Category Archives: Cast of Characters

Arrivederci, Italia. All I want for my birthday is a gun.

(The Von Trapp family walked over these. We just flew. Nice view, yes?)

Ha! Kidding, of course, but we are home, safe and sound after the trip of our lifetime together and now I have moved on to bear hunting. I need to do a very lengthy update- or better, a series of short, succinct posts with some stunning photography- but I hit the pavement running and haven’t had a moment to think, which I’m starting to suspect is the new 60. That bit about not thinking. 

(Flying first class has comforts. Getting settled into my “pod” with quilt, iPad, knitting and lavender travel pillow from a certain blogging buddy.)

I’ll definitely finish up with more on Italy because our final two days in Firenze (costing more than the entire rest of the trip) were so full of wonder and beauty and, hmm, 632 photographs but life will have to quiet here a bit first. That happens on Monday when the whole world and one of the two cats leave and Sophie and I can contemplate the fall mountain colors in peace. I will be much, much older then and in need of some quiet time.

Two or three days ago, whenever it was, we arrived at the spanking new, incomplete Sheraton Hotel at the Malpensa airport in Milan to catch a few winks before boarding a 7 am flight to London. Let’s see, 2.5 hour advance check in, no boarding passes or assigned seats yet, it’s so late all the ticket counters are closed…Malpensa airport combined with this new Sheraton that has crammed a zillion rooms onto 3 floors because of height restrictions put our room about 2.8 miles from the nearest fire exit, which wasn’t completed yet in any case. No sleep, from Malpensa to Heathrow to O’Hare. At O’Hare, Rich and I had to part ways as he was crazy enough to keynote a conference in Iowa (don’t ask) the next morning, so there we were, many pounds and bags overweight, oozing ourselves and all that olive oil through customs: “no. no agricultural products. no, not been on a farm. no, no food…” I had a mere 1 hour layover to get off the plane, get through immigration lines, gather the bags, go through customs, recheck the bags, ride the train to the next terminal, kiss Rich goodbye (we were making out like Italian teenagers crammed into the jam-packed shuttle, as though we were saying goodbye forever rather than 24 hours.) Then it was back through security lines that, for some reason, brought to mind the gruesome images of Hell on the Duomo Firenze ceiling, and I RAN another mile to the farthest gate in O’Hare to catch a tiny commuter plane home to Charlotte. And then a 2.5 hour drive back to here.

Here is where my good friend and fellow fiberholic, Kristen has been staying, minding the cats and spinning her heart out while we were away. Here is where she stood up one evening to look out the window because Cloudy had his hackles up and saw, not one but THREE bears two feet from the front door wrestling with the giant paper wasp nest in the dogwood I have been watching grow this past summer. It was a beautiful piece of architecture and the wasps were very peaceful, just going about their business building their own version of the Duomo so I was letting them be. So much for that. One bear stood up on his hind legs and tore it out of the tree and they then shredded it to bits, eating the larvae. I guess they ran out of ground hornet nests. The next night they stood up against the back deck picture window and torn down the heaviest metal bird feeder on the market and carried it off down the hill, smashing it in, along with a second one. But not before they crapped on the deck, in the garden, along the walkway. 

(Who’s been pawing at MY window? asked Mama Cranky.)

Kristen had bearly recovered from that adventure and poured herself a glass of wine when she noticed the cats having a little confab in corner of the living room around what looked, at first glance, like another pile of bear crap. Closer inspection revealed it was a coiled up king snake, although until we confirmed that with a photo, she was convinced it was a Timber Rattler, aka, Canebreak snake. Sophie has the good sense to observe before jumping in with all four paws; McCloud not so much. He was busy poking it and it was busy lunging at him. Kristen screamed to a friend on her cell phone and then bravely shooed the cats and attempted to sweep the poor coiled snake out the front door. That took some effort as he seemed reluctant to cross the threshold to freedom but she finally got him out.

Let’s see, yesterday is a blur. Got to bed about 3 am, got up at 7 and unpacked, did 3 loads of laundry and then we headed out to the WNC Farm market. This was part of a plan to get me quickly back on EST because of events this weekend. Since not thinking is part of the new 60, we bought a half bushel of Roma tomatoes, a half bushel of ornamental gourds, a peck of apples, dried split peas and some southern form of cured pork butt. Then we went on to the WNC Arboretum and saw the bonsai, the handweavers exhibit, the quilt garden, the grass gardens and so forth. And then we came home and of course, something had to be done with those damn tomatoes. You know, she is much younger than I am so she should have known better in the first place, but no. So we canned tomatoes until it was time to pick up Rich at midnight at Asheville airport. 

(Some of Kristen’s carded fiber batts and, why,  tomatoes!)

Now it is 6 am and I’m getting ready to water the house plants and the deck plants before we head off to the long-awaited Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. Florida friend Cathy is already heading to the airport in St. Petersburg to fly in for this annual event. The airport is across the street from the fairgrounds so I’ll just zip over and get her when she lands. You’ve been around here long enough to know that for me, this is three days of sheep, alpaca, fleece, yarn, wool, fiber and more fiber.

Only crazy people do this crap the day they leave for and the day they return from their long postponed honeymoon. But Italia? Crazy romantic. I will update, promise, promise. If you really want to read a funny series of posts about our adventures in Italy, complete with laugh out loud photos, check out where our neighbor Ken gives a full report. We met up with them for a few days while in Tuscany. Ken is the nut who rode his Vespa 150 scooter across America to raise money for a small school in Ecuador and wrote daily journal entries in his blog. His spelling is worse than mine, but he writes a very humorous, very informative blog. You can find him here at Europe 2010 Diaries.

Gotta run.


La vita e bella

Put an accent mark over that e for me, will you?

As the nights get cooler (41 last night), the days become clearer and this morning is the first morning we see all the way to Cold Mountain. We find that fitting, Cold Mountain, as in, when it’s cold we see that beautiful peak all the way from here, on Little Mount Pisgah. As the nights get cooler, the birds eat more and more at the feeders each day. We literally have hundreds and they empty 3 full feeders 3 times each week. Yesterday we stopped at Wild Birds Unlimited and picked up one bag we had in storage and bought several more during the Fall seed sale and left them there in storage. That works well; we use the free storage plan and don’t have so much of it piled up in the garage for little meece. Give those mice an inch and they take a mile, moving in to scout through the various wools for some luxurious bit to line a nest. It must be like shopping at Luxe Home, finding what is stockpiled here in the way of fleece. McCloud, however, continues to be a great mouser despite his age and slow decline in renal health. Speaking of critters, the bear waltzed across the deck last night. We weren’t fast enough to see anything but her retreating rump once she triggered the motion lights but we think she has figured out that those are only on one side of the house. She made a second pass back on the other side sometime in the wee hours, knocked over the locked can of bird seed and ate most of the new bag, leaving the remains spread all over. She has wiped out three ground hornet nests thus far and we thank her for that, but it’s clear that we now need to pull in the feeders at night and keep the can in the garage.

Speaking of fleece, friend Kristen from BCMA came for a few days last week while Rich was in NYC meeting with ESPN. We had a wool frenzy of sorts, with piles of it all over the studio, the kitchen, the media room. We had the drum carder going a mile a minute, making delicious batts of various fine wools, silks, bamboo, some glitz for sparkle. From there we used the batts for felting and spinning. We did some dyeing (if I were to get near a doctor now she would surely think I’m on the way out; the blue cast to my skin and nails is something to behold) and at night we watched television, vaguely, as Kristen was spinning and I was knitting.

All that effort meant that we a) didn’t get out of our pajamas for 3 days and b) had to stop periodically for fuel. Kristen loves to cook as much as I do. One night we made Killer Shrimp, basically a large bowl of the biggest jumbo shrimp and artery annihilating spicy buttered broth with a crusty soft loaf from Ecce Panis for dipping. The fennel seed (from our garden!) and red pepper make it so tasty and warm. Use really jumbo shrimp or prawns; it’s worth it. Here’s the recipe:

2 tbl rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
8 oz clam juice
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 lb butter
2 lbs shrimp or prawns, tails on


Combine rosemary, fennel. Lightly chop the spices with a chef’s knife. In the end there should still be recognizable pieces of the rosemary, etc.

Place all ingredients except wine in a large pot. Simmer for about an hour.

Add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours.

Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in large bowls, each person gets a lot of broth. Eaten with fingers. Wear bibs. Serve with french bread for dipping in broth.

Another night, Kristen made a limoncello semifreddo, which was basically the creamiest lemon-lime frozen custard ever. Look up a recipe online and you’ll see what I mean. Kristen will be back again in a couple of weeks; we are getting ready for a local holiday craft fair, which we affectionately refer to as the “arts and craps” show. Although it’s clear (to us) that we create the finest fiber art ever, we want to recoup some of the money we’ve spent on wool this past year because, after all, there is a big fiber fair here in Asheville at the end of the month and all new opportunities to stock up. So we are making items that will sell. Felted catnip kitty toys!

All of this good food is putting me in mind of Italy. Today I am packing for our “honeymoon”, never taken because we have been such busy bees, and this time next week I will be enjoying lunch on a hilltop outside of Parma, en route to our ultimate destination in Tuscany. There we will park ourselves at Daniel’s and Manuela’s olive and vineyard estate and enjoy day trips all around the area. One night we will enjoy 5 star dining at La Frateria di Padre Eligio in the convent of St. Francis and drink a toast to our marriage and (arrghhh) my sixtieth birthday. La Frateria is part of Mondo X, an organization that speaks to me; I think you’ll enjoy reading about it.

We were a bit anxious about the timing of this trip because there was another major life event looming on the horizon, one I haven’t told you about as I erred on the side of caution. We are grandparents! Rich’s Anna had a son 2 weeks ago today. This is our first grandchild and although we wanted to be proudly broadcasting about it, the circumstances haven’t been appropriate until now. Anna has been in a rough place in her life with many challenges that made having a baby especially high risk and we were very worried, often extremely discouraged. She considered adoption briefly but decided against that and, in the way of many grown children, advice was neither welcome nor heeded as she moved through her pregnancy. Anna went into labor a month early and as I was fretting and fuming, Abby admonished me, rightly so,  to snap out of it, that this was a new life, a gift, a child to be welcomed and loved, a mother to be supported. Baby Kellan wasted no time and came after 3 short hours, weighing in at 5 pounds. A new baby breaks down barriers and changes lives and now, two weeks later (a lifetime!) Anna and her husband and baby Kellan are doing very well at home. He is still on a monitor for apnea but he’s gained 12 ounces and stretched out 2 inches and reports from doctor and visiting nurse are very good. Anna and I chat online about feeding schedules and sleep patterns and those whimsical little newborn smiles and she seems perfectly in tune and madly in love. This has reminded me that babies and parents don’t usually get to pick and choose and that makes life all the more interesting. It has also reminded me that many times parents are able to rise up and do for their children what they can’t do for themselves. We are very, very proud of the start Anna has given Kellan and we can’t wait to hold him as soon as we get back. He looks very much like Rich did as a baby and we think he’s beautiful!

That’s it for now and I need to hustle to get the indoor plants in for the winter and take care of all those things you need to do before you leave on a big trip; for me that’s every single thing from estate planning to sorting through 30 years of photos but in the end I’m lucky to find my passport in time to head out. Have a great week.

Locus iste a Deo factus est

(Okay, well if you want to nitpick, it was a black architect, Julian Abele, rare in his day.)

You know how every once in a while the Spirit moves me to the point of writing about it? It usually happens when either something especially awful happens (“Why, dammit, how could You?”) or I witness something astonishingly and surprisingly beautiful (“Okay. No one but You could do that, thank You very much.”) Well, it’s Sunday, so brace yourselves. Rather than play “name that cathedral” I will tell you that Rich and I are spending the weekend at Duke University in Durham with my darling Snarl. Lord, how she lights up my life. The others certainly do as well and yes we love them all THE SAME, but when we rank them (which we only do very rarely, in the dark of night, after one or the other or three have called with an “issue” and we’re feeling that combination of irritation and worry that comes with the lifetime contract and worthless warranty against defects) she has been, for awhile now, the most nearly perfect child in the universe. Not that I’ve forgotten years 16 through 19 or the time she pitched two full gallons of simmering spaghetti sauce into the living room where the 100 percent wool carpet and the hand printed and screened wall paper were but a week old. Anyway, this weekend is one for counting blessings because we arrived to her lovely little duplex rental and she gave us her bed, with sheets fresh out of the washer and the house was spotless (“It’s not usually like this; it’s only because I knew my obsessively clean mother was coming”- she has such a way with words. At least she hasn’t suggested we sign me up for the “What Not to Wear Show” again.). The cat is purring and we’re having so darn much fun.(I took all these photos without a flash so they have a certain ethereal fuzziness; still worth enlarging)

Enough. Yesterday she mentioned that we might go to church this morning; she was particularly interested in hearing the organs. After remembering the concept of “church” as it’s been a couple years, I was thinking along the lines of a small campus chapel because we have never before been here to this beautiful campus and I had no idea what the Duke Chapel looked like, or sounded like. Neo-gothic style, complete with flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arches. The carillon is 210 feet high and houses 50 bells, the largest weighing 11,200 pounds. The chapel has 3 distinct organs of various dates and styles, totaling almost 13,000 pipes. That’s correct. The chapel also has a powerful and angelic choir and this morning there was a full brass section as well. We heard a Bach Chorale Fantasy prelude and a Bach Postlude. Thank You, so very much.

inaestimabile sacramentum

Bonnie was suggesting I have unfinished posting business in her most recent erudite comment; she might have just been wanting some mention of those pesky but victorious Spartans. The Duke Demons and the Wolverines also won their games yesterday, as did USF. Is that everybody?  But I think she was alluding to news about my dear friend’s medical condition.  She did finally hear from her doctors and the news was as good as could be expected, short of a misdiagnosis confused with say, a bad case of indigestion. She does indeed have a very aggressive form of cancer but it is at a stage that suggests they captured it all surgically. She is still looking at six months of chemotherapy and possibly radiation. We were recalling the last time she went through this and if memory serves the week before the next round of treatment in any given 3 week cycle is the best so we will plan some partying and frolicking on those weeks. I suggested she come sit on the porch in Florida in January and since most people there are already bald it will be just fine. She laughed hard and then made a crack about the caulk they glued her together with coming apart if we kept laughing (whatever happened to stitches or even staples? Caulk??) and we laughed some more. But this is a scary time and even if I don’t write much more on the subject (it is her business after all and I don’t want to take outrageous liberties with her privacy, especially since she reads here…) her friends will continue to pray for her and send good energy and food and bad jokes her way during the months ahead.

One thought I have had though, these past couple weeks reading up about her particular diagnosis and treatment options, is thank God for the miracle of modern medicine. People often use that phrase: miracle of modern medicine. Really, it’s an oxymoronic thing to say because miracles are, well, what? Divine intervention? and modern medicine is hard core science, tax dollars and grants and gray matter intensely focused on finding the right formula, the right solution, the right biochemistry.

I’m not rambling. I’m trying to tie a couple of things together but parentheses keep getting in the way. At the root of it is that I am always on the fence about my faith. Some days, I am envious of the likes of Cathy or Bonnie and those who seem to come to matters of faith so readily, on good faith as it were. Most days, I’m with Robin and the notion that miracles don’t happen nor are people looked at with a jaundiced eye by God; good and bad things just happen. On days when I do Believe, I usually believe along the lines that He is not personally scrutinizing my sincere volunteer efforts to care for the creatures of the field nor does he particularly mind that I have occasionally shoplifted dying plants from outside Publix (and I’ll deny that tomorrow). On those days I think that if there is a God then he has given me life, way back when, in collusion with some primordial swamp matter, and choice and free will and it’s up to me to decide what to make of my time here. It would be swell if I did it in the most Christian way possible, Christian being kind and charitable and peaceful and forgiving, which is often quite difficult. I know that bodies are just bodies, coming through the rye and yours can end up composting in the ground like Barney’s or on the glass display shelf, disguised as a lovely ceramic piece like my mother and father (cruelly ironic but funny that I mingled them in death, yes?). Souls and spirits are something I can’t figure out at all, whether they even are, let alone how they go or maybe come again. Except that there are hummingbirds and humpback whales and I’d like to know what on earth you need to do to get those jobs.

All of this is by way of saying I don’t know, times a thousand and that, of course, is true for a lot of us and has been puzzled over by some of my favorite authors (I keep admonishing you, go read Thomas Lynch for some fun and wonder on the matter of faith).

And so there I was, sitting in this incredible house of worship, with two of the small cluster of people I love more than life itself, my ears twitching for joy, and I was considering all this and also whether I was worthy, with my shoddy beliefs, to ask for direct intervention for Roberta. (Sometimes my brain goes into a time warp thing, like a dream state, where I can cover a lot of ground in fairly short order. Mostly because it is skimming the surface.) The sermon began. Today’s sermon was the season opener, marking the beginning of the academic year and the pastor played to a full house. The topic was The Role of Science.

He spoke about why it is such a blessing for science and theology to belong in a university alongside one another. He said, among other things, “The more that science discovers about life, about the universe, about the tiniest detail and the mightiest power, the more one can only be amazed and enthralled. Yet if one has awe towards the known, one must have at least equal awe towards the unknown. The only trustworthy science is a humble science, which acknowledges the tentativeness of the known and the vast extent of the unknown. But the same is true of theology. There is so much that remains unknown, and claiming to know more than we do, especially if it’s done with a hectoring tone and without a listening ear, substitutes arrogance and ignorance for true faith, and attracts the antagonism it deserves.”

The rest of the sermon was, to me, equally appealing and smart and thought provoking. He ended the sermon with this: “Scientists of Duke, be humble. Remember that science is an art and that what you study is clay, being constantly fashioned and refashioned. Christians of Duke, be humbler still, and remember that science is a form of wonder, and that these scientists, if you let them, will teach you to wonder, to love and to pray.”

irreprehensibilis est

I said a prayer for Roberta and the science that might help her yet again. I remembered that at my mother’s memorial service (she was an agnostic of the first order) Abby had paid a tearful tribute to her grandmother’s stewardship of the earth and sea by saying that she hoped to follow her passion in her own life. Then I said another prayer for Abby, as she starts her doctoral studies in environmental and marine science.

Life is short

or long, depending on your perspective. I spoke with my sister Laurel yesterday and Bud is giving her a run for her money up in Oshkosh. My friend, Mary, has been going through the process of helping her parents transition into what will inevitably be one of the last chapters of their life and I follow along closely. Because she writes so very eloquently, walking the line between showing us her most intimate fears, controlled hysteria and outrageous good humor, I can’t read her blog posts without these literal little twinges in my chest, pings to my heart. It’s a hard road and I’m pretty sure that it’s a different road than the one many of our parents walked down- and different from much the rest of the world today. One of our most agonizing questions is, at bottom, “Where to put them when they can’t manage on their own any more?” as opposed to “Who sleeps on the floor to make room, who spoon feeds, who washes the dying or dead bodies in the end?”

I’ve been largely spared by distance and still it’s been tough. Back when the Bud and Jan Show was alive and sometimes well at Lost Loon Lodge I found, through writing here, the love and humor, connection and support that came with sharing stories about their old age. My mother never went anywhere gently, let alone into that good night; getting out the door for a Christmas Eve visit to my father’s parents involved yelling and screaming back in my earliest memories. In retirement, she found her angry voice in saving the environment and used it effectively, saving thousands of acres of Lake Superior shoreline from any possible development. Not before she got herself and my stepfather, Bud, sued by a mining company and not before they polarized the entire Keweenaw Peninsula and not before she somehow managed to trickle down her passion and love for Mother Earth to my daughter, who just now, this week, begins her PhD at the Nicholas School for the Environment at Duke University. I say somehow because she was never a very good mother to anyone but the earth, having essentially no interest in the ways of babies or children. She was a wonderful teacher, a compassionate and open-minded woman, an inspired writer, a wise and clever spirit and we, her children, benefited most directly. But mother? No. And she was difficult and stubborn, much like Mary’s mother- more pings and twinges. Bud, not unlike Mary’s father, was the one who made life manageable and the one who loved her so dearly and fed her, bathed her and carried her until her last week when she went to the regional hospital and died, in relatively short order. I say that in retrospect; it was the longest week ever. Some of you might recall that period in my life. I did some of my very best writing then.

Bud carried on, alone, on that distant Lake Superior shore in their humble cottage. In the first couple years we had him to visit each winter and we made offers to let him come live with us, although if I’m honest, each offer was fraught with anxiety that he would accept. But nothing was going to pry him loose from Lost Loon Lodge and it took a stroke and 17 hours through the night on the frozen ground before a neighbor found him and literally saved his life by carrying him into a warm bath, waiting for the ambulance, to finally get him to a place where he could be helped. It’s possible that at Bud’s funeral we will all laugh about that extreme event, finding the macabre humor in it. Who knows?

For now, Bud is living at the not so aptly named Evergreen assisted living home in Oshkosh near my sister (half, if you want to get technical and Bud’s only child by birth) and she is living out Mary’s life; not me. Bud went in under protest but within a couple months he began to find his way around and make new friends. He started young and worked his way up and his time there has been full of comic relief, in that exquisitely painful way that this stage of life can be. He proposed to his 20s-something physical therapist, he exposed himself in the swimming pool. He plotted his escape with a paraplegic. Then he got a job taking fellow patients to physical therapy and arranged a marriage between my son Daniel and a 23 year old PT student. When I say arranged, he went so far as to have a hotel room reserved for them and he had invited all the other residents in the dining hall to the ceremony, much to Daniel’s (and the young woman’s) chagrin when he innocently showed up for a visit. When Daniel humbly declined, Bud managed his disappointment by insisting that Dan play his saxophone at dinner for everyone. Most recently, a couple weeks ago, he insisted that my sister, Betsy, who 35 years ago aspired to go to music school, sing Amazing Grace in the dining hall. All verses.

Here’s the thing about old people worth their salt: when they insist on something it’s different than when you or I are insistent. It is with all the cleverness of decades of living and all of the energy of a wild and unreasoning tantrum-throwing three year old. Toss in lots of onlookers, sprinkle liberally with guilt and all those other emotions you have about losing your grasp on your parents as you knew them and wham! They prevail.

Bud has gotten something of a new leash on life (if I were accurate here, I would say “a new hard-on for life”): he’s fallen in love with Helen. Helen has somewhat advanced Alzheimers so although they spend every waking minute together and only get pried apart to their own rooms at bedtime, she loves him madly yet calls him “what’s his face” .

Laurel recently described a visit to the optometrist that had us laughing to tears on the phone; I know it was extremely taxing and frustrating for her as it unfolded. She had let him know repeatedly that she was squeezing the appointment between her work commitments and he had to be ready and waiting at 530 pm. She was clear that he should not go to dinner; she would get him a Subway sandwich (one of his favorites) right after his appointment. She arrived and he and Helen were in the middle of dinner and she only managed to drag him away with Helen in tow (he insisted) and that involved signing out and paperwork and so forth. When they arrived at the eye care office Helen began to take every single frame- dozens and dozens- off  the racks and set them down in various places around the office so Laurel was literally holding on to her and steadily replacing frames while Bud tried on potential new glasses for himself. By the time she caught up with him he had chosen some rapper designer frames from PhatFarm and he insisted those were the ones he was having. Arguments about cost, appearance and the large PhatFarm logo on the temple of the frame only made them more desirable. He refused to put his eyes against the optician’s machine; “I don’t know whose head has been on there!” Helen was back to wandering around displacing frames. When then finally left Bud announced that now they could go out for Chinese and when Laurel reminded him that was a Friday evening scheduled event but not now when she had a business meeting to get back to, he insisted. Bud now sports PhatFarm eyeglasses at Evergreen.

The most outrageous transgression was also the funniest. Laurel got a call to inform her that Bud was instigating trouble in the dining hall. He had convinced Helen that her breasts were so beautiful they should be shared with the world and Helen obligingly flashed all the octogenarians at dinner, with Bud exclaiming “Aren’t they beautiful! Aren’t those the most amazing casabas you’ve ever seen?!?” When Laurel asked the assisted living staff what they wanted her to do about it the administrator laughed and agreed there wasn’t much to be done after the fact but Laurel might want to do something about the wine country tour Bud had booked for himself and Helen. A travel agency had called the home trying to find out who they should charge for the slated Napa Valley extravaganza.

Bud’s good friend, Ray, recently made the long trip down from the Keweenaw to visit Bud and informed him that since his wife Donna died, he’s scheduled a trip to go to Japan to find a bride. I guess the pickings are still slim up in Calumet. In any case, this visit got Bud all riled up about his own lack of independence and Laurel says it’s been very difficult with him ever since then. Ray went over and started Bud’s car after almost two years (“Yup! Fired right up!”) so now Bud wants to retrieve it. That leads up to this weekend, which I fear will be sorrowful and exceedingly difficult for everyone.

Bud hasn’t been home to his beloved cottage on the lake since he was taken away by ambulance. My sisters went up at some point, got plastered on all the greasy dusty 15 year old partial bottles of cheap liquor and cleaned the place top to bottom. This basically involved stripping out all of the carpet and disposing of all the upholstered furniture, clearing out all the cupboards, closets and appliances. Decades of living: raising Keeshonds, adopting cats, canning and preserving, heating with woodstoves, huddled against winters with 300+ inches of snow, life on a lake. Most all remnants of that are gone. Lost Loon Lodge is now clean and closed up and on hold. Until this coming weekend, when Laurel and Ian will take Bud home for a visit to that most beautiful Lake Superior peninsula. Bud has been insisting, Laurel has been resistant and they have been arguing. Bud will want to stay. Bud has plans to put the dock and the boat in the water. Bud wants to get in his car and drive once again to the IGA for his own groceries. Laurel admonishes him like a child that he must agree to cooperate, that it is a short weekend visit only. They fight. Bud gets angry and loud and then sulky. Somewhere in there, Betsy was visiting and trying to bolster support for Laurel and then the only thing that would settle Bud down was for her to sing Amazing Grace at dinner. (In assisted living, it’s all happening in the dining room, which is quite the zoo.) And so she did and many sang along and Bud was briefly mollified. Laurel felt some relief because one of us had actually witnessed Bud at his most unmanageable. This weekend will be extremely tough, that I know. Laurie says it’s fine with her if Bud cries; she can help him with his emotions. She’s good and strong that way.

When I talk with Laurel, when I read Mary’s bits about life with aging parents who need to be parented, I feel their feelings to a certain extent. Partly I am spared because that is not my life right now. Partly I am sad, because that is not my life right now. When I was in the thick of it with my mother’s end of life I felt more connected to my family than at any other time. I felt more connected to my own emotions, as wild and painful and hysterical as they were.

Right now I think I will ring up Betsy and leave her a message insisting that she call back, singing Amazing Grace.