Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

It's been a busy day.

Outside the cooling sky is dusty grey streaked with pink. Inside the store, smoky Christmas songs are starting to be heard over the noise of the customers as we hit the first major lulls in the busy pace.

I image people at home, starting to relax, or finishing preparations for celebrations to come on Christmas Eve or Christmas night.

I think of Dad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some Progress...

But still some questions.

After forgetting to call Dad yesterday, I spent this morning at the transplant clinic and had major truckloads to check in at the store so it was around noon today that I called. Of course he was just getting back from his neurologist appointment. Oh well! At least it was fresh on his mind. Here's what he had to say:

He likes Dr. Tseng. She is in the same group as Dr. Chen and took over a number of her patients. She also knows Dr. Marder, who worked in the same group. Dr. Tseng is frank, open and easy to understand and listens to what he has to say. He opened the conversation by mentioning the number of obituaries he reads where the death is listed as due to the complications of Parkinson's and he wanted to know what he had to look forward to as the disease develops. She said the deaths are in very advanced cases where breathing and swallowing become impossible and hat he is a long ways away from that stage of the disease.

Her main point to him are that she has two kinds of Parkinson's patients. Most are like Dad, with tremors that are manageable and that the disease can maintain that stage for a long time. The others are the advanced patients who require significant care. At Dad's level, there is very little to do other than medicate to control tremors. The best therapy is exercise and his 'dance' classes are the best thing he could be doing. The suggestion is that he has a good age/Parkinson's ratio. I suggested that it sounded like PKD. You know you have the disease. The doctors treat the symptoms. Other than that there is little to do but watch and monitor. Dad agreed. He seemed to like Dr Tseng and trusts what she tells him.

I don't know whether he asked if his recent neck stiffness is related to Parkinson's. My guess is probably not if it didn't bother him last night or this morning. (He didn't mention it Sunday.)

That sums up what I learned today. Mary can probably use this and pry more information out of him. His next appointment with Dr. Tseng is in six months, which right now seems a forever away.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Parkinson's related?

It occurred to me that the rigid neck might be connected to Parkinson's. Could be; here's what I found online:

 Rigidity is stiffness and resistance to limb movement caused by increased muscle tone, an excessive and continuous contraction of muscles.[1] In parkinsonism the rigidity can be uniform (lead-pipe rigidity) or ratchety (cogwheel rigidity).[1][2][11][12] The combination of tremor and increased tone is considered to be at the origin of cogwheel rigidity.[13] Rigidity may be associated with joint pain; such pain being a frequent initial manifestation of the disease.[1] In early stages of Parkinson's disease, rigidity is often asymmetrical and it tends to affect the neck and shoulder muscles prior to the muscles of the face and extremities.[14] With the progression of the disease, rigidity typically affects the whole body and reduces the ability to move.

This is Wiki, of course, but tracks with other stuff I read. I'm just wondering if Dad's docs are all coordinated. Does Wiggins have all the info about Parkinson's from his neuro doctor, etc? Anyone know? 

Friday, November 16, 2012


When I was in Dallas, Daddy was having a real problem with pain in his neck (yes, insert joke here.) He said he'd "slept on it wrong" and it was so painful he was having trouble driving because he couldn't turn his head. It had subsided somewhat by the time I left, but when I talked to him this morning he said it was excruciating yesterday, to the point that he canceled his PrimeTimers outing and went to see Dr. Wiggins. The doc says there's nothing apparently wrong it except the neck muscles were clenched tight, almost like a fixed spasm. He took some Xrays and gave Dad some hydrocodone (which Dad had already tried to no avail) and some muscle relaxers. Daddy said it was better today. He should get the Xray back this afternoon, but the doctor seems to think it's just all that tension-causing stress (and grief.)  We'll see. He said he'd call back when he heard the results.
I guess that straight-backed posture takes its toll.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Philosophical Problem

Mary was in town over the weekend. D Magazine flew her down to write an article on Mexican Food in Dallas. So she and Nancy went on an epic Tex-Mex binge, stuffing themselves, Dad and eventually the whole family with unreasonable numbers of tacos and cheese enchiladas.

Finally, late Saturday evening we gathered at Dad's apartment to start to go through Mom's clothing and jewelry. Being the only guy, I walked in blind. Mary and Helen have been going through Mom's stuff since they were old enough to walk. Lucky for me Mom did not have happy memories both of going through her Mother's effects and going through Dad's Mother's effects acting as Dad's agent. She told us of how unhappy these experiences were for her and her main wish was for us to go through this process amicably. She also insisted that Susan be given voice at the table.

We were lucky enough to have had a practice run at his. When they moved to New York thirty years ago, we had to split up things from their house in Dallas as they certainly wouldn't fit into their New York apartment. Still, I was not looking forward to the day of reckoning.

I turned on the light in the dining area and walked around the table to take a seat when I glanced at the sideboard and there it was. A largish blue fabric bag containing a black box. It was the box containing Mother's ashes.

It was not surprising to see it there. I knew that Helen had picked it up and had heard something that made me think that it was at Dad's apartment. We hadn't talked about the ashes much. Mother had donated her body to UT Southwest Medical School and we had been led to believe it would be sometime before we would be receiving it. The call that it was ready had caught us by surprise.

But there it was.

Only I didn't see a box, I saw Mother.

When computers can't make sense of the data, they crash and that's just what I did. I totally lost it.

Everyone put their arms around me as I sobbed. Someone put the box on the table in front of me. I untied it and looked at the box. I tried to open it, but it was sealed well. "You don't want to open it," said Susan. I knew she was thinking about Walter throwing Donnie's ashes into the wind, and put the box back in the bag, and started to calm down.

Then we all sat down and went to work divvying up the jewelry under the watchful eye of  Mother, watching over us from her box on the sideboard.

Monday, November 5, 2012

All Saints Day, 2012

All Saints Day, All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Dios de los Muertos.What a complicated day, with its roots in Aztec, Roman, Celtic and Byzantine cultures.

Growing up in a more protestant Episcopal Church in Atlanta and Dallas, I don't have memories of special celebrations, (protestant theology took a dim view of adoration) but have participated in special services since I joined the choir some twenty years ago.

For many years, the choir performed a Requiem between services. Then for several years the choir entered silently from behind the altar and stood in silence at the altar rail while the priests read the names of those parish members who had died during the previous year. Following the necrology, with organ and orchestral accompaniment, we processed in a complex pattern around and though the congregation singing all the while.
Now the choir waits outside with the rest of the procession while the priests read the list of the names of the dead. The service is still high ritual,with incense and orchestra. Movements of Faure's Requiem are performed at appropriate points during the service.

During the years I have participated in the service I have frequently heard names of people I knew, some better than others. Some were surprises. Obviously this year was going to be different.

I began thinking about the service a number of weeks ago when the choir began rehearsing the Requiem. I totally lost it during the first run-through of the Paridisum, where choirs of angels welcome the dearly departed into the holy city. I also lost it when I thought of Dad standing alone with his peeps in the 'Old Widower's Pew.' One Sunday I mentioned this to Susan and suggested that she might go and stand with Dad during the reading of the names and the service and she readily agreed. But I didn't really know if it would matter much to Dad and I never mentioned it to anyone other than Susan.

Thinking about this very obvious trigger caused me to write the blog post "Triggers" a couple of weeks ago.

Last week Susan and I had dinner with Dad and she asked him if he wanted someone to go to church with him on All Saints and he said, "No, I'll be ushering. November is our month and it will be our first Sunday, so I'll be busy with that." And that was that.

I slipped into the back row during the reading before the early service today and my ears perked up when they started with the 't's. "Thompson...Polly Jerauld Paxton Waddington...." There it was! I almost missed it. But where were the tears? Where was my emotional buzz? I missed the pain, the emotional release. I missed that last visceral connection with Mother. Now it was just stark emptiness. I got and rejoined the choir for the triumphal procession.

I came down from the choir loft from after the first service. There was Dad, getting the service leaflets ready to hand out. We spoke for a moment then I headed out for a much needed cup of coffee. As the choir was lining up, I searched out Dad in the narthex and found him handing out leaflets and greeting parishioners. I watched him for a minute. He was in his element as he would move from person to person, greeting each person like he'd known them all his life, sharing a smile, exchanging a confidence, asking after a spouse or a friend, shaking a hand or a hand to the shoulder. Like a good politician. I stopped him  and asked if he was going in for the necrology. He started to say he was planning to, but he saw someone arrive to whom he hadn't spoken and off he went.

I heard the priests begin and I went inside to hear the reading a second time. Maybe he would join me. After a brief invocation, the reading starts with Abraham, through Isaiah to Mary, John, Peter, Francis, Thomas Becket, Martin Luther, Thomas Cramner and on to Martin Bonhoffer, Mother Theresa and finally to the names from the parish. As some point Dad and another usher came in through the rear door and stood for a minute. I thought maybe they were going to listen, but they waited and helped someone find a seat and when I looked again, Dad was gone, and when I looked again, they both were gone. Then Mother's name came  again, and went.

The music was glorious and ethereal. Once in rehearsal James Diaz was asked why we always used the Faure Requiem and not something else. "Because people love it and ask for it. People remember it and come back to this service because of it." It helps them remember.
In Paradisum deducant angeli;                 God's holy angels lead you to paradise;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres,       may saints in their glory receive you at your
                                                              journey's end,
et perducant te incivitatem sanctam          guiding your footsteps into the holy city.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.            Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,                Choirs of angels sing you to your rest,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere             and with Lazarus raised to eternal life,
aeternam habeas requiem.                       may you for evermore rest in peace.

Gabriel Faure Requiem: 'In Paradisum'
(Click to listen)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dreams and ashes

Some days are harder than others. Dave talked about triggers but they seem more like IEDs because I never see them coming. Today is a hard day because of last night's dreams: I've been thinking about ashes since Helen told me about picking them up. I don't want them to be stored at SMAA for some reason. I want them within reach. Totally irrational, but Helen and I talked about this and I think we share the emotion. Anyway, I suspect that because of the word, I dreamed about Ashes (the dog) last night, a complicated jumble like most dreams but leaving me with a strong deja vu today about finding Ashes in the back of the Hillman during the Easter egg hunt that year. What a funny name for a dog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Every now and then the emotional tumblers click into alignment and I'm left helpless, with tears streaming down my cheeks. Sometimes it's over quickly, sometimes it comes and goes, subsiding in diminishing waves. I take a deep breath, and "Wow, that was intense!"

Such episodes have been rare in my life. I'm more accustomed to moments of awe, joy and wonder. But those moments usually came without tears.

Tears started after my transplant. It had taken me two years to realize that dependence on dialysis was a gift of life. After the transplant, the thought that someone died and  that their death gave me new life was overwhelming. I would think of that unknown young man and the grief of his wife and child and  I would be helpless. My tears of joy were also tears of grief.

For a while these tears were on a hair trigger. Sequences of events and images would turn the tumblers into alignment. I realized that these tears were moments of awe, that they were glimpses of the powerful forces of life and death and not unlike moments of joy and wonder. For a while I could manipulate the images and summon these moments and I would seek them out and marvel. As time went by, this ability grew more and more distant and these moments of awe and helplessness became less frequent.

Now, of course, I'm back on a hair trigger.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I hadn't talked to Daddy in a couple of days, because like I said, I'm trying not to breathe down his neck. But when I told him that today, he said, "I didn't used to like to talk on the phone. But now, I'm glad to hear the phone ring." I guess the apartment feels pretty empty. Although he says he's had plenty of evening activity: dinner with Anne James, dinner with Ruth Mason and of course, with family.
He had just returned from his appointment with the oral surgeon. The doc removed the stitches in Dad's tongue and said the biopsy was benign. So the bleeding tongue remains a mystery, but it's over. They keep telling Daddy he must have bitten his tongue, but I don't see how he could have bitten it in the middle like that.
I'll be in Dallas early November to work on that story for D. Till then, guess I'll call Dad more often.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

For the record

I was cleaning out my email today and came across the whole string of messages planning our get together in Dallas before Mother died. Rereading them, I was so touched by the love and thoughtfulness every one of us expressed. So, for no particular reason, I thought I'd post the whole lot of them here. Of course, chronologically they run from the bottom up.

    •    Travis Waddington
    •    mary brown malouf
    •    Helen Duran
    •    Helen Duran
    •    michael waddington
    •    David Waddington
    •    2 More...
Message flagged
Friday, August 24, 2012 12:18 PM

Wow! I just finshed reading all of the suggestions and proposed plans for the great visit. You have my opinion in regard to giving Gom-bu advanced warning of the gathering. Andrew's ordination may be just the ticket  as to a reason for an unusal event. I like the idea of brief visits on airport arrivals. Once she understands that everyone is here it will be easier to have a full group gathering without a meal but with wine and cheese.She will probably not be able orr even want to try leaving the apartment, but the rest of you cando it easily as you havwe in the past. Mary, I would hope you would be able to spend more than just one night here at the apartment. She eenjoys those visits very much. I don't think she will be very happy at the idea that this is a LAST visit sort of thing (even tho it probably willbe). She still knows nothing of these plans so try to keep it that way; but be prepared for last minutehappenings. Thanks to all of you for the great expressions  of love. We have a great family! Keep me posted of things as thjey develop.

From: Travis Waddington <>
To: mary brown malouf <>
Cc: mom and dad <>; Helen Duran <>; "" <>; Helen Duran <>; michael waddington <>; David Waddington <>; Susan Waddington <>; Britt. BBBrown <>
Sent: Thu, August 23, 2012 6:13:15 PM
Subject: Re: DFW logistics
I nominate Westglen for the late night gathering.

On Aug 23, 2012 5:29 PM, "mary brown malouf" <> wrote:
I totally agree, Travis. Some cheese, some champagne and everyone together for a brief, uncomfortable but very happy hour. I think Mother would be depressed at the idea that her health would prevent such a Family Gathering.
I'll plan on my fam having some time during Bro Steve's ordination. I know BB wants to get out to his dad's place and maybe Jim and Bev's, since they are planning to move out of their house soon and into the Edgemere. That could be his afternoon, and maybe Anna's too.
We could reconvene en masse sans Mom and Dad later one evening, like we get together post-dinner sometimes when I visit?
 Mary Brown Malouf
801-485-5100 x17 office
214-454-0433 cell

From: Travis Waddington <>
To: David Waddington <>
Cc: mary brown malouf <>; Helen Duran <>; Helen Duran <>; mom and dad <>; Susan Waddington <>; "" <>; michael waddington <>; Britt. BBBrown <>
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 4:08 PM
Subject: Re: DFW logistics
I will defer to the wisdom of my elders, of course, but here are my two cents.  We can't all fit in the apartment, it's too hot, the chairs are uncomfortable, and we can certainly be overwhelming en masse, but I feel like gathering together as a family at the apartment at some point should nonetheless be a top priority.  It doesn't have to be a meal if that's way too stressful, but I think we should at least have a glass of wine, maybe some cheese - maybe a cheese log and tiny rye bread, or something.  I think it should consist of enough time and activity to qualify as a Family Gathering.
As far as surprise goes, I think some forewarning is surely in order.  Adding my name to the known visitors list won't spoil the surprise too much - after all, I'll be there this weekend as well - and might help Gombu prepare for multiple visitors without giving away the extent of the visitation.  That might be enough...?
I will be arriving too late on Thursday to visit that night.  I can also be dispatched to pick people up at the airport, if that will help.

On Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 4:22 PM, David Waddington <> wrote:
Brother Stephen (Cousin Andrew) will be ordained into the priesthood Saturday morning at Cistercian. I assume DSTM&L will attend. (Anyone else is welcome, I'm sure!) That would be a great time for Mary's group to visit together.
Travis will probably arrive too late Thursday for a visit, can certainly swing by Friday morning with DM&L.
Susan posted these thoughts on the blog the other day: "Instead of thinking of the visits to Polly as a parade, think of the whole weekend as, to quote BB, "Christmas in September". It will be good for all of us to be together in various groupings. Perhaps we will have HQ at our house one day and at Helen & Will's another - sort of like waiting rooms at a hospital, where we can talk, eat, nap, or whatever, while small groups take turns visiting the apartment."

On Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 3:43 PM, mary brown malouf <> wrote:
I was thinking of a series of surprises. She knows Glen and I are coming in on Thursday.
Friday morning, Laura and Michael can come by on their way home from Love Field.
Friday noon I'll send Glen to pick up Anna at DFW. She can come by the apartment for awhile, then go to Michael's, who gets back to Dallas around 3.
BB comes in about Friday at 5 or something. Glen can pick him up at Love, then bring him by the apartment for awhile. He's going to stay the night at Michael's, too.
I think Travis gets in Thursday, too. He could come by that evening.
I think we need to set aside a very short time when we are all at the apartment at once. Just because I think Mother would like that sight. We don't have to eat or anything. So we should choose when that would be. Maybe an early evening and then we can all go eat or something.
I want some one-on-one with Mother, too. I'll probably spend one night at the apartment.
What else?
Mary Brown Malouf
801-485-5100 x17 office
214-454-0433 cell

From: Helen Duran <>
To: 'mary brown malouf' <>; David Waddington <>; Helen Duran <>
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 9:30 AM
Subject: RE: DFW logistics
I assume, Mary, that you mean logistics of info, visiting and eating primarily.
Dave and I talked to Dad the other night. He suggested that we tell Mom that the folks are coming only a few days before your arrival. If at all. He seemed to think it would be good to warn her. Of course, she knows about you and Glen.
Although, I think that if folks sort of trickle in on Thursday, Friday and Saturday instead of arriving en masse, we won’t overwhelm the apartment or Mom’s strength and continually delight.
Or Maybe we could reserve the apartment hospitality room for a day or evening just for the space? Or we could all sit on the floor in Mom’s room for a very short time or….We could use our house for a hospitality suite but it is pretty far away. I don’t think that Mom can leave the apartment, even for a meal.
 BTW Friday is the WWW Homecoming game and the Homecoming dance is Saturday. At this point, Anthony is planning on going, but that could change at any time.
Helen Duran
Nutrition Culinary Trainer
Coppell ISD

From: mary brown malouf []
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:11 AM
To: David Waddington; Helen Duran; Helen Duran
Subject: Re: DFW logistics
Hey guys,
Maybe we should discuss a little bit how this is going to work?
Mary Brown Malouf
801-485-5100 x17 office
214-454-0433 cell

From: David Waddington <>
To: Travis Waddington <>
Cc: Britt Brown <>; Laura Grother <>; Michael Waddington <>; mary brown malouf <>; Susan Waddington <>; Helen Duran <>
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 8:51 AM
Subject: Re: DFW logistics
Michael and Laura get in Friday morning,  leave early Monday.

On Aug 23, 2012 8:22 AM, "Travis Waddington" <> wrote:
I'm taking Friday and Monday off.  So I should arrive late Thursday evening and depart early Monday afternoon.

On Sat, Aug 18, 2012 at 6:23 PM, David Waddington <> wrote:
I'm taking Friday and Saturday off...

On Aug 18, 2012 6:21 PM, "mary brown malouf" <> wrote:
Bought Anna a ticket to day.
Mary Brown Malouf
801-485-5100 x17 office
214-454-0433 cell

From: Britt Brown <>
To: mary brown malouf <>
Cc: David Waddington <>; Michael Waddington <>; Laura Grother <>; Travis Waddington <>; Susan Waddington <>; Britt. BBBrown <>; Helen Duran <>
Sent: Saturday, August 18, 2012 3:25 PM
Subject: Re: DFW logistics
christmas in september!

On Sat, August 18, 2012 2:07 pm, mary brown malouf wrote:
> I'll find a ticket for Anna. 
> Mary Brown Malouf
> 801-485-5100 x17 office
> 214-454-0433 cell
> ________________________________
> From: David Waddington <>
> To: Michael Waddington <>
> Cc: Laura Grother <>; mary brown malouf
> <>; Travis Waddington <>;
> Susan Waddington <>; Britt. BBBrown
> <>; Helen Duran <>
> Sent: Saturday, August 18, 2012 1:22 PM
> Subject: Re: DFW logistics
> Yes!!!

> On Aug 18, 2012 2:20 PM, "Michael Waddington" <>
> wrote:
> Well, I can be there that weekend.  I think Laura can be there that
> weekend as well, though I should double check that with her.  I'm just
> waiting for someone to say out loud "Yes, everyone should be here," or
> "No, everyone should come in one by one."  In lieu of definitive
> declarations, I will start planning to come home for the weekend of the
> 8th and 9th.

>> On Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 9:30 PM, Helen Duran
>> <> wrote:
>> I think joy wins every time.
Sent from my iPad

>>>>> On Aug 17, 2012, at 1:49 PM, mary brown malouf <>
>>> wrote:
>>> I'd considered both things: that it would be great to have the entire
>>> family together, in which case I'll buy Anna a ticket.
>>>> And that it might wear Mother out.
>>>> I do think she's going to be worn out in any case.
>>>> And nothing makes her happier than the whole fam damily together.
>>>> But I'm not there, Dave, so I can't really make the call. Would joy
>>>> trump fatigue? xxoomm

>>>> Our flight:
>>>> Thursday, Sep 06 Arrive
>>>> Dallas, Texas
>>>> 6:55 PM
>>>> Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) | Terminal E
>>>> Tuesday, Sep 11 Depart
>>>>              Dallas, Texas
>>>> Frontier Airlines 659
>>>> Economy | Airbus A320
>>>> 650 mi | 1hr 57min
>>>> 10:30 AM
>>>> Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW)

>>>> BB's flight:
>>>> Fri Sep 07
>>>> 42
>>>> Depart Los Angeles(LAX)
> at 10:30 AM
>>>> Arrive in Dallas (Love Field)(DAL) at 05:30 PM
>>>> Mon Sep 10
>>>> 818
>>>> Depart Dallas (Love Field)(DAL) at 10:20 AM
>>>> Arrive in Los Angeles(LAX) at 12:50 PM 
>>>> Mary Brown Malouf
801-485-5100 x17
>>>> office
214-454-0433 cell

>>>> From: David Waddington <>
>>>> To: Travis Waddington <>
>>>> Cc: Michael Waddington <>; Susan Waddington
>>>> <>; mary brown malouf
>>>> <>
>>>> Sent: Friday, August 17, 2012 11:45 AM
>>>> Subject: Re: DFW logistics
>>>> Obviously the logical thing is for everyone to be together. I'd had
>>>> the thought that maybe the thing is to come at different times so
>>>> there could be more one on one time with Polly since she gets so
>>>> tired so quickly.
>>>> Another compelling event is that I received an invitation from
>>>> Brother Stephen to his ordination to the priesthood which will be
>>>> Saturday morning, Sept 8 which is the weekend everyone will be
>>>> here.
>>>> Which makes a compelling case for everyone being here at the same
>>>> time.

>>>> On Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM, Travis Waddington
>>>> <> wrote:
What weekend are Mary and Britt coming to town?  Is there any
>>>> chance Michael could make it to Dallas then as well?  I'll
>>>> certainly plan to be there, and it seems like that might be
>>>> appropriate.  What do you guys think?

6046 ROY ST
LA CA 90042

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Cross on a Shoestring

I needed some real tomatoes for work but the weather didn't cooperate.
Last week I finally found some at Lemley's.

When I ordered the tomatoes I reminded Farmer Lemley of my connection to Mom and Dad. He wanted to know how Mom was doing and I told him the news. I said I would be at the Market with Dad on Saturday and he said be sure to bring Dad by.

At the Market, Mr. Lemley came down to the sidewalk and gave Dad a big hug. Mrs. Lemley died 4 years ago. He assured Dad that their wives were still with them but that they were also in a better place. Only a man with that accent can say it so sincerely.

Then he pulled a cross out of his shirt and said "I have her cross on a shoestring. I wanted to wear the cross, but I can't wear a chain. I finally thought of her shoestring and I've been wearing it ever since."

Good idea.

63 Years

Monday was Mom and Dad's 63rd wedding anniversary.

Since Will's and my anniversary is close to theirs' we often celebrated together and I was very aware of the date and concerned about Dad's frame of mind. I just couldn't bear to think of him alone.

I had a short day at work on Monday so I made plans to go over to the apartment and help with thank you notes. I got there just as Dad was getting home from his doctor appointment. (Another strange moment: I had to use a key to get in. I'm not sure that I have ever been there when one of them was not home. Certainly not recently.)

We made decent progress on the notes but Dad had to go to the grocery store for basics and breakfast food. He rarely eats dinner at home lately, but was running thin on coffee and milk. So I, of course, invited him over for dinner. He went to CM and I went home to cook.

He came over, we ate dinner and were visiting, when Dad said, "Oh, it's our anniversary today! I've been writing 10/8 on things all day and I never realized it." He had forgotten completely. Is that a good thing? I don't know.

We also spoke about Mom's "things". Clothes, etc. He took a very practical view about it all. He suggested we take things to the Genesis Womens' Shelter. That Mom would approve.

Great idea, Dad, and a good anniversary gift for Mom.


When I talked to Dad the other day, he was waiting for Isabel, the young Latina who cleans his house, to come over, but he didn't know why. Her husband James had called and scheduled the visit. Dad was afraid maybe she wanted to quit or something. A raise?

Turns out, she just wanted to visit Dad, make sure he was alright, and say how sorry she was about Mother and how much she enjoyed working for them. A formal condolences visit.

Everything was communicated through James, of course, because Isabel doesn't speak English, but they reminisced about Mother. Isabel told how Mother had gone through the 80th birthday book with her and how they had learned to communicate with gestures. She asked about Mother and Daddy, how long they'd known each other and how long they were married.

They stayed an hour and a half, just visiting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Bloody Tongue, Part 2

I was alarmed by Mary's last post, Daddy's Bleeding Tongue and then lulled into a new sense of normalcy.

That's the way it's been with both Polly and Don and with Marilyn (Susan's mother) over the last several years. (I guess that's life with the super-old. Fragile illusions of normalcy punctuated by mystifying excursions into reality.)

So, I called to check-in Friday during my lunch hour. Dad answered the phone and sounded like he had four stitches in his tongue (which he did.)

"Hey Pops, how're ya doin?" I started optimistically.

"Hmm. Not 'tho goodth," he mumbled. Not a good omen. Dad NEVER admits to anything being amiss.

He told me that he thought a stitch had come loose in his tongue, that he was bleeding again, that he couldn't get a hold of the oral surgeon who had put in the stitches, and that he was getting ready to drive himself over to the Presbyterian Emergency Room.

"Hold on right there," I said. "I'm coming over to pick you up right now." He protested, saying he had driven himself while his tongue was bleeding at midnight Tuesday, but I said "NO, stay right there, I'm on my way." And I was.

His tongue bled steadily while we waited for treatment. It was a busy Friday afternoon in the ER. I got him a cup of ice, a box of kleenex and a cup in which to spit, all of which soon became a bloody mess, along with the front of his shirt. Dad was quite miserable and needless to say, soon became quite impatient.

We finally met Dr. Tran, a young man whom we really liked. He was honest about several things. Uncontrollable bleeding from the tongue is pretty unusual because the tongue usually heals quickly by itself. The cumedin (blood-thinner) was causing the problem. Dad's level was normal for him because of his animal replacement heart valve, but higher than for normal cardiac patients. Stitches are usually not used on the tongue because the tissue falls apart after several days and the stitches can fall out leaving a bigger hole. Coagulants have difficulty because they are made to work on a dry surface, like skin. The ever present and ever produced saliva in the mouth washes and dilutes.

Dr. T outlined several treament possibilities that he thought might have success and then left to consult with other doctors, including an ENT specialist and treat other patients. Because of Dad's history we were in the cardiac unit and it was obvious that there were a number of other patients whose condition was more critical. As Dad became more impatient, I suggested that on an episode of ER, the impatient tongue-bleeder would be the comic relief. He was mildly amused. At least we found the baseball playoffs on TV, but the Rangers' performance did not alleviate the tedium.

Finally Dr. Tran returned with a plan. He dried and compressed the tongue with gauze, then poured liquid Thrombin over the opening and then applied a piece of Surgiseal over the Thrombin and compressed. After serveral treatments, the bleeding slowed. After a few more, the bleeding stopped!

Now it was time for more waiting to see if the tenuous scab remained in place. Which it did.

Dr. Tran wanted Dad to stay in the hospital overnight for observation in case the scab came loose, but Dad would have none of it. He is still bothered by bed-sores from his heart surgery last summer and he had a full schedule planned for Saturday starting at the church at 8:30 the following morning. So around 9pm, we walked out into a chilly Friday evening. A cold front had dropped temperatures 30 degrees during the 7 hours we were in the ER.

Dad was put on a smooth liquid diet so food wouldn't dislodge the scab, so I wanted to go by Central Market and get him some soups so he'd have something to eat. Dad objected, saying he had some canned soup and would be seeing Helen the next day at the Farmer's Market Cooking Classes and for a minute I went along with him. But as we passed the turn, I turned to him and said, "Sorry, but I'm going to get you some soup!"

"Oh, no. You've spent too much time with me already, you need to get home." (He used Mom's arguments like a seasoned pro.)

"This has got nothin' to do with you," I told him. "My sister Mary would absolutely kill me if I didn't go to Central Market and get you some of their homemade style soups." (I placed Mary in Mom's position.)

"Okay," he said. "I see your point."

We walked into CM and he headed over to the Dinners for Two. "Country Ham with Macaroni and Cheese," he said. "That would be good."

"When are you going to eat that?" I asked. "That's not liquid."


After we selected some cold soups, he walked over to the hot soups and started to fill a container with Tortilla Soup. "This will be good for tonight," he said as he reached for a container to fill with chips and cheese.

"No, no, no, you can't eat the chips, they're not liquid!"

"I'll pour the hot broth over them and let them get real soft..." he replied.

"Oh, okay."

We drove to his apartment.

The next morning I texted Helen and asked how Dad was doing and reminded her he was on a liquid diet. "He's okay, sort of," she replied. "He's chewing his food real fine."

"Yes, but chewing and abrading is the problem. His food needs to be liquid in the mouth not the stomach!"

Good grief!

Dad was OK though and was in good spirits when I saw him at church on Sunday. With the cold weather he was back in coat and tie and looked and moved like he felt great. Once again he said he was annoyed that he couldn't listen to the organ postlude because of all the people standing in line to greet him after the service, but I didn't believe him for a minute. He was in his element.

The phone rang about midnight. It was Dad. The bleeding had started again and he was heading to the ER, did I want to meet him there?

I did. He was finishing up in triage when I arrived and I got him a cup of ice and some tissues. By the time we were called back to the room, the bleeding had stopped. We still went through the check in process and saw the doctor, but were soon dismissed. They came into to complete the registration just after Dad received his discharge papers. We were out of there by 2:30am.

Dad had another busy day today (Monday.) Echocardiagram, followed by his workout (I think) and I forget what else. Too busy for me. I slept 'til noon.


Am I obsessing? Or just not ostriching?

As soon as I wake up, I remember Mother is dead and then I don't stop thinking about her all day. I can't seem to think clearly, I keep forgetting stuff and I don't feel like doing anything. I cry at almost anything.

I'm such a goon, I Googled stages of grief. Then I Googled "sadness." And I realize that's it. Just pure sadness. I don't remember ever feeling it before when it wasn't mixed with anger, regret, remorse and a whole narrative of what-ifs. I don't remember ever feeling it before when I didn't believe there was some kind of solution, or would be some kind of ending to the sadness.

Mother had a beautiful, even inspirational death. Before she died she came to terms with herself and said the things she wanted to say to people. She lived a long, full life.

So I'm not angry. She wasn't "taken from us too soon." I didn't have unfinished business with her. Over the years she and I had finally been frank with each other about pretty much everything.

But I feel like something's been amputated. I feel like part of my brain is gone. Something's closed which was open.

Besides missing Mother and talking to her nearly every day, somehow, I miss whole chunks of stuff. I miss Granny and Pappy and Atlanta. I miss Druid Hills High School and Randolph-Macon. I miss Waupaca and  nonsense poetry. All this stuff that was attached to Mother and became part of my memory and now it's all finished.

Maybe it's because I have no memories of Mother in the place where I live that I have this cut off, isolated feeling.  Or maybe it's the same for Dave and Helen and Dad. I can't stand to think about that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dad's bleeding tongue

So I'm trying not to call Daddy every day. I don't want him to think I'm breathing down his neck.

But I did call today and he told me about his visit to the emergency room night before last. He woke up with his mouth full of blood, couldn't get it to stop and ended up going to the hospital where no one knew what the deal was. They stopped the bleeding and sent him home with the suggestion he see an ENT guy. But the next day he had an appointment with Ed Crowe Miller anyway, so he asked him about it, and Ed said he should see an oral surgeon and sent him downstairs to see one immediately. Of course, the guy graduated from Emory.

Anyway, no one ever figured out what caused the bleeding, but the doc took a biopsy and now Dad has four stitches in the middle of his tongue.

He sounded pretty chipper anyway and he'll go back in two weeks for the biopsy results and to get the stitches out.

He said he had no evening plans this week. I think I'll call him tomorrow, too.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Polly and Dorothy

So I'm finally siting down to write some thank-yous to people who were especially comforting or helpful or thoughtful during this sad month. Here's a note from Beverly, Michael's sister, that came when I got home to SLC which I wanted to share:

"I had only a few occasions to be around Polly, but they were so memorable and she made a big impression on me–I always felt welcomed, and cared for, and that she really knew I was there despite the full room. There was one Christmas when I was at our family's home and it was a big crowd–even though I knew everyone I was feeling a bit awkward and was by myself (I can't remember why!) and maybe was feeling a little sad. Your mother came up to me and said, "Come with me!" and she grabbed a book off a shelf, thumbed to a page and said, "Read this." It was the Maid-servant at the Inn by Dorothy Parker.
It was a wonderful moment. The poem was touching and your mom was so sensitive and observant to make a connection with me. I can feel it like it was yesterday–it's my Christmas ritual–I read it by myself and your mom introduced me to one of my favorite writers that I would enjoy for years to come.
I can only imagine how lovely and lucky it would be to spend more time with her. I have a feeling it was an ordinary moment for her and how she lived her life. She seemed to live fully and she enjoyed the things in life that really matter–family & friends, good food, good literature and more. (And she taught me that liberal politics and gracious living are not incompatible.)
Your mom was a very special person and I'm happy I got to know her, even just a little. She inhabits a place in my heart and that's how we live on–I hope she and Dorothy are having a good laugh.
Love, Beverly

Here's the poem:  

The Maid-Servant At The Inn

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You'd know he was his mother's son.

"It's queer that I should see them so-
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I've prayed that all is well with them."

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I got home Friday evening and immediately invited three people to dinner for last night. Close friends–Louise and Harrison you met at my last wedding, Rebecca is our friend who lived in Florence. I spent yesterday buying wine, buying food at the Farmers Market, smoking trout, baking bread, making a complicated dish of corn kernels and caramelized onions. 

Everyone came over, everyone offered sincere condolences. Darling Harrison, unasked, brought a trumpet and played "Taps" in honor of Polly, with whom he'd corresponded a couple times since they met. We ate dinner (it was fabulous, yay me.)

And then I all of a sudden left the room, went upstairs and got into the daybed that used to be in the living room at Mother and Daddy's house. I didn't even think about it, I didn't tell anyone goodbye, I just collapsed. Glen came up to see what was up and then went down to make apologies. 

This morning I feel a little embarrassed, but I also realize that it's the first time I've let go since I got to Dallas for Mother's farewell party. There has always been something to do, or to take care of, whether it was taking care of Mother or Daddy or guests or whatever. Food. Jewelry. Notecards. Post-its. Phone calls.

I slept in the bed next to Mother's every night the last two weeks of her life. The lamp by her bed was always on, all night. Ardis and Diana would try turning it off, but Mother would get restless immediately, so finally we just left it on, right in her face. 
I woke up whenever the nurse came in to give her meds, change her diaper, reposition her. I woke up other times just to make sure her little chest was still going up and down. I lay down on the bed after she died, after David and Helen had left, and looked at her awhile to make sure she was dead. I watched them lift her body on the board and put it onto the gurney. I watched them zip the body bag over her face.

So last night, I finally fell asleep with the light on right in my face.  I kept waking up disoriented, thinking I was in her room.

I think about Mother every minute.It's not like remembering, it's like she's in my body or in my consciousness. I think about David and Helen and that it must be like that for them, too, and I think about Daddy and how it must be even worse for him.

I just realized today that instead of everything being over, a whole new thing is just beginning that's going to be much harder, because I can't do anything about it. I can only go through it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A whole new place

Everyone has gone home and back to work now. The flurry of embraces and greetings and visiting and drinking and eating with long lost family and friends has settled down. I leave in an hour, and Daddy will try to get back in his routine–PrimeTimers today, Farmers Market tomorrow, church on Sunday, Sevy's on Monday…

Like everyone who has heard the news of Mother's death, Isabel cried when when she came to clean house this morning. It doesn't surprise me but it continues to amaze me how many people's lives Mother touched so deeply. From Joe who delivers the dry cleaning to Father Huddleston who delivered the homily at her memorial service, her loss has brought everyone to tears.

And her absence leaves a gaping hole in this apartment. I'm so glad Daddy has a full calendar.

This blog will continue, but we've reached the end of one chapter. I just want to say thanks to my sibs for keeping me in touch with Mother's condition, helping me feel I was not so far away. I love you so much!

And I want to say thanks to the people at Faith Hospice, our guides and counsellors during this sad time. Jeanne-Aimee, Mother's primary nurse, brought comfort every time she visited. A remarkably patient listener, she heard all our anecdotes and answered all our questions fully and directly and with compassion. Ardis was our rock, steadily attending Mother while hordes of friends and relatives came and went and laughed and cried and drank champagne. We all leaned on his intelligence and his perspective on Mother's changing condition. At times throughout the days, each of us would stop by his usual place at the dining room table for a personal conference and hour by hour prognosis. Diana, the night nurse, was expert and loving. Both these people became members of our family instantly, and seemed to love Mother's quirks, bossiness and high standards as much as her kindness.

Jeanne-Aimee, Ardis and, to me, especially, Diana, became our guides through the process of dying, which I knew nothing about, and didn't even recognize as a process until they taught me that the human body goes through a series of changes when dying as it does when giving birth.

On Mother's last night, this knowledge and guidance allowed her death to be as serene as it could possibly be. Diana was able to notice each tiny change in Mother's respiration and color, and very quietly coached us so we were all around her, holding her hands and talking to her and stroking and kissing her face, when she breathed her last. It was as good a death as there can be, and exactly the way Mother had wanted, and planned, for it to be.

Once again, she taught us all the best way to do something.

I'm at the airport now and when I come back, Texas will be a whole different place.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Family - Together

Dad early on
Mom Early On

A Toast
More Toasts

Hear, Hear!


Memorial Service for Polly

The memorial schedule for Polly has been scheduled for Wednesday, Sept 19 at 1 pm in the sanctuary of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 8011 Douglas, Dallas, 75225.

Music has always been a large part of our family. Polly and Don have long been season ticket holders of the Dallas Symphony and have been big supporters of organ music. In her notes concerning this service, Polly requested a performance of Cesar Franck's Prelude, Fugue and Variation and James Diaz has agreed to meet her wishes. The Prelude will be begin approximately 10 minutes before the service.

Services at Saint Michael are usually followed by a magnificent organ postlude. Mother was frequently heard to mutter under breath amid the rising din of conversation, "This is not background music..." In accordance with her wishes the congregation will be asked to remain silent and in place while Mr. Diaz performs Louis Vierne's Finale from his Sixth Symphony. 

 A reception will follow immediately in the parlor and garden cloister.

Don listens to the organ at Saint Michael.

Sad day for Dallas dining

Nancy Nichols posted this on D magazine's Side Dish blog this morning. Here's the link:
Sad Loss for Dallas Dining

Polly at the Original Matt's Rancho Martinez


I suggest that we paste various reflections and remembrances here. They can be taken from emails, Facebook postings, letters, anecdotes or wherever they are found. Readers should start with the comment from "Life so Far..." on the post "A Sad Morning." - dw

Most people who would see my Facebook post have already read this at least once. Polly was remarkably beautiful, intelligent, witty, wise, and loving - the matriarch of a family that includes, due to her generous world view, many not-necessarily-related-by-blood-or-marriage members. I am so grateful to be be part of Polly's family.

Nancy Nichols Sweet Polly. My second mom and traveling buddy Love to all Waddingtons.

Deborah Lindsay  Sending a Heart Embrace to you...and all of those you love. Your Mother: intelligent, wry, happy, inventive, educated, life-loving, interesting, real and whole; a woman whose world was large and beautiful...who made the world larger and more beautiful for others!

The outpouring of kind words, thoughts and prayers, food and even tree plantings has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated by our Family. My mother in law was a special person, smart, elegant, with a love of nature and mankind. She even donated her body to science so the cancer that took her life could be studied and the knowledge obtained used to save the lives of others. I am greatly inspired by her and will miss her dearly...
I just realized I probably used greatly too many times and she would have corrected me : )

Doric E. Earle  We will miss Polly's elegance, charm and wit. So glad she was surrounded by the family. We need to help Don be strong. 
All our love. We are here for Helen and you and the family.

The love with which your mother nourished us, and the example of her graciousness, make it easy to believe that she is closer to us now than ever before.

Jeremy Gregg Such lives give more than death can ever take away -- may her love remain forever a bright light in your heart and in all of our lives!

Marian Bogan-Bebeau  Love to you all and so happy you can all be together to celebrate one of the most beautiful ladies we have had the pleasure to know. What a woman....let us know what is needed when...prayers to you all!

Kim Pierce  It is so hard to lose a parent, becomes a time of reflection on our our mortality. Bravo to your family for helping to make your mother's transition a peaceful one surrounded by those she loved and who loved her.

Don Schanche
Sep 15 (2 days ago)
to me

Dear David,
My condolences, cousin.
A tough transition. So much must be going on.
I've always liked this passage from the Book of Common Prayer:

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world lies hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

Thinking of you all with love,

Dearest friends,

I am so sad to learn of Polly's passing.  On the few occasions on which I was privileged to meet her, I was struck by her wit and her charm.  These characteristics and, I'm sure, many more are brilliantly reflected in the fine people she helped bring up.  Among these people are you all, folks who I am proud and grateful to count among my closest friends.  Although I'm not a member of your family, I grieve with you all at the loss, at once, of a matriarch and a loving mother and grandmother.  I ardently hope that you find comfort in the midst of your mourning and that you can derive from your memories of Gombu the strength to persevere in the spirit of vim and vigor that she helped to instill.  I love you guys, I miss you guys, and I'll be thinking of you all especially during the upcoming days.  If there's anything at all that I can do to be of help to you, or to any member of your family, please don't hesitate for a moment to let me know.  Jessie and I wish for all of you the peace that we found in the days after my grandfather's passing, almost two years ago now.  It was a peace premised on the knowledge of the great richness of the life that he lived and the confidence that he died where he was happiest in life - surrounded by his family.  It seems to me that much the same can be said of Polly's life and of her passing and for this, amidst all the pain, we can be grateful.  Please relay my condolences to the rest of your family, especially your Dad, your mom, and your Aunt Mary.

All my love,

From: <>
Date: September 15, 2012 3:14:53 PM CDT
To: <>
Subject: Polly Tree
Planted and dedicated September 15th by Doric and Aidan Earle. 607 N Buckner Dallas

As you all may know my sweet grandmother, Gombu, passed away this previous weekend on a saturday morning. She was a very, very special lady to me and many other people. I just want to thank everyone for their support. The comforting, sweet, comments and thoughts have meant the world to my family and myself.

I greatly appreciate it and it warms my heart greatly! She will be missed! ♥
Unlike ·  ·  · 36 minutes ago · 
Sara Malowanczyk Anna, I just heard about this from my mom the other day. My condolences go out to you and your whole family. Polly was a great woman and I will miss spending thanksgivings with all of you.

From Scott Malouf: 

We are thinking of you and your family, and very saddened by your Mom's passing. What an amazing life, and a woman so extraordinary to bring into the world, nurture, love and preside over a beautiful family. Please share our thoughts and sympathies to everyone. Have lots of hugs and food!
I really wish I had some insight to share about the passing of a beloved Mom, something that would make it understandable or consoling. All I can I say is after 25 years of losing Mom, the tears well at thought of her. I do know that it is normal.
What a great gift in life to have a Mom whe genuinely loves us, and champions us. Who else does that? You are truly blessed.
You know I think the world of you, and always cherish the times we have shared, and I am so sorry that I can't just give you a big, tearful hug right now!
I know you will pass many moments of her love for you, her lessons to you, her encouragement to you to our precious Anna and B.

  • David,

    I just wanted to pass on my personal sympathies for Polly's death.I don't remember meeting her, but I do remember several conversations we had over the years on the phone. While I can't recall any specifics, I can recall her voice and how excited she always was to hear about what I was doing and how I was. Dad has also told me a ton of stories about the family, and Polly specifically. She seemed to me to be an ideal mother, and was certainly an ideal Aunt to Dad. I'm glad he was able to travel down to be with you all, and I hope that this finds you all well. Please pass on my love and sympathy to everyone, and may Polly's memory live ever warmly in your hearts.

    I hope to see you all very soon.