Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We are off to the coast for a much needed vacation. For New Year's Eve. For fun. Half the challenge will be getting there, as the crack Portland weather crew fortells of winter snow storms to rival the east coast. In the coast range there might be an inch or more. An INCH of snow. In Oregon. Can you imagine it? In December? Christ almighty.

Anyway, we are staying in Netarts at this funky little oceanfront motel called Happy Camp Hideaway. How could we resist? We've crabbed here before, and my husband intends to crab in the ice and snow. We'll snowshoe to the beach and rent a snowmobile to get back to the cabin.

Naw. Just kiddin'. Its beautiful over here. Sunny and windy, cold and gorgeous.

Duffy almost got swept away in a multi-directional surf on a high, outgoing tide. Boy was he ever surprised! Once he'd saved himself, he hopped around until he was dry. He may be smart enough to remember what happened. Not Sid. If the frisbee was out there, he'd be after it, til' death do they part.

Today we drove to Cape Mears Lighthouse which is no longer operational, but beautiful nevertheless. (I didn't know that lighthouses are typically made of iron. Sturdy.) Then we went into Tillamook for crab cracking implements. I can't just chew through the claws like my mate. He's captured four dungeoness and two rock crab with huge claws. He didn't bring crab pots, but those small, flat traps you fling out with a fishing pole. So, for New Year's Dinner we will have rib-eye steak, crab with garlic butter, sourdough rolls and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Will we wander down the beach and dance with the Netarts locals? Will we stay up past nine o'clock? Will we blow something up in honor of the simple passage of time? I can't say. Anything is possible.

So there's the little guest book in cabin #5 where other happy campers have recorded something profound about their travels. As the resident writer, I feel compelled to do my bit, to elevate the discourse, blah blah blah. But I'm not feeling all that wise or profound. Just relaxed and lazy and happy to be away, watching the water go in and out and in and out as though something or someone other than me is in charge.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

christmas day

Started the day with Sunrise and eggs benedict, homemade hollandaise. It took us all five hands to get breakfast happening what with answering the phone and promising to call back. Julie sent us these fantastic english muffins from Harry and David, where I worked when I was seventeen, where I sat in a large carboard box and blew dirt off the crocus pots with an air hose; where I sorted through embryonic amaryllis bulbs until I vomitted and the line boss slapped me for sitting down on the job. I know I've complained about this before. -- anyhow, the benedict was great, a bit lemony for me, but tasty. Then came the presents. Lots of presents. I got a lap desk to rest this laptop upon. Its an old school style, a wooden student desk with lift-top for my papers and pencils. Makes me think of LeeAnn, this girl in second grade who peed her pants, sopped it up with that little packet of tissues they make your parents buy, and hid it in her desk. ew.

I got a beautiful framed photo of Duffy, some body butter, some original art by Haley, some Barnes and Nobel money, a little monkey, a tiny swallow, a book I've already read and a gift certificate to stay at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Whee.

Dinner was great, stuffed pork roast with baked apples, all the usuals, with pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. mmmmm.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I have spent the past few weeks imbedded in Christmas past, spending time with so many levels of family, family that has changed with the passage of time, marriage and death, separations and reunions, and really, not much changes at all and is still changing.

Clearly, I am having a difficult time expressing my thoughts.

Here's the thing: Taditions are gravity. They remind me who I am, who I have been.

I married into a family with different traditions. In the beginning I said they have no traditions. Then, I think I downgraded the description to crappy traditions. Now, I just like mine better, and have spent the past seven years trying to teach these people how to have Christmas. Not because I think they need to learn, but becasue I want to have Christmas my way. Slowly but slowly my enthusiasm is wearing them down. My husband asked me if he ever gets a voice in decorating the tree. I told him when he stops trying to put bats and devil horns on it. This is some serious shit. I have little patience for athiests, agnostics and pagans this time of year. I am willing to share the holiday, but not to accomodate religious differences. So. To quote Anne Lamott, I'm not exactly Christian, I'm Christian-ish. I love the baby Jesus. Bad Santa is not a Christmas movie.

We just walked up and down Peacock Lane and watched White Christmas, my holiday favorite. (And Elf. I love Elf.) My husband used to leave for a couple of hours -- but this year he watched it with me. I love the whole commercial mess -- well, not the whole mess, but I love giving trinkets to my friends and family, love shopping the shiny aisles, thinking of someone else for a change.

At work, it is the busiest time of year, as long absent relatives show up and ask, "Why is the lady across the hall wearing the sweater I got grandma last year?" And I try to explain, in the nicest possible way, that Alzheimer's disease improves a person's ability to share; that personal property has little meaning. Finally. That I, personally, look forward to forgetting what is mine. They don't always embrace my philosophy.

We always have a Christmas Cookie Party. Family members bring in a plate of cookies and the recipe and we sing Christmas carols. It is a sweet time. It has become a pretty big deal. I am not nearly good enough at singing to be in charge of entertainment. Next year I'm hiring a singer.

This year, a new man and his wife moved up from LA , and as always, their children are torn over the decision to move them. The upheaval has been difficult, but the wife, (we'll call her Marigold, he can be Harold) has Alzheimer's, so she pretty much goes with the flow. So, they come to the Cookie Party and I'm leading the singing, and Harold says, "Do you think we could sing "White Christmas?" I said, "Well, none of us is Bing Crosby, but sure, let's give it a try." So he starts singing, and Harold IS Bing Crosby. He has this deep, resonant voice, obviously well-trained pipes, and Marigold leans into him adoringly, the absent glaze of dementia or pure love, and I'm thinking pure love. And just as he gets going, his daughter comes around the corner and sees all of this, and I think it made leaving them a little easier for her.

Then, we all tell stories of our favorite holiday memories, which doesn't sound fair, I know, to ask in an Alzheimer's unit, but there you are. And they do have those long ago memories. Anyway, the chef comes over and shares his favorite memory of going over the river and through the woods to "Old uncle so-and-so's house." And how he was very rich uncle so-and-so and getting old and wanted all the family together and they drove across California and all that to BelAir or something and when they get there, Old uncle so-and-so is Bing Crosby. And he sang White Christmas.

I wish I could tell you all of the amazing things families do for their folks this time of year. I think there is a common misconception that nobody comes, nobody visits. This is not true. Wednesday night, one of my patients who is on hospice, who is 95, her seven children came in and sang carols for her. Seven grown children, older than me, who have, like so many families, scattered to the four winds, gathered together for a party in her room.

And for Ella, who no longer understands leaving and coming back, her huge family will visit her where she is, two by two, and she has a new Christmas every couple of hours, and she can handle that. ...and apple Stollen for Inga, and chopsticks for Miso; and rolled flat cookies from Norway for Betty who can't stop eating them and won't save any for her great-grandchildren; and for Laverne, Fred will come and eat lunch with her every day and every day and every day and she will never know why they arent' at home.

This year I bought two boxes of ziplock bags for people to take cookies home so we wouldn't be stuck with all of the chocolate in the world. The pharmacy rep, a delivery guy and the mailman all took bags home with them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

white christmas

We spent the weekend in Southern Oregon -- actually, Northern California. (Is it necessary to capitalize directions?) at the outlaws. We found time for everyone. We stayed in the cabin and woke this morning to a dusting of snow, a winter wonderland. That is what it looks like, for a minute. We were the first ones on the road -- it is now a gated community -- JoBar, three miles north of the Blue Ledge Mine, which is superfunded for cleanup. Arsenic and no lace. As another car passed us on the road, the pristine wonderland was sullied and nasty, spoiled.
The lock on the gate, cold and finicky in the snow, clanked open and released us. Being out of contact for the weekend was wonderful, but heading for I-5, it was unclear exactly what we were in for, weather-wise. As we left Grants Pass, it was snowing on Sexton, really coming down and beginning to stick, fat flakes of wet snow, warm snow, that had no intention of staying the night. We (he) took our (his) time, and made it home in one piece.
It is so good to be home and to have the driving portion of Christmas done with for this year. Now, we turn on the heat and begin to wrap our gifts, one by one, and wait for Christmas morning.
I spent a portion of the trip home explaining the meaning of the phrase "round yon virgin," which my husband thought was "round young virgin," which is wrong, and, well, wrong.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The tree is up, cards are written and almost ready to post. I didn't make them by my own little hands this year. I took a year off. Sue me. I'm writing a book. I did like my cards last year, and will do them again, no doubt, but I can't seem to find enough time to pursue all of the creative endeavors I want to in the time alotted after the job and the house have taken their respective pounds of flesh.

We will head south at some point during the holidays and visit the various fams, make time for everyone, not enough for anyone, and return home glad to have done it, and glad to be home.