Apple Watch features a new SOS alert that you can activate from the screen that will call 911 first and then start calling the contacts you have in your iPhone’s emergency contact list automatically. What if she falls and can’t activate the screen you ask? Apple’s SIRI has that covered as well. The Apple Watch responds to the “Hey Siri” command and will call 911, my brother, myself or whoever she chooses simply with her verbal command right from her wrist. Her phone doesn’t have to be with her as it will use the WiFi in her house. If she is out her phone is in her purse and she can still use the Apple Watch as it will then call through the phone.
Was it inexpensive? No.
Was it reasonable for what it will do? Hell yes.
Was it a bargain in order to have mom wearing a stylish hip happening piece of technology on her wrist that doesn’t scream “I am old and my son makes me wear this help I’ve fallen and can’t get up button”? Big hell fucking yes!
Knowing this information, what do I want for Christmas next year? An Apple Watch. You don’t have to be 85 to fall and not be able to get up.
The youngest of Fearsome’s two godsons just posted this video to YouTube. He choreographed it and he is the he of the five performing.
Talented he is.
Look for more from this talented young man. A lot more of him you will see.
A friend and reader text me earlier to check on mom. He nudged me since I hadn’t written. Mom is doing ok. I say ok because while her drive, outlook and spirit are very much all going for her, her body is becoming frail. As long as her blood pressure can be controlled she shouldn’t have any more small strokes. She will recover in a couple months from the small ones she had. Her health checks out good otherwise but she is dizzy, unsteady and tires easily right now.
Her 85th birthday is in late January and I have already booked the trip out to be there. We are installing a chair lift for her staircase, getting her an “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” button and changing a few things to make life alone in the house she purchased in 1957 a bit safer. She wants to work, she wants to live alone in her house, she wants to drive and she is determined.
I realize her days are limited, as does she. However she has enough means to bring in some help if she needs it. As her son it’s my job to keep an eye out, advise her strongly if necessary and help her achieve her goals for enjoying what time she does have. I’ve asked her if she would move here as I have a first floor bedroom suite she can move into, she says maybe one day.
Happy Solstice to All Y’all! …(pleural for y’all)
On this the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, I am reminded that tomorrow really will be a new day. Tomorrow starts the new cycle. The sun will begin its return. The world will turn yet again. I am given hope. I realize that all of life is a cycle. It is simply the pattern to which we are born. The earth revolves, seasons revolve, our solar system revolves, all life including all plants and animals cycle and all have a time and a place. The universe is one big revolving circle and I am blessed to be a part of it.
The fulfillment of my life has to simply be to do my best to leave here having left something good behind. Nothing is too big or too small, it just has to be good. Just do good, give good, share good and leave good.
This years Xmas dinner of chosen family at our home is themed “Coming Home”. Last year we weren’t here for our chosen family’s traditional Christmas dinner gathering as we went to be with my mom due to my father’s passing. This year we are back to our home in San Diego. Therefore given the theme all gifts for the white elephant gift exchange are to be from small neighborhood businesses. I chose two natural open growth Nobel Fir trees from our neighborhood nursery to decorate in a style that we fifty somethings remember from the 1960s. They are complete with tinsel icicles and not a single LED light. Yup the 1960s weren’t exactly environmentally friendly. No worries though as I will recycle the trees after properly disposing of the tinsel and the incandescent lights are powered by my solar power system.
One other seasonal tradition of ours I will leave you with on this winter solstice day is Author Feidler and The Boston Pops rendition of Sleigh Ride.
It’s officially winter …Enjoy!
It’s 8 am, outside it’s 27 degrees F and the wind is briskly blowing. We already had our high for the day of 30 degrees F at 5 am. You guessed it, I’m not in San Diego but at my mother’s house in Virginia.
I’m booked out of here tomorrow at 6:45 am. The temperature at that time is forecast to be about 12 degrees F. Snow isn’t expected here until later in the day tomorrow. I fly through Chicago, landing at about 7:30 am and out to San Diego at 10:30 am just ahead of the winter storm that’s to bring that city snow later in the afternoon as well.
My phone buzzes with text from United warning me of possible delays and free flight change options. I’ve already called the Premier hotline and discussed options with an agent and we were in agreement that keeping my current schedule will hopefully precede the storm and be most prudent.
Mom had a heart echo yesterday morning. Shortly afterward we were to be at her Dr. Office for a follow up appointment. Her Dr. Office is about a 20 minute drive involving Interstate 81 north into Botetourt county. We jumped on the road and headed that direction in her Toyota Camry Hybrid. Like son like mother, she has a hybrid too.
As we were headed uphill around a curve on that semi truck laden two lane interstate I heard a noise and felt it best to pull over. Yup nail sticking out of passenger rear tire. I know better than to pull that out as we still had air, the exit was about a mile ahead and the shoulder we were on was tight and dangerous. I got back in and back onto the Interstate freeway. We made it about a half mile before the noise was worse and I looked into rear view mirror to see the white rubber smoke billowing out behind us. We had blown the tire.
I pulled off again out of absolute necessity. This time a much better spot that was flat, visible and very wide. Much safer. I first called her Dr. as her getting in was priority and they had one opening 3 hours later, score. I called my SoCal AAA and they quickly connected me with Virginia AAA. The most helpful woman on the other end sent a truck immediately as being on the side of an interstate is considered dangerous and urgent. She looked up the closest garage where I could get a tire and gave me their number. I called and they had the exact tire to match her set. The AAA truck was there in 10 minutes, tire changed in 5 minutes. We drove to the tire place and they had a bay open and waiting with the tire. We had a new tire on the car, were paid and out of there in 20 minutes.
Wow. Shit happens and what was it I wrote about angels the other day? They are here and even though life has bumps, the angels get us through. I took mom to a wonderful lunch and we were at her re-scheduled Dr. appointment 15 minutes early. The appointment went well. We still have a couple tests to get back in before they can make any definitive decisions on her rehabilitation. She is doing pretty well and her go-getter attitude sure helps. She is easily tired with a dose of dizziness. My brother, who lives here, and I will keep working together to help her remain as independent as she wants to be as long as possible. She’s planning to go back to work in a few weeks if she can. I hope she can as she loves it there.
What does a first class seat have to do with my travels? The travel that was delayed a day coming out due to a winter storm and the travel back that is being threatened by another winter storm? I checked in for my flights this morning and scored an upgrade from Chicago to San Diego in first class. They will be serving lunch. I will enjoy it.
Mom tells us she’s ok. Yet her voice says different.
CT scan says one thing, MRI shows a variation yet confirms it’s not bad.
A blood test needs to be redrawn as it’s inconclusive. A needed heart echo has yet be performed.
Doctors will not talk to children without written permission and she must go there to give the written permission but shouldn’t drive.
I was supposed to be at the airport right now boarding my flight to get there. I sit in my family room at home writing instead. Alas there is a winter storm hitting Chicago and O’Hare is closed, all United flights are cancelled through Chicago. ALL.
Rescheduled Plans have me leaving tomorrow morning through Dulles to get home. Any flight today will be so re-routed that I end up flying through several cities and turn into a red eye thus I wouldn’t get there until Monday anyway.
I will get more work done. I will get more of my life in order as I wait. I will get there tomorrow. Patience is a virtue.
I knew when I talked to mom Thursday after arriving in Ft Lauderdale that something wasn’t right. I know her voice. She kept saying she was tired, that’s all just tired.
I had thought to myself “call her Friday”, just check.
Life gets busy, I get distracted, I didn’t call.
Small stroke on CT scan. Occurred most likely a few days ago, maybe last Friday….or Thursday…
Shes home. She’s ok. Not threatening. No real visible effects, just a change in speech pattern and she’s says her handwriting isn’t as big as it should be.
MRI and two different heart tests scheduled over the next couple days. Check further, make sure there’s nothing more.
I fly to San Diego today. Once there I can decide what days it would be best to burn up a few frequent flying miles I’ve been hoarding.
I’m grateful I have more than a half million frequent flyer miles to burn as needed. I’m grateful she’s ok right now. I’m grateful I know her voice, her speech pattern all to well. I’m grateful her doctor was on it right away. I’m grateful my brother was there to take her. I’m grateful that her co-workers noticed the change in her speech yesterday morning when she arrived at work. I’m grateful she’s such a go getter that she went to work yesterday even though we told her not to. I’m grateful to have learned the lesson to go with my first instinct when something is amiss and not let the “I’m tired” excuse stick. I’m grateful to have the blessing that is my mom.
She will be ok.
Mom isn’t quite five feet tall. She’s a petite woman who can’t be missed. She might be small, her presence is large.
No she isn’t loud, boisterous or obnoxious. She’s actually quiet, courteous and plesant.
Mom is a go getter. Mom gets things done. Mom is 84. Mom works three days a week. Mom has never yet retired, just cut back. Mom has worked for the same employer since 1960. Mom believes in having a positive outlook. Mom gives. Mom gives freely to everyone around her with no expectations. Mom inspires.
I flew into Ft Lauderdale last Thursday. I called mom after landing. Mom didn’t sound good. She said she was tired. I got busy with vacation, friends and the properties down here. I didn’t talk to mom again until Sunday. Mom didn’t sound herself, she said she was tired. Still tired? That’s not mom.
I called my brother who had seen her after church. He said mom didn’t seem right. I called The Better Half in California. The Better Half called mom. He said she didn’t sound herself. He is a physician. He told her she must go see her doctor. I called my brother. He’s going to take her as soon as she can get an appointment.
Mom is a go getter. Mom is positive. Mom always does well.
I hope mom is ok.
In the spring of 1994, I was but a young buck. Fearsome was in hiding as I was going through the early 90’s clean shaven pretty boy stage that was popular at the time. Yuck. Oh, and he wasn’t happy with my choice.
The Better Half and I were headed into year four of or life together and year 3 of our life in San Diego. Being transplants we were still exploring and establishing relationships in our new home town. Having bought a home and gotten settled into our careers it was time for our first “Big” vacation. Living in paradise we wanted something on the next level, a Southern Caribbean cruise.
At the time there was a young start up company that had gotten a good reputation in a sub-specialty that had never been marketed to for pleasure cruises, gay cruises. RSVP was the first and without realizing what he was doing, Kevin Mosier had changed niche travel and the criuse industry forever. But that’s a whole other story.
We booked a seven day cruise out of Aruba with ports in Curaçao, San Blas Islands, Cartagena Columbia and The Panama Canal. That particular RSVP cruise was aboard the SS OceanBreeze, a ship in The Dolphin Line.
We were able to get a couple friends from here in SoCal to join us and met a couple other friends at a pre-sail mixer to join us so we had a posse of six. Now we could complete a group costume for the costume party aboard ship for which RSVP had become famous.
On board we quickly made new friends in another group of seven from San Diego. They too were pulling together a group costume. They were the cast of Giligan’s Island, we were The Village People. They won first place, we came in second. The completion was fierce but each group had somehow cast just the right people in the right characters to pull it off. Afterward we all hung together and it looked as if there was a lost episode where The Village People had landed on the island. I’m sure there are pictures, but that was the days of Kodak film and they are somewhere in a drawer unfortunately needing to be scanned.
Little did that posse of 13 know, but we had accidentally just met the core of our own chosen family.
Chosen families are throughout all populations. However chosen families were a necessary group in gay culture. Many a gay man or lesbian had been rejected by biological families. Many of those not rejected had moved away from biological families in order to live and work in larger cities where they were more accepted and in many cases it was just safer. Another factor in chosen family is we were at the absolute height of the AIDS crisis and we had to be our own family to care for our dying brothers. Chosen Families are friends who become family support networks by choice and many times necessity.
I cannot begin to thank the lesbians enough who opened their hearts, minds, homes and wallets to care for their brothers during that dark part of our history just some 22 years ago. I think I can go out on a limb here and Thank these brave women for all of us brothers who survived as well as for those who didn’t.
The headline entertainers on that particular RSVP cruise were scheduled to perform the last night of our journey before returning to Aruba to disembark. Who you ask? None other than the fabulous Sister Sledge. We were all simply twitterpated with excitement and ran up after a fabulous farewell dinner to grab front row seats. They gave a spectacular performance closing with, of corse, ‘We Are Family’. Before we knew it they had pulled all 13 of us sitting right in front of them onto the stage to dance with them as they closed the show. And dance? We did!
Our family was born, it has grown to more than 30 of the best friends one could ever wish for. This chosen family is the most treasured part of my life. And dance? We still do!
This morning while sippin’ coffee and cruisin’ the internets I found a well written piece on a voter and his change of heart. I found it interesting, informative and enjoyable.
I share it here for others who might enjoy a thought provoking election read that isn’t just talking points and hype, but one voter and his wrestle with the candidates and his ultimate internal resolution. If you wish to take a gander of it yourself just simply click right HERE and you will be wisked away to the post itself over on HuffPo.
So moving on to me and the loss of The Big Brother … I’m doing ok. Today marks five days since his passing and through the title I chose for this post I realize the change of heart I have had, and am having, regarding my brother, my emotions and my relationship with him.
Siblings we were. Siblings often have unresolved issues. We had issues. When children we don’t have the knowledge, experience or tools to deal with situations and feelings that arise from our daily interactions. These interactions can often leave scars that carry into adulthood. Old patters of misunderstanding and poor communication follow us as we mature yet go our separate ways leading to a continuation of previously established patters.
Stepping back I can begin to heal, begin to have a change of heart. I can realize the humanity of both of us and the ultimate imperfections that make us each who we were and who we are. Being human I can empathize that we each have blind spots. I can use this opportunity to either dig deeper into resentment or to grow into a better man. A man who understands just a bit better. A man who accepts just a little more. A man who loves a tad deeper. A man who learns forgiveness for faults I perceive in others that are also faults of my own.
To my Big Brother David (4/6/1954-9/23/2016),
May peace be yours. We may not have been close buddies but we were always brothers. I knew if I needed you, you would be there. I love you and you I will miss. I learned from you and many times emulated you. I was always proud to be your little brother.
One thing I have learned throughout my life journey is the power of letting go. The power of going with the flow allows me acceptance. Acceptance brings peace and serenity.
Yes I still have stress. I allow myself to feel the stress, walk through it and then let go of what is out of my control. Life is a series of ups and downs tumbling into one circle after another.
The Big Brother is still with us. His clock is ticking. When this circle of his life ends we do not yet know, yet we know it’s near.
I leave in just 4 short hours setting out to return home. I’ve been away for two weeks. It’ll be good to get home. I’ll say my final farewell to The Big Brother and fly off into the sunset back to my circle of life.
Sadie is just starting her circle, her journey. What’s important is to reflect with joy on what was, cherish what is and look forward with enthusiasm to what has yet to come.