Posted tagged ‘Family’

Father’s Day

June 19, 2016

stan bowkerMy father died about 50 years ago when I was about 19. I don’t exactly remember all the exact dates. My memory has gotten just a bit foggy over the years. So here’s my story.

My mom and dad got married after WW2. They got married on March 3, 1946. My father was not in the military due to his epilepsy. Plus he might have been a bit old for the military. They probably didn’t feel right starting a family while the war was going on. Another reason that they might have delayed getting married was that my mother was a school teacher and at that time school teachers were forbidden to be married. Get married, lose your job.

So marry they did. They had three children, born in 1947, 1948 and 1950. So they were well into their 40’s by the time all of my brothers and I arrived.

Okay, fast forward to the late fifties. My dad suffered a heart attack. I think it was 1958 or 1959. What I remember most about the incident was how little the hospital could do for him at the time. No open heart surgery. No stents. All they could do was have him rest. Eventually they sent home from St. Elizabeth’s. He asked the doctor how he was going to manage the stairs to our home on Etna Street in Brighton.

Doctor’s instruction was take a step and then say one Hail Mary, then repeat. Anyway, life went on. That’s it for post-hospital instructions. I suppose there might have been some medicines, but they didn’t tell this 10 year old.

So in November (or maybe December) 1966, my dad had gall bladder problems. Surgery scheduled. Back in the day, they didn’t have laparoscopic surgery. They did it the old fashioned way, they cut you open. In those days, there was no MRI so when they didn’t quite know what was wrong, they cut you open. The term they used was “exploratory surgery”. Yikes.

At any rate, Dad came out of surgery okay, but was suffering some bleeding (showing up in his urine, I guess). Mind you this was a man that only 8 years prior had had a heart attack. So they scheduled another surgery (exploratory this time). I learned this when I went to visit him at St E’s after school one day. At any rate, he coded during the surgery. The surgeons did managed to get his heart restarted, but the damage was done. He never woke from the surgery. He was in a coma for about 6-8 weeks before he died.

So here are my take-aways.

Medicine has come a long, long way since the 1950’s and 1960’s. Looking back on that time it seems like it was dark ages of medicine. If the heart attack had occurred even 20 years later, he might still be alive.

My Dad never got to see us get married and have children of our own. I can truthfully tell you that grandchildren are such a fantastic blessing. Nothing makes me happier than to have our grand-kids run up to me and say “Hi, Grandpa” along with a hug.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!


April 16, 2016

Mike, Jonathan and Mary

Time for an update on Mary. Physically, she is doing just fine. No colds, no infections, no falls, no trips to urgent care or the ER. She’s doing as well as one could hope for 90+ years of age. That doesn’t mean things are getting easier.

Paula and I had a chance to sit and talk without Mary listening. We headed out to our local Starbuck’s and sat outside on a beautiful spring day and talked about everything. Mostly these days we are trying as best we can to improve Mary’s quality of life. It can be frustrating at times, but we give it our best shot.

Last Friday,  we told her that we would be going to the Mariner’s Night at the lodge. This event is held on the first and third Friday of the month. It is a casual get together where a light dinner is served along with drinks among friends. We usually just sit and have a drink and talk with our friends.

We try to encourage Mary to go so that she can socialize with other people (some of who she knows). Last couple of times she told us that she doesn’t like going. We suspect that the reason is that she has trouble holding up her side of the conversation. Her conversation skills have fallen such that all she can do is say hello and how are you. It didn’t help things when she found out that dinner was spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. Mary doesn’t like pasta, especially spaghetti. She doesn’t care much for bread either.

For us, it’s a chance to get out of the house and not cook dinner and not have to clean up. (Which of course, Mary no longer does and hasn’t done for years.) So we tell her that perhaps we can bring some food home for you. She says, oh alright I’ll go.

So Mary has told us on occasion that she would like to get out more. But when we do take her someplace, she complains or just sits and does nothing. There are many days where she gets up in the morning at 9 am eats breakfast and goes back to bed and sleeps all day. Sigh.

For instance, on Friday Paula took Mary to get their hair done. While I took the Toyota to the dealer for service. After they were done at the hair salon, they went clothes shopping at Draper & Damon’s (a local women’s clothing store). Mary went into the store and just sat. Paula couldn’t get her to look at any clothing. Sigh. Not that she needs any clothing. She has two closets full of clothing that she never wears.

A couple of weeks ago, Paula took her to the eye doctor. The doctor did a refractometry exam. (That’s the procedure where the optometrist figures out your eye glass prescription.) Mary has been wearing glasses for a while now, mostly for watching television or driving. Of course, she doesn’t drive anymore, so now it’s just for TV.

We wanted to get her another pair of glasses to keep in her purse. We think that she has another pair of glasses stashed somewhere, but damned if we know where she put them. Primary use would be at church where she can’t see the words on the screen. So the one pair of glasses that she haves usually gets left behind at home. Also, I don’t think that Mary likes being seen wearing eye glasses. Again, sigh.

One more thing, Paula and I have been trying to get her to talk about what she would like for her funeral service after she dies. We have asked many probing questions. Do you want an OES service? Cremated? Favorite hymn?  Favorite Bible verse? We’ve got nothing. She doesn’t like talking about it. I guess she figures that she will live forever.  It’s becoming clear that we will be on our own for deciding on funeral services.


Remember when we talked about…

January 4, 2016

Okay, we started a new year on Friday. On Saturday, we planned to take Mary to the wedding of our friends Stephenie and Jeremy from OES. So we had talked to Mary about this several times over the past couple of weeks. We usually review our calendars with Mary at the beginning of the week. Mary writes things down in her calendar that she keeps in her purse.2016-01-02 18.48.19

So she asks us on Saturday what are we doing today. We explain to her that we will be taking her to the wedding. She says, “Who’s Stetphanie?”. I think we answered that question about four times Saturday. We sometimes make the mistake of starting the comment to her with the words, “Remember, when we talked about…”. When we know full well that she doesn’t have a clue who Stephanie is or for that matter anybody else she might know.

By the way, the picture was taken at the wedding. As time goes on she seems to be having a lot of trouble remembering people that she has known for years. I have this fear that one of these days, she is going to get up in the morning and ask, “Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?”

So we got her to the wedding at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. I drop off then go park car. The church is right next to the lodge so that one only has to walk down a path to get to the lodge. But the path was dark and a little bit uneven. A dark and uneven path really upsets her. So, Paula on one side on I on the other walk her across the path. All the while telling her that we have you in hand. You will not fall.

I suspect that her world is very confusing. She reads the newspaper every day. Most times three or four times. If we didn’t collect the paper and put it in the recycle bin, she would read it again. She watches the evening news (both local and national). We record it on our DVR, but she has no clue how that works or how to operate it. When they announcers talk about things like the internet, or hacking or social media, I am sure she doesn’t have a clue.

We all had a good time at the wedding, but knew it was getting time to go when I see Mary looking at her watch. When are they going to serve the cake? Not leaving until she gets her cake. Many people stopped to chat with her at our table.

The reception was at our lodge. I suspect that the lighting was disconcerting for her. They had lights that changed colors every few minutes and it was dim. So time goes on. So in 2016, she has started on her 92nd year. We try hard to keep her safe. Whoever said the growing old was easy?

Christmas Wishes

December 24, 2015


We will be heading off to Ocean View Baptist Church for Christmas Eve Services. I would like to wish all of my friends and readers of my blog a Merry Christmas.


November 27, 2015

Well another Thanksgiving Day is in the record books. We had a delightful day. Our current tradition is to visit Theresa’s cousin Eric up in Rancho Palos Verdes. it has become a fairly large family gathering. We have children ranging in age from 14 down to 1 years old.

We do it at Eric’s house because he has the largest house available for the occasion. We end up with three tables. One for the seniors (minimum age of 60), one for the little kids, and one for the young adults.

Our contribution to the festivities was wine. I was instructed to bring 4-5 bottles of wine. So I brought two bottles of Beuajolais Nouveau, one of Chardonnay, a Reisling and a Gewurstraminer. I went home with an empty bag.

There are pluses and minuses to going to other people’s homes for Thanksgiving. On the plus side, we don’t have to cook. We just come and bring what we are told to bring. On the minus side, there are no left overs and I have less control over the menu. Like no mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. But the food was all good. It was a mixture of American and Chinese cuisines.

Mary did pretty good. The terrain is a bit tough for her. Eric’s home has a steep, long driveway. We had to be extra careful. No falls or trips to the ER, thank you very much. We didn’t have any white zin for her so she had to make do with the riesling.

It was fun to watch the little ones play. Jonathan was keeping pretty good. Sarah is improving her toddling skills.

Sarah, keeping up with the big boys.


Jonathan’s Yellow Wheels

So the family room had football playing on the big screen. Guests were shooed out of the kitchen. Everyone got some piano playing time. I know enough to bring my iPad so that I have my music. Eric has a beautiful Steinway baby grand. Everyone in the family takes piano lessons.
We were home by 8pm.

1125alice01No dishes to do. Mary was all worn out. She headed off to her bedroom and went to bed. Paula and I sat down to watch Arlo Guthrie perform “Alice’s Restaurant” on PBS. I had recorded it on the DVR so I could skip through the pledge breaks.  Here’s a link to a live recording of Alice’s Restauarant done in 2005. That ditty sure has staying power. The pledge-persons on the LA PBS station seemed to be more annoying than usual, but I could skip over the breaks. Young man in suit and tie, woman of similar age. You couldn’t pick two people more unlike Arlo Guthrie than these two. It was a good concert if you ignore the pledge breaks.

Embassy Suites

September 14, 2015

We just got home from our trip up north to Vandenberg AFB with Mary. We were staying at the Embassy Suites in Lompoc. I will be writing a separate post on the ceremony. This post is about our stay at Embassy Suites. This is a decent hotel. The only meal we had here was this morning. The morning breakfast buffet was outstanding. First class. I’ve been to a lot of hotel buffets in my life. This one beats them all hands down.

The only issue I have is the size of the room and I don’t think there is much to be done about that. We had Mary sleeping on the sleeper sofa and Paula and I had the King size bed in the bedroom. Unfortunately there was only one small bathroom in the bedroom. That meant when Mary got up to use the bathroom at night guess where she went.

On Saturday night she was a bit confused and couldn’t find the bathroom. Often times we bring a night light. Forgot it this time. Oh well.

Of course, she was always cold. I am not turning off the AC. Not going to happen.

Travelling with Mary is getting very stressful. We can’t let down our guard for minute lest she trip and fall. She couldn’t quite figure out why it took so long to get to the restaurants we were going to.  The restaurants are ones that are favorites of Mike’s squadron and aren’t in Lompoc.  And VAFB is very isolated. Intentionally so.

All of the HP accessible locations all worked out very well. She never had to walk much more than 20 feet from car to building. The military folks were very attentive to her needs including getting her a special chair.

Mary, it seems these days, is having trouble making decisions. Paula would offer her a couple or three outfits that she could wear. She just floundered. I think this is probably the last trip she will ever go on. There is no event that I know of that she would know of or want to go to. Certainly not by air. That ship has sailed. At any rate we are glad to be home. Next trip next week to San Diego WITHOUT Mary.


August 13, 2015

Not a good day today. Too many balls in the air. Paula had a meeting at the Asst League this morning.

Mary was complaining of pain in her left shoulder. This is the same shoulder that she had surgery on in Jan 2014 after a fall in December 2013. So we dug out the sling from that surgery for her to immobilize her arm. We then called her orthopod for an appointment.

So the appointment was for 11:00 AM. So Paula was tied up for her meeting. That meant I would take her for the Dr’s appointment. After much effort we got her dressed. The only way that I will let her out of the house in her PJ’s is on a stretcher heading to the ER. So Paula got her dressed. And off we go.

Parking at the orthopod is difficult. Certainly no HP slots available. Got a space in the basement garage and got her to the elevator and up to the Dr’s office. So far, so good.

Dr. comes in and talks with Mary and I. He has her try to lift and turn her arm, make a fist, etc. So he schedules X-ray across the street at Little Company of Mary Hospital. It’s a long walk. Certainly more than Mary is capable of, even with a tail-wind. So the nurse loaned us a wheel chair and off we go to LCMH.

Finished the X-ray. Texted Paula with status. Agreed to meet in LCMH cafeteria. We had about 45 minutes to kill waiting for follow-up ortho. By far the worst pizza and french fries I have had in a long time.

So I go to my car and fetch Mary’s purse and hand off to Paula. Ortho says no fracture, rest and take pain meds. Scheduled follow-up in a week. I am not sure what else can be done. Surgery isn’t really an option. Ease the pain and do no harm. Met Paula at the elevator and helped Mary up to our door. She was positively running on fumes.

I thought of taking a picture but thought better of it. You don’t want to see her looking that bad. Better to remember better days.

Well Paula is off to CVS to pick up Rx and a couple of other things. We are so looking forward to a weekend off.  God bless the care-givers.



Stupid Questions

August 11, 2015

Last night we got a call from our son, Neil. We hear from Neil every now and then. Neil lives in Salt Lake City. Neil works for the local transit authority in SLC. He likes the job. It’s a good job with good benefits. He told us that he will be getting trained to drive the LRV (Light Rail Vehicle) Heavy Rail trains this fall. He will have vacation in November. He probably will come visit us in San Pedro.

So when he calls we usually put the phone on speaker mode so that we all can join in the call. Mary didn’t have anything to say but listened.

So here’s the stupid question. Later, after the call was done, Mary asks Paula “Do you wish Neil was living in San Pedro?”. Well, duh. Yes. But it’s not likely to happen.

This is the sort of thing we get from Mary a lot lately. People ask if she has Alzheimer’s. I usually say that I don’t think so. At least in my limited understanding of Alzeimer’s.. Click here for the Wiki entry. But some sort of dementia?  Yes. Her mind is slowly fading away.

For example, the other day she was feeling lonely. So she told me that she sure would like a puppy dog to keep her company. Those were her exact words “Puppy Dog”. So I ask her “Who is going to take care of a dog?”. Oh, I will she says. So you will take it for walks and pick up the dog poop? Oh, yes she says.

She was sounding like a five year old, begging for his parents to get him a dog. Here’s the women who can barely make it to the bathroom without help, promising to take a dog for a walk. Never mind that a puppy dog would out live her for many years.

Of course, you know exactly who would be picking up poop and feeding the dog. Moi. So I  told her that a puppy dog is not in the plans. Of course, she will forget the entire conversation by today.

A couple more thoughts and then I will shutup. We are coming up on our three year anniversary of our moving to San Pedro.  Three years ago today, we were in Memphis, TN touring Graceland.  Without us, Mary would certainly be in a nursing home. Paula is an only child, so there are no siblings to share the load. 

Indeed, if Mike and Neil were still living in Mass. we would never have moved out here. We would have loaded Mary onto a big silver bird and taken her back east to Mass. But that didn’t happen, did it.

Refrigerator Data Center

July 26, 2015

  I don’t know about your home, but at our place the refrigerator is a center of useful and fun information.

First and foremost we keep pictures of our grandkids, both recent and not so recent. There is an occasional newspaper article. 

For example, there is a picture of President Bush speaking with a bull horn at the remains of the twin towers in NYC. Mary put that one up a long time ago. I don’t have the heart to pull it down. It’s gotten brown with age.

  The most recent picture is one of grandson Jonathan with his face painted. How cute is that?

Our refrigerator is loaded with magnetic knick-knacks. Some from well known companies, some from not so well known. Some of them purchased during our many travels. What would we do if the refrigerator makers produced a refrigerator with a non-magnetic surface? It would not be pretty.

We keep current calendars, flyers, tickets and schedules. Info for Lodge, OES, Church and Assistance League. We have bottle openers. One is from the New England School of Bartending. (Given to us by Neil)

We have calendars and more calendars. (Most for the current year) 

The refrigerator is where we put the pay envelope for our housekeeper. She knows that were it will be. She doesn’t even need to ask. It will just be there.

What’s on your refrigerator?


July 12, 2015

I am becoming convinced that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in our house. Let me repeat, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in our house. Not the kitchen, the bathroom.

Mary doesn’t go into the kitchen very much. She might on rare occasions use the microwave. But for the most part, she stays out of the kitchen. But not for that the kitchen would win the award for most dangerous room.

The plan yesterday was for Paula to take Mary to a fashion show at Draper & Damon’s in Torrance. Paula was taking her shower and getting dressed. Mary was getting dressed in her bathroom. She seemed to be taking a long time.

Eventually, Paula went in to check on how things were going. I, for obvious reasons, tend to stay out of her bathroom.

So Mary has a small stool that she sits on while dressing. So she got dizzy while standing up and took a dive. She bumped her head but no serious damage. So Paula helped her get onto her feet. Then finished helping her get ready. And off they went to the fashion show.

When we are walking outside either Paula or I stay by her side and take her left arm. That just doesn’t happen in the bathroom.

I swear the bathroom will kill that woman yet. But not today.