Come to think of it…

May 13th, 2019

Day 18 at Nyel’s St. Vincent bedside.

I’ve been thinking of all the Portland connections in my life and am somewhat amazed to realize that there are so many.  And, that they go back very, very far, indeed.

As far as I know, it was my great-great grandfather Delos Jefferson (R.H. Espy’s father-in-law) who was my earliest forebear to arrive in Portland.  He and his wife, Matilda Apperson Jefferson arrived in 1848, three years before Portland was officially named.  Delos had been born at Machias, a frontier  village in Cattaraugus Co., New York, April 15, 1824. H 1835 he removed with his parents to Huron Co., Ohio, and in 1846 and 1847 he was enrolled in the preparatory department of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. He and Matilda left for the west coast in 1847, spending that winter at Fort Hall, Idaho and reaching Oregon next spring.  He taught music for a time in Portland, then moved to the Salem area where he took up farming.

Portland Cousin Barbara Espy Williams in Oysterville, 1950

Over the years, many of Delos and Matilda’s descendants settled in the Portland area, including their  granddaughter Dora (my grandfather’s oldest sister) who married King Wilson.  King became the first mayor of Lake Oswego; they had three children. Dora’s youngest brother, Cecil Jefferson Espy became a banker here and he and his wife Ruth Davis had four children..   My grandmother’s sister, Ruth Richardson, married hotel keeper Herman Alfred [Von] Hagedorn and they had one daughter.  The “Portland Cousins” and the “Oysterville Cousins” of my mother’s generation visited back and forth regularly.

In addition to visiting family in Portland, this was the go-to center for business dealings from the time that R.H. Espy founded Oysterville in 1854.  Although Portland “wasn’t much” in those days, it had more to offer than Oysterville which was, after all, the seat of Pacific County and by far the most important settlement on  Willapa Bay.  If an attorney or a banking transaction was needed and getting to San Francisco was too time-consuming, Portland was the to-go place.

St. Helen’s Hall, c. 1895

Although I was born in Boston, by the time I was three my folks and I had moved to Portland.  We lived on College Avenue.  I remember that when my mother’s best friend Gyla Cannon came to visit, she’d have her husband Ding drop her off at the bottom of the hill and she would walk up.  She thought it was too steep for driving.  My dad worked at Montgomery Ward and I began school at St. Helen’s Hall and had all those childhood ailments — measles, mumps and chicken pox — right here in Portland.

We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the summer of 1941 when my father was made General Merchandising Manager for Ward’s Catalogue Order Department, headquartered in Oakland.  For the next thirty-five years, through the college years and the early marriage years and beginning career years, Portland was always the place to “lay over” on the way to and from Oysterville.  When I moved north it became the place to go serious shopping and, later, the center for serious doctoring.

Nyel, Today

It is hard to believe that, at this stage of my life, it is the hospitals of the Portland area that I know best.  Come to think of it… maybe it’s not so strange after all.



The Comfort Zone

May 12th, 2019

On A Scale of One to Ten

Well… it it ain’t one damned thing… Yesterday, Nyel spent the day in agony.  Not hip pain.  Belly pain! And, if you’ve been following along (bless you!) that’s what got us here in the first place.  Two months of pain meds for the hip repair equalled serious constipation despite all meds and efforts to the contrary.  Finally, in desperation, he went to the ER where an X-ray of the belly revealed that screw that had worked its way from the hip hardware through the bone… and he is still at St. Vincent’s in Portland seventeen days later.

Gradually, things are getting better.  As the Doctor-of-the-Day said to Nyel this morning, “Well, you’ve made it through.”  A little disconcerting to hear, in a way, but encouraging, too.  However, everyday brings something new.  Like yesterday’s pain.  Today, the pain is better although the problem has not been resolved, but his blood pressure plummeted to 72 over 39.  Scary.  It’s on it’s way up as we speak, thanks to IV liquids and holding off on his diuretics.  Another “balancing act” on the tightrope to stability.

I, on the other hand, have been leading the Life of Riley.  I have been staying at the Providence Guest House just across Barnes Road — a reasonably-priced, bare bones sort of motel.  There’s a microwave in which I can zap my evening meal and a TV upon which I have discovered an oldies-but-goodies channel.  Last night it was mac’n’cheese and three or four episodes of “Hazel.”(Remember Shirley Booth and that early 19e60s sitcom?).  Talk about an evening of complete (well, almost) relaxation.  Pretty close to  ‘Comfort Zone Heaven’!  Now, if we can just bust Nyel outta here…

Twenty-four Hours of Glorious Gallimaufry

May 11th, 2019

After almost 50 years — a new mattress!

I was gone from St. Vincent’s for just over twenty-four hours — five or six spent driving, seven or eight spent sleeping, and the rest spent in a wonderful hodge-podge of people and events and life-outside-the-hospital things.  The only downside was that Nyel wasn’t with me.  On the other hand, ‘they’ are making noises about discharging him soon — maybe early next week.  To a rehab situation.

Happy Mother’s Day from Marta!

My first stop was at Adelaide’s where I had a much-postponed coffee date with my friend Ruth.  It took us an hour and a half to catch up with medical news (both of us), children news (both), moving news (Ruth), and silliness (mostly me.)  Then I beat feet home to get ready for one o’clock delivery of a new mattress and box springs, ordered for our bed by Nyel weeks before this hospital stay.

Looking for Farmer Nyel

The deliverymen called at twelve-ten.  Could they come early?  You bet!  They were intrigued with the house and even admired our old mattress with its built-in ‘handles’ for moving it around.  “This is a collector’s item!” said the older of the two  “We may just display it in our store window.”  That made me chuckle.

Ice Cream

My folks got that mattress in 1971 from Sears — had to have the antique bed lengthened by four inches to accommodate the “new, longer” mattress size.  Our replacement  (which, sadly, I had to sleep on last night without Nyel) is actually an inch or so shorter than that old Sears number.  But, oh! so firm and fully packed (to borrow from an old Lucky Strike jingle).  I slept like the proverbial log.

Ready for Memorial Day

And… on to Friday Night.  Quite a crowd of “regulars” came to exchange the latest guzz’n’gossip and to talk about the unseasonably warm weather.  As if on cue, in came Sandra with a big bowlful of ice cream cups in many flavors!  Perfect!  Diane talked about Memorial Day Plans — she hoped Nyel would be back to read “In Flanders Fields” as usual, but if not, would I?

Patient Nyel

This morning Tucker and Del got the cannon out of the garage and put it on its new cement pad — a replacement for the one that was broken last fall during our dreaded Septic System Upgrade.  Then, I headed back to St. Vincent’s.  But first, a short stop in Ilwaco at the Heritage Museum to wish Don and Marge Cox a Happy 75th Anniversary!  Wow!  Talk about Role Models!

I had lots to report to Farmer Nyel  or, depending on his hat of the moment, General Nyel.  Actually, when I got here, he had on a shampoo cap —  I guess he was being Patient Nyel.   Not really a look to perpetuate — especially not at a hospital!




Season’s Greetings from Capt. Scarborough!

May 10th, 2019

Hawthorn in Nahcotta

For the second time this week, I nipped home to take care of a few items of business.  Nyel seemed in the best fettle yet when I left him and several telephone calls since then reveal that he is having a good day!  Yay!

The Peninsula greeted me in all its glory — ablaze with blossoms and colors and, best of all, stately Hawthorne trees all in full bloom.  From Chinook to Oysterville those lovely giants smiled at me and wished me well.  I felt that Captain James A. Scarborough, himself, was saluting me all along my way!

Scarborough was an Englishman – born in 1805 in Ilford, County Essex.  When he was twenty-four, he joined the Hudson Bay Company and first crossed the Columbia River bar aboard the Isabella in May 1830.  He worked for Hudson Bay Company for the next twenty years and, despite reports that his men did not respect him and that he was overly fond of demon rum, he received frequent promotions.

Captain James A. Scarborough

When he was thirty-eight he married Ann Elizabeth, a Chinook woman, and together they established a farm on Chinook Point where Chief Comcomly and his six wives had once lived.  The area became known as Scarboro Hill.   When Congress enacted the Donation Land Law in 1850, James and Ann filed for the land they had been living and working on.  They ended up with 643 acres extending about a mile along the north bank of the river and including all of Chinook Point and most of Scarboro Hill.

Having put in his twenty years for HBC, he retired (or was dismissed, according to some reports), moved permanently to his land claim and, until his  untimely death, devoted himself to farming, commercial salmon fishing, and piloting mail steamers over the Columbia River Bar.  Scarborough’s farm prospered.  He was fond of plants and set out many fruit trees as well as other ornamental and useful trees and shrubs.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – NE Corner of Our Garden

Scarborough died in 1855 (two years after his wife’s demise) under somewhat  mysterious circumstances — there were rumors of poison.  There was also talk of a stash of gold ingots, supposedly buried on Scarboro Hill.  The treasure has never been found but, unbeknownst to most, the captain left behind enduring riches of another sort.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – SE Corner of Our Garden

About 1848, even before he was living there full time, Scarborough planted a Hawthorn tree on the slopes of his hill.  According to all accounts, it was an absolutely magnificent specimen and, for almost half a century, it was used as a local landmark and navigation guide. When in 1897, in preparation for the establishment of Fort Columbia the following year, the Army cut down the tree, there was a public outcry that could be heard throughout Pacific County and even across the river.

Locals flocked to Scarboro Hill, took slips from the tree, and many resultant Hawthorns still thrive throughout the area, including two ‘grandchildren’ at our house. Nyel planted them  ten years or so ago, started from from one of those original “slips” that had become a giant in our front yard, only to blow down in the storm of 2007.  I am happy to report that the “grandchildren” of Captain Scarborough’s tree are thriving!



Getting My Irish Up as in Trying Not To

May 9th, 2019

I grew up thinking I was “Scotch, Irish, and English.”  Later I learned that scotch was something to imbibe and “Scottish” was perhaps a better choice of words.  Still later I learned that the Irish part was wrong, too.  When I visited Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, I not only found my “Irish” Little relatives, but was told in no uncertain terms that we were English, not Irish.

I don’t know about the Espy side — they, too, were from Northern Ireland and they, too, had arrived there from England during one of the potato famines of the 18th or 19th centuries.  As far as I can tell, they (like my Little forebears) were there for several generations but whether or not that qualified them as “Irish” I don’t know.  And, I don’t know if, perhaps, marrying a thoroughly vetted Irish colleen or perhaps an Irish crofter would count for anything.  I have the feeling that if you had a drop of English blood, you were never to be considered Irish.

It reminds me of the story a young man from Naselle told me.  His parents had moved there when he and his siblings were little.  After fifteen or twenty years, his mother asked an old-timer how long she and  her family would be considered “newcomers.”  After considerable thought, the answer was:  “Until the last person who remembers when you came here is dead.”

All of this flashed through my mind a bit when a caregiver came into Nyel’s room and said she wanted to talk to me about getting Nyel out of here — not this week, of course, but next.  She said that they would not consider sending him home yet (with which we heartily concur) but they were also not much in favor of sending him back to a small rehab place “on the coast.”  She went on to say, “We did that last time and, yet, here he is again!”  To say I was instantly furious is an understatement beyond comprehension.

My Irish was definitely up.  “That certainly wasn’t the fault of the facility where we were,” I said.  “That can be attributed directly to the care Nyel received, or actually, didn’t receive here in the first place.  Have you read his chart?”  I really wonder if I didn’t say all that with a very thick Irish brogue…  She backed down immediately.

I also said that I thought it was paramount to Nyel’s healing that I be nearby and that we also need to have our wonderful community to give him support.  She did not argue.  I assured her that we could get him back and forth to see the doctors here, as needed.  Perhaps she was convinced.

Our first choice is the swing bed situation at Ocean Beach Hospital.  We have our fingers crossed.  She said they had been trying to get another patient admitted there (Really!!  Who??? — but I knew better than to ask.) and, thus far, there was no availability.

“It’s early days yet,” I said.  “Perhaps something will open up.”

“Perhaps,” she said.  “If they will take him.”

“D’fheidhmigh siad go maith níos fearr!” say I!

Chickens and Lilacs and Rhodies, Oh My!

May 8th, 2019


I nipped home yesterday afternoon to get the mail, pay some bills, deliver some book orders and get a change or two of clothes — all those itemss that go on hold when things get dicey.   But Nyel was in a good place — pain under control, appetite returning, and most of those pesky numbers looking better.  So, off I went!

So fragrant!

I was greeted in fine style!  The Jean Maries are out in all their glory — as well as the Mrs. G.W. Leaks.  Our lilacs are lucious and even the fuschias are blooming!  I know they are showing off in hopes that Nyel will come home before their glory days have passed.

Our Front Porch!

But, most amazing of all, was the welcome from all five girls.  No sooner was I in the house, than I heard them on our front porch.  Right up to the front door came the little red hen!  I’m sure they were a bit disappointed to find that it was only me — no Farmer Nyel in sight.  Nevertheless, they stuck around for some scratch and listened attentively to my report of things in the big hospital coop in Portland.

Glorious, Glorious May!

In the evening, after a super dinner at the Wachsmuths’, Carol walked across the street with me to “tuck in the girls.”  They left five beautiful eggs in the nest boxes and rustled around on their perches as we said goodnight.  In true farmer fashion, Carol made a a pouch of her sweater and nestled the eggs in it for her walk home.  How lucky we (and the chickens!) are to have such willing neighbors!!



Speaking of Leg Muscles…

May 7th, 2019

Pump Organ at the Oysterville Church

Right now, Patient Nyel is working hard on regaining muscle strength in his legs — enough so he can stand or, actually, learn how to stand with one leg four inches shorter than the other and no left hip joint at all.  It promises to be a long, difficult process.  And painful to the max.  So far, though, he is determined  — to the point that when Carol Wachsmuth mentioned yesterday that she was desperately looking for an organist or two for vespers, Nyel said:  “The first thing we need is a carpenter.”

“Say what???” was my response.

“To build up the left pedal on the pump organ so I can pump it.”

“Yes, that will be very helpful,” said I.  “But there’s the small matter of you not being able to play the organ.  Or the piano, for that matter  Nor do you know how to read music.”

A Sign of Summer

“Oh that!” was Patient Nyel’s response.  “Damn!”

The truth is that we very much do need an organist or two (or even a pianist at this point) who can donate a few Sunday afternoons during the summer to play at the Oysterville Music Vespers.  Suzanne Knutzen, Diane Buttrell, and Sandy Nielsen, bless their hearts, have signed up for more than half the twelve Sundays but Carol is hard pressed to find another volunteer or two.

Their responsibilities would be to play the prelude and postlude for our three to four o’clock Sunday services and accompany the congregational singing for two or three hymns.  Vespers begin on Father’s Day, June 17th, and continue every Sunday through Labor Day Weekend.  If you are reading this and can help out, (or know of someone who might), please contact Carol Wachsmuth at 1-503-349-0340 or

Ins and Outs, Up and Downs

May 6th, 2019

Farmer Nyel – A Few Summers Ago

I was deep asleep in a real bed at the Providence Guest Inn last night when my cell phone rang.  1:26 the readout said.  The doctor on duty said she thought I should know that Nyel was experiencing some serious, unexplained bleeding…

Fifteen minutes and I was in his room.  They (four of them)were re-wrapping the “wound-site” (read: where his surgery had taken place a week ago), the bleeding had stopped, his vital signs looked good, they were working on pain control, and they were continuing to evaluate.  Nyel said I’d missed the “big show” — said there were a great many people in his room for a while.  He, of course, asked the doctor not to call me.  I’m so grateful she did (and, Nyel said with a big smile, “So am I.”)

Basking Nyel — A Summer or So Ago

“They just gave you a unit of blood earlier today,” I reminded him.  “Guess I didn’t really want it,” was his response.  The tension in the room dissipated somewhat…

Nyel slept for an hour or two.  So did I.  The cardio-mem technician came and got a reading on his heart pressures.  The ultrasound technician brought his portable machine and took a reading. Or a picture or whatever. As we speak ,the wound-specialist team is here looking and evaluating.  A surgeon (the one that did his first surgery in March) will come in when he can (between other surgeries) to weigh in.

For my part — lots of watching, listening, waiting.  Nyel is tired, dozes when he can, and is generally stoic, as always.  We both thank all of our “followers” for their interest and good thoughts and I, especially, apologize for not being in touch with each of you, individually.   Your concern and your messages have been a wonderful solace through all of this.


Coming to Consensus

May 5th, 2019

They say “too many cooks spoil the broth.”  We hope to hell #1 that 20+ doctors are not too many and #2 that hospitals and kitchens are in no way comparable.  Now that Nyel’s care is being fine-tuned for possible discharge, we are eagerr for all of his caregiving teams to agree on next steps.

In general, everyone wants him back on the dosages and protocols that he was following before coming into the hospital.  But, of course, his body has undergone changes — loss of bone (and height!), increased degrees of heart failure and kidney dysfunction, etc. etc.  In addition, his blood pressure is not coming up as “they would want” and how to address that problem is one of many other “details” under discussion.

At best it is nuts-making.  At worst it is terrifying.  Who to listen to?  Who to believe?  Is it the doctor with the charming bedside manner who is most interested in Nyel’s comfort?  Is it the doctor who judges everything by the numbers (and believe me, there are dozens of them that they look at before and after every bit of input, output and putt-putt!)  Or is it the doctor who seems to feel experimental — sort of the do-this-and-wait-and-see approach?

And, of course, there is the most basic of all considerations — how does Nyel feel?  Today — not so good.  Not nearly as well as he felt yesterday.  Again, everyone weighs in with a different idea as to why.  Fortunately, opinions are somewhat limited as it’s Sunday and there don’t seem to be as many doctors on duty.  Or maybe they are out celebrating Cinco de Mayo.    I surely wish we were!

Sitting Up and Taking Nourishment

May 4th, 2019


In the “olden” days, before telemetry monitors and pulse oximeters and other space-age advances, we judged a patient’s progress by more mundane measures.  I remember my grandmother’s cool hand on my forehead as she checked me for fever after a bout with measles or chicken pox or some other childhood ailment.  Were she here today, she would report that Nyel “is sitting up and taking nourishment.”  Translation: he’s taken a turn for the better!  Yay!

Pillow Talk?

Not only is he eating everything on his tray, but a few hours ago he ordered a snack because he “felt a little peckish.”  By the time I arrived this morning at 6:30, he had eaten a hard boiled egg, a fruit cup, cottage cheese and half a muffin.  Just now, scarcely two hours later, he is eating breakfast — with gusto!  He has polished off a Denver omelette, another fruit cup and is working on a container of Greek yoghurt (blueberry.)  Oh.  And a cup of English breakfast tea.

Nyel has had no appetite for over a month.  We think it was a combination of things that caused such an unusual shut down, but it was probably the massive MSSA infection coursing through his system that was mostly responsible.  He kept telling our primary care giver and the home health nurses and therapists that he knew he was really sick because he ALWAYS has a big appetite.  For almost two months,  he simply couldn’t stand the thought of food.  Mostly, he ate breakfast.  Period.  Everyone listened to his complaints and maybe actually “heard” him, but it never occurred to any of us — not even to Nyel — just how sick he really was.

Bottom Line:  his appetite has returned so he must be on the mend!