Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

Going Through a Bad Patch

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Another Ironing Day

It’s been a hard week in our corner of Oysterville.  I can tell — not because the days have been long and hard and full of pain and sickness, but also bccause my “daily” blog hasn’t been seen or heard from since June 3rd.  And, I ask you this:  which is harder — to suffer pain yourself, or to watch a loved one struggle in agony and be unable to help?

Napkins, Pillow Cases, Ironing Oh My!

I suppose I’ve spent my time doing what women everywhere do (or at least once did) when they cannot ease the suffering of a child or mate.  I ironed.  Yes, I still do that now and then.  The linen napkins, the pillow cases (but never the sheets), and once in a while (like now) the frilly lace collar and bodice of an old-timey costume I might wear again sometime.  You never know.

I used to iron in earnest — if you can count ironing to earn your allowance when you are in high school.  Even my father’s dress shirts and, of course, my own calf-length (never shorter!) peasant skirts and tailored white blouses with Peter Pan collars.  I believe I earned the grand sum of $2.50 each week for my labors.  It took a lot of ironing to save enough for those cashmere sweaters that were all the rage in the early 1950s!

Sleeping Nyel

These days, though, I iron for the pure pleasure of it — a rather mindless activity that gives me time to think (or not!) — perhaps to work out the “what comes next” parts or perhaps to think of new ways to solve old problems.  Whatever goes on in my head probably isn’t worth recounting — even if I could remember.  But, as usual, I feel rested and renewed from the activity and… look at all those crisp stacks of napkins and pillow cases that seemed to stack up effortlessly.

But… the ironing is caught up now for another season or two.  Oh how I wish we were through this bad patch as well!

Oysterville: In joy, in sorrow, a safe harbor.

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Bud Goulter

It’s been a week since my last entry in the Oysterville Daybook — a week of love and laughter, of deep sorrow and reminiscence, of outreach and introspection.  Our house has been filled with friends, new and old, and the village has hosted at least three weddings — at the church, at the schoolhouse, and at one of the neighbors’.

We’ve also lost our oldest, most colorful “character” — Bud Goulter.  He was 95 and, the last time I saw him (just a few weeks back at the post office) he asked after “Niles.” commented on the “newcomers” in town, and gave me a hug and a buss on the cheek!  Our meetings weren’t always so cordial through the years but, with the news of his passing, I’m glad about that last encounter.  A kind of closure to a lifetime of knowing one another’s families and foibles and skeletons in the closets.  I wondered, briefly, if I’m now Oysterville’s oldest citizen…  but I think it must be Charlotte by a few months.

Les and Ann Driscoll, Ava’s Parents

It wasn’t too many days later that our neighbor Sue told us that Ava, her neice, was gravely ill.  “Too young!” we thought.  We saw on Dan Driscoll’s facebook page that she had died; we’re not sure of the day.  Our hearts ache for all her family but most especially for her parents, Ann and Les.  It never seems that the order of things should allow a child to pre-decease the parents.  Words seems so inadequate… especially for lifelong neighbors in this tiny village.

Mark, Dale, Cameron, Helen, Sydney, Nyel

And in amongst the sorrow here… our friends Cameron, Dale, Helen, and Mark — the Rose City Mixed Quartet — arrived last Saturday.  They brought food for that evening, all-day Sunday, and Monday’s breakfast PLUS their sleeping bags (placed so carefully on the beds upstairs, I can’t tell that they were used at all) and their towels etc.  We laughed and visited and caught up with life-since-Covid and, to top it off, they did a House Concert for a small group here on Sunday evening.  What a gift they are in our lives!  I could hardly stand to say goodbye.

Barbara Canney – From Her FB Site

But… Barb to the rescue!  Barbara Canney, my friend since 1978 when my Uncle Willard “hired” her to organize our family documents and put me “in charge” as her mentor.  Our roles have reversed and yo-yoed over the years even though she lives in Massachussetts and we see each other less frequently than we would like.  She’s here for ten days and then her husband John is joining her for a mini-vacation.   And why is she here (you might wonder)?  Nyel hired her to help get my computer files (especially photos) in order.  It was my 85th birthday present but Covid interfered and so… here we are!  We laugh, we cry, we talk about old times and speculate about the future.  We might even get something done on the files!

OMG what a week!  I left out so much — and probably forgot a whole bunch, too.  Day by day blogging is oh so much easier and I hope I can get back on track.  Sometimes it’s hard when you live in Oysterville.

Just Resting My Brain

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

Many of my friends — even those considerably younger than I — have reached the age of “senior moments.”  The Meriam Webster Dictionary defines such a moment as “an instance of momentary forgetfulness or confusion that is attributed to the aging process” and further mentions “septuagenarian” as the age range when this begins to become apparent.

I’m here to say that by the time you enter your eighties, senior moments are de rigueur.  Sometimes conversations with other octogenarians involve more moments than words.  By this time of life, however, another disruption to the thinking process begins to occur.  I don’t know that there is an official name for it.  I just call it a “Brain Nap.”  It works like this.

As we are beginning to stir and stumble for the day, Nyel (whose mobility issues prevent him from getting into his closet) says, “I need clean clothes.”  That’s my clue  to get him a shirt and trousers (my choice, usually) and take them into the bedroom where he is getting dressed.  I, perhaps taking my morning pills or dispensing my eyedrops) say, “Okay.”  I finish whatever I’m doing, head for the closet, and then comes the Brain Nap.

I know I am on a dedicated journey… but for what?  What was I just doing?  What am I supposed to be doing now?  I’m sure if someone were to observe me, I’d have a totally blank (read stupid) expression on my face.  (I can only hope it’s more “thoughtful” than “stupid.”)  There seems to be no logical way to get back to what I’m supposed to be doing — not by recounting what I was just doing, not by thinking of various reasons I might have headed for the closet, nothing.

And then, suddenly “I’m back.”  Sometimes I first have to ask Nyel, “Do you know what I was on my way to do?”  Fortunately, he is not yet an octogenarian and he can tell me precisely what I need to know.  I dread the day (several years hence) when we both go into Brain Nap mode simultaneously.  Usually, though, I snap back all by myself — for reasons known only to my brain.  So far, too, these brief Brain Naps only occur when I’m on my way to do something — not when I’m at my computer tapping out important words of wisdom.  Like these.


It might be my mother’s fault…

Sunday, June 13th, 2021

I do not like taking naps.  Period.  Apparently, I never have.  My mother quit trying to put me down for an afternoon nap about the time I began walking.  She said that I always woke up so cranky that it wasn’t worth it.  And I’m here to tell you, 85 years later, some things don’t change.  Although…

I still do not find that naps are “refreshing” and, on the rare occasion that I do have an afternoon liedown, I wake up feeling mean and grouchy.  I think it must be some deep-seated belief in the adage that Marta’s father often espoused:  “You’ll sleep a long time when you’re dead.”  Of course, he wasn’t talking about naps; he was talking about staying up late rather than going to bed “with the chickens” as I have always done, even before I became a chicken farmer’s wife.  I say it the Ben Franklin way: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  (Healthy, probably.  but I’m waiting for the last two.)  Bottom line:  if I do nap, I always feel I’ve missed out on something or have wasted time that could have been used to better advantage.

All this is by way of preface to telling of my yesterday’s nap experience.  From Monday through Thursday, we had had a houseful — my son Charlie plus four cousins.  They were absolutely easy “guests” and I enjoyed every minute with them.  But, yesterday morning as we hugged Charlie goodbye, I realized that I was a tad tired.  So after lunch, I decided to take a nap.

Three hours later, Nyel woke me for dinner and I found, for the first time ever, that I didn’t feel grouchy at all.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel refreshed.  I turned down dinner, puttered around a little, watched two episodes of Jeopardy that Nyel had recorded from last week, and was in bed as usual with the chickens.  Maybe I’ve finally grown up enough to accept naps gracefully.  My mother would be so pleased!


The worst part was…

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Anterior cut of an enlarged heart; ACardio_20140403_v0_003

We left Oysterville at 4:30 yesterday morning.  Nyel had a 9:00 a.m. appt. for blood draws in the lab at the Seattle Medical Clinic and a 10:00 appt at the Cath Lab down on the 2nd floor for a right heart catheterization —  a test to see how well his heart is pumping (how much it pumps per minute) and to measure the blood pressure in his heart and the main blood vessels in his lungs.

The drive up — at first dark and rainy but getting lighter and drier.  Siri kept us informed — two fifteen minute traffic slowdowns but, even so, we arrived at 9:15.  No valet parking (they could have forewarned us).  Got Nyel into his wheelchair and into the front door and then the trip through hell to find the entrance to the underground parking garage.  Asked three people.  Only one knew where it was… a nightmare.

Found Nyel (Yay! for cellphones!) on his way to the cath lab (despite the Information Desk being unable to tell me where it was… why don’t they find INFORMED people to work there???).  Helped Nyel get ready — “Gown opens in the back…” and was directed to the waiting room where I spent two hours alternately reading one of Alexander McCall’s “44 Scotland Street” books and… worrying.

The procedure, which he has had done previously, sounds “routine” when the doctors and nurses talk about it.  But, inserting a catheter into the jugular vein, threading it into the heart and through to the pulmonary artery sounds terrifying to me.


If Nyel’s pressures were bad, they would keep him in the hospital but I couldn’t stay with him.  And, if was told he could go home, but got out too late, my eyes would not let me drive us home in the dark.  I had made arrangements with my cousin Ruth (Bless her!) to take me/us in… either way.  We figured we could muscle Nyel up the one small step into her house on Mercer Island.

About 12;15, here came a nurse pushing Nyel’s wheelchair.  Both (the nurse and Nyel — probably the wheelchair, too) were all smiles.  The procedure went well!  So… quick! up to the third floor to see the cardiologist to get the “verdict” — hospital or home???  Home it was.  Found the parking garage (and the car!) and were on the road by 1:20.  No rain, no dark, no traffic slowdowns.  Ate the “lunch” Nyel had packed — cheese, crackers, tangerines — as we traveled.  Home by 5:20.  Whatever the worst part of yesterday was, it was totally neutralized by Nyel’s good report!  Yay!!!

“…as ithers see us.”

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

Our Garden in Early May – Photo by Cate Gable

My take-away from Robert Burns’ 1786 poem, “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” has always been that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we could see ourselves through the eyes of others.  But, lately, Nyel and I have received or run across photographs of things near and dear to us that have simply given us a different perspective.  If there have been pretensions involved, they have yet to come clear.

Like the photo of our garden that Cate sent yesterday taken from the path to the east — a path seldom taken by us these days.  “Your yard is gorgeous!” said the accompanying note, and we had to concur. In this case it’s probably one of those “can’t see the garden for the grass that needs mowing” or “the weeds that need pulling.”  It is so lovely to look again!  Through Cate’s eyes!

Sydney at Greenridge c. 1962 — Photo by Bill LaRue

And then, midst the  “treasures” (NOT!) that we are clearing out of our nooks and crannies came some photos of me taken 50 or 60 years ago by my (then) photographer husband Bill La Rue (Marta’s Dad.)  I remember that I was getting ready for work, putting on my makeup, and he was somewhere behind me with his Hasselblad.  I was in a hurry and he was an annoyance.  There are six of those photos, each 7×9 inches, mounted on heavy cardstock.  Were they once on display somewhere?  I don’t really remember.  I don’t think I liked them much.  And now???  All I can think of  is “was I ever so young!?”

Come to think of it, that’s what’s so hard about this down-sizing and purging process — at least to me.  It’s coming to grips with how we “saw” things then and how we see them now.  After a lifetime, perspectives change.  I see myself and Robbie Burns’ “ithers” from a totally different point of view now.  A better one?  Not necessarily.  And does it make the sorting-and-discarding process easier?  Not that I’ve noticed.  Not so far, anyway  I wonder if everyone goes through these agonies when the time comes…



Purging the Back Forty Report #1

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Tin File Box

That tin file box has been sitting on one of the shelves in the back forty for so long neither of us had “seen” it for ages.  It is a nondescript brown and has a handle — portable, you might say.  It also has a lock which, apparently, has been engaged since I put it  in place.  (I say “I” because it looked vaguely familiar and Nyel said, “Not mine.”)  The key?  No Clue.

Nyel spent a half hour or so going through our Memorial Key Repository.  No luck.  “Just torque it open with a screw driver,” said I.  “It’s probably full of love letters,” said he.  “Really? Do you have love letters?” I was immediately interested.  “Of course.  They’re upstairs in that blue box on the dresser in the twin-bed room.”  “Who are they from?”  “Mostly from you,” he said.  “Really?  I wrote you love letters?”  “Lots of them,” he answered, and I made a mental note to take a look sometime.

When the box popped open we saw several packets of letters tied with various colors of ribbon.  To me!!  Pre-Nyel.  From… well, never mind.  I have set them aside for now… Maybe I’ll read them.  Maybe not.  I’ve made another mental note.


A day late and… you know the rest.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Clearing Out The Back-Forty — A Scary Proposition

As I wrote a few days back, Nyel and I are doing what we should have done during the Sheltering Time of 2020 — clearing out, cleaning up, relegating, and passing on.  It’s one of those love/hate jobs.

I love the re-discovery parts — coming across all those once-upon-a-time treasures that we couldn’t part with back in the… well, in the once-upon-a-time days.  But now that time has passed and our lives have actually taken on some semblance of “patterning,” we are almost having a good time of it.  I’m not sure “patterning” is the right term.  It’s whatever you call having lived long enough that your memories and the physical things connected to them fall into clear(ish) categories.  Mostly.

And it has something to do with having put chunks of things behind us.  Like the years before we lived here or before we met.  Or some of our vacations that we know won’t be repeated.  Or the events we participated in or, perhaps organized, that are over  and done with.  By now, all of the “stuff” associated with those things are easily parted with — but so fun to look at one more time and do some reminiscing.

Granny’s Cake Plate, 1897

We’ve also made it easier on ourselves by finding “homes” ahead of time for many of the things we’ll be sorting through.  Any Espy family related stuff — especially documents and photographs will go up to the Washington State Historical Research Center to join the Espy Family Archive.  Or to appropriate family members.  Our personal treasures, especially if community related, will go to appropriate local organizations or to relatives if items are family connected.  And then there’s the Good Will and Friends of the Library and local thrift shops.

The “hate” part of this chore, of course, is facing up to the fact that most of the “stuff” that has brought us so much pleasure during our lifetimes will have little or no meaning to anyone in the years ahead.  It’s just the way it is.  Especially when you leave no grands or greats.  No one to say, as I so often do about things in this house, “This cake plate was the first purchase my grandmother ever made with her own money, after she was married in 1897.  It cost her ten cents as I recall.  Or maybe it was twenty-five.  (Perhaps in all our purging I’ll find that list of her wedding gifts and the one of her first household purchases somewhere.)  History seems so much more “real” when it’s entwined with family and memories.  Doncha think so?

Snip! Snip! And… goodbye pigtails!

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Goodbye Pigtails!

They were fun… until they weren’t.  By the time my pigtails were getting long enough to braid — which had been my CHG (Covid Hair Goal) — I had to face up to the fact that I my old gray locks were just too wimpy to do anything with.  Eighty-five-year-old hair, at least on my particular head, doesn’t have the volume it takes for even one braid.  Damn!

Indistinctive Again

So, I called on the kindness of a friend and she did the dirty deed — a serious haircut.  I wish I could say that eleven months of sheltering robbed me of my natural curl.  But no such luck.  With each snip of the scissors, a new curl emerged.  I could clearly hear each one say a different cuss word — as in what Mary Anne Shaffer, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society famously said: “Naturally curly hair is a curse and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”

Fun While It Lasted

Short, curly hair is also the “norm” for almost every little old gray-haired lady who is still up and taking nourishment.   So, now I are one again. (Is the opposite of distinctive, indistinctive?)  I couldn’t even feel badly because I knew full well what would happen.  Nyel, however, apparently did not.  As I was making my to-cut-or-not-to-cut decision, I made the mistake of showing him a picture of a “pixie haircut” that I liked because it partially covered the ears.  (I hate my sticky-outie ears!).  “My hair is too curly to look like this.  I just want her to leave it long enough for ear coverage,” I told him.

He didn’t get it.  (Do guys ever?)  When I came home for the Big Reveal, he looked absolutely dumbstruck.  And not in a good way.  “What???” I asked (even though I knew.)  He hedged a bit but under pressure finally said, “But I was expecting it to look like the picture…”

Oh well.  Some days are like that.  And now, they will all be like that.  It’s a curse, for sure!

Doncha just hate when that happens?

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Sydney’s Neck

Not that I can understand the specifics behind my severe neck pain, but here is what I learned yesterday from my Primary Caregiver.

The x-rays showed:
Grade 1 anterior spondylolisthesis of C2 on C3, C3 on C4 and C4 on C5.  Plus moderate to severe degenerative changes fron C4-C5 through C6 and C7.

It’s probably fortunate that I really can’t read X-rays with assurance and that I don’t know the ramifications of big, scary-soundy words like spondylolisthesis.  Because of my age, “corrective surgery” is not an option, and I’m not sure it would be, anyway.  It would involve fusing some of those pesky vertebrae and I would then have little to no ability to move my head.

Sydney, 1941 — In the days when head-turning wasn’t problematic.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will depend upon muscle relaxants every eight hours as needed, tylenol for pain, and giving wide berth to activities that are likely to exacerbate the situaltion.

And, FYI,  as of today, I’m up and about and going on with life as usual, but a bit more slowly.  End of story.  But, probably not the end of the pain in the neck!