Saturday, October 10, 2015

Carole with an E, the 50th, and some other things

The summer swiftly vanished, didn't it?

I thought often about the neglected blog, and the fact I should be taking time to sit with the laptop and write something. I've been excessively busy, and as my last post suggested possibly very tired. Also, without much important to say.

Not sure where to start with an update but here goes.

Get the sad part out first. My aunt passed away after a very long battle with cancer. But one that she took on with gusto and bravery. In the years since her diagnosis, she managed to travel the world, dance on Bourbon Street with her husband on their 50th anniversary and make it all the way to 53. She got some great-grandchildren out of the time as her grand daughter Melissa brought two adorable little girls into the world. She began to fade fast in early August. My cousin Debi quit her job to take care of doctors and appointments and housekeeping and an email list of hundreds of people who wanted to know "what's the update with Carole?" They ordered Hospice at Home, got the hospital bed moved into what used to be her sewing room, and streams of people came to visit, organized and appointments kept by Debi.

I got to say goodbye, and we had some good laughs before someone who wasn't on the schedule showed up to visit so I cut my visit short. The look on my aunt's face was priceless. "He's already been here. What's he doing?" and the side-eye she gave me cracked me up.

You don't get to say goodbye too often, with laughing. So. I think that was indicative of our relationship. "We had some really good times and a lot of fun, didn't we?" she asked me.

You betcha. We sure did.

Her funeral was packed. So many people and great stories. Again, my cousin Debi held up the family and ran the show. When you're the only girl out of four, you gotta know how to be in control or the boys will walk all over you. She had great strength and beauty, and such dignity... and her brothers were obviously thankful for that leadership. My cousin Mike had everyone in stitches with his stories. Tommy kept it brief and beautiful. David was a man of few words but a couple laughs, kind of a direct balance between Tommy and Mike.

And my poor uncle... 53 years of Carole, and now figuring things out for himself.

As he walked away from the graveside, my cousin Mike told me he looked over his shoulder and said "I'm right behind you, babe."

That broke the kids' hearts for sure, but they understood. And. He almost got his wish.

After the funeral he did not come to the mercy meal. Debi took him home and his siblings stayed with him.  He'd had a "stomach ache" for several days but kept saying it was stress, he was nervous, worried. He would go see the doctor after this was all over with Carole. No one should worry. He'll be okay.

Nope. Debi convinced him to go to the hospital that night, and while he was being examined she sent out a thank you email to everyone on the Carole distribution list and it turned into the Jim update list right then.

He had a hernia and his intestines had gotten pinched off into the hernia area, and infected, and on the verge of bursting.

He nearly died that night - emergency surgery at 2am. Again, Debi organizing things and continuing the update emails to the followers, family and friends.

They saved his life, and he ended up spending a couple of weeks in hospital recovering, and some time in a rehab, and finally came home this week.

At one point in the email updates, Debi asked "whoever has our family voodoo dolls, can you put them away now for a little bit, thanks!"

I am so proud of her strength and resilience. Proud to count her as my family.

Around the time of my son's Eagle ceremony in April, my sister began planning a 50th anniversary party for my parents. I'm very glad she is the motivated one, because I would have said "Oh, mom and dad's anniversary is next week let's take them out to dinner or something" because I literally don't think to do things much lately.

Also, because unlike my Aunt Carole and Uncle Jim dancing in New Orleans and celebrating, or my Auntie Bea and Uncle Kenny going on a cruise with all the kids and grandkids, my parents both would shrug their shoulders and go "meh" about doing anything.

So Linda, being the smart one, knew that the only way to pull this off was to have a surprise party. She lined up the venue, did the invitations, put together the "ruse" that would get my parents to the restaurant that day with help from my Auntie Bea, and I ordered the cake and flowers.

My aunt was so looking forward to this party. With that side-eye look she said "I can't believe I am going to miss this party!" And I told her, wellllllll you can hang in there, and we'll set up a computer with Skype and you can talk to them and see the party and everything, that'll be nice. And she sot me that look. Yeah right, Chrissie. Optimist. Not gonna happen. And it didn't, of course. She passed away before the event. Sadly.

The party was a great success, we had a ton of fun, and my parents were indeed surprised and I might add kind of shocked. A ton of people from my dad's side came up from New York to celebrate with us, which completely blew my mom and dad away. My Aunt Margie and Uncle John flew out from Arizona too, which was a real blessing.

Watching the three siblings that remain out of four (my uncle Herbie lives in Florida and cannot travel) it was very amusing to see all the childhood left-over behaviors like eye rolls and arm smacks when someone says something naughty.

So after the loss on one side of the family, having the other side swing back around to party with us was a real loving boost to all.

We rented rooms at a hotel a couple towns away from their house in Plymouth, MA, and spent Saturday night by the ocean, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, children and my parents talking and shooting the shit, having a laugh riot. The only thing missing was a bonfire in the middle of the circle.

At one point my dad was just walking around the hotel patio looking kind of stunned. I went over to him to ask if he was okay because, you know, with the last incident with my Uncle I kind of was afraid maybe after all the excitement there was something medically wrong. He was indeed just kind of stunned.

He said to me, "I can't believe you guys did this. We don't deserve this."

"What the hell do you mean, "we don't deserve this," dad?"

"We just... we don't really," he mumbled and wiped his nose and stared out into the darkness at the ocean.

My parents have had 50 years of marriage filled with the usual ups and downs, obviously. It was not a cake walk or a bed of roses. There wasn't a lot of joy between them. At one point, I think I was in high school, I said to my mom that it would just be better if they split up and just got it over with. She was furious with me. And I couldn't wait to leave for college and get away.

I didn't have the best role models for husband and wife, for sure. But it isn't about me.  They had each other. And as I left, as Linda eventually left... the animosity between them was a lot lessened. Because in the end, they had each other. When they moved up here to Massachusetts, they started new with new friends and new challenges. My dad has been in and out of the hospital and my mom has turned into Nurse Shirley organizing all of the medications and appointments.

There is a real deep co-dependency there, and sometimes yeah... I guess you can call it love. It's got to be love. Right?

And when my dad was standing there telling me that he felt like they didn't deserve a party, I think I instantly knew what he meant. I told him to shut up, that they did the best they could. I didn't say that this was a "survival" celebration, that you survived each other this long... but maybe that is what it is.

Contrats to B&S on your survival.

approx 1965
at my wedding, 1991

Geoff has been taking his classes for EMT and is doing well. He still needs to pass his road test so that is a slight challenge. He'll hopefully have that done in two weeks. Jess and her friends are looking for an apartment together, which is nice. I hope they find something they like and it is a good arrangement. She makes twice as much a week as they all do, so I am a little worried about her paying more than her "fair" share as it were, but that's not my business. I think about how people take care of me when they have more money than I do, and I take care of others when I have more money than they do, and in the end as long as we're all taking care of each other it's all good. No one should keep score. 

We were thinking of moving but I think we'll stay the winter here. Wood is ordered for delivery next week, and the wood stove cleaner comes in two weeks. We'll hunker down and last. 

I guess that is about it. Nothing else more exciting to report of great interest. 


  1. Hurray, I missed you.
    Lovely update, thank you, that was a lot of stuff that happened.

  2. Elizabeth12:28 AM

    **LIKE** And then MORE stuff happened. ;-)

  3. Nice post, and thanks for taking care of me and buying me my fave tuna. Mmm, tuna and you!