Monday, May 26, 2014

Shades of Grey ...

source - Google images

My Dad passed today, Memorial Day, May 26th at 2:44 in the afternoon.  Dad was in day 11 of Critical care hospice after a long fought memory battle with Alzheimer's disease. Today he passed with my Brother Kevin, his Jamaican angel (live-in nurse) Merna and hospice nursing care present.

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
~Mark Twain~

It was nearly 8 years Dad lived with my brother Kevin and sister-in-law Gay in Palm Beach county, Florida. My parents moved from Titusville, NJ during a time of declining health and health issues not yet diagnosed. With the Northeast's harsh winters, trying to care for a large house with lawn maintenance became difficult for Mom and Dad. They could not continue their loving commitment in home ownership pride and they with great pause sold their home.

My brother Kevin is a neuropsychologist in private practice who specializes in Dementia and Alzheimer's. My Dad was fortunate to receive the finest care possible and 24 hour nursing care. Kevin promised our parents he would provide care for them at his home and never place them into a nursing home, a promise Kevin honorably kept. 

My sister-in-law Gay who over the years has given freely of her heart. She is graced with an incredibly delightful dry sense of humor and understanding. Now it is and will be just my younger brother Kevin and I who remain in our immediate family. Over the years Kevin and I have grown very close. Besides being my endearingly kid brother he is my close friend and my confidant.


This photo was taken on my Dad's 90th birthday on January 1st 2013 by a family member who with a other family members coordinated a winter vacation/visit to celebrate Dad's 90th. Yes, Dad was a New Years baby! John and I were not in attendance because we had our holiday visit a couple of weeks before. I have altered the original photo to tonal to demonstrate my entry of shades of grey. 

Dad's 90th celebration was the last time photographs were taken of Dad, sadly his health greatly declined afterwards, the real start of the long goodbye ...

source - Pinterest

I would best describe my Dad's parenting style as believing in the merits of strict discipline, allowing us to exercise free will, but as children we were totally aware there would be accountability for our poor choices! 

As a young girl I was convinced my Dad was the smartest man in the world. Seriously, how many other Dad's do you know who purchased the World Book encyclopedia's 20 volumes and read each book, cover to cover in under two weeks? Nightly after our dinner still at the table Dad would share all the amazing information he discovered in the World Book's. His enthusiasm became contagious to us, and afterwards we'd take down the volume from the Living room's knotty pine bookcase and read about his newly found discoveries. For me it was always the chapters about foreign lands and information about animals which kept me spellbound. 

Growing up we would turn to Dad as our source of information, yup, he became our own personal early version of "Wikipedia"! It is because of my Dad I feel I've developed a love for knowledge and truthfully I consider this the greatest gift my Dad ever gave me, thank you Dad.

Dad loved "Newsweek" magazine and would patiently wait for the mailman to deliver each new issue. Plus every day a new crossword puzzle was completed by him and know what? Even the New York Times puzzles were figured out without leaving any blocks empty. Pretty amazing brilliance I'd say.

So losing my Dad to Alzheimer's is truly life's irony. During Dad's last year he continually searched through his mind, frustrated trying to spark his memory. In stage 4 there is a total mind/body disconnect, robbing one of their memories and the inability to recall, relive and share precious snippets of time. For the survivors of loved ones of Alzheimer's weeks turn into years and the sad reluctant realization of the true meaning and understanding of a long goodbye.

Poetry allows me to write both observational and short story fables. I am ending this post with a poem about loss. Not just loss through death but about all encountered loss. The poem freely flowed and demanded time of me to be written ...  In June it will be four years of experiencing great personal loss of loved ones. What all my loss has taught me is greater inner strength and empathy towards others who experience all of life's losses. We all experience loss from time to time and it is through the sharing of our memories and peaceful acceptance we can recover and heal. As I continue forward day by day in my healing process I leave you with my list of lost family members followed by my poetic gathered words.

Source - Tumbler

June 2010 my Mother Vera slipped away after a long fought battle with cancer and it's remaining organ damages.
July 2011 my Brother Michael passed - a brilliant doctor taken way too soon.
April 2012 we loss Orlando, my Father-in-law, age 92 after heaven summoned him.
November 2013 my son Christopher suddenly died leaving his precious children behind.
May 26th, today Memorial Day, 2014 my Dad Michael surrendered to earths release.

Shades of grey

Loss often seems to arrive in multitude, each one colored in a different shade of grey,
I honestly believe in our heart loss imprints and lingers and feels like it will always stay.

When loss appears in your life it instantly becomes a thief of one's inner peace.
Symbolically you spiritually bear your cross and pray for it's gentle release.

So many shades of grey in loss...

As you try to attempt to process through the darkness of despair,
very quickly you discover it is what will enable you to soulfully repair.

Loss of a child or spouse, loss of a parent, a pet, loss of a relative or friend,
slowly in mourning you start to heal and allow peaceful acceptance to begin.

Loss of your faith, a loss of your innocence, loss of patience or loss of self respect.
Through soul searching you can re-evaluate, inspect and hopefully in time correct.

So many shades of grey in loss...

Loss of your health, loss of work, loss of life's purpose or a focused journey along the way.
Our losses simply get measured in multitude, in shades of grey that slowly unravel and fray.

Loss of a house, loss of your wealth, loss of precious little time, even loss of one's healthy mind,
forces one to examine and determine the significance of just how deeply we care is what I find.

Face it,  while living your life you will at times need to spiritually bear your cross,
while analyzing and trying to reckon the many colored shades of grey in loss.

© Vera

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Wildwood's, who won and my fable Wondrous Sam


Photo of The Wildwood's at the New Jersey shore. Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood are the shores that join together and form The Wildwood's. In this post I'll share memories. Memories I value and hold ever so dear. Some captured in photos or journals that I've kept many years very near. Thoughts of a day or times spent with family and friends, memories that linger forever in my heart and my mind. Memories that have magically formed precious snippets for me over my lifetime.

But first an announcement of the winner of House Beautiful's 500 Bathroom ideas. Elegant & Dreamy Spaces.


Kris from Junkchiccottage blog has won through a computer random choice. Please email me your address so I can send it right off to you wrapped with a bar of my favorite soap. Congratulations Kris!


I have been going down to the Wildwood's ever since I was young for a week long summer vacation every year with my parents and older brother. Now it's a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia to visit with my Grands Gabrielle 18 and Dane 11 who live in Cape May County with their Mom. Last Saturday spending the day with them inspired this blog post.. A tad bit different from my normal postings since this one is all about memories I will share.

You must be wondering what makes the Wildwood's so special. Well here are some praises and awards they have won. Voted Best beach town in America with their 5 mile stretch of white sand. (Absolutely no charge for admission - the beach is free). Best beach for family vacations - best beach for tourism and events and voted one of the top ten boardwalks in America.
video
This video was taken on Thanksgiving three years ago. My son lived in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath townhouse ocean front property. John and I celebrated Thanksgiving with our family in North Wildwood for the last time because they were moving back to Philadelphia. With their house listed for sale they returned to Philadelphia so my son could find carpentry work year round. During the winter months the Wildwood's become virtually a ghost town with the snowbirds* escaping for warmer places and many business's close for the season.

But for me my favorite time at the shore has always been in the Autumn months. The sea with it's coolish breezes and grayish tones with white peaks welcomes me peacefully in the quiet. This video which hubby John took was the view outside Chris's front door. Incredibly beautiful and serene. It was taken just before dusk.

*snow·bird
ˈsnōˌbərd/
noun
plural noun: snowbirds
  1. 1.
    NORTH AMERICANinformal
    a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter.

This photo was taken at near dusk by John just steps from Chris's deck. What you are viewing is Wildwood's Morey's Pier. The end of the boardwalk that ends in North Wildwood. The preferred shore for residents looking for a more private beach. 

Quiet and closed for the season, but for me with my summer memories when I was young I can still hear the screams of joy and fright of everyone on the rides. Colors of flashing lights, blurred movement and sheer energy to form powerful memories. I close my eyes and see it all, taste the salt air, can taste once again to enjoy the sweet pink cotton candy of spun sugar, sticky fingers and pink stained lips. I pause and relive my shore memories. Morey's Pier has 100 rides and attractions. Three roller coasters some steel, one steel and wood. The Great Nor'easter, The Great White and the Sea Serpent.

I remember a day in the summer of my 8th year, standing in a yellow with white polka dot 2 piece bathing suit. Eating pink cotton candy, sticky face and fingers matching the pink of my pale completion after a day of unprotected skin and adventure in the sun. Wearing, oh my, a 2 piece bathing suit that tied around the back of the neck and mid back with a bottom more bloomer like then bathing suit with a ruffle on the butt! Picked out by my Mom who thought it to be "very cute" resembling what the Copper-tone girl wore in the commercials.

I was out gathering shells in a sand bucket (red and blue stripes with white stars) treasures to display in my bedroom at home. My parents only instructions were - Vera don't wander far from your lifeguards station. As they took me up to this gorgeously bronzed lifeguards stand, golden brown curly tasseled hair with perfectly sculpted 6 pack ribs and a glob of white zinc-oxide on his nose. My parents didn't realize Wildwood's lifeguards rotate stations ... I moved with him and became hopelessly lost, alone with a bucket of shells and sporting a stupid 2 piece suit. Frightened? Nope, it turned into a real adventure for me.

I was finally reunited with my parents after a ride on a jeep that went up and down the shore line stopping at each lifeguard stand. Funny how our past memories become woven together to form tiny precious snippets over time. Thankfully all turned out well as I was reunited with Mom, Dad and Mike and I received no punishment since I followed my parents instructions completely!

My beautiful Grand Gabrielle started working Easter weekend at an arcade on Morey's Pier. She continues to experience and appreciate the beauty of the shore and continues to build her memories of the Wildwood's. One-day to share as her lasting legacy.

Dogtooth Bar and Grill is our regular dining spot with the Grands. Named after the Dogtooth Tuna, John and I first experienced Dogtooth years ago when Chris took us there for a Sunday early dinner. Chris over that winter had worked on a renovation in the restaurant and he was proud of his work and the quality of materials the owners chose. We fell in love with it's charming interior, it's unique restaurant concept, but also it's delicious inventive menu on that very first visit.

It is one of Wildwood's best restaurants, open year round. It's an upbeat place staffed with friendly and family loving staff. It is where Gabby, Dane, John and I spent last Saturday eating, like all our visits where we now have made a tradition of telling endearing and funny stories of their Dad, our son Chris at Dogtooth.

On every visit steamed clams are ordered as an appetizer and it is now an overly repeated Chris story I tell that mets with a roll of my Grands eyes because they have heard it told up-teem times.

Here goes my memory since it is your first time ... when Gabrielle was only three I received a panicky phone call from Chris. Our conversations always just started in that moment of time, as if we were together in the room. "Mom what should I do, is it alright??? Gabrielle has eaten 100 steamed clams!!!" Now knowing Gabby wasn't allergic to shellfish since she loved shrimp I just smiled biting the inside of my cheeks to prevent myself from laughing out loud. Mom, MOM what should I do??? My answer was next time buy more clams, I know a smart Alex answer. You see Chris had purchased 100 clams and while steaming and placing them on a platter Gabby was sneak eating them and loving them. She still does to this day, only last Saturday Gabby ordered Mozzarella sticks as her appetizer, it was Dane and I with the steamed clams. But fat chance I wasn't going to re-tell my story.

So over our many meals (it's been 6 months since Heaven summoned Chris) there are now no tears at Dogtooth just fun, silly and often times stupid stories of Chris. Stories exchanged about memories we had and hold ever so dear in our hearts and minds. 

Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.
- Rosa Parks -

Photo of a lined Seahorse, the variety of Seahorse found in our Northeastern salt water. As a child I was mesmerized by Seahorses, I still am. There are 47 different species of Seahorses. The lined Seahorse swims in an erect position using it's dorsal fin for guidance. It has a prehensile tail it uses to grasp onto seaweed, grasses and coral for support. Dimorphic and grows in length to just over 5 inches and will live a maximum of 4 years. 


The Seahorse was my inspiration for my rhyming fable about memories of Wondrous Sam. A fable about observations watching a child grow up during the summer months in North Wildwood.

While writing short stories, fables and poetry a spark of inspiration no matter how brief will always result in often days of writing with me perfecting my words each draft. I hope this blog departure from my normal style postings has triggered some remarkably wonderful shore memories for you. The ocean breezes are warming and Summer is nearly here. 

XX,
Vera

Wondrous Sam

The love of my life isn't able to join me for summer vacation to enjoy frolicking in the sun and sand.
For he is a volunteer physician who is away with "Doctors without borders" in a remote foreign land. 

As a photo journalist I travel often on intriguing assignments, but decided to take a break from work to reconnect with the quiet of the sea.
To simply leisurely relax spending time at my parents summer shore house that was an inheritance a few years ago they left me.

Sun, sand and surf at Wildwood's shore, summering here ever since I was a small child.
An extremely hectic schedule had prevented me from any time off work for quite awhile.
                                           
For me the sea holds captivating allure, a true mysterious temptation and even perhaps the start of all creation.
I'm anticipating fun adventures, after just arriving to start my long awaited work free summer vacation.

My neighbors grandson Sam is squatting on the beach as he's studying a snail he's holding in his hand.
I instantly grabbed my camera and flew outside, before he could drop his slippery treasure into the sand.

His curly brown tasseled hair is adorned with shells and a Seahorse crown he's fashioned and wears like a cherub's halo,
I want to capture this precious fleeting moment in time of this radiant child who in bright sunlight was all aglow.

Sam's a very inquisitive wondrous little 5 year old, truly a sweet, intelligent and curious charming boy.
Just getting to know him fills my heart with overwhelming emotions of kindness and a sense of true joy.

The next day like every day that summer started with a knock on the door each morning at 10:00 with his shiny sun screen coated skin.
Together we would walk the shore line picking up shells as laughter and conversation would instantly begin.

Young Sam has his heart intent on one day becoming a marine biologist, as he is learns about life in the sea.
With every encounter he excitedly shares stories of all his discoveries and his enthusiasm mesmerizes me.

His favorite sea creature is the Sea Horse, who picks a wife for all his life and also gives birth.
Sam said besides the male Seahorse, the Pipefish may be the only species to do so on Earth.

Sam says Sea Horses are bad swimmers, they use their tail for support as they constantly eat and live in salt water everywhere.
He plans on becoming a marine biologist to save them from becoming extinct because that would be unthinkably unfair.

Sam is always day dreaming in warm sea breezes where the land and the ocean meet,
day after day he delights in enjoying the waves as they gently wash over his tiny feet.

Summer after summer, every encounter a sea creature lesson is how our conversation starts.
"Octopuses are intelligent but don't have any bones, strangely they swim backwards and they have 3 hearts."

Everyday Sam journals about his observations and humorously claims his pen contains black octopus ink.
Wondrous Sam is absolutely captivating as he tells amazing sea life stories that always end with an ear to ear grin and wink.

Two decades of summers have now passed, Sam gleefully studied Marine Biology away at school,
Then during Labor Day weekend I heard a knock on my door, there stood Sam in sea breezes that already had turned cool.

"I've earned my degree and have written a book "Magical creatures of the Sea", take a look...
On the cover was the photograph of Sam squatting in the sand, that 2 decades ago I took.

But reflecting on all those summers of treasured memories, it always comes down to this one,
Sam's boyish antics played out in the sun, with him discovering sea creatures was always such amazing fun.

© Vera

Photo sources Google images 1,5,6 & 7