Moving On

“He was my mentor,” she said to me as she gave me a hug. “If there’s anything — really anything — I can do, don’t hesitate to call.” She was a woman doctor, a little older than me, who had known my father for many, many years.

I couldn’t respond. My eyes well up with tears at the slightest provocation these days.

This past Sunday in church, I stood in the communion line behind an elderly couple, he supporting her down the aisle, waiting for her to dip her bread in the cup and get it into her mouth before he took his. I felt the tears.

Then it was my turn. “The body of Christ broken for you,” said the pastor as he extended a chunk of bread toward me. My friend held the cup. I think she said my name as I dipped the bread. I was too busy trying to blink back tears to really hear.

Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of Himself, remembered every time we eat the bread and drink the cup, is echoed in the smaller self-sacrifice of the couple in church and the multiple self-sacrifices I saw as my father cared for my mother over the last years of her life.

When she thought that he was her father and argued with him about waiting for her date to pick her up for the dance, he seem unfazed. It had to have hurt — his wife not recognizing him and waiting for another man.

When she wouldn’t sleep in the bed with him — she sat in a chair all night, because there was a strange man in her bed.

When she served him inedible foods.

He patiently coaxed her to do the right things and kept her safe from the wrong things.

He learned to do new things — laundry and cooking — that had been her domain.

He finally made the difficult decision to place her in a nursing home.

Then he visited her every day. Twice a day.

These days, I have so many people offering advice.

“Just march right in and stand there with your arms crossed,” one person said as I told him about a deplorable incident at the nursing home where my father is staying for rehab.

“You can’t bring him home yet,” another person said. “You need to take care of you and get some help set up.” And she is so right.

“Isn’t it time,” asked another friend, “to think about permanent placement?” No. No, it isn’t.

My father was my mentor, too. He taught me what it meant to care for the elderly. Partly through having me work at a nursing home when I was young, but mostly through his example, his constancy with my mother.

When I hit a roadblock these days, I try to think, how would he handle this?

I can’t ask him anymore. That hurts just to write it down. But his advice-giving days are past, and it’s up to me and my siblings to figure this out.

How do I care for an aging parent? One who argues and cajoles and insists that he’s fine. One who falls and faints and forgets how to shave. One who all his life has cared for other people.

I think that the answer is one day at a time.

Looking too far down the road is scary.

For now, I’ll work to get him home again, and then work to care for him. One day at a time.


At the Fenimore Art Museum this summer

I began this blog when I was helping to care for my mother. It was my formal extensive education in elder-care, given by the best teacher, my father.

Now, I’ve taken the fallen mantle. My role has shifted to becoming the primary care-giver.

And I need to set Hot Dogs and Marmalade to rest. Over the summer, I have felt this blog hanging there, waiting, waiting.

But I can’t write about him.

Not here.

Not now.

Real vs Virtual World

Packing was hard. It always is.

I’m determined a.) to fit everything I need into a carry-on, and b.) to include in my everything books.

Bud lifted my suitcase. “Yours is a lot heavier than mine,” he said.

That’s because of the books.

Two devotionals, four notebook/journals full of important things, my Bible, two books I’m reading, and my Kindle.

But I forgot toothpaste. Bud remembered that.

The only shoes I have are the ones I wore.

White high-tops go with everything, right?

White high-tops go with everything, right?

One thing that was important to me to bring was a prayer shawl that a friend made for me. On a loom. She made it the color of the ocean. My favorite.

Every time I wrap it around my shoulders, I picture my friend sitting at her loom and weaving. For me.

A shawl the color of the ocean

A shawl the color of the ocean

On the airplane, a young man sat next to me.

“Are you from Syracuse?” he asked. That was where our trip began.

“No, not really,” I said. “Are you?”

He laughed. “No, I am from Mumbai, India,” he said. “I am a student at university.”

“What are you studying?” I asked.

He laughed again. I liked that he laughed so easily. “I am from India,” he repeated. “Computers, of course.”

“Not ‘of course,'” I told him.

We exchanged pleasantries while the flight attendants snapped shut the overhead compartments preparing the plane for departure. His accent was like music; I loved listening to him.

As the engines revved up, I leaned towards Bud and slipped my hand into his. Bud and I watched the runway speed past while on my other side, the young man stared at the seat back ahead of him.

“Do you always hold hands on take-off?” he asked once we were in the air.

It was my turn to laugh. “We rarely travel together,” I told him. “We have a large family.”

He was heading to Austin, Texas for a summer internship and was quite excited about the project he was working on.

“It works with your smartphone,” he said.

“I only have a flip phone,” I told him. “I doubt it works with that.”

“Do you want to see?” he asked, reaching for his backpack.

“I’ve seen smartphones,” I told him. “I just don’t have one.”

But I was mistaken. It wasn’t his smartphone that he wanted to show me. It was a device that works with the smartphone, to wear on your head and slide your phone into and enter a virtual world.

“Like Google glasses?” I asked.

“Kind of,” he replied and began rummaging around in his backpack. He had jammed so much stuff into his pack that he finally apologized. “I do not think I can get it out.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one who struggles with packing.

“It is like a 360 movie,” he explained. “You can turn your head and look around in your app.”

I looked out the window at the earth far below. I didn’t need an app for that.

“It’s very real,” he said.

And I thought about my ocean-colored prayer shawl woven by a friend on a loom. Nothing could be as real as that.

John Baillie prayed, “Let me not go forth to my work believing only in the world of sense and time, but give me grace to understand that the world I cannot see or touch is the most real world of all.”

Somehow these two things are related — his device and my shawl.

Each aids in transport — his to a virtual world, mine to an unseen one.

I think I am the more blessed.



IMG_8900Cleaning off the shelves in my father’s study reminded me of the things he loves to read about — history and baseball. The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve loved reading about those things as well.

I’ve always loved reading about baseball. Not modern baseball, but the old days. Like the deadball days in The Glory of their Times by Lawrence Ritter, one of my favorite baseball books ever. Or the Brooklyn Dodgers. Or the Negro Leagues, both awful and beautiful.

So I grabbed a book on my dad’s bookshelf called The Teammates by David Halberstam. It’s a story about the enduring friendship between four ballplayers: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky.

Ted Williams was one of my father’s heroes. An unlikely hero, in my mind, because he was a hero with baggage. He was foul-mouthed and arrogant. Loud. He wasn’t gracious, wouldn’t tip his cap to the crowd, even in his last game, at his last at-bat, where he nailed his last home run.

John Updike, in Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, said about Ted Williams, “Gods do not answer letters.”

But Ted Williams could hit the ball.  Lou Boudreau came up with the Williams Shift for a reason. Why Ted Williams, in that instance, didn’t follow Wee Willy Keeler’s motto — “Hit ’em where they ain’t” — is a mystery to me.

The Teammates softened my thoughts on Ted Williams. It showed a more human side to him.  One Ted Williams story lingers with me.  In the words of Bobby Doerr  —

“… and when lunch was over Ted turned to us and said he wanted to take and show his dad’s photography shop.  And so we went across the street from the hotel, and there was a building there, all the offices empty now, nothing there but an empty building. Then he began talking about his father, who had not been successful, was out of work a lot, and had been drinking a lot. And as he talked you could just see it roll out, this little kid in this terrible world, all the unhappiness, all the things which had never gone away, and which had been stored up for so long. It was clear that his dad had never been there for him.  And then when we came out he took us to this nearby corner, and he said, ‘This is where my mother made me march with the Salvation Army, and I would try and hide behind the bass drum.’ As he talked I could see it all, the little boy back then, the shame, and the pain, and the broken home, and how much he hated all of it. As we were walking around, and he was letting us into his childhood, I was thinking to myself, ‘This is where it all started.’ I’ll never forget that day when he took us around because all you could feel was the sadness of it. The sadness of that little boy, and the sense that it had weighed on him so heavily for so long.”

As I read that story i understood better how baseball is a game of grace. The very best players fail two-thirds of the time when they get up to bat. A batter is allowed three strikes. A pitcher is allowed four balls. A team three outs.

Baseball is not like the pure athleticism of a race, where the first one to finish wins. It’s a game of trying and trying again. Perseverance. Moving on past a failure. And another failure. And another failure. Grace.

The whole game is grace. There’s always another pitch, another at-bat, another game, another season.

It’s why the battle cry of the Red Sox — “Wait till next year” — rings true.

Hope is a cornerstone in baseball. It exists at every single base.


Today my daughter Mary follows in my footsteps (and her aunt’s) by starting a job at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When combined with the Daily Prompt: “Childhood”, and the fact that this post turned up when I did a draft folder search of that word, you can understand why I’m posting this today.

Originally written last October. Never posted till now.

The Wreck of the Eliza


An original Sea Shanty

Not the Eliza, but maybe similar

(1) Captain Hopkins had a schooner
Eliza was her name
Come hear the story of her wreck
“tis such a crying shame
She sailed out from Hyannis
In April 1899
Heavy seas when she departed
Though the morrow’s forecast fine

(2) Captain Hopkins had a worthy crew
Of 13 men with him
Many were related,
Brothers, cousins, kin —
Eliza had been prosperous
So the Captain laid aside
Money to soon build a house
For his sons and his bride

(3) Eliza made a quick run
Through Nantucket sound
The Great Round Shoal lightship
They sailed right around
The night was clear, but a relic
Of the Northwest gale that day
Made the seas a little choppy
Still it did not cause delay

(4) Course was set for Great Rip
Also called Nantucket Shoals
Captain Hopkins knew his way
All around these fishing holes
Two men were on watch
When they hit the Rose and Crown
A miscalculated shoal
That brought their lady down

Hey, there, Cap’n Hopkins!
Climb aboard wi’ me!
But – No-ho, he shouted,
The dory won’t survive this sea

Hey, there, Cap’n Hopkins!
There’s room for all aboard!
But – No-ho, he shouted.
And the pleas were all ignored.

(5) A wave swept o’er Eliza
From her stem to stern
She was broken with one pound
The surf was all a-churn
While some men grabbed the rigging
The dory was prepared
To launch for this emergency
That their lives would be spared


(6) A wave swept the dory
Right off the deck
Three men fought to right her
And keep her by the wreck
“Come on board,” they shouted
To the remaining crew
Cap’n, he refused to go
And the others followed suit.


(7) The dory, she was stove in —
Two men rowed, the other bailed
And they stayed right near Eliza
To save the crew, but failed —
The onboard crew refused them
“That dory is too small
Dawn will be here soon
We’ll be seen and save-d all.”


(8) The men in the dory
Stayed the whole night through
Listening, hoping, praying
To know what they should do
But when dawn’s rays illuminated
Here’s what met their eyes:
The schooner gone to pieces
And nobody survived.


(9)They rowed that broken dory
Through the Rose and Crown
Bailing water constantly
Till they came in sight of town
And so these three were rescued:
Nickerson, Miller, Doane,
But oh, dear Captain Hopkins –
Why didn’t you come home?



Based on the true story of my great-grandfather, a fishing boat captain who died at age 37, going down with his schooner, the Eliza.

Adventure Outside My Window

rainAt my father’s house, in the room where I sit in every morning, I look out at an old pump. It used to work. I pumped water from it for the chickens we used to raise. Now it is so rusted that the handle barely moves.

Beyond it and to the right, the bird feeders attract birds year round. I saw an indigo bunting there the other day and marveled at the deep rich azure of its feathers. Chickadees are common. Goldfinches, too. Lately blue jays have been sitting atop the pole not shouting their “Jay! Jay! Jay!” but bobbing and singing a much sweeter song.

Two families of birds — house wrens, I think — live in the church birdhouse which is nice because it’s meant to be a duplex.

A pair of mallards have been visiting occasionally. Mr. Mallard lets me photograph him.

Mr. Mallard

Mr. Mallard

Mrs. Mallard is always in a hurry.

The Mallards

The Mallards

I haven’t snapped a picture of the turkeys yet this year.

The real adventure outside my window isn’t the birds though.

This morning, I saw a deer walking through the back yard. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to her. Deer are common. It’s not unusual to see one bound over the fence and cross the road, or bolt toward the trees and disappear up the hill.

This deer, though, had the tiniest fawn trailing behind her on spindly little legs. By the time I got my iPod out, they were approaching the woods. I moved closer to the window to try to get a shot, but mama looked back at me over her shoulder and off they went. This was all I got.

Doe and fawn

Doe and fawn

Often a rabbit visits me in the morning — lippity-lippity past the pump. I’ve been trying to paint rabbits so I love to watch him. He’s tough to photograph though, because he is alert to my slightest movements.

Rabbit by the pump

Rabbit by the pump

My best window adventure happened a couple of weeks ago in the evening. I came downstairs after dinner and Bud called me to come see something. I stood in the doorway to the sun porch and saw this:



Mary took the picture with her iPod.

The bobcat stood there, muscular and tawny, staring in at us and I barely breathed for the wonder of it. Before I knew it, he was gone — and I was left with a heart-pounding longing to see him again.

Rural life is an adventure.

I never know what I’ll see outside my window.

It’s always beautiful.

And sometimes it’s flat-out amazing.

Fill in the Blank

From June 2011 —


I laughed aloud the other day when I heard a quote from Sartre — “Hell is other people.”  I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it made me laugh.  Sometimes dealing with people is hard.

My sister, who works in a church, once told me, “Ministry would be fun — if it weren’t for the people.”

Last night I found myself thinking, “Parenting would be fun — if it weren’t for the kids.”

You could go all sorts of places with this quote — just fill in the blank.

(blank) would be fun if it weren’t for the (blank).

A teacher might say, “Teaching would be fun if weren’t for the students.”

An RN might say, “Nursing would be fun if it weren’t for the patients.”

A retail salesperson might say, “This store would be fun if it weren’t for the shoppers.”

And so on.

Last night, Laurel couldn’t sleep.  There was a storm earlier in the evening.  But I don’t think that was what caused her insomnia.  The next day was going to be a busy day and I think she was anxious about it.  The problem was that I was tired.  I wanted just a few minutes to myself.  My compassion was very low.

Finally, after I snapped at her unkindly, she came to bed with me.  Parenting would be fun if it weren’t for these darn kids.

In the middle of the night I rolled over and found myself face to face with Chim-chim, her stuffed monkey.  She was hugging him in her sleep and I hadn’t even noticed that she had him when she came into bed.  Her monkey did a better job comforting her than I did.

Beyond the monkey I saw a little girl just trying to deal with life.

My heart melted.

Being a kid would be fun if it weren’t for the parents.

For the record, hell isn’t other people.

And being a parent can be heaven.


Draft folder rescue again — this was first written 5 years ago. I briefly published it, but then took it down. I didn’t want anyone to misinterpret what I was saying. Parenting is incredibly fun — because of the kids. Sometimes parents just get a little tired.