Wednesday, September 30, 2009

11:17 - the Phone Rings

Right around 11:17 this evening, #2 daughter and her husband called me and sang "happy birthday" to me.

Awww! That was about as good a day-brightener as a man could ask for.

Thanks, you all.

September's Just About Over: It's Been a Big Month

It's been quite a month for me. As I mentioned in another blog, So far
  • My second-oldest daughter got married
  • My father's condition took a turn for the worse
  • My new son-in-law got really, really, sick
    • Couldn't eat
    • A scary several days
  • My son-in-law got better
  • My father got worse
    • Lots worse
  • My father died
  • I buried my father and mother's remains yesterday
    • Half of them
    • They were cremated
      • I'll be seeing the other half buried
        • In northern Illinois
        • Next month
With about two and a half hours left of September, I'm hoping that there aren't any more major events. But, we'll see what happens.

My son and I finished reading Garfield and singing that song a few minutes ago; #1 daughter's rabbit, Giol, has been up for his 'people time' - and gone through two apple cores and a celery stick of respectable size; the family watched "Road to El Dorado" (2000) this evening - a real treat; and I enjoyed having a birthday with the family.

I love this bunch.

Aside from that, and discovering that I was running a fever, it's been an unusually quiet day. Knowing about that fever is a relief, in a way: at least I know why I'm feeling the way I do. Hey: it's a useful reminder to eat sensibly, exercise in moderation, and get to sleep at a decent time. I'm hoping to get achieve at least 2 of those three goals today. Well, one, anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Giol, #1 Daughter's Rabbit; and "Just Your Average Small Town America Household"

Just your average middle-class small town American household: nothing out of the ordinary about us.

Giol, #1 daughter's rabbit, under the back stoop: his new favorite place outside.

Giol has this "cute" thing down cold.

As #1 daughter observed: from this angle, Giol looks like a fuzzy eggplant. With ears.

Caught in the act! The infamous "chips" incident.

Two Van Lights, My Son, and My Father

I drove the van to the north side of Sauk Centre this afternoon, to get a new headlight and brake light put in. While I was up there, I took a look around - there may be new construction at the baseball diamond up there. Either that, or I don't remember what the place is like. Which isn't all that unlikely.

I've been a bit distracted lately.

My son and I, as usual, read Garfield - today's strip and three weeks' of strips - online, and sang a song my father sang to me: or something rather like it. That's a pleasant routine. The two of us have been reading the daily and Sunday strips of the Garfield website: three weeks (or so) a night. By now we're back to 1991.

I'd write more about what's been going on: but as I said, I've been a bit distracted.

Or fuzzy, at any rate. I knew my father's death was coming - and inevitable. I've wept, now and again, but was a bit concerned at the apparent lack of intense emotion I'd been experiencing. This morning, I had a rather satisfactory bout of grief. Not that I enjoyed it, but at least I can assume that it's not building up pressure, until I have a sort of emotional Mount St. Helens eruption.

And, on that cheerful (?) note, I bid you goodnight.

Death, Love, Duty and Endurance

Good heavens: another day gone by. I think I've done everything I need to, getting ready for my father and mother's funeral service. It's been some time since she died, but I think my father wanted their services done together.

Whatever I've learned about the nuts and bolts of love, the bulk of it I learned from him. His love for my mother was intense and durable. Although there was, I'm sure, a great deal of emotion involved, it's what he did as the decades wore on that impressed me.

Over a quarter-century ago now, a young woman - her name was Eve - asked me how I would define love. I replied, describing the commitment, the will to endure, the sense of duty, the ongoing acts of service. When I wound down, she observed that what I said sounded "cold."

I see her point.

And, love that endures is, in a sense, cold; sometimes devoid of that rushing warmth that contemporary culture often calls "love" - regardless of the degree of connection or commitment involved.

By my definitions, love is cold and hard: cold and strong as steel, hard, enduring - and beautiful - as diamond.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soo Bahk Do, My Daughter's Rabbit, and Funeral Arrangements

We went to Mass this morning, I grilled burgers for lunch - not incinerating them for the second time this weekend - and I enjoyed the company of #1 daughter and her rabbit Giol while grilling. The rain held off until after I was inside, for which I'm duly grateful.

My wife was surprised that I didn't ache after this afternoon's nap - I'd been sitting on the couch. When #1 daughter called her in - I'll get to 'why' shortly - I was still sitting, from the waist down. The upper part of me was lying down on the couch, at quite an angle.

I think my trick hips may have encouraged me to retain an unusual suppleness everywhere else. When I think about it, a guy in his upper fifties generally doesn't get away with stunts like that.


#1 daughter My Wife had called my wife #1 daughter in to report a bag-chewing in progress. Giol had found, and broken open, a bag of corn chips. He'd eaten at least one by the time the ladies stopped him. That's an enterprising rabbit. My wife says he's too cute to get mad at: I see her point.

The ladies and my son went to Soo Bahk Do class tonight. My wife helped one of the other students prepare for an upcoming test. The exercises include defenses against a (simulated) knife attack.

Since the attack is supposed to be a 'surprise,' my wife used several different techniques - at least one of which involved holding the (simulated) knife so that the blade would get in the way of conventional defenses. The student was, indeed, surprised, and thanked her - the fellows he usually practiced with weren't anywhere near as imaginative. Or is it innovative?

As I've said before about this family: It's a good thing we're honest.

Funeral arrangements for my father and mother are progressing about as smoothly as I could expect. I've been in touch with a relative down in the west-of-Chicago area, who's handling the bulk of arrangements there.

He told me a bit more about my father - I'll be trying to get all of the information organized.

My father is a very high act to follow - quite a man.

Requiescat In Pace, Bernard Ives Gill

One of my kinsmen wrote a sort of obituary notice for my father. Here's a revised version:

Bernard Ives Gill 16 May 1921 - 25 September 2009.

Bernard Ives Gill died peacefully in his sleep at about 1:40 Friday morning.

He was born at the family farm on Cunningham Road, rural Winnebago, Illinois. His siblings were born at the same location. The family moved to Rockford in 1929. He completed his high school education, being in the last class to graduate from Rockford 'Central' High. He went to University of Illinois, becoming an educator and specializing as a librarian. He served in the US Navy in WW II, serving on an LST in and around Europe, and later served in the south Pacific.

He continued his career in education, and served several years as head of the University library at University of Minnesota Moorhead, Minnesota. Upon retirement, he moved with his wife to Hillsboro, North Dakota, and settled on the Hovde ancestral farm.

Predeceased by his parents; Richard Hackett Gill and Floss Campbell (Gill), and his siblings; Barbara Adeline (Burns), Helen Margaret (Campbell)(Conley), Mary Alice (Healy), and Richard H Gill Jr.

He is also predeceased by his wife, Dorothy Marie Hovde.

Survived by his son, Brian and four grandchildren. Brian and his wife Catherine have four children: Naomi Marie, Deborah Marie, Sara Marie, and Peter Michael.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
- - -
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That's My Boy! Software in Beta, With its First Patch

It's almost time to go to Mass.

My 13-year-old son, talking to someone else in the family, said that he'd released a beta version of a piece of software he's developed - and just released a patch for it.

He calles it "B.I.O.S." For Bionicle Information Operation System: Someone called it an interactive encyclopedia - about Lego's Bionicles.

"That's my boy!"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Upcoming Funeral, Grilling Burgers, and a Really Long Nap

We've set the date of my father's funeral: next Tuesday, the 29th. My wife has been doing the bulk of scheduling, but I've pitched in by fielding a phone call or two.

My father's death still doesn't, sometimes, seem real. On the other hand, those flashes of memory are still popping up: a song he sang; the habit he had of having Boots, the cat, wave 'goodnight' to me - a gentle bit of puppetry, that; sharpening a hatchet on a spinning stone in the garage. Good memories.

'Don't be sad because something's over: be happy because it happened' is a rough paraphrase of something he told his grandchildren when visits were over. I'm hoping one of them remembers the words better than I do.

Today hasn't been all remembrance and mourning. #1 daughter's here, I grilled lunch - and didn't incinerate the burgers - and more must have happened.

What started out as a short nap ended by my sleeping right up to supper time, so I'm a bit hazy on what all went on today. It'll take doing to tame my sleeping schedule.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Funeral, Fax, and my Father's Voice

I'm just about caught up with today's usual tasks. Well, I'm not that far behind, anyway. I've still got several posts to write: and not all that much of today left to write them in. Even with as much taken care of ahead of time as there was, and a seasoned funeral home taking care of details, there's a surprising number of decisions to make.

My father's death this morning made it a distinctly non-typical Friday. I've talked to several people connected with the funeral home in the town where he spent his last days, been to a local bank to pick up form, sign it, and get it faxed back, and been peripherally involved with getting in touch with family, to relay the news.

That form was three pages, plus cover memo, requiring several of my initials and a signature - detailing how my father's cremation would be handled. It was pretty straightforward, compared to some of what I've had to deal with over the years: but it still required a phone call to clarify one point: about what happened to his glasses and other 'attached' stuff.

Not the cheeriest thing to contemplate, but necessary. And, I'm the person who's in the position to sign off on the document.

One of the bright spots today, for me, was a moment in one of the conversations with someone up in the Red River Valley of the North. I'd been talking over disposition of the body with one of the (directors, I think) at the funeral home. He was telling me what needed to be done, including this form. I could tell by his tone, as he told me that the form he would fax to me was three pages long, that he reasonably thought this might seem daunting.

Being what and who I am, I assured him: "I love to read!" He told me I sounded very much like my father right after that.

I believe it. There was a time, when I was in my teens, that he'd left a tape recorder on while we talked. Listening to the tape later, the only way we could tell who was saying what was by our memory of the conversation. I suppose our voices drifted a bit since then, but not - it seems - all that much.

I like that.

My Father's Death, Funeral Arrangements, the Furnace and a Headlight

We're making arrangements for my father's funeral - he died at about 1:40 this morning. I've signed documents authorizing his cremation, read the will, and talked with my children and wife about this transition.

I've also noticed that the family van's right headlight is burned out; researched and wrote a post for another blog; checked the calendar to see when I need to get the next Knights of Columbus council bulletin out; and realized that I didn't mention the furnace technician who came yesterday morning.

Yes, my father's death this morning is a pretty big deal: and I've teared up a few times since hearing about it. But everything else keeps happening, too.

As if to match my mood, the sky's been cloudy and it's been raining most of the day.

About the furnace: That was a routine, annual, once-over to make sure that it was in good working order for the heating season. And we're good to go for winter. So far.

Without trying to, I've had memories of my father popping up as I work: 'pictures' of our playing Frisbee; times in my childhood when we'd spend a quiet time together - I'd be reading in an old overstuffed chair while he was at his desk in the basement, generally reading something too; talking with him.

Like we say: 'Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual help shine upon him.'

Noted: The Death of My Father

My father died at about 1:40 this morning. Peacefully, I'm told.

He's a good man: and a very hard act to follow.

Next step for me is to see that family at this end is alerted.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soo Bahk Do, Another Day With My Family: And My Father's Dying

Another day's just about over. My wife, #3 daughter, and son went to Soo Bahk Do class this evening and returned in good spirits.

On a less chipper note, we learned this morning that my father is unresponsive: he doesn't respond to touch, and appears to be unconscious. Also, circulation in the outer parts of his arms and legs appears to be much less than before.

Odds are that he'll die in a matter of hours or days. Weeks? Probably not.

Happily, #2 daughter and my son-in-law are just a few miles away from him, up in the Red River Valley of the North. That's a comfort.

I would like to be up there, but there are logistic considerations - and family here to consider, too.

I understand and accept that death is the only way we can reasonably expect our lives to end: but that doesn't mean that I feel good about it.

I ran across a couple of prayers in "The Catholic prayerbook: from Downside Abbey," David Foster, T&T Clark Ltd (1999):

"O Lord, you have made us very small, and we bring our years to an end like a tale that is told; help us to remember that beyond our brief day is the eternity of your love.
"Reinhold Niebuhr"

"Grant, Lord, that we may not set our mind on earthly things but love the things of heaven; and that even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, we may cleave to the things that shall abide; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Leonine Sarcramentary"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday: Well, We Needed the Rain

We got a phone call from the Red River Valley of the North. It was a good news/bad news sort of call.

First, the bad news: As of this morning, my father can no longer swallow. So, no more food or water can go in. We've had some false alarms before, but I think there's a good chance that sometime soon - in the next hours, days, or - maybe - weeks, my father's life will end.

I don't like the idea. At all.

But I don't have to like it: Reality being what it is, death comes at the end of life. That's the way it is. What we make of that fact is what makes a difference. More of that in another blog's post.

I was shaky for an hour or so after hearing the news: needing to pay more attention to how I walked. Even my hands weren't as steady as they normally are, and I started a credible Elmer Fudd impression once.

Now, the good news.

My son-in-law is feeling a lot better. He'd come down with something, seen a doctor, and missed a radio appearance: but that's in the past, and it looks like he's very much on the mend.

Back here in Sauk Centre, I've noticed that I'm sometimes going up the stairs without gripping the rail - and once realized that I was only touching it at intervals. It's not many fifty-something guys who are experience a fairly rapid improvement in their physical abilities.

Those artificial hip joints are great: I'm back in the habit of walking places - withing about three or four blocks, anyway.

This afternoon I walked down to the Coborn's / Ace Hardware block. Since the hummingbirds have left for the season, I picked up a little "tray" - it actually looks more like a cage - that holds blocks of birdseed. And, a block to go in it. The seeds are picked with finches in mind: My guess is that the sparrows and chickadees will dig in, too.

The birdseed block is a clever product: the thistle seed, sunflower seed chips, red millet, flax seed and the rest is held together with a bit of gelatin, honey, and dextrose. My guess is that I could make something like it at home. Maybe next year.

I got the birdseed set out, a few feet from my webcam, so folks should have something to watch over the winter. The webcam looks out the window by my computer, so I'll be able to watch directly now and again.

We got roughly an eighth of an inch yesterday: which was welcome. I'd been hoping for more rain today. But, there's still time before winter to dampen the soil.

Related posts:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Day, For Which I am Duly Grateful

It's dark out, my wife is watching television with #3 daughter, my son and I have read Garfield and sung, as is our habit, and I'm about to turn in. It's been a good day.

Besides catching up on the weekend's tasks, I saw a doctor - psychiatrist, actually - for a four-month checkup. I'm doing well, so the medications stay the same, and it'll be six months before the next scheduled visit. That 'major depression' diagnosis was, in its own way, the best news I'd had in years. Particularly since there are effective ways of treating it now.

I drove around Sauk Centre, getting a few photos for tomorrow's Sauk Centre Journal, and put gas in the van, on my way back. Getting gas was a little more eventful than usual. The pump I tried to use first kept flashing "47" at me. The folks inside couldn't get it to work, so I circled around and refilled at another pump. Happily, I was in no hurry - so it was a chance to say 'hi' to some of the people there.

My son's getting along with home schooling so far - after two whole days. He practiced his trombone again today. Upstairs, mercifully. He's learning, but it's not exactly a quiet instrument.

Grilling Steak for Supper, Yesterday

I almost forgot - yesterday, my wife asked me if I'd like to grill steak for supper.

After a grill-less weekend? You bet!

They came out pretty well - which I suspect is as much due to the meat selected, as to my efforts.

It's occurred to me that grilling burgers and steaks is a socially-acceptable way to 'play with your food.'

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday: Back Home and Glad of It

My wife, all four kids, and my new son-in-law, went up to the Red River Valley of the North on Friday to visit my father. It had to be short, since he has the dickens of a time getting oxygen in - but 'a good time was had by all.'

Well, pretty much all. As one of the kids put it, "I want to go home now." Can't say that I blame her.

Still, I'm glad we went.

My wife, #2 daughter and #3 daughter put on the dresses they'd worn at #2 daughter's wedding the previous Saturday. A festive touch, I think.

Thanks to a laptop computer, we were able to show my father photos from the wedding, and of the house. Some of my new (nieces-in-law??) and their parents were out there recently - and loved the place. That seems to happen, once folks go there.

My family, and the new couple, went to Mass Saturday afternoon. I found out that #2 daughter has volunteered to provide music for that Mass. Good news: music and singing add a lot. I think, anyway.

I had several hours of time with #1 daughter - and her rabbit - on the drive up and back. Which was also a good thing.

Today, #3 daughter and my son started home school. She's tutoring him on English, under direction from my wife. So far, after one day, it's working out rather well.

At this moment, a few minutes after 9:00 p.m., #1 daughter's rabbit is in the kitchen, being fed a half-stick of celery by my wife. Our son is sitting on the floor next to her, talking with her and enjoying the rabbit.

And now, it's time to read Garfield with my son.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Father's Life: Approaching Another Milestone

We got word today from the care facility. My father's not been able to feed himself, and has spoken only a few words today: instead, writing notes to communicate. Someone from hospice called, later, with the additional information that his color isn't as good as it was.

He's bounced back before, but there's a good chance that he will soon die.

I can't say I'm happy about the situation, but there's nothing to be done about the situation: no infection to deal with, no wound to heal.

Happily, #2 daughter and her husband live just a few miles away from him. My son-in-law lost his first wife to cancer, and recognized indications that my father's life is near its end.

I plan to get up to the Red River Valley of the North tomorrow, setting out tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, back here in Sauk Centre, my son's on the computer in the other room, #1 daughter's rabbit is in the kitchen - and has, I see, finished a celery stick - and I'm seeing how much of Friday's work I can do today.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

About Eight Hours After the Wedding

#2 daughter is now married. The wedding itself was about as hitch-free as such things ever are.

#2 daughter looked beautiful; everybody walked to where they were supposed to; the flower girl and ring bearer only needed a little coaching; I didn't trip as #2 daughter and I walked down the aisle; and didn't hit anybody with my cane as I handed her over to my son-in-law.

The party afterward was fine. We were at the Palmer House, downtown - the folks there did a fine job - and spent somewhat between five and six hours eating, dancing, and talking. My wife's family spent part of the time catching up with each other, the rest getting to know my son-in-law's family. His father spent quite a bit of time with my father-in-law and one of the brothers-in-law: talking about hunting and fishing in the latter case - and it's anyone's guess what my father-in-law and he talked about.

I've had a big day - and didn't even have to do much except act on cue. I think the ladies will be resting as hard as they can tomorrow.

After the party, in the van, I went through my usual routine of glancing in the rear view mirror to make sure that everyone was in and the doors closed. I thought, '#2 daughter isn't here yet' - then realized that we've gone through one of those major transitions.

Just Over an Hour Before the Wedding

In one hour and ten minutes it'll be 2:00 in the afternoon: time for #2 daughter's wedding ceremony to start. Right now, I'm staying close to the keyboard - partly to get this written, partly to stay out of the way.

#2 daughter's flitting to and fro, the wife of one of my son-in-law-to-be's friends and their two kids are here, along with an assortment of other people. It's not particularly quiet here.

My wife's just told me that it's time to get dressed. Time to wrap this up and get ready, myself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wedding Rehearsal Went Well

The wedding rehearsal taught me that I'll have to switch my cane from one hand to the other at one point - and was a learning experience for everyone, I think. Also, a good idea.

The dinner afterward, at the Palmer House, was a nice way to top off the day. And a really good meal. The happy couple got a speech and toast from one of his friends, his father, #1 daughter, and (with merciful brevity) me.

Tomorrow promises to be a really big day. There's an 'official' photographer, but I plan to bring my camera, anyway.

Wedding's Tommorow

#2 daughter's wedding is tomorrow. I met her parents this afternoon, came in to change into a clean shirt, and am now off to a rehearsal of some sort.

Flurried? Yes, a bit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday: #2 Daughter's Off for a Day or Two

#2 daughter left today. She could have slept another night here, but that would have meant a lot more driving. She's visiting friends, I gather, and getting some sort of preparations done. She plans to be back - Friday, I think.

If I seem a bit vague there, you're an astute observer. I haven't been following a great deal of the activity around here lately.

I did, though, spot some dishes that needed washing. That put me in a position to see shifting colors in the dishwater's soap bubbles. That's something I like about the way the world works: if you're looking for it, you'll see beauty just about anywhere.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday: Three Full Days Before the Wedding

After supper today, I went into the living room to be with the rest of the at-home family and do a little exercising. My wife and two daughters started discussing details of who would be doing what, when and how before the wedding, during the event, and afterwords.

I'm in the north room, at what I think is a safe distance, having fed #1 daughter's rabbit an apple core on the way. He had another from me, right after supper. #1 daughter has opined that we feed Giol more than she does: she may be right.

I've finished the Knights of Columbus local council bulletin that I do eleven months out of the year, and got it to the printers. It's back, the ladies labeled it, and are in the process of putting on those little adhesive tabs the Post Office likes to have on such things.

My son's spent some time with Giol - we don't have a formal schedule, but between us we see to it that he gets some up-close-and-personal time at fairly regular intervals. It's not exactly altruism on our part: Between those furry feet, puffy tail, floppy ears and wriggling nose he's a little bundle of 'cute.'

He's also very effective at begging food from us.

#2 daughter is the first of our children to get married. I'm very pleased with the young man she's picked out and looking forward to her moving past another milestone in her life. Even so, it's a huge transition. Yesterday, I realized - again - how agitated I am. Also antsy and nervy: but not, I think, unglued.

And I'm just father of the bride. All I have to do is walk her up the aisle, say a word or two, and later have a short father-daughter dance. I'm, as usual, very impressed at how Catherine is handling things. And #2 daughter, of course.
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