It is as if my father is at the base of Mount Everest. His heart, mind and lungs seem to send a call out by taking a step forward with desire and courage. The rest of his body, though weak, responds by trying to follow along.
The other part of his body that is weaker fails him and puts him back at base camp. He regains some strength and tries again.......
Bearing witness to my father's desire to live is a balancing act of amazing grace and sweet sorrow, between wanting to hold on for him and surrendering. It is love that drives him, it is courage that beckons us to follow.
Mount Everest (as my brother Zane calls it,) looms, haunts, teases... though I believe one day my father will stand upon it and soak up the purest of light and fly home.
Thank you for your love and support. Your words, thoughts, wishes and or prayers towards my father and family, have been felt like a healing balm upon us.
My father's well being is in God's hands now. I pray that the path ahead of him be filled with a soothing light leading him peacefully to wherever God might lead him.
These next few days will be the longest journey as my father holds on amongst the greatest of odds.
Thank you for your abundant support.
My thoughts are swirling with emotion and memory, in and out they come like a tide that swells then crashes on the beach and is slowly pulled back to the sea. The flood gate of who I am opens and endless water rushes forth, at a speed that I cannot contain. I am finding it very hard to post...my mind and heart are far away... drifting- drifting- eventually coming up for air on a distant shore that I have not walked upon.
In a saute pan swirl chopped garlic and walnuts. Which will give them a chance to share perfumed notes with one another.
When the two are golden brown let a river of cream flow over them. Though before the cream should start to boil add the juice of the lemon that you caught- nice and steady as not to curdle the cream and spoil the fun.
As the cream thickens toss in spoonfuls of freshly grated Parmesan and a half of a spoon of grated lemon rind.
Serve it over hot al dente pasta and have a loaf of crusty bread to soak up every ounce of the lemon walnut sauce.
Exact measurements are not my style, thought I figure if the ingredients are fresh it seldom matters.
Anyone who knows me knows I fall asleep at the wheel. Driving to the airport from my home and back is not something I could do without pulling over a million times. With that I would need to drink gallons of Coca Cola and eat Cocoa Puffs just to stay semi awake.
Anyone who knows my sister in law Diane knows she can do more in a day than most could do in a week. Diane is someone who lends a hand even when her hands are full, she gives without counting the cost and she can drive hours on end without blinking an eye.
My little family will be under her wing as she drives them to San Francisco to catch the plane back to France.
Note: The photo of Diane is from last summer. By the way I think the French word for sister in law is better. In French sister in law is "Belle Soeur," which means: Beautiful Sister.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thank you for your many prayers and loving words, it is like being surrounded by a guiding light. Please know that your comments and emails are appreciated greatly.
Later note: The expression "when it rains it pours" hits home today! Northern California is experiencing a storm, not as bad as the one they had a few weeks ago, but nevertheless 55mph winds, the likes of a deluge that I have never seen. I wish we didn't have to drive anywhere. Scary stuff! I am trying to convince my Mother that she cannot drive to the hospital today. I don't want anyone on the road... I don't know what car to get into: To drive with my sister in law to the airport three hours away, or to drive with my Mother (who is determine to go to the hospital)? Obviously I won't fall asleep in the car today...when it rains it pours!
Later: A break in the weather, I came to the hospital with my Mother, and my sister in law took my family to the airport. All is good.
French Husband and the children, the little bit of France that has been with me while in California, leave for France on Sunday. It will feel strange to be here without them... In the twenty years that I have lived in France I have only been "home to California" twice without my family. Once was for my Father's 7Oth birthday and the other time was for my dear Aunt Frannie's funeral.
Before French Husband and I were married we knew we would reside in France...though I had no idea that we were going to live in France for the rest of our lives. The rest of my life! ...can you imagine such a change of pace? I honestly believed that we would live in France for a few years then return to California and live here for the rest of our lives.
When the reality dawned on me that the land of antiques and baguettes was going to be my home for a very very very long time I made French Husband promise me one thing- That we would "come home" to visit my family at least once a year. That promise has stayed true and firm.
That promise allows our children to know my family intimately, it also enabled them to experience two cultures, and if the real truth be known it gave me a strong shot of love American style.
When you live far from home, and I mean faraway from home you know there is always a good reason to go back to visit everyday. You soon realize that 22 hours is equal to a journey to the moon. You soon swallow the reality that just because you would love to watch your godchild make his first communion, or see one of your best friend marry, or celebrate your brother's 4Oth, or your brother's super cool Halloween party, or your first cousin's autumn get- together, or your 3Oth class reunion... you simply cannot come back for 95% of the collective memory making that will happen everyday forever. When you live faraway from home you will miss many things that connect you to who you are, and many more moments that will connect you to the collective unconsciousness of your family and friends. The reality of that knowledge can be a hard bite to swallow most of the time.
So when my father took ill, and the days turned into weeks and the weeks ahead have no end in sight- French Husband and I are facing a twist we knew might happen one day- I will stay in California and they will go back to France. The journey ahead is a beautiful mystery- I sure hope to have the courage and grace to walk it.
Driving from my childhood home to the hospital takes about 4O minutes. Some say they can do the drive in 3O minutes but I haven't mastered that kind of record since I was in my 2Os. The ride is pure country. The long straight back roads I know by heart. The countryside is laced with stark naked orchards, barns, rice fields waiting for the rush of spring, and the distant Sierra mountains.
As we drive to the hospital early in the morning I watch the farms play dot to dot while stories of people and places flood my veins causing my heart to throb.
Over one hundred visitors have come to see my father in the hospital. A never ending flow of hello-how's-your-father-how-are-you-thanks-for-coming-see-you-later-goodbye.
The country side, the large family, the ache of my father's illness, the daily drive and to boot the car radio cranking out oldies is like an open flood gate of memories and feelings....I have used more than a few tissues to soak up my emotions these days.
My Mother's garden allows one to breath in and feel the certainty of its roots. It doesn't pretend to be pretty only in springtime. No no no, instead it shows its beauty in each season. A wise lady my Mother is.
Her garden seems to say, "What you plant will sprout and bloom one day." At least that is what I feel it says when I stop and listen. Yes it reaffirms that life is more than here and now.
You see my mother's garden is not full of delicate blooms, nor is it romantic or tender. It is worn true, evergreen, with out fanfare it shows its simple truth- Blooming where it is planted, doing so happy go lucky style. No buts about it my Mother's garden is what it is...noble without being stuffy or arrogant. It seems to holler, "Take your shoes off and stay awhile why don'cha!"
The comfort of simple truths. The pleasure to just be and not to have to worry about anything. To sit in the sun and see it light the path. Why yes to be a lily of the field is a tremendous advantage.
Photos: My mother's garden.
It seems to me there is love thick enough to cut these days. I think the angels are working over time... angels overhead, angels in the corner, angels at our side, angels upstairs and downstairs. Love abound, scooping us up and holding us tight.
The angels are crafty and clever too, spoiling us silly. The angels indulge our sweet tooth and make us hot dinners, it seems the angels bring us exactly what we need before we know what it is that we want. Obviously the angels have their ears close to our pulse, listening to every little sound we make, answering even our tiniest wishes. How do they do that?
Dear angels your halos are golden.
My Mother loves to bake, it is one of the things she does best. As far back as I can remember the kitchen counter had a plate or two of cookies on it. When I recall my childhood home a sweet aroma instantly fills the air. Some would think my mouth must water with such a memory...but nay it is not my mouth that waters but my heart.
These last 19 days my Mother has not baked any cookies (that is a world record of its own!) My childhood home feels strange, silent...empty. It is as if life has walked out the door and with it the memories of my childhood seem to look up at me like a lost child.
At the hospital my Father was feeling out of sorts today. He was blue. He is afraid that he will never go home...or never go home to the lifestyle he knew and loved. My Father was not himself. It felt strange, silent and very empty not to have him as I know him...instead he was sad and as usual did not hide his feelings. It is good that he feels free to be honest and share what he is feeling. I believe honesty is healing in itself. Though at this time it is hard to bear witness to it and not be able to change anything about it.
When my Mother bakes cookies she did it without thinking, certainly like prayer, it was her therapy. She would wake up early, and before going to morning Mass she would crack the eggs, cream the butter with the sugar, add the vanilla...with the recipe in her head. My Mother's hands steady and swift made cookies for those she loved, for those who would come to visit, for those who needed cheering up, for those at the rest home, for the neighbors and anyone who asked her for help. Yes making cookies was her way of giving communion to those of us in need.
My Father does not want to have any cookies, not even my Mother's. He does not feel like eating anything because it hurts to eat. My Mother does what she can by tempting him with her love for baking. But he turns a blind eye to her begging him to eat, and then feels sorry for my Mother, and then feels sad that he has made her sad. Though both of them know the reason he does not feel like eating, doesn't have anything to do with her baking or love, or his not wanting her to bake him anything. It is this reality that stings the most...life is changing, their relationship is changing and change is not always easy.
The art of healing, the art of baking cookies, the art of praying, the art of living...
My Mother hasn't baked anything. My Father remains in the hospital, and ever lasting love is what is baking and healing us in this rite of passage called life.
My Father continues to heal, slowly. He remains in the hospital. It is difficult to see him day in day and day out in pain. My Mother rarely leaves his bedside. My brothers daily visits are his glory. Relatives and friends come to visit like a constant stream of love.
...and in the other rooms of the hospital similar stories are echoed.
Being in the hospital is a never ending story of life and death, happiness and sorrow, agony and grace. It is a volcano of emotion spewing and erupting, it is not for the weak of heart and yet it is...
Sitting in the lobby one views life's parade: A pregnant woman comes in leaning on her husband's shoulder, an older gentleman walks out alone crying, a young man walks in with a bouquet of flowers, an emergency helicopter lands while a group of teenagers cry in the hallway, a mother walks out with her newborn baby wrapped in a blanket....life continues to continue no matter how anyone is feeling.
Thank you for every ounce of love and kindness you have shown to my family. I am overwhelmed by your generous support and friendship.
Take time to thank your heart for beating,
Take time to hold your thoughts and stare into silence,
Take time to listen to the undercurrent of others,
Take time to close your eyes, wiggle your toes and feel the earth moving underneath you,
Take time to give it away freely,
and let someone get ahead of you.
Take time to turn the other cheek,
Take time to be your best self.
Photo: Pieces of time
I simply cannot help myself...when a person has been in the hospital for over a length of time one starts to notice people, things and the hospital routines. One starts to recognize the gentle nurses, the doctor with the best bedside manners, where the maternity section of the hospital is located, the shortcuts via the stairwells, where one can find the good left over magazines...
So it stands to reason that I would notice a certain student nurse named Maria who was very attentive to my Father while here in the hospital. She was a doll, so very loving in how she helped my Father and she said she thought our family was wonderful. (Wonderful?? That last thought sparked an idea in me.)
I asked if she was single, and when she said yes...(well I have a million cousins you know and many single ones at that!)
My Dad shook his head in disbelief when I mentioned to Maria that I loved matchmaking. I told her I had a cousin name Joshua, a gem of a guy...well to make a long story short...poof he came to visit my Dad in the hospital today!
I think that is a sign don't you?
Wonders never cease,
Love is worth the risk,
and hospital food isn't that bad.
Yesterday my brother Mark brought his two year old daughter Kate to visit our Dad. She stood by his bedside and whistled. Our Dad started to laugh, and the more he laughed the more she whistled. It was the perfect dose of love after a long week.
There is a calmness after a storm,
A place where the ground is tender and can bare our footprints.
Where raindrops wait on petals, delicately.
The moment after a storm...still and silent, which holds it hand towards us.
The path is new, life's spirit is a silent dance partner asking us to continue to dance.
My Dad seems to be coming in after the storm...healing. Slowly, I dare to smile.
The moment after a storm. Waiting to see if the sun will break the darkness.
The other day we had a scare at the hospital. Without a moment of hesitation I called French Husband and the children (they arrive today.) Then I went back to my Father's room I stood by his bedside and whispered in his ear,
"Are you afraid?"
Then he started to pray (my Father says the rosary daily) I followed his lead. At the end of the rosary he said something that I had never heard before, but could tell it is how he ends his prayers. He prayed, "...when you call me home dear God make me a place in your heart."
My Father's faith is his rock. Each time the pain, or the threat of his illness becomes overwhelming he prays for strength, for courage, for grace...
The place in the heart of God is the action of love.
When I was a child I had an incredible imagination, and with that came terrific nightmares. Many nights, nearly every night, until I was fourteen I woke up panic-filled with my heart beating loudly in my chest. I was often frighten to the point of feeling paralyzed. My peace of mind came when I would cry out to my parents.
"DAD! Are you awake?"
"Yes, I am."
"Don't go to sleep until I go to sleep, okay?"
"Okay, I won't go to sleep until you go to sleep."
"Are you awake?"
"Yes, I'm awake."
"Don't go to sleep until I go to sleep okay?"
"Okay, I won't go to sleep until you go to sleep."
"I'm here, go to sleep Corey."
Writing these words my eyes fill with tears. My parent's reassured me, night after night, they gave me their word faithfully and without ever seeming to be bothered by my need.
I would fall asleep trusting my parents were there to protect me from harm.
It is a gift I still treasure.
The other day when I flew from France to California I thought I was lucky to have a window seat.
Two men sat by me. They had a ferocious smell about them. I put my scarf up to my nose and decided they must be nervous, or maybe had to run to catch the plane which caused them to sweat? For whatever reason it didn't matter...they smelled badly and I was glad to have my scarf to put up to my nose.
And as if that wasn't bad enough they leaned over me to look out the window. After the tenth time that they leaned over me I closed the shutter to the window hoping they would stop it...but it did not stop them. The simply opened the shutter whenever they wanted and looked out.
Since I was flying home to be by my Father's side who might be dying, I was too sad to be bothered about their behavior. So I pulled my scarf around my face as I didn't want to see them anymore.
But when those two men started.... (how can I say this properly? Please excuse me as I am going to say it as it was!) farting and not just once, nor twice but at least fifty times or more...AND the farts were terribly smelly, like good farts are AND then they would fan the smelly farts towards me with a magazine. I began to THINK about those farts and not about why I was going home.
I pulled my knees up to my chest, and placed my scarf completely around my head as I thought how was I going to survive the 11 hour flight home?
At that critical moment I thought this is certainly God's humor teasing me. Two smelly men who have a lack of skill to measure personal space, plus who can fart stronger than a barnyard of sick cattle...The scene seemed perfectly designed to distract me. AND it did!
With that you could say the course of life does have a brilliant design even when it is disguised as something that smells badly.
Note: My Father gave me a weak smile when I told him this story, and then asked me, "Are you going to share this on your blog?"
My Father remains in critical condition, and we remain by his side.
Yesterday wasn't the best day, but it wasn't the worse day either. One thing I have learned standing by my Father's bedside (in the ICU at the hospital) is that there are good moments and moments I wished didn't have to happen.
Sometimes he has a pinch of pink in his cheeks and though he is far from better I see a glimpse of my Father behind the medication, and tubes. It reassures me, gives me hope...In those moments I start talking nonsense to my Brothers and we tease our Father. We feel relieved, like children caught in the moment.
Then in a blink of an eye my Father's heart races though his feet are standing still. His face twists in pain and his mouth mumbles the rosary as a way to stay focus and centered from the dark hole of agony.
It is these moments I wish I could share his pain, or wake us from this bad dream of reality, or exchange this moment for another place and time. Maybe one where he is riding his Harley, or milking the cows, or wading in the ocean at Wage's Creek....
those memories bring healing to the pain of suffering I see my Father bravely enduring.
My Father in these moments that are good and not so good has said, "Patience is a virtue, and the sooner you have learned this virtue the simpler life is. Patience, to except the moment as it is and let it be, and ride with it...it makes life a whole lot easier to deal with."
Thank you for listening and for being by my side. It adds grace, and courage to my heart in need.
My Father is in the ICU. He passed a very large kidney stone causing his kidney to tear. It is still bleeding. Because of his other illness (a rare bone marrow cancer) his doctors prefer to wait, hoping his kidney will heal naturally therefore forgoing surgery.
During this waiting game, he is in pain, he cannot eat nor drink, and as he slowly heals he is sometimes grumpy. But grumpy with a twist of bad humor.
Though his bad humor makes me laugh, it is not easy to see him suffer and wonder what will tomorrow bring?
He has asked me to tell you thank you for your thoughtful prayers and good wishes, and if you could please send him a cold beer too.
Thank you for the gift of your good thoughts, prayers, emails and the steady stream of your friendship that carries me with gentleness at this moment.
I'll write more once I have some sleep and understand more about my Father.
With my whole heart my family and I thank you.
One of my worse nightmares happened late last night.
I received a phone call telling me my Father was in the hospital. His kidneys were shutting down
I fell to the floor, my legs cramped up. (In retrospect it was as if symbolically my legs knew that I couldn't just run out the door and to be by his side in a heart beat... that the time from here to Willows is an eternity.) I will be on my way home tomorrow morning at 4am, it was the first flight I could have.
Please keep my Father in your prayers.
Thank you in advance for your prayers and good thoughts. I do not know if I will be able to post...my heart is heavy.
Photo: French Menu dated 1898, vintage wine Grand Ordinaire 1891.
French Husband's woke me up in the middle of the night and asked, "Where are all the guests going to sit Saturday night?"
"There not." I yawned and rolled over... and then my head started spinning with details. I sat up stressing about food preparations, floor plan, folding napkins... music...what should I wear? Do I have 50 dessert plates?
I kicked French Husband..."Thanks, now I cannot go back to sleep!"
55 Zucchini at least...
3 Kilos Walnuts (Thank you Aunt Louie!)
5 Kilo Smoked Salmon,
Cream fraiche a truck load.
6 Kilos Shrimp (lemons... parsley...)
Assortment of Cheese.
150 Large Cannoli,
Green beans with sesame (How many green beans?)
20 Artichokes cut in fourths.
10 Garlic heads,
50 Dried Tomatoes,
6 Kilo Quinoa,
2 Kilos Sliced Almonds,
Strawberry Cakes, whipped cream... or should I have one Chocolate? Pavlova?
10 Bottles of Champagne, 20 bottles of red wine,
Bar stuff...umbrellas, cherries... no no no ...stay with wine and champagne forget hard liquor. Perrier and juice wine and champagne. Yes that is good.
Three type of glasses. 150 glasses?? Should I use plastic, not I cannot use plastic, yes you can use plastic, no I have never used plastic, well this is a good time to start...
50 Dinner Plates (do I have 50 dessert plates? Paper! Oh God gross, now you are really out of control. Stop it. Paper is practical. I am not practical. Maybe you should be. I don't want to be. Imagine the dishes baby?)
Napkins...paper...what color, what theme?
Music ... call Philippe (our friend the salsa dancer.)
Where are the guest going to sit??? I kicked you know who again.