Sunday, December 31, 2023

Another year ending

I spent the last day of 2022 in the hospital visiting my mom. She had just had the surgery to repair her leg, which included replacing her artificial knee joint, and would now begin the long, slow, arduous process of healing, recovery, and learning to walk again.

I stayed with her as late as I could, but eventually the hospital wanted all visitors to clear out. I made my goodbyes, wished her a happy New Year, kissed her, and told her I loved her, as I did every time we parted. I rode the elevator down with a collection of strangers, all at the hospital on New Year's Eve for their own reasons. Not all were headed for the ground floor. But as the elevator stopped at each floor, we all heartily wished any departing passengers a happy New Year.

My mom would be gone in less than two months, but we had no way of knowing then. 

She hasn't been gone a full year. She came back home February 3, but was whisked back to the hospital on February 8. It was during that ambulance ride with a fully unmasked crew that I believe she contracted COVID-19. She tested positive on February 13, and had a massive stroke the next morning, the morning of Valentine's Day. She went into hospice the evening of February 16, passed away on February 24, and was not buried until March 1.

The cats have all attached themselves to me. Amber, who would never let me touch her previously, constantly wants to be with me. Spooky, her littermate, is by my side whenever Amber is not, and has decided to be my bedtime enforcer, letting me know when my time on the Internet is over, sitting by my face as I fall asleep, and checking on me when he judges that it's time to wake up.

Tomorrow marks the 14th anniversary of me grabbing Spooky from where he was sleeping on our back porch. He and Amber were born sometime in early or mid 2009. Peaches was not related to them, at least not through the mother, but was born about the same time. She passed away in October 2023. Both Amber and Spooky are showing signs of age, but I will continue to let them be cats as long as possible.

Mama Cat has also attached herself to me. She always wanted to spend time with my mother - mama-to-mama, I always said. But now that time is spent with me, and her surprise jumps cause me to wince with pain much as they did my mother.

Bojangles has always been my little buddy cat, even as he has grown to enormous size. He continues to be the Diplocat, having friendly relations with every cat in the house (though sometimes he will have epic battles with his mother.) He is especially friendly with Amber - jealousy of this closeness may explain why Mama Cat is especially hostile to her -, and Amber will sometimes beg me for treats only to then run away until Bojangles comes to eat them. (He usually leaves a few for Amber.) 

Spumoni continues to be a schnook, wanting only to be with her mother Mama Cat.

Nobody can say what 2024 holds. I can only hope that deaths and disasters are kept to a minimum.

Best wishes on this, the last day of 2023.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

One year since The Fall

It all started a year ago today.

My sister and my mother had made plans to meet with one of my mother's friends for dinner at Red Lobster. It would be my first day back at work after Christmas - Christmas Day had fallen on a Sunday, so we had had our holiday on Monday the 26th. I was just settling in to get my work day started as they left the house close to 4:00 PM.

Before I could even get set up, I could hear my sister calling me from outside. She was standing over my mom, who was sitting on the sidewalk, her leg tucked under her in a way that seemed unnatural. My sister was already calling an ambulance. They had been walking down the steps, my sister first, followed by my mom, when my mom announced that something felt wrong, that she felt like she was about to fall. And she did just that. My sister kept her from hurting herself as she fell, but still my mother had wound up on the ground and was sitting on the sidewalk. I quickly grabbed a blanket to keep her warm while she waited for the ambulance.

(The fall, we would soon learn, happened because her femur had snapped above the point of attachment of her artificial knee. The artificial knee was strong and did its job perfectly, but all the while it had been transferring stress to the bone around it.)

There was something about my mom's position on the ground, the way her head hung low, looking more dejected than injured, that told me she realized everything that was about to happen.

For three years I had kept my mom safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. I did this by keeping her isolated, and by strictly limiting my own contact with the outside world. She left the house only for doctor's appointments - she typically had one to three appointments each week - and only then while wearing an N-95 or KN-95 mask. I left the house for work (one day a week in the office), grocery shopping, other occasional shopping trips, and to take her to her appointments - always in an N-95 respirator. It was a hell of a way to live, but infinitely preferable to the slow, lingering death promised by a COVID-19 infection for an 89-year-old cancer survivor. (She was only going out to dinner over my strenuous objections.)

And now that protection was gone. Soon she would be transported by an ambulance crew to an emergency room, and then would likely be admitted into the hospital. Each of these steps would involve environments where exposure to COVID-19 would be almost unavoidable.

We managed to thread that needle. Throughout her stay in the hospital, her time at the physical rehab center, she managed to come out without COVID-19. It was only on a return trip to the hospital in early February that she contracted the COVID-19 that would create the blood clots that would give her a massive stroke the morning of Valentine's Day that would result in her death on February 24, 2023.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Goodbye, SuperTiff

One of my first blogger friends has died.

Tiffany's first blog that I knew of, If I Were Queen of the World, was hacked long ago and is gone. Her self-owned blog,, is also gone. Another one exists, with posts from 2004-2007 and then again from 2013. It also bears the SuperTiff name.

Tiffany was fun and funny and full of life. That life was not without problems, problems that she was very open about. When she was going into rehab in 2011 or so (it actually was 2009, just two years after I met her online) - which she described as an adventure, for which she would be packing her adventure hat - she sent me an address where I could write her. And write her I did, once a day, every day, in a different format each time. One was a traditional letter printed out from my computer. Another was hand-written. Another, written on a napkin. Another was written on vellum. Another, a recaptioned Dinosaur Comics panel. Still another had been cut up into a puzzle.

She wrote me back once, in a letter I have treasured for over a decade.

She moved out to Pittsburgh three years ago. We joked that now that she was so close to me we would have to get together. Now that I look at the actual conversation it really wasn't a joke.

One trip to New York had her swing within twenty-five miles of my house. Alas, we never got to meet in person.

(Later in that same conversation I found this, and it broke my heart.)

I don't know how she died. I just know that she died the evening of Tuesday, December 19. She had been posting to Facebook shortly before she died. I found out about her death when one of her friends posted to her Facebook page referring to her in the past tense.

SuperTiff is gone, and this world is a less wonderful place without her.

Thursday, December 07, 2023

First snow, December 7, 2023


My mom loved the passing seasons. She would get excited about the first snow. She loved to see the colorful Autumn leaves. She adored the blossoming of the trees in Spring. And year after year she noted how much bigger the trees of "Penn's Woods" grew in Summer, a phenomenon we chalked up to the warmer, more humid Summers.

I've become something of a recluse since her death. I rarely leave the house except for my one day each week in the office and to go grocery shopping. And for weekly trips to the cemetery, lately to change out the vigil light candle. Used to be I would be taking her out to weekly appointments, sometimes two or three times a week. Those were my outings, my times out of the house to see the changing landscape. Sometimes the appointments were downtown. Sometimes they were a few miles away in Wilkes-Barre. Sometimes I would take the scenic route home, taking her to visit the cemetery or for a ramble through the wooded areas of the Back Mountain. I did that last October after a blood appointment downtown; rather than driving straight home, I took her home by way of Hillside Farms in Shavertown so we could see the brilliantly-colored trees. Neither one of us suspected that in less than five months she would be dead and buried.

This morning she would have run to the windows to see the falling snow, as enthusiastic as she would have been at the sound of passing fire trucks. She would have marveled at the snow-covered landscape. She would have called friends and family to see if they, too, had gotten a measurable snowfall.

Me? I looked out the window and commented to the cats that it had snowed. I stepped out on the front porch to take the picture above and saw that the steps needed cleaning. I didn't have a broom handy, so I half-assed it with a shovel. Temperatures are supposed to be well above freezing for the next two days, so I expect any lingering snow will melt soon.

I'll head out to the cemetery again this weekend.


Today is Pearl Harbor Day, the eighty-second anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. My mom was eight when it happened. Today I wondered: what was that day like for her? Was it a snowy day, like today, maybe the first snow of 1941 in Nanticoke? Where was she when she heard the news? How did my grandparents and their children respond? In all these years we had talked about her experiences during World War II, the terror of air raid drills and evacuating the school to shelter in the basement of the convent next door. But we never spoke about her experiences during December 7, 1941. And now, the first time it occurs to me to ask her about it, I cannot.