Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Staying connected at 90

January 5, 2018

My soon-to-be 90 year old mom announced that her computer of several years was on the fritz, and all her friends suggested that she should get a Mac product. “They’re so easy,” they all insisted. “I watch movies in bed on my iPad,” one raved. “I can FaceTime my grandkids,” declared another.

Who are these people, and why are they enticing my mother to spend way too much money on something that a basic machine can do? Email is a regular visitor on her computer, and she does order her vitamins online, but other than that, she does not take advantage of the myriad of apps and capabilities of these sophisticated devices.

She decided she needed a smart phone, thinking it would be fun to text. To be fair, she has texted at least once every other month in the time she has owned it, but her thumbs have not grown weary from pushing the limits of her data plan.

After numerous conversations and looking into purchasing something used (there are few available), I decided I would get a new laptop and pass on my perfectly fine 2012 to her. I would gain speed and satisfaction in honoring the wish of my mom in a way that was affordable to her. My biggest fear was that she would be calling me with challenges that I would be incapable of diagnosing across the 250 miles that separate us. (or even if I were sitting next to her).

I brought home my sleek Air days ahead of my mom’s visit and then spent the better part of a day with multiple technicians erasing my old one and getting it set up for her. I stuffed a small pillow with hair from my head, but we did get there, which was hugely rewarding.

I was driving her to the bus and reviewing the password, reminding her that when she arrived home in New York State, she would need to connect with the internet there. “Oh I don’t have a password there,” she stated confidently. I nodded vigorously. “Sure you do. I’ve needed it when I come to visit. It’s written down near the monitor.” “Oh, no” she pursued. “I know that there is no password at the assisted living. I’ve never had one.” Uh-oh. I started to get huffy. “Mom, there is absolutely a password there. Bet you ten bucks.” Worried that this basic tenet of computer life was eluding her I opened my mouth to refute her claim once again, but somehow stopped before any words escaped. “Okay, we’ll see,” I shrugged my shoulders, and hoped I didn’t sound too irritated.

Minutes later she changed tacks. “You know, my friends have been telling me about this dating website. I think I’m ready to try it out.” I slid a glance to check her expression. She looked as earnest as ever.

“Sure, why not?” I exclaimed. I realized her friends there would be in a much better position to help with this, too.

My mom has forged a close relationship with the Apple help people. They possess unparalleled patience, and knowledge to address questions great and small. I’m certain that in a few months it will be me calling her to ask what to do when my screen freezes and I can’t shut down my machine. Even if her answer is “Call Adam at Apple,” I still give her credit for being wiling to learn, proving that dogs of all ages can learn new tricks. They just need motivation and a little repetition. I hope I can maintain as open an attitude when I’m pushing 90.

The frosting on the cake

October 11, 2017

When I moved to Boston for graduate school 35 years ago, I landed just outside Inman Square. In other words in Rosie’s Bakery Territory. My friend Jane and I would break from our studies to stroll to Rosie’s and drool as we awaited our Chocolate Orgasm or Boom Boom. These were the delectable decisions of distraction. The chocolate sour cream layer cake with the smoothest frosting around was legendary and an event in itself.

My husband and I wanted to feature a Rosie’s cake at our wedding, but we were getting married in New York State, and they advised us that the travel from Cambridge across state lines would not go well for the cake, the frosting in particular.

Now thirty years later, planning our anniversary party, we realized we could indeed serve the San Remo (chocolate and golden layers with raspberry and chocolate frosting in between). Seeking clarification about the size options, I picked up the phone to call. The owner herself answered. Completely not expecting this, I was a bit flustered to find myself addressing a family celebrity. I handled this with my usual cool and collected aplomb.

“Oh wow!” I screamed. “I’m so excited to talk to you!” Mistakenly assuming it was Rosie, the original owner, I blurted out, “We’ve used your baking book for years. It flops open to the chocolate sour cream layers and is totally Jackson Pollack spattered with batter.”

“Ah, as it should be.” I could hear her smile.

“Yes, it is well loved.” Next I launched into the story of how my daughter and her friend at nine years old passionately disputed who made the best chocolate cake, each loyally and confidently declaring her own mom the clear cake maven. It turned out that both moms were diligently following Rosie’s precise (i.e. “set oven to 345 degrees) recipe. I had given her mom the cookbook. Having moved out of easy buying range of the store, the book is an exceptional substitute. The recipes enable the careful follower to duplicate the rich texture and mouth watering flavors from the bakery itself. Patiently hearing me out, she responded, “Oh that’s sweet, such a sweet story.” She also explained that Judy Rosenberg had sold her the business a year ago.

We discussed the various cake size options, the advantages of a sheet cake for ease of serving versus a round cake’s decoration, the double layer versus the single and once I sort out how many people will help us devour the cake I will easily be able to decide which is best.

“So is the book still available?” I asked. “I have given it as a gift so many times. Both of our daughters have their own copies, as do a number of their friends.” We chatted about e-books, and the challenge of having the right number of paperback books on hand. Having published a (non cook)book of my own several years ago, I had ideas about ways to affordably get books on demand. Thrilled to perhaps make a small contribution to getting this vital book out to the public, I sent the link right away.

I considered how many birthday parties over the past thirty years have featured the sour cream chocolate cake, not only for our own family of four, but for my parents, sister and for friends as well. Sometimes with raspberry in the middle, at times with whipped cream, always with colorful decorations, berries, and packed with the delight of sharing moist, tasty cake with people we love. It is impossible to conceive of our lives without the joy that has emanated from this book. The new owner, Galina Laffer, is infusing the business with new energy and the same loving care that characterizes Rosie’s products. What a treat to know that she is as personable and approachable as the Rosie’s creations she represents.

New connection to an old friend

May 3, 2017

You think you know someone. Forty plus years of being friends, starting in college. Years of jaunts to the ski slopes, museums, countless parks and restaurants and you’re pretty sure you’ve got the goods on your pal. We’ve known each other prior to each of our marriages, have been there for births, deaths, illness, the full gamut of what life offers to friends.

Then one day my pally calls up and puts it out there: “I’ve really wanted to go to Patagonia (news to me) and George is just not interested; he travels so much for work. Do you want to go? I’ve been working with a travel agent to organize it.” (Says the consummate planner).

I feel this kind of trip deserves some serious consideration. We’re talking two full weeks and considerable expense. I’ve never traveled more than a weekend without family so I take a full seventeen seconds before shouting, “OF COURSE I WANT TO GO!” There are a couple of details she runs by me before finalizing the itinerary. All I know is that we will be doing lots of hiking (something we have never done together) while we visit glaciers and the stark Patagonian steppe and mountains.

I’m so in, helpless to resist an opportunity to move my body and immerse myself in the outdoors. We know we will be able to give each other space when necessary. Our biggest concern is that I like to sleep in a cool room (read less than sixty degrees), while Susan is cold once the temperature dips below seventy-five.

I learned that Susan’s determination to have something “just right” means that she will walk beyond her hunger danger zone to find just the right place to eat. I learned that when she says “I’m just going to have my coffee and relax” in the morning that I should open the door and then wait fifteen minutes before joining her.

I have known that despite her diminutive stature (five foot one and a size two or zero) she is wiry and strong, but hiking fourteen miles together without flagging demonstrates it in an altogether more graphic way.

We both expressed some concern about the cruise portion of our trip. A small boat designed to navigate the fiords for three days takes us down “glacier alley” and around Cape Horn. We worried about our ability to remain friendly and civil in close quarters with other people (let alone each other) and an hour and half into the cruise Susan turns to me at dinner and utters, “I don’t think I’ll ever do another cruise again.” We both burst out laughing at the absurdity of this preemptive optimism, and there proves to be sufficient excursions and hikes to crush our claustrophobic tendencies.

I become completely absorbed in the vast steppe of the Patagonian landscape, its openness and predictable sighting of guanaco, rhea (ostrich), the occasional fox or condor and the elusive puma. I could not get enough of the jagged, glacier topped mountains which jut up from almost wherever we walk, ride, or sit. Their enduring presence promotes a deep abiding sense of peace and fullness of spirit.

Although we never talk about it, I realize that this is true for Susan, too. We discuss everything from our children to our own childhoods, but this sense of connection to our planet is an underlying, unspoken, and all encompassing theme. It is the cord that binds us to each other, and to the beauty of our world. It was there all along, but it took us to the southern most point of South America for this to emerge in my consciousness.

One does not stumble upon Patagonia. It takes a determined and committed effort to get there. So, too, does enduring friendship require us to navigate periodic cross currents, sun, and downpours. I am deeply grateful to experience both.

An image of youthful daring nurtured

November 15, 2016

I knew before walking into the gallery that the images greeting me would be spectacular. Even in their mini version online they are captivating: complete, compelling and fulfilling. Rendered large they command the space, emanating a sense of wonder at the beauty that exists on our planet. The lines and color and juxtaposition of hues at once capture a very specific moment in time as well as an eternity, an enduring sense of timelessness. Photographer Seth Resnick talks about his interaction with his subjects both human and not, the exchange of energy that he allows and encourages. This reflects in the mages that emerge. They are rich, full of intention and respect. Paired with glass sculptures by master Peter Bremers, which offer a gorgeous complementary interpretation of similar themes, the exhibit is an extraordinary treat.

I am reminded of a long ago tennis instruction to swing through the ball, not to just meet it. Using the body and a full swing gives the ball much more power and impact. Same with music. Even with an instrument such as piano, where the notes are struck, one can imbue deep meaning by allowing emotion to flow through and convey feeling.

So too, with the click of a shutter a great is transmitted which draws upon selection, pattern, and a sense that is only developed through experience and constant attention.

The added dimension of delight in this exhibit is that I have known Seth since birth. Our mothers were friends who started a preschool when we were three (which we evidently ruled until we left for kindergarten). We spent many contented hours at play and I recall Seth’s passion and zeal for whatever he did. His fascination with rocks was evident as a child and he used the tumbler to polish the stones to a glittering shine. We dragged lawn chairs in front of the house at night to gaze at the sky, and this early devotion to the natural world has clearly carried through to the work he produces today. Seth worked at a pet store as a teenager and created elaborate fish tanks at home, perhaps nurturing his eye for color, form and pattern.

Most fun all is that although we were largely not in the same classes in our enormous high school, we both took photography for the first time as seniors. Our overcrowded school was on split sessions and there were a number of us who enjoyed countless unscheduled hours in the lab perfecting our prints. Who could have known that this nascent time experimenting in photography would be the thread that would power Seth’s career. My own experience in the darkroom was that time became irrelevant, and I would often find that hours elapsed before being willing to stop and take a break.

Seth’s singularity of focus, dedication to his craft, and eagerness to engage with the world have coalesced in the sophisticated artist he is today. His continued fixation with light, texture, shape and openness to understand what he encounters distill the images to exquisite, dramatic moments.

Visiting his exhibit at the Sohn Gallery in Lenox was a deeply satisfying look at a prolific and influential leader in photography today. And for me, it was a reconnection with my childhood pal and seeing how the exuberance of youth, nurtured and developed by family and education can illuminate a path to international expertise. It inspires us to be the best of who we are, open to possibility, embracing opportunity with the confidence that new experience determines who we can be as much as we influence what we find. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Valentine Presence

February 26, 2016

We moved our daughter into an apartment yesterday. She’s 25, and excited about this move, ready to get to know a new town that has to this point been a place she has visited a bunch of times. The apartment is perfectly situated near the center of town, with easy access to the highway as well as public transportation. It’s spacious and light, and she will share it with two other friends.

None of this sounds so unusual. What is unusual is the proximity to our town. She will be less than a half hour away. While she has been living at home since Christmas, before that she had been in Spain for three months, and apart from a summer in New Haven, had been in Colombia for a year and half prior to that. All of this followed college, which was three hours away, so a town as close as thirty minutes presents unlimited possibilities.

She’s close enough to meet for coffee, to shop for work clothes, have dinner together at either of our houses. She can stay with our still-getting-used-to-Massachusetts dogs, go to movies, walk through the woods with or without pups— all things that we usually do when she is around, but at least for the next few months, we don’t have to be concerned with cramming them all in during the week or two that she usually lands at home.

I am well aware that she is applying jobs that may or may not be in this area. One cannot determine where teaching posts will be for Spanish in the way that she is excited about teaching, and I know that the right job is more important than where it is, at least at this point. We’ll see what pops open, where actual offers come from, and how the factors shake down.

I realize that with her travel in places that have often been remote and not easy to contact or access, or that have involved some level of risk, that I have held myself just a little in check. While my love for her is constant, and our communication is positive, I have been unable to count on more than sporadic conversations and visits only a few times a year. It is always possible to maintain the thread of a relationship, but it takes more concerted effort when someone is hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Even with the multiple options available today, technology will never replace proximity. And who would want it to?

At least from here, it seems that her next job will be Stateside, so although I cannot count on meeting at the bakery around the corner from her new apartment, I can at least be assured of reliable internet, and a flight of less than six hours, as well as a few months of this nearby arrangement while she sorts it out. Seems like as good a Valentine’s gift as I can conceive of. I’ll gladly take it.

Death is not convenient

January 29, 2016

Death is not convenient. It does not wait, tarry, ask permission, or discriminate against age, race or gender. The place and time are a secret agreement with every person and are revealed in its own time, in ways dramatic and quiet, public and private, violent and peaceful.

When I learned of the death of my childhood friend’s father, I was saddened for him and his brothers and their families. I was coming off a long week’s work with meetings after work on Monday and Tuesday, a day long out of town conference on Wednesday and a ten hour workday on Thursday. So when I learned Friday morning about Herb’s passing, and the service on Sunday, I did not immediately assume I was going. It was over three hours away, and I couldn’t imagine it. Even though Herb was 91, it was a surprise for them, as he had been in fine health, exercising regularly, and still living at home.

By Saturday morning, however, with a more typical day on Friday, I couldn’t imagine missing it. This was the husband of my mother’s partner with whom she ran a school for 25 years. Their son, Seth and I were founding (and dominating) students at age three, and I had spent countless hours at their house growing up. We laid out under the stars, filmed movies riding their St. Bernard, or in pretend cars on their long, steep, winding driveway. We played the board game Shenanigans by the hour and wolfed down lunches Shirley cooked up before running outside again. This was my second home and it has become a museum for the family, displaying photographs by my friend who became an internationally renown photographer, paintings by his older brother and family photos of the past fifty years.

It was the end of an era for me, but mostly for the three sons who stood together as each spoke about the dedication and steady influence of their father who I didn’t know as well. Their arms on each other’s shoulders, they were a living representation of that steadiness and of the respect and love that infused their relationships.

The link to the future was evidenced in their children, ranging in age from 25 to 3, and as I watched them host a meal afterward in that historic home built in 1881, I thought about the joining links from parent to child, parent to child. Herb’s death marks a passage for them and others, but they will navigate this wave with the connection to each other, and perhaps the next time they collect from the corners of the United States will be a celebration: a graduation, a wedding or a birthday.

What will become of the seventeen room house that I remember as the most intimidating place to play hide and seek I could imagine? None of them live near there now. They are all ensconced in their lives in California or Florida.

As time warps, creating the topsy turvy disorientation following the death of a close and beloved family member I wish them time to sit with their thoughts, with the fullness of their feelings, and allow the length and breadth of their memories to float forward. May the waves of joy of a long life well lived waft in, smoothing the tearful bumps that will inevitably surface as well. Their straightforward relationships mean a deep wound that will heal cleanly with time. May this first holiday time bring some welcome distraction, if not quite yet the start of new traditions as they move forward in this next stage of life.

A Young Life Lost to Drugs

August 20, 2015

We had last seen Garrett about ten years ago. He was a big, strong boy of 12 with lots of energy. My husband remembers that he swam across Long Lake, our local swimming hole around 2/3 the size of Walden Pond. The four kids in his family were members of the swim team which seemed a good fit for them. I remember thinking how these were the right parents to have four children. Organized, structured and loving, they channeled the kids’ excess zest into positive places. It took a lot of focus, and they were up to the task. Both of them came from big families, and their constellation of four was welcome.

Although we hadn’t seen the whole family recently, Bret, my husband’s close high school buddy, came to visit a few times. He told us that Garrett had had some trouble with drugs. We knew he had done some jail time, and had also taken the fall for a friend. He had been clean for 2 1/2 years when he evidently felt a pull for the drug, and took too much. Which killed him. We are stunned to think about a world without him in it.

We didn’t learn about his death until recently, and I’m not sure, even, exactly when it occurred. Bret had not had the space to make the call, and so we found out when my husband happened to pick up the phone to check in with his buddy. There are no words to adequately express the depth of sadness of a loss of this magnitude. Nothing can bring a child back, or a brother. Nothing can rewind the clock, or create another chance. The pain of losing such a young person runs deep; there is not a way to short cut the process of grief, or move through the dense brush of unreality and surrealism.

The family must rearrange themselves, reorient to a new way of living, of including their absent family member in ways that feel possible, doable, without feeling cloying, distantly unreal or false. They bore witness to his difficulties, and on some level may have known that with the way he behaved in the world, his largeness could lead to dramatic events, including the loss of his life. He was not a person of moderation by nature, so anything done on a big scale could tip events in unintended ways. But the searing truth of his loss must also stop them short, bring them to their knees at unexpected times. I feel the jolt.

Our hearts reach out to them. I know that their large families enfolded them, and held them close. We wish to do the same, sending them the wind to lift their wings as they navigate this unknown and frightening territory, whose landscape is so unfamiliar and without softness. The unpredictability of negotiating grief is always surprising, tipping our stable carts when we least expect it, upending the calmest of days and catapulting us into a whirlpool of transition. It takes time to resettle into a new rhythm, to reach a new equilibrium, and to recognize it when it happens. I wish for them to stay connected with each other, to allow their grief to join and not separate them, which sometimes happens. And I hope that they are not blaming themselves, or each other, as there is no winning from this. If love alone could give them solace, they would be consoled. If support could transform their sadness, they would no longer be sad. They must each make their own journey through the mire and choose what helps them. We can listen for the call, and be there with hearts and arms open.

A Mutter’s Day Tail

May 9, 2015

My husband and I have lived with dogs for 27 years together and both of us had dogs as kids. But all that did not prepare us for the adoption process with Livvie, our newly rescued pup. And I feel like a new mom in very foreign territory.

I have only lived with rescue dogs, but none of them remotely like Olivia. I had been thinking that autumn would be a good time to welcome a new critter into our home after our menagerie had dwindled to zero in March. But my husband sent a link to a site with an adorable dog for adoption. It turned out that she was spoken for by the next day, but I was already in search mode and my heart went out to Olivia’s sweet furry yellow face with the deep brown eyes and little whiskers that characterize some type of Terrier background.

So commenced the process of application, references, plus veterinary reference, and a home check. At first we were a bit indignant, ignorant as we were about the new standard screening through the Adopt-a-Pet website. It all checked out and two weeks later I brought shy Livvie into our home. We expected shy, but we were not prepared for the level of patience that will clearly be required for her to become comfortable with us, and trust that after the many transitions that started in Louisiana, that she can stay here without having to compete for food or attention.

Where Charlie, our last rescue from Puerto Rico marked every room and pinged off the walls at first, Livvie has barely ventured out of her crate-even to eat. She started to eat and drink after a day, if it was brought directly to her, but will not seek it out. She quakes when we go outside and freezes, never mind considering this a good place to play or pee.

It’s early days, less than a week, and people remind us to give her a couple of weeks to really see who she is.

I am remembering the importance of patience and this being her schedule and timeframe, not my wish for how it should be. She will need enough structure without there being too much, and consistent loving through it all. We will learn from having her in our family as she will learn from being here. As with children, we set the tone, and she will take her cues from us. Her past four and half months will affect how readily she can move past the multiple transitions and mistrust that this is just another stop along the way, or worse, that we could visit some kind of harm on her. We must pay attention to what the new baby is telling us, as we make clear what she can expect from us, and how predictable we are. We could not have anticipated our pup would be this kind of baby, but here she is, and it is certainly not her fault that we didn’t know who she would be. No parent can know what a child will be like.

We will all adjust together, taking one step at a time, appreciating each small progression, knowing that there is no hurrying it, and no need to rush.

This Mother’s Day, feeling so connected with my own two daughters who are exploring other parts of the world, I will hold our furry new pooch on my lap, and welcome another journey that is ours to navigate, with all its unknowns, hopes, unpredictability and time to evolve. I am ready.

Double Cat Indemnity

April 15, 2015

I have begun to write this column dozens of times. Usually once I have a topic it writes itself, tumbling out faster than my fingers can accommodate. This time, I have been stymied by my difficulty finding a way in. Or by the preponderance of ways in. Or by the fact that my grief overtakes me and I am afraid that I will just sob onto my keyboard.

Last month, in a stunning demonstration of the laws of impermanence, we lost both of our cats in the same week. Neither of them was young, but neither terribly old by cat standards–12 and 14 respectively. We had been on borrowed time with the younger one, Daphne, who had been bearing up nobly with a neurological issue for over two years. It made her wobbly, bolder, more interactive and affectionate.

A miscalculated jump resulted in a broken paw, and within days she was in congestive heart failure, forcing our decision to part with her rather than subject her to extensive treatment.

We had already planned a long weekend in New Orleans to lick our wounds from the protracted illness and death of my father in law on Superbowl Sunday. Since that time our older cat, Bob, had a long day at the emergency vet with a sudden worsening of his cardiac issues. Our one night away in the beginning of March proved to be traumatic for him, demonstrated by the multiple messes he delivered. If one day was like a week for him, how would he survive five days? It would be an eternity and certain cardiac failure by the time of our return, so two days after losing Daphne, we dragged our heavy hearts to spare Bob this trauma, and bade our farewells to him.

New Orleans welcomed us with its warm weather, rich food, beautiful architecture and music brimming from corners and cafes. The balm of the time away was healing, but did not make walking in the door to our empty home any less easy. We realized that for the first time in 27 years there was no one else sharing our living space. It has been an adjustment in many ways, of course. The gentle presence of the cats was always welcome. Their outstretched paws in greeting or gratitude for scratching, and unreserved delight for treats, or the right toy to mangle unfailingly disarmed our most challenging day.

It is not possible to completely appreciate the nature of the rhythm of living with animals until that rhythm is interrupted. My mornings had been marked recently with dispensing the variety of medications they had accrued, as well as ensure the cat fountain was filled. We no longer need to be so aware of our comings and goings. But just as our care taking responsibilities are alleviated so too, our onsite happiness radiators were removed. Bob, particularly, emanated his profound unwavering confidence that the world would produce exactly what he needed at any given time. The depth of his trust was contagious, as was his unadulterated delight in having someone sleep near him. He literally would purr for fifteen minutes when someone would cuddle up with him, or he would request it either by climbing onto a lap (at 22 pounds, he overflowed most laps), or by curling up in the crook of a TV watcher’s knees.

I’m realizing that as I allow in these memories, they will gradually replace the ache that currently dwells in my heart. The tears make room for the joys of having lived with the love that only animals can convey to the pack with whom they reside. We benefit from the privilege of sharing their space, appreciating their antics, singing with them, rolling around on the floor, and holding them close.

Goodbye sweet cats. We know we will welcome both new canine and feline creatures into our home at some point. We need the time to be ready for their presence after working through the absence of the family animals we raised with our two daughters. All in its time. All in the current that brings new life as unpredictably as it claims those who have completed their particular cycle. How fortunate we are to have overlapped with such magnificent beings in our personal sphere.

And in the end…

March 14, 2015

My father in law died a few weeks ago. It was not a surprise, as he had been failing steadily for years, really and acutely for the past months. I was angry, at first, that he steadfastly refused to talk about his state of health. As much as a week before he died, when someone came to visit at the nursing home where he spent his last two months, he would immediately say, “let’s all go out to dinner!” even though he had not eaten more than a few bites a day for weeks, and could barely stand, much less remain upright and free of stomach problems through an entire meal.

I have come to see our close proximity and ability to be with him frequently for short visits as a privilege, and am grateful for his inadvertent teachings. I know beyond a doubt that he lived his life as he believed he should, which meant ignoring the extent of his multiple illnesses and level of needed care. His yearning to be home and doing what he loved best, watching political news on MSNBC with his beloved third wife, and prowling in the night for sweets kept him ever focussed in that direction.

It didn’t matter that when he procured his cookies and milk that he more and more frequently fell, necessitating a visit from the tirelessly cheerful EMTs, and sometimes a swing by the emergency room. It was only when one of these escapades resulted in a broken neck that we intervened and insisted that despite his wishes, he could not return home. This required some finesse on my husband’s part in convincing him of this, because even though most of the time at the ER my father in law was on assignment in some foreign land in 1996, at the time of his formal assessment they deemed him competent to make his own decisions.

We watched the love story unfold between my father in law and his bride of not yet three years, as she struggled to balance how much care he needed with how much he would allow. She would rest easy running out to the store knowing an aide was with him, only to return to find that my father in law had dismissed the unwitting young woman.

Ultimately it was not ever a question of what was right, but what was possible, and what he and we could endure. He had started on dialysis only a year and a half earlier, too late for it to really help a lot, but he did this because although he had previously refused it, he now wanted to squeeze every possible minute with his new love.

When it became obvious to health care workers and to us that dialysis was no longer working, but only driving an increase in hospital visits, discomfort and deep unease, we were able to cease the treatment, thus giving him a week of greater clarity and presence to be with anyone who visited. This gift to all was followed by a week of more agitated time, and finally the day he took a bite of steak, (and a sip of milk), greeted his wife with “I love you,” looked his son square in the eye, and took his leave. His way, his timing, his departure.

I will continue to ponder the choices we are all afforded, but it was clear to me that the most I could do for him was remain a peaceful, loving presence, wishing him the best the world had to offer at that moment, and for all moments going forward. I can only hope it was enough.

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