Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scattering Ashes Sept. 9, 2015

Don had one final request that he asked me to carry out.  He wanted his ashes co-mingled with his wife's then shipped to a couple in Arizona who had a small plane.  Don had already made the arrangements with them; they were to fly the ashes over a canyon outside of Sedona to be scattered over the red rocks Don and Vi loved so much.

Jerome, Az

I contacted the couple right away but their plane was having some work done on it. It wasn't until the first week in Sept. when I received word that the ashes had been scattered and there would be photos headed my way.

Cottonwood, Az

I could see why he chose this place, the scenery is lovely.
This was interesting--Don grew up in Cottonwood, Minnesota and now his final resting place is just outside of Cottonwood, Az.

Canyons of Sedona

The photos were all taken through the windows of the plane and some were hard to see when the sun isn't just right.

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona, Az

San Francisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff, Az

Red Rocks around Sedona

Red Rocks around Sedona

Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, Az

Ashes were released over Slide Rock.
Flagstaff is in the background.

Oak Creek Canyon 

Looking Back

 One last view.

Don and Vi Larson

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meet Bill Miller and Rhonda Reece--July 9-24

This all started because I had less than 3 weeks to dispose of all of Don's belongings and clear out of his apartment. His many friends had taken all they wanted from the party but it still left lots of furniture, art pieces, dishes, books, clothes, etc.  I was thinking of contacting a resale shop to help me out when I heard about a special lady-in-need.  However,  first came Bill...

I am sorry to say, I did not get a picture of Bill (or Rhonda) but you will find him on his own blog.....

Meet Bill Miller

(Loren and Willi Miller)

I met Bill at Lakeport Square--He is the grandson of Don's friends, Loren and Willi Miller and I had heard all about Bill's amazing virtues from his grandparents.  As they boasted with unabashed pride,  I would simply smile and nod and say I was sure he was the most gifted  grandson in all the world,  until I met him--Yep, they were pretty close.
 I got an invitation to stop by their apartment one evening when Bill was visiting and there he was, laughing, joking and holding court from his hi-tech wheelchair.  Bill, you see, is a young man in his late 30's who has been a quadriplegic from his junior year in college. 
If you check out his blog you will find that he has since completed his college degree, got his masters degree, invented a bowling machine that attaches to his wheelchair, and sponsors a league of other quadriplegic bowlers.  And his high score, for which he holds a record among quads, is 255!

It was from the Millers that I learned about another remarkable person--Rhonda Reece.  Rhonda, in her 30's, is also a quadriplegic, one of the quad bowlers, plus a very good friend of Bill's.
It seems that, until a year ago, Rhonda's parents were her main caregivers but they both unexpectedly died--leaving her with very sparse funds while  desperate for round-the-clock care.  Fundraisers were held, some donations appeared but it was when someone suggested that she go into business selling 'found items' through yard sales and on Ebay that she began to afford her caregivers.
When Bill found out that I was trying to dispose of Don's things, he and his grandparents suggested I think of Rhonda.
It took a week of Rhonda and her 'staff' coming to the apartment each day and carting off furniture and boxes of stuff to finally empty it all.  Rhonda was very grateful and she continuously let me know how much it helped her.  But most of all, I felt sure that Don would have been pleased to know how much his generosity helped someone in need.
It was because of Rhonda that I was able to clear out of the apartment ahead of deadline so I thank her as well and I wish both Bill and Rhonda all the best--along with lots of strikes and spares.

You will find a link to Bill's blog from now on--over on the right under 'Sites that I Like'.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Memorial Party--July 8th

The RV was stored in a friend's backyard and I once again boarded the plane for Florida.  Don's passing had been peaceful and pain free for which I am very grateful.  Now it was time to have the memorial party he wanted and time to empty and close his lovely apartment.

Nephew Mark flew down from Minnesota to help with the party....

Then niece Becky came down to assist in cleaning and ultimately disposing of the last of his possessions.

(Dick and Lois)
The party was a complete success.  I truly felt Don was there, at least in the memories and  wonderful praises from the roomful of guests.  

Everyone was invited to claim a momento....

and, needless to say, Jules will make sure Don's colorful shirts will continue to wow the ladies at dinnertime.

Joan and Loren enjoyed the opportunity to visit.

Billie took the hydoponic garden.  There simply was no way to get those pots of plants that grow in circulating water into my tiny RV, though I did think about it. Maybe I could tow a tiny trailer equipped with a solar panel to run the pumps then I would be able to grow my own organic salad. Or  not.  I expect I'll find a Whole Foods or a Sprouts or a farmer's market as I travel.  Gardening will have to wait.

(Gloria  and Helen)

(Jules and Judy)

This was not the last party before I left Lakeport Square and Leesburg.  These lovely people did not let my birthday go by un-celebrated and they have truly made me feel special.  Plus there were some moments so inspirational I want to give them extra attention--tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Running in Circles--June 10th to June 24th

Before leaving Florida for Tucson I received a disturbing call from the real estate lady that my backyard had been invaded.  The interlopers were creating a major mess, they were far too mean and aggressive to drive away, and the beasts were obviously planning to stay for the 'long haul'. The following is a picture she took with her phone through the sliding glass doors...
Unwanted Squatters

Behold the javelina or skunk pig!  The animal is a peccary, a medium-sized hoofed mammal that looks and smells like a wild pig.  They are not the wild pigs that were brought by the Spaniards but are actually mammals native to this continent and found throughout the southwest.  Their size is from 40 to 90 lbs--and they are mean and hungry. These two broke through my wooden gate and proceeded to eat everything out of my garden--my cherry tomatoes, squash and cantaloupe vines that were in full bloom, all my herbs, and a whole array of flowers.  When the real estate lady tried to shoo them off they turned on her and charged the sliding glass doors that protected her.

By the time I got home they had moved on down the road but they left an additional mess that I had to clean up before turning over my lovely home.  Those pigs were definitely smart to have vacated the premises before I arrived--nothing steals my cherry tomatoes and lives to tell about it!

This house had been home for 15 years but I was ready to say goodbye.  I have walked away from enough houses now that I no longer feel regret.  I appreciate the lovely architecture, I will miss the gardening and wilder nature of the area, and the neighbors were some of the best.

But, as in the many previous moves, I am ready for something new.  My RV is all I need or want; I still have places to see and people to meet.  It is a real sense of freedom now that I am no longer tied to that miniscule spot of land with the many responsibilities and headaches that go along with it.

Craig's List sold most of the stuff left in the house, Some friends adopted the giant house plants, then Ron and Loretta came from San Diego and helped me empty everything else into a U Store It place. I was out by deadline time (June 24th) and on the plane back to Florida to finish up Don's affairs.

(I fear that these postings are confusing to the reader--They are to me as well.  So much happened so quickly that I couldn't  sit down long enough to record the events but I do not want to lose the record.  I am presently in Tucson  (September) but I am dating the postings for a while to show when they actually occurred.) 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don's Final Days and Planning a Memorial

 On the drive from Ft Worth to Tucson phone calls from Kelly (his caregiver) kept coming.  Don was getting worse, no drug had stopped the pneumonia, plus he was experiencing a lot of difficulty breathing.  By the time I arrived home Don's diagnosis had changed--it was a virulent cancer that had settled in his lungs and he was asking me to come to Florida.  My dilemma--do I empty the house, complete the sale, then fly to Florida, or attempt the reverse? 
I elected to fly to Florida for a week then  return to Tucson and clear the house--and accomplish it all in three and a half weeks.  If I had been 30 years younger this might have made sense.  Did I think I could still muster that kind of energy? I was about to find out.

I did have some wonderful help.  Kelly was with him constantly as he moved from the hospital to Hospice House, always holding his hand and encouraging him.  

And Loretta flew from San Diego to meet me in Florida where she provided wonderful support, literally waiting on me nonstop the entire week (this is one daughter-in-law I plan to keep).  It also gave her a chance to meet Uncle Don for the first, and sadly only time.  They instantly discovered a  mutual admiration connection--Don always did have an eye for lovely ladies.  (Look at that smile)

Each morning I would drive to Hospice House and sit with Don while he described all I was to do after he was gone.  As executor of his estate it was up to me to handle all his financial affairs, to liquidate everything, and finally to empty his apartment.  But, for him at this time, the thing he was most concerned about was his memorial.  One morning he gave me a list of those friends he wanted me to invite, another morning he told me what to serve for refreshments and who would do them; and my favorite, what flowers and what music (Tony Bennett) he wanted. He was adamant that there be no formal service, no minister, no schedule of speeches.  He wanted everyone to have fun and especially to take something from the apartment as a reminder of their friendship.

His final days were remarkable.  He would talk to his nieces, nephews and sister on the phone and tears would come but otherwise he was cheerful and uncomplaining.  Except for the food.  I asked him each day what he ate the day before and he always said, "A cheese omelet".  To which I thought to ask, "Did you want something else?"  His reply, "That's all they have."  So I went to the nurse in charge and asked why there was nothing else.  She laughed, "We tell him he can have anything he wants, we will gladly provide it, but cheese omelet is what he asks for."
When I confronted Don with what the nurse said, he grinned at me.  "The cheese omelets are good." That's all he said, and all he ate.
One day five of his 'lady friends' were all packed into his room at once, (me included) and he was thoroughly enjoying the attention.  There were peals of laughter and teasing and clearly a lot of love.  Whereupon a nurse poked her head in the room and reminded us that we were in a Hospice.  But she was smiling when she said, "This is the first time we have had such a ladies' man as a resident."

Saying Goodbye was very very hard.  I knew I would never get back in time and only 10 days after I left he was gone.  I talked with Kelly by phone each day and within a day or two of my leaving Don's mind began to shut down.  My decision to go when I did was right, and I have great memories of those last days.  He was my brother-in-law. who became my brother, for over 50 years and I miss him. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Return to Ft Worth

I admit, it feels good to 'Blog' again.  There is something calming about emptying my brain (and my camera) into this archive.   Here is a chronicle that, when the memory fails, will take me back into a time of adventure that I have been so fortunate to experience.  I only wish that 'Blogging' had been around for more of my life.  It is sad to realize how many adventures I have long forgotten.
I know I will have to rebuild my audience, though in the end, I am aware that this verbal outpouring is more for my pleasure than my readers.   All the same, thank you for coming back.

The last week of April I closed up the house, hired my neighbor's teenage daughter to water some house plants, and drove east.  It was time to pick up Aunt Louise from rehab and get her back to her apartment.

Traveling through southern New Mexico is relatively easy for a boondocker.  The rest stops all allow overnight stays plus there are many truck stops that include showers, restaurants and sometimes dump stations.  The Cracker Barrel on the west side of El Paso is always a good stop for me and I habitually plan to be there for either dinner or breakfast or both.  Another Cracker Barrel in Odessa makes this three day trip fairly doable.   Tucson to Ft Worth is approx. 900 freeway miles.  My cardinal rule is to keep my driving to less than three hours a day but I break that rule every time I make this trip.  Sadly, this is my least favorite drive but one that I seem to have to make on a yearly basis.  Even if it weren't for Aunt Louise, Texas always seems to be in the way to where I'm going.

A few days after I arrived in Ft Worth, sister Mary flew in from Hawaii.  

The weather was becoming ominous but a broken shoulder bone was no big deal.  Aunt Louise assured us she felt well enough to  go to one of her favorite dining spots for fried catfish.

The rains had started rolling in every afternoon and the lakes were cresting, some even overflowing their banks. There was flooding all over the city.

This restaurant sat at the edge of Lake Worth and the three of us took advantage of a brief break in the weather to go out for lunch and a little sightseeing.  We were starting to get daily tornado warnings and were hearing regular stories of roofs blown away or cars wrecked with giant hailstones. 

On the days the weather was so bad we stayed in and went through some of Aunt Louise's photo albums.  I found the above picture taken when she was a career girl creating airplanes for General Dynamics.  Doesn't she just exude professionalism and confidence?  It must be the hat and pearls.  Plus I truly envy that tiny waistline.

On one excursion we found a building downtown that had these giant wood pieces on the walls... 

Here is the detail of that wall Mary is standing in front of.  All wood and cut and pieced in such a way as to give this rather spectacular effect.

(A second wall hanging)

May was almost over when I received two startling phone calls within 24 hours of each other....
the first was that there was an offer on my house and it was good enough not to turn down.
And the second call was that brother-in-law Don, in Florida, was not doing well and was in the hospital--possibly with pneumonia.

I knew without a doubt I would  go to Florida but first I would need to return to Tucson to leave the RV and perhaps empty the house. Mary would stay a few weeks longer with Aunt Louise so I said goodbye and took off at breakneck speed, back that 900 miserable miles.