Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the crew of the good ship Gelena

This tan and rested group had just landed on the island of Grenada in March 1989. You might even spot your faithful correspondent and spouse in the toothsome lineup. The picture was taken in the little apartment we rented in the Blue Horizon's Garden Resort on the beach. This event would not be of immediate interest but for tomorrow's excursion down to Pescadero where five of the original Eastern Coastal sailors are vacationing. (We'll miss you, Joanie!) We are joining them for a couple of days of what is sure to be high hilarity and marvelous friendship.

In February, 1989 we flew to St. Lucia and met up with the other six. We had chartered a sailboat, The Gelena, for a 2-week sail down the Grenadine Islands from St. Lucia to Grenada, with stops at several islands along the way; St. Vincent, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Carriacou, the Tobago Cays, and finally to Grenada. We had on board a commercial pilot, a pilot/doctor, a lawyer, three therapists (one a sex therapist ~ always good to have in mixed company), a writer to tell the story and a pianist to set the whole thing to music. Five of the eight were experienced sailors/navigators, two had some time on the tiller, and one was a total novice. But all pitched in and kept the boat on top of the water. We ate, we drank, we swam, we snorkled, we shopped, we read, and most of all, we laughed. It's the BEST vacation I've ever had. We've talked from time to time about doing it again, but I don't think we could possibly recreate that adventure. The only thing that would be the same would be the laughter.

The easterners see each other frequently. It's only now that one couple's son has moved to the Bay Area and is a new father that they make the trip to California. And the others decided to come along this year. Goodie for us. The drill in the kitchen for such visits is that one couple/family/guest does at least one meal a day; spreads the work. So today I am cooking boeuf bourguignon for nine. We'll have it tomorrow evening, along with noodles, a green salad, and some Tuscan melons for dessert. I also made some slow-roasted cherry tomatoes for bruschetta as an appetizer. Oh, and wine, of course. The simmering stew is currently filling the house with a delicious scent.

NOTE: The mystery of the unnamed flower giver has been solved. Yesterday's mail brought a card from the flower company with a message from Jim's sisters. Donors ID'd. Thank you, Jane and Judy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

monday's clean sweep

Monday is our garden cuttings pick-up day. On our walk this morning we saw the big scooper truck zip around parked cars picking up huge piles of leaves, branches and other garden trimmings. Across the street from us our neighbors are re-landscaping their gardens, front and back. This is what they cut down and pulled and piled up for this morning's haul-away.

At 8:30 the two trucks rolled down the street to turn all that nice greenery into mulch. The chap who drives the scooper manipulates it as if he were behind the wheel of a very snappy sports car.

He grabs the debris in the claw-like extensions, lifts it up and deposits it into the waiting maw of the compactor.

And there you have it. Clean street. Cleared out garden waiting for a new look.

Tomorrow the street sweeper comes to finish the job, vacuuming up all the remaining dust. Right now the house looks pretty bare. When the new plantings are in I'll show you what the owners decided to do.

Friday, September 25, 2009

for the weekend

Another engrossing read from John Banville, "The Book of Evidence." This gifted Irish author is so civilized it's a true wonder.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've been holding off on writing here, trying to keep the airwaves and vibes clear. I wanted to be sure I didn't miss a message from my sister. You know, the rustle of a tree, the sudden song of a bird in the middle of the night, a slamming door. Those sorts of things. But alas, nothing like that happened. Instead, I had a technicolor dream about her on Sunday night/Monday morning. I'm judging from the timing that it was exactly the moment she died three weeks ago. I waited quite a long time for a message from my mother but it as yet has not arrived. We weren't close. It's been five years and she probably has, as I suspected, forgotten all about me.

But as for Vicky, I'll tell you, she looked fabulous. I haven't seen her look that good in years. I came into a bedroom and she was in bed, fully clothed. I must have registered shock on my face when I saw her because she said, getting out of bed, "Why do you look so suprised to see me?"

"Because you're not here anymore. You died."

"Nonsense! Do I look dead?" I had to admit she didn't. I put my arms around her and, I swear, I could really feel her there. "I'm just fine. Really."

I believe her.

And where did this mystical confab take place? At our old boarding school in La Jolla. I'm not quite sure why she chose that place to hang out, but she could do worse. At least now I'll know where to find her next time I'm in town.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the best little brownie in the troop

There she is, front row center, giving the snappiest Brownie salute of the bunch. I came across this while digging through family archives. Given what I've unearthed, if this chore weren't so sad it would be hilarious.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday find

While going through boxes of photos looking for snaps of my sister, I came across this one, taken in Costa Rica at Tortuguero, on the Caribbean coast. I think it was in 1985, Christmas. It's not my sister, but perhaps she will return to us clad in this glorious outfit.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the been-gone-too-long Episcopalian

I have spent several hours in the library at St. Martin's Episcopal Church over the past few days researching readings, lessons, hymns, psalms, etc. for Vic's memorial. I pride myself on knowing most of the hymns from the 1940 hymnal, but nobody uses that any more. They now have this new-fangled hymn book with unsingable lyrics and strange words. I have searched carefully for any old familiars, found a couple and may go with those. Why they messed with the tried and true I'll never understand. Old fogey? Who? Me? It is all starting to fall into place, however. I've narrowed the choices, thought carefully about how these words would reflect on the life of a beloved sister, and most importantly, hope she wouldn't remark, from wherever she is, "What in the world was she thinking when she chose that?"

On Wednesday, this beautiful bouquet of freesias arrived. The box was addressed to me but there was no card so I have no idea whom to thank. They came via FedEx but before I could get any tracking number, Mr. C. had carefully deposited the box in the trash seconds before the big truck arrived to cart it all away. They are so lovely and their arrival was so unexpected. Thank you, Mystery Gifter.

I treated myself to a facial yesterday, a fine thing to do for oneself. Get rid of the puffy eyes. Then another swell dinner with Ali (with a new, sensational short hair-cut) and Babz. Mussels in cream and a glass of luscious dry Spanish white. Good talking, too.

The Mac Tsar comes to my house this afternoon to install the new Snow Leopard OS system on the two computers. All chatter about it extols its virtues, among which is speed. Look, this whole computer thing brings information (and disinformation) into my life faster than I can handle it now. Why do I need faster? And is faster always better? He is also going to do a general tune-up too, to straighten out any kinks in the system that come from simple usage. Smoother and faster. We'll see.

Monday, September 7, 2009

one week gone

I am back home after my few days in San Diego. Most of the heavy lifting is over; small- to medium-sized details have been left hanging. Industry keeps grief at bay. But there's time. I still can't quite get it that my sister is gone.

On Friday I went to La Jolla to have lunch with one of my dearest friends. On her table was a copy of Christopher Buckley's latest book, "Losing Mum and Pup". I borrowed it and started reading it on the plane home. I happened on this book at just the right time. It is a loving, funny, irreverent reflection on his very famous and difficult parents (and some of their very famous friends). Although my sister was not famous or particularly difficult (as sisters go), it is Buckley's colorful memories of life with his glamorous parents that stir my imagination. Through all this heavy business of taking care of things, funny incidents will flash through my mind and make me chuckle. These are the memories that will keep me going for the next few weeks. Or months. Or years.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

the business of death

My time on the job as the surviving sister who has to take care of business has been, thus far, busy and successful. I'd forgotten how all this goes; Vic and I did it for our mother in 2004 and I think I just put it out of my mind. But after two days of non-stop talking, signing, phoning, and deciding, it's almost done.

Our first stop was at the convalescent hospital where Vicky died. We picked up her belongings ~ two big bags; she must have been planning a longer stay.

Next appointment was at the mortuary to fill out a lot of forms and make decisions about the disposition of the body. Cremation. I got through it all without losing my composure; it was much harder for Tom.

But last night we went out to dinner. It was a lovely, warm night. We sat outside at a fish place, laughed and told stories and had a genuinely good time together. I was completely worn out when I got home. Grief is exhausting.

This morning we went to St. Paul's Cathedral to make arrangements for a memorial service (Friday, October 9, 4 PM.). Which hymns? What readings? Any psalms? Who will be the celebrant (Eucharist, of course)? Homilist? and so on. I haven't a clue. She left no instructions, unlike our mother who had her whole memorial orchestrated from Dearly Beloved to Amen. We did pick out the niche where her ashes will rest. Top row, one over from our mother's. There was a brief discussion about the possibility of moving mother's ashes to a different niche so they could be side-by-side. I declined; why do you think she moved to Connecticut?

The cathedral business is taken care of. Now it's the caterer for the post-service reception that's still undone but I hope to finish that tomorrow.

Tom is holding up pretty well today. Another quiet dinner tonight with more stories and memories. Does it get easier every day? I haven't had time to find out. I am going home on Sunday and that's when I'll know.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

chores in San Diego

I am off to San Diego this morning to begin the work that follows a death; mortuary, crematorium, financial advisor, lawyer, memorial service arrangements. This, along with the comforting of my brother-in-law, will take up the hours and days of my visit. I dread having to look at any of her belongings. Even her books. We may save that for a later trip. Too soon, too raw, too intrusive. Too sad.