Surgery

Each member of the surgical team looped through the room.  An introduction. Name and date of birth requested. The why-are-you-here question.

My mother didn’t know the answers when I had sat in the same spot with her some years before. I helped.

My father knew — for the most part.

“Did you have anything to eat this morning?” the anesthesiologist asked.

“Not too much,” he answered.

“He had nothing,” I said.

“Has the surgeon marked on you yet?” a nurse asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” he answered.

“Yes, he did,” I replied.

“Can you tell me about your other surgeries?” the surgeon asked.

“It’s been years and years,” my father answered.

“Last August he had a VP shunt put in, and a few years before that he got a pacemaker,” I answered.

He knew his name. He knew his birthday. He knew what the surgery was.

All in all, I’d say he did pretty well.

A few weeks ago, he had had an episode of chest pain that landed him in the Emergency Room. They ask a different set of questions.

“Are you still a full-code?” the nurse had asked, but then she looked to me for the answer. It’s an uncomfortable question.

“Well, I’m not ready to cash in yet!” my father answered.

“Would you like to be placed on life support?” she asked.

“I’m not going to live forever, you know,” he replied.

His mixed responses were confusing, but he and my mother had both very clearly written out their wishes many years ago. I told his doctor and she asked that I bring in a copy to put in his chart. Just so it’s there.

Last night, I went for a walk. The fields were fifty shades of green. The timothy alone was a full palette of color — spring green, grass green, grey green, a whispery pale green at the very edges of the flower-head.

The fields whispered with the breeze, carrying along its little breaths like a melody passed around an orchestra. The meadow swayed and danced, and the only audience for this performance was the deer, the red-wing blackbirds, and me.

When the Bible talks about grass, it’s usually in reference to transience.

“The grass withers, the flower fades…” (Isaiah 40:8)

The comparison isn’t that man will last forever. We are just as transient.

A surgery day is a time to remember that.

It’s a time to pause. Even if we’re not ready to cash in, it’s okay to remember that we aren’t going to live forever either.

*****

The surgery went well. He’s already home. He’s not ready to cash in yet — and neither am I.

Red-Winged Blackbird

The red-winged blackbirds begin check-check-check-ing at me as I walk down the road.

With dog, without the dog — it doesn’t matter. I’m a threat and they need to let the world, or, at the very least, their fellow blackbirds know that danger approaches.

They sit on fenceposts, telephone wires, tree branches, cattails, and other tall weeds.

Red-winged blackbird speck

I have stopped on multiple occasions to try to snap pictures of them. I either end up with a tiny speck of a bird or empty wires, branches, etc.

They flee from the fenceposts when I stop walking. I can’t focus on taking a picture while walking. My phone is my camera, nothing fancy for zooming in. Walking pictures are a mess.

Frankly, I’ve given up on photographing them.

For me, the red-winged blackbirds must be enjoyed from a distance or in my periphery. As abundant as they are, they are also too elusive for me to photograph well.

Sometimes life is like that, don’t you think? It simply can’t be tackled head-on. We can’t stop and savor each little thing, but we can enjoy the brief moments as they pass.

Now the birds that have taken up residence in our birdhouse tease me in the same way. One tiny nondescript bird sits on the chimney of birdhouse, singing merrily, until I get out my phone/camera. I look to find the camera icon on my screen, look back up, and she’s gone. Either both birds in the pair are blasé brown, or I haven’t seen the mister.

Elusive

I need to improve my mental camera when I see them or my memory of their song or create some other method if I ever hope to identify these occupants.

Or, maybe I need to stop worrying about it and enjoy the moment.

Does everything have to have a name? Does everything have to be captured and held?

In our instant electronic gadgety techno age, we’ve lost the looking-out-of-windows and being-in-the-moment.

Sometimes I wonder if children riding in the car down the east coast of the United States even see the Pedro billboards. Or, in rural Nebraska or Iowa, if they see the monotony of corn fields. Or is that when they’re busy watching Frozen for the umpteenth time?

Because if they miss Pedro and the corn, they’ll most certainly miss the many red-winged blackbirds check-check-check-ing from the fencepost.

Ladurée

When my aunt found out we were in Paris, she messaged me that we should be sure to go to Ladurée. I’m so glad we did.

My French is weak to non-existent, and there are too many -isseries. A brasserie is a restaurant, a patisserie is a bakery, and a confiserie is a candy store.

But what was Ladurée? It had a tea room in the back, which really wasn’t a brasserie-type restaurant. They make the most delicious macarons, so patisserie seemed right, and, in fact, is how they refer to themselves. They also had the best chocolates ever, so confiserie or chocolaterie?

Whatever they are, it is magical. The long line told us that they had something special to offer, and we weren’t disappointed.

Outside Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées

To place my order, I took a picture of what I wanted to buy, and then just pointed at the beautiful macarons. I didn’t photograph the macarons, but here are a few of the chocolates.

A tough decision

And here is the some other delights that tempted us.

Delicious

 

A Brief Recounting of Our Trip to France

I confess — I had to look up the meaning of evanescent, this week’s photography challenge. It means “soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing.”

That’s describes my trip to France, I thought.

Life is already crowding out the moments I thought I would savor for a long time.

To hold onto the memories a little longer, I put together a two picture per day summary.

May 13 — Travel day

British Airways took very good care of us. At the urging of a friend, I upgraded both my father and my brother to each have a “Biz Bed”. Because we were traveling with someone who needed assistance (my father was in a wheelchair), we also got special treatment. I’m not exactly sure what all the little dots meant, but they were good. My brother and father got to eat in the British Airways lounge before the flight, while Bud and I had a quiet dinner in a little airport restaurant. 

It was pouring when we left Newark. This was my view out the window.

May 14 Arrive in France, make our way to Normandy

My sister and her husband met us at the airport.

When we finally arrived at Bayeux, we were tired and hungry. I had Croque Monsieur for the first time in my life at a little cafe a stone’s throw from our hotel.

May 15 Normandy

We loved everything about our hotel in Bayeux, the Villa Lara. This rabbit guarded the stairway door.

For our first day with our guide, he brought us to the Pegasus Bridge and the Canadian cemetery. Colin had so many stories to tell, but I think my favorite of all of them was here, of the bagpiper who played for the British troops.

May 16 Normandy

We had coffee every morning in a little sitting area off my sister’s room. I loved seeing the cathedral.

Among the places we visited this day was Sainte-Mère-Église where a paratrooper had gotten caught on the church steeple.

May 17 Normandy — then travel to Paris

The craters from the shelling at Omaha Beach were very impressive.

 

The view from a German bunker at Omaha Beach.

Then we drove to Paris.

May 18 Paris

We walked around Paris. Old and new stand side by side.

Dinner cruise on the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is pretty spectacular.

May 19 Paris

LaDuree — the macaroons are amazing.

Impressive art at the Petit Palais.

May 20 Travel day

The return trip. Waiting at the airport.

 

I’m easily amused. I thought “Salad Sauce” was funny. The flight home felt a thousand times longer — I looked for entertainment where I could find it.

May 21 Collapse

This was how we all felt the next day.

 

O Canada

On our first day of touring Normandy, our guide ended the day at the Canadian cemetery.

I can’t tell you how many times over the course of the day, as Colin told us stories of the D-Day invasion, focusing that first day on what the British and the Canadians were doing, I said, “Really?! I had no idea that the Canadians were here!”

I confess, I did NOT do my prep for this trip. I was so focused on getting my father there and thinking about the details of that, that I didn’t finish any reading on it. In all truth, I barely began the reading.

“Did you watch ‘Band of Brothers’?” Colin asked more than once.

Nope.

“Have you seen ‘The Longest Day’?” he asked.

Nope.

I probably made a pretty tough audience.

“Just focus on him,” I told Colin, indicating my father. The rest of us — we were just filler.

Colin, my father, Bud

But yes, our lovable neighbor to the north — the most kind, friendly, big-brotherly people — the ones who, in the course of our vitriolic election, let us know that they think we’re great  — those guys fought in World War II for the Allies. They took Juno Beach on D Day.

While I was still trying to wrap my mind around that, Colin brought us to the Canadian cemetery.

Military cemeteries are sobering places. France donated the land to all the countries for their cemeteries, even the Germans.

I heard a couple discussing that fact — and the husband said, “The French don’t hold grudges.”

But Canada’s was the first we visited — and I watched my sister wipe tears from her eyes. I watched through the fogginess of my own.

The Canadian cemetery

Rows of stones with names and ranks and divisions and dates of death etched below the maple leaf that decorated each one. Some families had other words, often about self-sacrifice, engraved as well. The Canadian government made the provision for families to do that.

The grounds were so beautifully tended. Wisteria climbed the arches near the entrance. A variety of flowers  bloomed between the stones.

Wisteria

Visitors left small tokens. Pebbles on the tops of Jewish soldiers graves – to signify the permanence of their memories. Loonies and other coins on the tops of others. Paper poppies and wreaths at the center cross.

Someone’s small remembrance

Our heritage, our freedom, rested on the backs of these brave young men.

It’s a debt that can never be repaid.

All we can do is remember.

And whisper a little “thank you.”

The Moon

I watch you shine a light that’s not your own
It’s nothing that you’ve mustered from within
The sun but shares its brilliance with you
And you, in turn, reflect a light that’s been

I watch you pausing, caught up in the tree
Peeking in and out of clouds and mist
In and of yourself you have no light
Fraudulant brightness daring to exist

I watch you bring some beauty to this earth
Reflecting, e’er reflecting our great sun
A picture of the way we should reflect
Our mighty God from whom all blessings come

If there’s one thing I love to photograph, it’s the moon. All my pictures are taken on my phone, so they may not be great, but the moon is so beautiful that I just want to capture it.

“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary. ”

It’s a Wonderful Life

Travel

I suppose this doesn’t look like a terribly dangerous picture, but I still get that squeezy feeling in my stomach when I look at it.

This was from the last overseas trip my parents took together. Nine years ago they went on a tour of Greece and Macedonia — I think it was called something like, “Footsteps of Paul.”

My father had been so excited about this trip. He had ordered all the books and done the recommended reading.

My mother, however, was declining in her mental capacity.  At first, my father was in denial about that. Little things are easy to excuse. As the trip grew closer, it became more and more undeniable. I wrote a post several years ago about that trip and called it “Scary Travels With Alzheimer’s.”

But there she is, in the picture above, smiling, because she has no clue how close she will come to being lost in Greece. (She wandered out of the hotel room without my father but was seen by other members of the tour and kept safe.)

After that trip, my father said their traveling days were over.

Now we’re preparing to take him on a trip. For years he has talked about wanting to go to Normandy to see the beaches of the D-Day invasion. Every time one of his friends came back from Normandy, he would smile and shake his head sadly, saying, “I’d really like to get there someday.”

When my mother was still alive, he wouldn’t leave her. Then his own health issues overlapped with her final days. It’s been a tough go.

So we (my siblings and I) decided it was now or never. We’re going to Normandy. We’ve arranged for a private guide so everything can be done at my father’s pace. We’ll see the beaches and hear the stories, then we’ll spend a few days in Paris.

Yes, danger — on so many levels and so many fronts.

I’m praying it all goes well.