|Chicago skyline from the plane|
It started when my mom's husband, Ken, went into the hospital with pneumonia. While there, he had a stroke. He already had diabetes, alzheimer's, high blood pressure, and a bucket of other ailments. Just a month earlier he'd had a pacemaker put in. And he was 86. He was not doing well, and passed away surrounded by his family on August 4.
It all went down pretty fast, and since I live four hours away from them, I didn't make it to the hospital in time to be one of those surrounding his hospital bed when he expired. But it sounds like it was a pretty crowded place to be, what with his three daughters, son-in-law, grandson, my mom, two of my siblings, and several of my mom's siblings there.
Luckily, I was able to spell my sisters, who had been keeping Mom company at the hospital for three days, during the next three days of funeral arrangements. We had to work out all the details of a showing and funeral in Indiana, and a burial service and memorial service in Illinois. We met with with the funeral director, the most patient and friendly man I've ever encountered, in a four-hour meeting on Sunday and another hour on Monday. We met with the pastor who did the funeral in Indiana. We called the ministers who would do the memorial service in Illinois. We coordinated with his daughters. I've never written down so many phone numbers in my life, trying to get all these people in touch with each other.
I spent four days at my mom's. One of the jobs I did during that time was to collect pictures from Ken's life to give to the funeral home for a memorial DVD (and to put on their memorial website.) This was a fascinating experience, since I was able to see a glimpse of his life before he came into my family. He'd already lived a lifetime, 75 years, before I met him. He was married to his first wife for 40 years, and they had three daughters together, but after she passed away, he met my mom and started over. It's amazing to think that someone can experience new life & love in their 70's. Imagine if the people who will be there when you die, the people who will speak at your funeral, only know the version of you when you're 75+ years old? Seeing old pictures of him as a young(er) man was fascinating.
|Ken and my mom. They were only married 10 years, but they made each other very happy.|
It was an emotionally- and physically-draining couple of days, but I didn't have much time to decompress. The day after the memorial service, I had to drive up to Chicago with my girlfriend, so we could fly to Raleigh, NC, for her cousin's wedding. A funeral and a wedding in one week. I think that ratchets up our relationship status, doesn't it?
The wedding ceremony was outside in a flower garden. In North Carolina. In August. The officiant (the bride's mother, who was very nervous and clearly hadn't done this sort of thing before) forgot to tell us all to sit down after the bride walked down the grassy aisle, so we had to stand during the entire service. Mercifully it was a short service-- literally five minutes. Then we went to an Irish pub in downtown Raleigh for a brunch reception.
We stayed in Raleigh for a few days after that, visiting the scenic downtown, the historic statehouse, an old plantation, and making stops at the campuses of the three major research universities that make up the "research triangle": Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and NC State. We argued about whether the students at Duke are too isolated from their urban surroundings and whether the three tall buildings of downtown Raleigh can be called a "skyline."
|My position: Yes, it's a skyline. It's no Chicago, but it's still a view that defines the city.|
One treat of the week was that we discovered the Duke Lemur Center, a research sanctuary that has the world's largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar. Well, we absolutely had to visit the lemurs! Although you had to make an appointment to see them, as luck would have it, they could accommodate us that very morning. So we took a tour and saw lots of different kinds of lemurs. Apparently there are up to 70 different species. I had no idea.
|Ring-Tailed Lemurs: the most awesome of 70 different varieties!|
I was only home from my trip to Raleigh for one day before I left again, this time for a road trip to Cincinnati. My tennis friends and I had tickets to the Western & Southern Open in Mason, OH, for the second straight year. Since I already wrote about it last year, I won't go into detail about every match and player I saw. We saw a lot of great players: Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro, the Williams sisters and Bryan brothers, and many more. It was a good time.
We got to see several lower-profile matches from the front row of an outer court. Arguably the best seats in the house. We were spitting distance from some of the best players in the world (but not household names like Federer or Venus.) At one point, the TV camera pointed right at us, but when I got home I looked on my TiVo to see if they showed us, they hadn't. The closest we came to being on TV was after one of the matches I saw in the front row a green blob next to a red blob next to a black blob. From knowing where we were sitting and what we were wearing, I could tell that was us. Those blobs were us on TV!
|Can you see us? (Not actual image.)|
When I came home from the tennis tournament, the cats showed their displeasure at my frequent absences by leaving the largest collection of fur and vomit on my carpet I've ever seen. Welcome home!
|The fur and puke corridor|
Next time I'll try not to schedule a funeral so close to other events. ("I'm sorry, did my dying interfere with your schedule?") Because, you know, it's all about me.