Saturday, May 27, 2023

Barbie and Me

With Greta Gerwig's movie about how the beloved doll Barbie became Death, the destroyer of worlds* coming out soon, there's a lot of Barbie discourse going around. I am reminded of my own Barbie story.

No, I never played with Barbie as a kid. My sister had Barbie dolls, as did my cousins. I think my sister even had a Ken doll, with preposterous stick-on facial hair. But my own Barbie story comes many years later.

It was probably 1999 or so. The CD/DVD manufacturer I worked for was still classified as a profit center, meaning our role in the corporate ecosystem was to maximize profits. (Years later we would become a cost center, where our goal would be to minimize costs.) We were all flush with cash, and the company expected us to be good corporate citizens and contribute generously to its charitable efforts.

Every year at Christmas we had a "giving tree" covered with tags bearing the names of local underprivileged children and their wishes for Christmas. You could grab one at random, or you could shop around for something that interested you. That year there must have been a major video game system release, because half the tags were kids asking for the expensive, ephemeral system. Others asked for other expensive gifts. But I found one that just said "BARBIE." This one, I thought. This one will get more than she asked for.

I stopped at Toys 'r' Us on the way home, the destination for toy shoppers, which had outlived other toy stores like Kidz and Kay-Bee, though it would itself go out of business in little more than fifteen years. Toys 'r' Us had the legendary Pink Aisle, the home of all things Barbie. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and entered the aisle, an enormous man dressed all in black, pushing a shopping cart, surrounded by pinkness.

I first grabbed a classic Barbie. Blonde, pink skin, blue eyes. About $7. I was prepared to spend much more.

Who am I shopping for? I asked myself. Is she white, black, Latino, Asian? I had no way of knowing. Will she see herself in the doll she gets for Christmas? 

No problem. Even then Barbie had a broad racial diversity. I grabbed one of each and tossed them in the cart. Now she will have one that will look like her, and she can share the others.

Barbie needs clothes. I grabbed a multi-pack of clothing, and then another. She would have lots of outfit options. Barbie needs shoes. I found a shoe collection, tossed it in the cart. Barbie needs a place to store all this stuff. I found a wardrobe case. Into the cart.

Then I saw a Barbie playset. Barbie as a veterinarian, with a little girl figure and a dog. Yes, that too. That rounds things out nicely. Into the cart.

I came home and arranged everything so I could wrap it together. I taped the tag to the package and took it in to work. 

I hope some little girl had a great Christmas that year.

*Maybe that's the Oppenheimer movie, coming out the same day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Very Late Greeting Card


It is three months today since my mother died.

A card came in the mail today for her from my aunt, her sister-in-law. I thought that was odd - why was it addressed to her? Why wasn't it addressed to us? She knows my mom is dead. I opened it, and saw it was actually written TO my mom as though she were still alive and recovering. Then I looked at the postmark.

February 8th. The day my mom had her fall. The day an unmasked ambulance crew showed up to take her to the hospital. The day she likely contracted the COVID that would result in a massive stroke six days later, on Valentine's Day, a stroke that would lead to her death on February 24.

So from the time this card was postmarked it took THREE AND A HALF MONTHS to get to us in the mail.

Perhaps I will take it with me next time I go to the cemetery and read it to her.

The card at our family gravesite, May 25, 2023. I washed and scrubbed the stone off the other day, so there's a lot less lichen and bird poop on it than there was before.

(Some small consolation: This card was postmarked February 8, a Wednesday. There's a slim chance it might have been delivered Friday or Saturday, but odds are it wouldn't have gotten to us until Monday, February 13. I went to visit her in the early afternoon that day, before the mail is usually delivered. I would have probably come home to find it, would have mentioned it in my phone call with my mom that night - the last time I talked to her - and we would have probably agreed that I should leave it unopened and bring it up the next day. She had a massive stroke that morning, February 14, Valentine's Day, so she would never have gotten to see it anyway.)

Monday, May 15, 2023

Mother's Day 2023


Mother's Day 2023. The first one since my mother died. Three months since she had the COVID-induced Valentine's Day stroke that would result in her death eleven days later.

The place where she is buried is very beautiful. The grass has finally grown in over her grave. The stone needs cleaning, but that's something I will take care of after all danger of frost has passed. (Cleaning involves a soft brush and plenty of water, and you don't want water seeping into tiny cracks and freezing.) I visit there at least once a week, sometimes more often. 

I visited on Mother's Day. The cemetery was relatively crowded, as I expected. Most of the time I am visiting in the early afternoon on a weekday, or late afternoon on a weekend, so I am often the only visitor there. I had gotten a much later start than I intended and had several other things to do, but I decided to go for a joyride after leaving the cemetery. That's something I haven't done since my mother died. Usually our only outings were trips to her doctors, but sometimes I would take us off-course on the return trip to go out to places that we hadn't been in a while. Yesterday I set out to find the source of a big fire with thick, yellowish smoke somewhere in the distance, but close enough to cause a stink at the cemetery.

I never made it there, finding the road blocked on two different approaches. Eventually I turned around and decided it was time to deal with the next item on my to-do list, mowing the as-yet-unmowed lawn at my house across town. (NOTE TO SELF: NEVER LET IT GO THIS LONG, HOLY CRAP WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.) But first I stopped at Rita's Italian Ice to get a mango gelato. I had always wanted to take my mom there as a treat, but she was never very excited about the idea. (We made plenty of stops at local ice cream shops, and for a while she was on a McDonald's vanilla ice cream kick.) I sat in the parking lot and ate my gelato and thought about how much I missed my mom.

Then I headed back home to do the other things I needed to do.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Grape Hyacinths


Many years ago, shortly after my brother built his house, he cleared a bunch of rocks that peppered the old tomato field that was now his yard. He brought some of them to our house, where we added them to our rock gardens and used them to ring the cherry trees I had planted. Some soil came along with the rocks, and some grape hyacinth bulbs came with the soil. Grape hyacinths soon popped up around the cherry trees.

For years I have intended to dig up a few of the bulbs (along with some daffodils and irises) to transfer to the cemetery. I haven't done that for various reasons, most recently the proliferation of crocuses at our gravesite - I don't want to kill or disrupt them. The crocuses began to bloom in early March, shortly after my mother's funeral on March 2nd, and the last ones faded after the first week of April. After the crocus flowers fade, the crocuses will throw up long, thin leaves to absorb sunlight to build up energy for next year's bloom. 

I wanted to decorate the gravesite for Easter. I didn't want to do anything excessive, so I decided to pick up some artificial flowers at a dollar store. (The quality of dollar store flowers has become remarkable in recent years.) I tucked a few centered on each side of our tombstone, careful not to puncture the crocus corms. I spread them out so they overlapped the crocus leaves on either side of them. This turned out to be a good thing.

A week or so ago I noticed several grape hyacinths growing at the base of the tree near our grave. I considered transplanting one or two over to the soil around our grave, but decided against it. Later I spotted one growing on its own near the tombstone.

Monday morning I had to run an errand in Wilkes-Barre. The return trip took me past the cemetery, so I swung in for a visit.  I saw groundskeeping crews at work mowing the grass - the first time this season. As I approached our grave, I saw that they had also been to work with weed whackers, dutifully destroying all of the crocus leaves except the ones shielded by my artificial flowers. They had also trimmed the grape hyacinth near the stone to the ground, leaving shredded purplish-blue flowers to show where it had once been. 

But they had left the ones by the tree. That was something. So maybe those will spread and grow and gradually fill in the empty spots around the gravestone.

Friday, April 14, 2023

The last shopping list

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 - when people who were paying attention knew what was happening, a few weeks before the official announcement of a pandemic - I went grocery shopping. Already we were seeing shocking footage from Australia and the UK of empty shelves that should have held toilet paper and paper towels, of people fighting over the last available packages. I tried to protect myself with a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose and plastic gloves on my hands. Somehow I managed to sweat right through my gloves and saturate and destroy the paper shopping list I had thrown together. I knew something sturdier would be needed. I took the cardboard liners from cases of cat food, cut them into strips about 2.5" by 6", and used them to write my shopping lists. I found they were sturdier and harder to lose than scraps of paper, and realized that this little innovation was something that might outlive the pandemic.

Shopping lists are the very definition of ephemera, artifacts never intended to outlive their use. But here and there I have shopping lists written long ago, by my grandmother (who listed I Can't Believe It's Not Butter as an item, meticulously written out without any attempt at abbreviation) and my mother (her handwriting crabbed and difficult to read even years ago.) I even come across the occasional shopping list written by me that has escaped the garbage can or recycling bin. Some are meaningless and generic, but others evoke memories of specific purpose-driven shopping trips.

My mom came home from the rehab center, briefly, on February 3rd. I had spent over a month living alone with the cats since her leg broke on December 27th, and knew I needed to restock supplies for her. She had developed a taste for the salads and jello being provided by the rehab center, and I knew I had to get the ingredients to recreate them. This is my shopping list from February 2nd, a shopping trip I went on immediately after leaving the rehab center.

The Jergens (small) was a gift for one of the nurses who cared for her. My mom (like me) had Winter-dried skin that needed a generous application of moisturizer. When she was at home I was the one who applied her cherry-almond scented Jergens moisturizer to the dry spots on her back. While she was at the rehab center that task fell to her nurses. One of the nurses fell in love with the Jergens, and asked if she could stop by to put it on her chapped hands throughout the day. My mom asked me to get the nurse a small bottle of Jergens she could keep as a parting gift.

The CAKE listed at the bottom, separated from the rest of the list by a line, was the "Welcome Home" cake I had ordered from Sanitary Bakery, a cake that served the dual purpose of celebrating her return home and to substitute for my missed birthday cake from a week before.

She would be whisked out of the house the following Wednesday by an unmasked ambulance crew after she fell and lightly struck her head. On that ambulance ride she almost certainly contracted the COVID that would incubate over the next few days, bring about a positive test the following Monday, and give her a stroke on Valentine's Day morning. She never recovered from the stroke and died on the 24th.

But I still have that shopping list, with the last groceries I would ever buy for her.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

March, the month of crocuses

It has been one month today since we buried my mom. It seems like an eternity and no time at all. The house seems much emptier this past month, even though she had only been here for five days and part of a sixth since December 27. But now we - the cats and I - know that she is never coming back.

I have a job that has me talking on the phone for eight hours each day. I work from home four days each week. The cats all like to gather around to listen to my voice. When I'm not on the phone, I am almost only talking to the cats. Most often I say, over and over again, "Mama loves you. Mama loves all of us."

I go to the cemetery roughly every other day. I stopped there yesterday, The crocuses are mostly spent, at least on the sunny side of the tombstone. On the shady side some white and purple crocuses have only recently come into bloom. I never remember crocuses blooming like this, but I have never spent so much time at the cemetery before. The crocuses were only starting to break the soil when my mother was buried. They didn't really go into full bloom until the third week of March, and then faded at the end of the month, except for these late bloomers.

White and purple crocuses just coming into bloom, April 1, 2023. The flower heads on the right are the clipped-off heads from the bouquets we had placed here after the funeral. After all danger of frost has passed, I need to stop by and gently scrub off the lichen that has attached itself to our marker.

In keeping with Catholic tradition, I have been abstaining from meat each Friday during Lent. This past Friday I decided to make salmon cakes: one can of Chicken of the Sea pink salmon (including liquid), one large onion chopped up fine, salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, oatmeal (about one cup), two eggs. For the oatmeal I used my mom's minute oats, which tend to dissolve - something beneficial for this recipe. I mixed everything with my hands, kneading the ingredients into a smooth paste, and set it aside to rest for a few minutes. I heated some olive oil in a pan at medium heat. I rolled the salmon into two inch balls, flattened them slightly, and then cooked them for about ten minutes on each side. I was a little more generous with the salt and pepper than I had been with the meatballs, and was especially heavy-handed with the Old Bay, perhaps too much so. I don't know if my mom would have approved of the final product - she was not a fan of seasoning - but these were probably the best salmon cakes I have ever made. Next time I may use a little less Old Bay. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

A night at the circus

One of our cats, Amber, developed a special closeness with my mom after another one of our cats, Babusz, died a while back. Babusz had laid claim to my mother for years; she alone got to sleep at her head, she would be the first to get pets, the first to race to the bathroom whenever she sensed my mom was heading there. Amber deferred to Babusz's seniority, and mostly kept to herself for over a decade. When Babusz died, Amber emerged and immediately claimed the position of "Mommy's Special Cat." She did all the things Babusz did, but more so. So when her mom went into the hospital in late December,  Amber was very distraught. When my mom came back home on February 3, she and all the other cats hid for the better part of the day - but that night, she finally emerged and let my mom know that all was forgiven. My mom left the house again on February 8, never to return. Eventually Amber came to realize this, and she has become intermittently inconsolable. I try to soothe her with pets and scritches and scratches, with extra treats (as my mom directed), and with words reminding her that I love her and her mommy loves her. Today, during one of these sessions, I suddenly thought of the unmasked ambulance crew that took my mom to the emergency room on February 8, which is the day that she most likely contracted COVID, and I began to curse out the idiots who, after I had isolated her and protected her fanatically for three years, hsd probably given my mother the COVID that caused her to start throwing blood clots that caused her stroke that led to her death. And I wept.

Keith Nelson (second from right) and the Bindlestiff Family Circus

A few days after my mom died I caught a commercial on TV about a circus troupe coming to the Kirby Center. That's neat, I thought. I wonder who it is? The commercial soon informed me that it was the Bindlestiff Family Circus, headed by Keith Nelson. I met Keith years ago at the penultimate Sideshow Gathering. The show was scheduled for a work night, but...I could take time off to do something for myself, right?

I wouldn't even have considered it while my mom was alive, not since the COVID-19 pandemic began. If there were no pandemic, I would have absolutely taken her to it; many years ago I took her to see Penn & Teller, and she loved it. (Someday I will find the photo of her standing next to Penn Jillette; she literally came up to his elbow.) But during the pandemic I would never risk exposing her at a crowded indoor event, even in a theater with fifty foot ceilings, nor would I go myself and risk bringing something home to her.

But neither of those are considerations anymore.

I was able to schedule the day off from work. I bought my ticket online - I agonized for a while over inviting someone else to go with me, but the few I had floated this past showed no interest, and I realized that even if I convinced someone to go with me, I would risk having them be bored or disappointed. So I decided it would be best to go to the show solo, as I had always gone to the Sideshow Gathering. And, of course, I would wear an N95 mask the whole while. Even with my mom gone, I have no great desire to get COVID.

I got there more than a half-hour early, before the inner doors were open. I looked around but didn't see any of the local regulars from the Gathering. The audience was full of children, which was great; I knew they were in for a treat. I could spot perhaps three other people in the whole theater wearing masks.

Keith and company put on a wonderful first half, full of juggling and acrobatics and unicycles and a Pennyfarthing. During the mid-show break, I spotted local performers Pat Ward, Harley Newman, and Michael Kattner, along with several other regulars from the Gathering. I hobnobbed briefly until the troupe took the stage again. The second half featured Keith presenting a bit of sideshow, namely sword swallowing, preceded by some light grifting of the audience. One little girl from the audience got to accompany Keith onstage and draw a bayonet from his throat. There were additional acrobatic acts and juggling to round out the night. Too soon the show was over, and Keith and the troupe greeted attendees and posed for photos in the lobby.

So. That was that. My first public outing in three years.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

On making meatballs

I used to stay awake for hours listening to my mother breathe as she slept. Sometimes she would scare me by stopping breathing for seconds at a time, seconds that seemed to last an eternity. Sometimes I would hear her breathing take on a deep, sonorous, growling tone, before I realized it was one of our cats snoring. Now it's just me and the cats. And the cats don't snore as much.

I haven't had spaghetti in months. This is because I ran out of meatballs long ago. I don't remember the last time I made them. Ten years ago my mom got on a kick of getting meatballs from Sam's Club instead of making her own. These weren't a bad alternative, but I always preferred homemade. She hadn't made meatballs or anything else in several years, so it was up to me to make them. And after our supply ran out a few months ago, I didn't have time to make more.

Yesterday afternoon, on the way back from the comic book store, the pet supply store, and the cemetery, I stopped to buy some half-and-half - a package of equal portions of ground beef and ground pork. I decided I would make meatballs this afternoon. I chopped a small onion and added it to the half-and-half, along with eggs, salt, pepper, and a generous portion of oatmeal. I mixed everything by hand, then fried it in two batches on the largest iron frying pan I have, all while watching Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames try to outmaneuver a reedy-voiced Sean Harris in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

I ate half a dozen meatballs as soon as they were cool enough, then tossed another half dozen in some Ragu sauce and simmered them to eat later with spaghetti. Later, I would package up the rest into two-serving size baggies and put them in the freezer for future meals.

They didn't taste as good as when I made them for my mother, possibly because I used a less generous hand with the salt - she did like her salt. I don't know if they were up to my mother's standards. On some level - maybe the most realistic level - I realize it doesn't matter. 

But I will keep trying.

Sausage for breakfast

With my mom gone, I am having to learn meal prep all over again.

She ate the same thing for breakfast every day: oatmeal with coffee. I tried to get her to eat other things for breakfast, but that was all she wanted. She would prepare the oatmeal by herself, mostly, though in the last few months she found the half-gallon jug of milk too heavy to handle when she would add about two tablespoons of it to her microwave-cooked oatmeal. For a while I was pouring smaller, easier-to-handle portions of milk into jelly and relish jars so she could pour it herself, but in the end I was pouring the milk for her every morning.

My goal with her for dinner was always to serve her a varied diet of things she liked. One day she might get smoked sausage with eggs, another spaghetti or lasagna, another fried sausage, another chili. Sometimes she had meatless meals, pierogies or macaroni and cheese or fried fish. She would take breakfast around 10:00 AM and dinner around 4:00 PM and - that was it. Usually just two meals a day. What she ate, I ate. I would generally have dinner prepared by noon, so sometimes I could persuade her to eat a smaller portion for lunch, but most of the time she preferred just having her two meals.

(I was put to shame by the generous and balanced meals she was served while in the rehab center, and I tried to replicate them during her brief time back at home with yogurt and Jell-o and salads and meals three times a day.)

Now she's not here anymore, and I only have myself (and the cats) to worry about feeding.

When we were kids, we had a Sunday morning tradition: go across town to 9:00 AM Mass, then go to my grandmother's with all my cousins and my uncle and aunt for a breakfast of kielbasa, Polish sausage. Sausage needs to be boiled at least an hour before it can be eaten, and we developed a taste for it being fried after it was boiled. My grandmother would walk up the hill from her house for 7:00 Mass, come home, and prepare the sausage while we were at church so it would be almost ready by the time we tumbled in around 10:00. We devoured it greedily and then retreated to another room to watch Sunday morning TV - Sesame Street, The Electric Company, later 3-2-1 Contact and Big Blue Marble, Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine, sometimes retro showings of The Lone Ranger on the local PBS channel* - while the adults sat around the kitchen table and shared news and gossip from the previous week. 

One Sunday morning we all gathered at that table for the last time and didn't realize it.

I still enjoy sausage from time to time, and so did my mom. A trip to Jerry & Son market in West Nanticoke three or four times a year was sufficient to keep us supplied. While the Sunday morning feasts featured rings and rings of sausage, a single ring for the two of us would supply four or five meals. We would have sausage every three or four weeks. I would start it boiling around 11:00 AM or so, get it on the frying pan around noon, and when it was ready I would take my pre-work shower.

Today I decided to have a Sunday morning sausage breakfast for myself. I got the sausage in a pot of boiling water a little after 9:00 AM. The water started to boil out after about 45 minutes, so I added more and let the pot boil a little longer. Around 10:15 AM I got it out of the pot and into the frying pan, set on medium with water from the pot added to the pan. Frying sausage is a delicate operation: too low and it never browns, too high and it burns. The trick is to let the water boil away and let the sausage almost burn, then add water to start the process over, turning it once it begins to visibly brown. It was ready for eating around 10:45 AM.

It was a total pain in the ass for someone used to having yogurt or eggs for breakfast.

Nostalgia is fine. But I think as long as it is just me doing the cooking and eating, I will stick to having sausage as a dinner item.

*There was also a Jewish-themed children's TV show whose name escapes me. I don't think it was "The Magic Door." It was hosted by a jolly fellow with a big mustache whose voice reminded me of Gene Shalit.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Roses and crocuses

I won't be going to visit my mom's grave at the cemetery today. The journey home last night, as well as dealing with some things at home today, have left me drained. It's too bad, because today would have been a chance to solve a mystery.

My sister ordered a beautiful vase full of roses for my mom to be displayed at the funeral home. After the funeral there was a question as to what to do with them. I didn't want to take them, since the cats would probably eat the roses and baby's breath and would vomit all over the place. My brother and sister also have cats. In the end we decided to take them to the cemetery, where they could be displayed until they withered, and then I would retrieve the vase. My sister placed them on the edge of our marker where my brother's stillborn twin is buried.

Since that time the vase has been knocked over every day.

OK, the vase is top-heavy. I've taken steps to secure it, including creating a depression about 3/4" deep to put it in, surrounding it with rocks, and making a fence of sticks around the rocks. Every day, I find it knocked down again. Every day I prop it back up.

Yesterday I noticed that several of the rose blooms are missing. Gone. The stems appear to have been cut clean, as you can see in the photo above. Is some animal knocking over the vase and eating the blooms? If I had gone out early enough today I might have been able to see rabbit or deer tracks. My mom would have really enjoyed seeing the animals steal a treat.

From another angle, Friday, March 3, 2023.

She also would have enjoyed seeing the crocuses make their annual appearance. She missed them last year - we went to the cemetery in late February, before they bloomed, and then again in mid-March, after they were spent. This year she's there just in time for them.

Crocuses on March 20, 2023. Several purple and white crocuses are appearing on the other side of the marker as well. A single pale purple crocus, barely visible in the top center of the image, has appeared above my father's flat marker.


Currently at my workplace we are working one day a week in the office and four days working from home. After several weeks spent mostly on FMLA and Bereavement Leave, yesterday was my first day in the office in over a month.

Snow was in the forecast. Predictions kept fluctuating, suggesting we would either dodge the worst of it or take a solid hit. During my final break at 8:00 PM nothing had started yet, and it looked like we might be spared. But the snow was coming down hard when I left around 10:40 PM. 

It kept coming down, harder and harder. Flakes the size of goose down, then the size of feather duster feathers. Thick flakes that made the windshield wipers work hard to scrub the windshield clean. My normal commute runs along the south rim of the Wyoming Valley, but I decided to drop down to a lower elevation and come in through Wilkes-Barre. It helped, a little. Still, a drive of 20 minutes wound up taking nearly an hour.

My mother would have been worried sick. I'm glad she was spared that.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

A day indoors

I had plans for yesterday. Plans! I would sleep in a bit, get up, take a shower, sort through the sympathy cards we had received, get started on writing Thank You Notes, meet with my sister before she went back to Maryland, go out to the comic book store, stop at the cemetery, then watch 4:00 Mass from the Cathedral in Scranton.

It didn't go that way.

I was up late Friday night, watching a friend live-stream "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" for her followers. She and her puppet lion ended the night with a sweet lullaby, which hit me hard. I finally rolled into bed at 4:00 in the morning. I woke up at 6:00 AM and was unable to go back to sleep.

All that time to work with. Plenty of time. My sister wouldn't be by until after 1:00. And I did...nothing. Didn't even reheat the coffee I had made the day before. I picked at a rotisserie chicken I had bought on Wednesday. I gathered together the things my sister would be looking to pick up when she came over. Sat down with an album of old photos my cousin had put together for the wake and scanned them with the scanner I bought a few days before my mom died and posted them to my blog.

My sister came as scheduled. She dropped off a few things for me, picked up the things I had for her. We spoke. I feel like I was half asleep. I didn't even get out of my chair the whole while she was here.

I got up after she left. Watched some of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle." Despite their comic book pedigree, outstanding cast, and preposterous action scenes, I don't really like the Kingsman movies that much - though this movie is highly recommended just for Elton John stealing every scene he's in. 

The movie ended as Mass began. My mom never missed Mass - I made sure it was on while she was in hospice, and the week before we had watched it in her hospital room, the day before she returned, briefly, to Allied Rehab. My mom's funeral was the second time I've been at Mass since the pandemic started - the first was for my uncle's funeral. I don't know if I'll be returning to Mass in person. Maybe sometime after COVID is over. 

Then I slept. Took a nap. When I was with my mom at the hospice, as she lay there in deathless slumber, I took a lot of naps, sleeping lightly and waking up to monitor her breathing. (If you read this story, you'll understand the significance of naps.) I woke up several hours later when the phone rang once and went silent. I picked it up to hear my sister calling for me; something had happened to make it seem that calls were being answered with a dead line. She had called earlier when she got home, received no answer, and now was getting panicky.

I napped some more. Woke up at 12:30. Realized I hadn't fed the cats all day. "If you love me, feed my cats," I tell the cats she said to me. Not exactly, but it was certainly implied. I laid out plenty of food. "Be sure to give the cats extra treats," she really did say to me. I did. 

I went to bed at about 1:15.

I haven't dreamt of her. Last night I had a long, complex dream. Some friends of mine - some real, some I didn't recognize - were trying to help me go on a road trip, which first involved locating and securing a car. Eventually we did, and then we were on our way - to a mall in New Jersey, where in a store on the second floor there was a pop-up remaindered book store. (These used to be quite common back in the 1990s and 2000s, and I have only just today realized that they were probably selling the remaining stock of independent bookstores that were put out of business when Barnes & Noble and the now-defunct Borders moved into town. Since that time, these megabookstores have been getting put out of business by Amazon, and the remaindered books have been getting sold by third parties through Amazon and eBay.) I had $170 on a credit card to spend. I bought a large coffee table book by Penn & Teller, a paperback by Joyce Carol Oates, and several other books.

I woke up, washed dishes, watched Stephan Pastis talk about Charles Schulz on CBS Sunday Morning, ate some yogurt, washed dishes including the cat bowls, set out some food for the cats, and sat down to write this. Soon I'll put in some laundry, take a shower, stop by the cemetery (my sister went there yesterday before she came here,) and get a thank-you card for the priest who conducted my mom's funeral.

Then maybe I'll take another nap.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Old photos of my mom

My cousin located a trove of old family photos and selected the ones that featured my mom prominently. These photos are from shortly after she was born in 1933 to her marriage in 1955.

Tozia Benus (a Polish diminutive of my uncle's name Benedict) Eleanor      39

Eleanor Benus Tozia 1939

Caption on back:
(First permanent)

Unsure of who the woman on the left is. I thought that was my grandmother's sister Mamie, but the caption seems to say "Marie." 

Check out my grandmother's funky sunglasses!

Tozia Eleanor
Benus (Benedict, the youngest at the time) Pop Mom

This one says El, Cioci, Toz. The "Cioci" is likely Alice, my grandmother's sister, who lived next door to her with her brother Stephen

This is a trimmed-down photo, with much of the caption on the back cut off.

The back of the photo:
Aunt Frances
Mom (my great-grandmother, most likely)
Cut off is what might be "Tozia," which would be my mom's older sister, who I think is sitting next to her, which would make Aunt Frances the obscured figure to the left of the other figure in the background.
The date is cut off so we don't know what month this was (likely June or July) but it was the 25th of that month in 1948.

Buddy (my father), El, Joe, Mom, Melissa, Marie, Pop
Front porch of my grandparent's house, July 1957

Note the isolated bit of  color in this picture, on the flowers in the bouquet. At first I thought that it was a stain. 

Turns out this was actually a color photo. Perhaps all the other colors have faded over the last 67 years, leaving only the violet flowers.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Eleanor Jenkins, 1933 - 2023


Our mom Eleanor Jenkins took her final breath at 8:44 PM on Friday, February 24, 2023.

The funeral will be on Thursday, March 2. Service will be at Lohman's funeral home (14 W. Green St., Nanticoke) at 9:30, with Mass at St. Faustina Kowalska church (formerly Holy Trinity, 520 S. Hanover St., Nanticoke) at 10:00 AM. Viewing will be at Lohman's on the evening of Wednesday, March 1 from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM. 

Interment will be at St. Mary's Cemetery on Middle Road (1594 S. Main Street Hanover Township.) 

A celebration of Eleanor's life will be held at the Huntington Valley Volunteer Fire Company (1013 PA-239, Shickshinny, PA 18655) following the interment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

A holiday frozen in time


My mom's leg broke on December 27, 2022. She had hardly gotten a chance to enjoy the full Christmas decorations before she had to go to the hospital. (Almost full; there are still a few bags and boxes of decorations that had yet to be put out.) As the weeks ground on we agreed I should take down the decorations at some point. But I never had the time, and we later agreed I would take them down once she was safely back from Allied Rehab on February 3. Maybe the weekend of February 11, a week after she returned home.

I promised her I would light up the tree one more time so she could see it in all its glory. The cats had managed to unplug it, so it wasn't just a question of throwing a switch. I kept letting it slide, but as I took my last call before lunch on Wednesday, February 8, I made a note to plug in the lights at lunchtime. A few minutes later my mom fell. I had to abort my call, tend to her, and call 911.

She will never get to see those lights again.

At some point I have to take down the decorations. I don't know if I'll be putting them back up next year.

Monday, February 20, 2023

These are a few of her favorite things

In a previous post I am collecting all of the little aphorisms and catchphrases that my mother said throughout her life. By reading them you can hear her in her own words, and maybe her own voice. Here I will try to capture some of the foods and other things that she enjoyed in life. As with the list of Eleanorisms, this will be a work in progress indefinitely.


Poppyseed bread from Sanitary Bakery. We knew this as a holiday treat at Easter and Christmas, but recently discovered that it is available every Friday and Saturday from Nanticoke's favorite bakery. I started out buying one loaf each week, but by the end of 2022 I was buying two and even three loaves at a time. We began to worry that her heavy poppyseed habit might make some doctors think that she was addicted to opioids! Have a slice or six with butter - whipped butter is something I re-introduced her to during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, although I remember it being available at Babki's house during Sunday breakfasts, at least some of the time. 

Pork barbecues from Stookey's in West Nanticoke. I have no idea why these sandwiches - a blend of roast pork and Heinz India Relish (extra relish, please) served on a soft roll - are called "barbecues," but they are, deal with it. They're also simplicity itself to make at home: Break roast pork up into 3/4" x 1/4" slivers, mix with a roughly equal portion of Heinz India Relish (the specific brand and variety is important,) warm slightly on stovetop or (preferably) in a microwave (to avoid scorching,) and serve on a soft hamburger bun made with potato starch. 

We had a bit of a scare in the last few years when Heinz India Relish - apparently the oldest product in the Heinz family - disappeared from our usual grocery stores. I found one store that reliably carried it and would make supply runs every six months or so, but that store went completely out of business last September. Fortunately, one of the stores that used to carry it (Gerrity's) is now carrying it again. I have at least six jars in reserve at home.

Home-made cookies and cakes from her sister-in-law Jan. Jan is married to Tony, my mother's sole surviving sibling, and she has put her own spin on classic recipes for things like Rocks and blueberry cake, making them soft, creamy, and delicious. Tony and Jan would routinely send packages full of cookies and cakes and other goodies throughout the year. They sent a package just before Christmas, and while my mother tried to ration them, she quickly ate all the cookies with her meals during her stay at Allied Services. Tony and Jan sent another package that arrived February 8, the day my mom fell and went to the hospital. Once my mom went back to Allied on February 12 I took some cookies from the new box straight up to her, and she got to enjoy them Sunday and Monday.

Chicken with Broccoli. My mom hates trying new things, but once she finds something she likes she stays with it. She was not a fan of Chinese food but loved chicken with broccoli. She was sad when she was told she had to limit intake of broccoli because it would interfere with one of her medications, but eventually was advised she could have some broccoli and cabbage in moderation.

Pigs in the blanket. I learned a few years ago that there are several different foods that go by this name, but for the Polish it means ground cooked pork and beef with rice, rolled in cabbage leaves and cooked in tomato sauce. Also known as golubki, pronounced "gowoompki." My cousin Paula's husband John had cooked up a batch and sent it over at Christmastime, and the extras went in the freezer when my mom went into the hospital. She got to enjoy an additional meal of it after she came home on February 3.

Lasagna and skillet lasagna. The first meal she wanted when she came home, from an "Ace in the Hole" quart container I set aside several months ago. Lasagna is simple enough - long broad noodles layered with sauteed beef and onions, ricotta cheese, sliced mozzarella cheese, her own secret ingredient of slices of American cheese, and spaghetti sauce. The prep can be a beast, so "skllet lasagna" is often preferred. Made in a large pot - not a skillet. The beef and onions are browned first in the pot, spaghetti sauce is added, then the ricotta and mozzarella, and finally cooked noodles. Malfada noodles are the preferred type, but these proved impossible to get when I was making this recipe, so I tried to substitute other trumpet-shaped noodles with unsatisfactory results.

Beef stew. Dice London Broil, coat it with flour, and brown it with onions, salt, and pepper in a large pot. Add cubed carrots and potatoes - each in a volume at least equal to the meat* - then add enough water to cover. Sift in additional flour, salt, and pepper, add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce,  simmer on low for several hours until the vegetables are soft and the sauce is thickened, stirring frequently to avoid burning on the bottom. Allow to rest before serving. 

This was the last meal I made for her.

*In reality the proportions of vegetables to meat were much larger: for a 1.5-2 lb. London Broil, I use 1 large diced onion, 5-6 large potatoes peeled and diced, and 5-6 large carrots cleaned and diced.

Vegetable soup with beef. Essentially the same ingredients as beef stew, minus the flour and onions, plus green beans and wax beans. Boil the cubed London Broil and skim off the scum, or "shummy" - the fat that forms a gray foamy rim around the top of the soup. Once the shummy stops forming, add the diced carrots and potatoes and allow to simmer for a while before adding a small-to-medium can of sliced green beans and another of wax beans. Continue to cook for a total of at least two hours.

She had not had this for many years before I made it in November, and she greatly enjoyed it.

Pea soup/peas with barley: This used to be a regular way to dispose of the bones from our hams from holidays and throughout the year, until my mom developed a fondness for boneless hams. This year I made a point to get a spiral-cut bone-in ham, along with her usual boneless ham. She wound up in the hospital before I could make the soup, but I made sure she had some after she came back on February 3, and she loved it.

In a large pot, cook the bone of one ham with some meat left on. After the shummy stops forming, add onions, salt, and rinsed dried green peas. Cook until peas have softened and serve. 

If not serving immediately, peas will dissolve into nothingness and the soup may seem thin. Either parboil additional peas and add to simmering soup to finish cooking, or cook and add some barley. The barley creates a different taste and mouth feel, but it is still delicious. My mom commented that she had not had homemade pea soup in many years, and she loved it.

Chili. This one is hard to relate. I have been tweaking the recipe for years to get it exactly the way she likes it, and with my last pot a few months ago I finally got it there. I had planned to have some ready for her when she came home on February 3, but didn't have time. After she fell and went to the hospital on February 8, I set to work gathering the ingredients and was all ready to make chili when I got the news of her stroke.

In a large stock pot, saute the ground beef, onions, and black pepper. If using 90% fat free or greater, add some oil or shortening; if using 80% fat free, pour off some (but not all) of the rendered fat into a can and discard in the trash (not down the drain.) After the meat (about 2 lbs.) has browned, add two large cans of diced tomatoes, one large can of crushed tomatoes, and one large (tall) can of kidney beans, drained, plus salt and black pepper. Simmer for about two hours. For best taste, refrigerate or, ideally, freeze and thaw before serving, allowing the flavors to blend. Yes, it's not a spicy chili, it does not involve chili peppers or flakes or powder, and it has beans, but that's the way she liked it. Unfortunately, I never got to make this most recent pot for her.


Once upon a time pierogies were strictly an ethnic food, though several different ethnicities claimed them. The first time I realized they might enjoy wider appeal was when two aliens ordered them at a diner in Men In Black. I don't remember if my grandmother made these, but I do know that they're a lot of work to make. These days they come in an enormous variety of favors, but my mom always stuck to potato (or potato and cheese), farmer's cheese, and cabbage (not sauerkraut.) She liked them boiled and lightly fried. Her favorites in recent decades had been made by the ladies of St. Mary's church. Unfortunately, their recipe was no longer used after the parishes of Nanticoke consolidated. She later became fond of Rentko's in Nanticoke, but they have become notoriously difficult to get in touch with in recent years. A new business called NEPArogi recently opened in part of the former location of Janison's on the edge of Nanticoke. She enjoyed their pierogies but they also became difficult to order from in late 2022. This Christmas I threw in the towel and bought some locally-made pierogies at a supermarket, and they were, surprisingly, acceptable.


Haluski is like an exploded cabbage pierogi. I thought I had posted the recipe here before, but I cannot find it. So here it is.


- 1 large head of cabbage

- 3 large onions

- 1 bag Mrs. Weiss Kluski (a rough-cut, thick egg noodle, available from Walmart and sometimes from supermarkets) (other egg noodles can be substituted, but may not produce the desired results)

- 1 stick of butter

- 1 tablespoon salt plus additional salt

- 1 tablespoon pepper

- wok or very large frying pan

- large colander

1. Put 2 large pots of water on to boil. One will be for the noodles.

2. Chop the cabbage fine, no larger than 1/4" x 1/4". I would sometimes use a grater, but this is not really necessary. Place in large colander. Add generous amounts of salt throughout. (You will be washing this away.) Set aside over sink for about 10-15 minutes.

3. Cook noodles in one of the pots of boiling water.

4. While noodles are cooking, pour the other pot of boiling water over the salted cabbage and allow to drain. The salt and boiling water will wilt the cabbage.

5. Chop onions to roughly the same size as cabbage.

6. Melt half a stick of butter in the wok over medium heat.

7. Add half of salt and pepper to melted butter.

8. Add drained cabbage and chopped onions to wok and use wok turner to thoroughly coat with butter.

9. Add drained cooked noodles and mix thoroughly.

10. Add remaining butter, cut into pats, and sprinkle in remaining salt and pepper.

11. Continue to stir over medium heat until noodles start to turn golden-brown.

12. Remove from heat and allow to rest before serving.

Chicken soup

Homemade chicken soup is easy - one of the things she would have called an "Idiot's Delight," I guess. I enjoyed making it, and she enjoyed eating it. It tastes just like the soup my grandmother made.


- 3-6 pieces of chicken (legs, thighs, breasts) with bones included and skin removed, thawed

- 3-4 carrots, cleaned, cut into small pieces

- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

- 1 teaspoon whole allspice

- 1 tablespoon salt

- 1 sprig parsley, bruised and shredded

- Noodles (recommend Mrs. Weiss' Kluski)

1. In large stock pot bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken and some salt. Cook but do not boil for at least one hour, skimming shummy as it forms.

2. When shummy stops forming add chopped carrots, peppercorns, allspice, and salt

3. Run sprig of parsley over blade of sharp knife, bruising the parsley and breaking it up into smaller pieces. (I believe this increases the diuretic efficacy of the parsley.) Add to soup.

4. Allow to cook at least an additional hour. Chicken should cook in the pot for at least two hours.

5. Boil noodles (Mrs. Weiss' Kluski most resemble the homemade egg noodles my grandmother would make)

6. Serve, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Klupsi (aka Klupski)

A sort of Polish meatball. Rolled small, we used these as meatballs with our spaghetti. Larger ones would be served with diced potatoes and onions fried in butter. (I would routinely make just the larger ones, then break them into smaller pieces for spaghetti.) She would use exactly the same recipe to make meatloaf.


- 1 package half & half (half ground pork and half ground beef) or equal portions of ground pork and ground beef

- Large onion, chopped fine

- Oatmeal (at least 1 cup)

- 1-2 eggs

- Salt

- Pepper

Combine all ingredients by hand until smooth. Amount of each would depend on the amount of meat you're starting with, but you will be using a surprisingly large amount of oatmeal. Roll into balls - 1" for meantballs, about 2.5" for klupsi - and fry in shortening on a pan on stovetop until brown. May be finished in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. May also put blended ingredients in a loaf pan or shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Replace the meat with canned salmon to make salmon cakes. She preferred that I pick out the bones and skins, but this can be made with them included as long as you mash them with a fork (not recommended with the ground beef and pork.) Can also be made with a dash of Old Bay seasoning, but please don't tell her.

Fried Sausage

Polish sausage. or kielbasa, is a special treat that I fear much of the nation is missing out on. For many years we would traditionally have a sausage breakfast at my grandmother's house every Sunday. During the week my mom or my uncle would get rings of sausage and take them to my grandmother. She would walk the two blocks to St. Mary's of Czestochowa Church to attend 7:00 AM Mass, then come home and get started on the sausage for when her local children and grandchildren would stop down after 9:00 AM Mass. Polish sausage is made with pork and must be boiled for at least an hour. Much of it would be served straight out of the pot, but some my grandmother would put on a medium-sized frying pan and slowly fry in the juices from the cooking pot until it was brown - with a special treat being parts where the skin ruptured where the contents swelled and opened up onto the frying pan. Our primary sausage source closed down in the 1990s, so we had to shop around at various sources until we decided that Jerry & Son Market was the best. Every few months I would go on a sausage run. We would chop up the rings to smaller pieces, enough for a single meal, then individually wrap and freeze them. I tried to keep her meals varied, but I made sure she had sausage at least once every two weeks. I took mine with white bread, but she loved hers with Kosciuszko Polish mustard.

Smoked Sausage with eggs

Smoked sausage is another treat. It is Polish sausage that has been smoke-cured. You can eat it cold as-is, cooked, or my mom's favorite - sliced and fried with scrambled eggs and served with ketchup. In the last few years I have been slicing the sausage extra-thin and then chopping each piece into quarters.


Scrapple isn't Polish, but it's apparently uniquely Pennsylvanian. A gray-green loaf of pork ends mixed with cornmeal, spices, and other stuff, overall resembling a "white pudding" of British cuisine. Served fried. It is very bad for you, so I served it to her very infrequently.

Fried fish

My grandmother excelled at making fried fish, which I would greedily devour any time she made it. Usually cod, sometimes haddock or flounder, seasoned (with those traditional Polish seasonings, salt and pepper,) floured, dipped in egg, coated in bread crumbs, and fried. Try as I might, I have never gotten it to taste exactly like hers - I suspect she was using lard. But my mom enjoyed it every time I made it, usually on Fridays.

Macaroni and cheese

Another idiot's delight, and another meatless Friday classic. Elbow macaroni, cooked, then layered with butter and American cheese, with milk added as a finishing step (since that will cause everything to firm up.) My mom liked hers with a lot of cheese. I mean, a LOT. Like eating a block of cheese with macaroni cooked into it. She also liked to have a whole can of diced tomatoes added to the pot of macaroni and cheese, resulting in a totally different food experience.

Pineapple upside-down cake

Lemon Meringue Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

Cranberry Relish


- One bag of cranberries

- One Red Delicious apple, diced

- One orange, seeds removed, diced

- The zest of one orange, finely grated

- Orange juice, about one cup

- Sugar, at least one cup

Combine ingredients in small batches in blender or food processor. Add enough orange juice to make smooth. Add enough sugar to sweeten to taste - I prefer mine quite tart, but she preferred it more like candy.

Sweet Potatoes

Boil unpeeled sweet potatoes and allow to cool. Pull off skins - they should simply fall off - slice, and arrange in single layer in skillet with lots of butter and brown sugar. Simmer on low for at least an hour, until sweet potatoes are soft. 

I see no reason why the resulting product could not then be mashed into a pudding. Maybe I will try that next time.

Boneless Ham

Easier to deal with than a bone-in ham. Generally these can be eaten as purchased, but she always liked to take them through a cooking process: Place the ham in a pot full of water, add about a cup of white sugar and a cup of white vinegar, and cook for about two hours. (Sometimes I would experiment with brown sugar, but it made no noticeable difference in taste.)

Tapioca Pudding

Tomato Basil Soup

My sister got my mom hooked on the Tomato Basil soup from la Madeleine's in Colombia, MD. She has been sending jars of the condensed version of the soup - just add milk - but sometimes my mom wanted it when the official version was unavailable. So we found a way to make it directly: Campbell's tomato soup from a can (once the tomato soup shortage of the early pandemic had passed), made with milk, with copious dried basil added, all simmered slowly. It was a more-than-adequate replacement for the real thing, in my opinion. She liked it, too.

Cole Slaw

No recipe for this - she just liked having cole slaw with a lot of things, especially fish. I would buy the smallest container possible, and usually had to throw out 2/3 of it a week or two later.


My mom got hooked on the simple salads they served with lunch and dinner at Allied Rehab. Iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, and Italian dressing. I recreated their salad when she got home - Olive Garden is her favorite Italian dressing - and stocked up on more ingredients the day she went back to the hospital. I'll probably have to put them in the compost now.

Boscov's "homemade" fudge

Boscov's is a regional chain of department stores. They took over the old Boston Store in Wilkes-Barre, which had previously been Fowler, Dick, & Walker (or maybe it was the other way around.) In their basement they have a candy shop, and a setup for making fudge in-store. My mom is fond of their fudge, and would often have me get her some when I was there. I haven't entered the building since the start of the pandemic - its ventilation system is many decades old, and badly in need of an overhaul - so she has been happy to get fudge from Michael Mootz Chocolates, not far from our house.

Cracker Barrel

Ice cream cones from McDonald's

Other (not-food) things:

The obituary pages


Talking on the telephone

Her family, especially her grandsons

Her pets

Anyone who has known my mom in recent years might think of her as a crazy cat lady, and rightly so: while she now has only six cats - three of them nearly fifteen years old, and three just over four - her record was fourteen cats and a dog (after inheriting two cats and a dog from a neighbor.) But she, in fact, had dogs for many years before she got her first cat, and tropical fish - guppies and Neon Tetras, primarily - for many years before that. There was considerable overlap between pets, although we stopped having tropical fish after we determined one of our cats was eating them ("He deserves a treat now and then," my grandmother said when we told her about this in the nursing home.) She loved every one of her animal friends, and the death of each dog and cat brought her immense sadness. (The fish, not so much.) While we buried the first few pets, eventually we picked up the practice of having each one cremated, its ashes returned to us in a little wooden box. The boxes filled and eventually overwhelmed a section of her entertainment center, which she came to call "my mausoleum."

Worrying about people

Yard work



Once upon a time not everyone was walking around with a camera app on a phone in their pocket. Way back in the 20th century cameras were relatively big, bulky things that used film - and unless you were using a fancy 35mm camera, had a fixed focus. More often than not, your photos would turn out blurry, out of focus, or with a thumb or camera strap in the picture, but you wouldn't know about it until two weeks later after you finished your roll of film (or film cassette,) dropped it off at the drugstore or Kmart to get it developed, and then got the pictures back.

Still, my mom loved to take photos. At any family gathering she would be sure to get everyone together to say "Cheeeese!" Dozens of photo albums and hundreds of unsorted envelopes of photos fill her house. Many of these photos do not include her. Fortunately, many hundreds of photos of her exist.

Decorating with artificial flowers

Christmas lights, Autumn leaves, and Spring blossoms

The color blue and its shades, especially aqua

Fire trucks and ambulances

Sirens would turn my mom into an excited little girl, running to the front window to see which way they were going. Living up the street from a nursing home, much of the time the answer was "To Birchwood, because someone pulled an alarm so they could see all those strong young men in their fancy outfits again." For many years she kept a scanner in her bedroom so she could hear the latest police and fire calls.



We were never really into sports in my house, but my mom always had a fondness for watching football on TV on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Especially running plays. She would get a bit over-enthused at times, screaming at the TV ("GET HIM! GET HIM!!!") and I would try to convince her to cam down.

She checked into Allied Rehab on Sunday, February 12. The Super Bowl was on that night, and I made sure I had that on her TV when I left. The score was 7-7 when they took her into the bathroom to get changed for bed, and 14-14 when I left for the night. I had a feeling this would be a "basketball game," with high scores and each team taking the lead from the other. Watching the game at home, even while dozing during the second half, I worried that all the excitement might be over-stimulating for her - even, I thought with a laugh, enough to give her a stroke.

It wasn't. We spoke the next morning, and I asked if she had stayed up to watch the game. She hadn't. She made it through the first half and watched the halftime show, which she enjoyed, though she thought Rihanna's outfit was too bulky. I told her that I had seen that the outfit was a tribute to a recently-deceased designer and might also have been to hide some rigging to keep her from falling to her death, though I couldn't see the attachment points or how it allowed her to move around. (Later that day Inside Edition would show how it attached from the bottom.) She had fallen asleep during the second half and her TV was left on all night - meaning that, since the Super Bowl aired on FOX, when she awoke in the morning she was greeted by FOX News. (She was able to get the channel changed as soon as someone came in the room.)

So, one of the last things she got to do before her stroke was watch the Super Bowl. I'm glad she got to watch some football one last time.


Church has always been always important to my mother. Not just the experience of being a Catholic or the weekly Mass, both of which were very large parts of her life, but the community of being a member of a parish. She was baptized in St. Mary's of Czestochowa in Nanticoke, and attended Mass there her entire life. She sang in the choir, even when she was the only one there. She had memories of hiding in the cellar of the convent for air raid drills during World War II. She loved the annual church bazaar, and even after it became impossible for her to go herself, she always sent me there with specific instructions on which goodies to buy and bring home. She wanted to be buried from St. Mary's, but that is no longer an option. She attended Mass from St. Faustina Kowalska parish online from the outset of the COVID-19 Pandemic until the recent decision to discontinue the livestreaming of the weekly Mass. Even after that, she has made a point to watch the mass from the Cathedral in Scranton each week on EWTN, even from her hospital bed. Even from her room in Allied Rehab. Even from hospice.