(a year later, glad I took the time to reconstruct the events, I can now post this - 12/19/09)
It's calm now, but the last three weeks have been pretty wild. My mom broke her hip Thanksgiving morning. She hung on valiantly, but she passed away a week ago. Two weeks ago I dropped everything and flew back to Ithaca, NY to be with her - and my brother, sister, and dad. We had some very intense and meaningful moments. I felt lucky to be there with her.
There were many, many hospital visits, mostly to the ICU. Three days into my visit we moved my dad into a nursing home with an Alzheimer's unit - and we moved his assisted living furnishings into storage. It will be a much better home for him now, with specialized nursing care looking after his needs.
The past two weeks were difficult, to say the least. I drove my brother back to Connecticut hours after Mom's funeral, to stay ahead of a honking big snowstorm. I only stayed at his place one night to avoid the same storm, arriving at an airport motel in a blizzard.
The next day was a 19 hour travel day from hell. Managing to stay one step ahead of cancellation, waiting on the runway because the next airport was suddenly shut down, missing the connecting flight and barely getting on a later one, standby. Then not making it to Seattle because of the snow, landing in Spokane, waiting, waiting... landing in Seattle at 2 AM. The final leg got me to my home in the wildest taxi ride I've ever had, driving through a foot of snow on unplowed roads. I carried my luggage the last half mile, in my running shoes. At 4 AM I called my wife from the from our front yard, "Honey, I'm home, how about opening the door?"
That was two days ago. Seattle is in the grips of the lengthiest snow event seen here in decades. We live midway up a very steep sidestreet hill (never plowed). Our car has not been out of the driveway for 11 days. We walk 3 miles to the grocery store. My back is killing me from repeated shoveling.
Some things did not happen this year. My wife and I did not get away to Iron Springs, on the Washington coast. We do not have a Christmas tree. The Men's Cookie Exchange did not happen. In Seattle, school was canceled for the last three days before vacation started. I missed being with my class of third graders very much. The two weeks before Christmas is such a very, very loaded time - like extra dark chocolate - almost too intense, but unforgettable. We'll do our best to recreate and rebuild in January.
But it's Christmas Eve. Finally. My wife is baking cookies to include in our annual beer and cookies bags passed out to our neighbors on Christmas Eve. One of the cookies will be Mom's toffee bars (see my recipe on the Food Network). I take care of the ales, brewed some time ago.
More snow is forecast tonight. The wind is whipping up a 35 degree rain/snow mix right now, and we hope the power stays on as it changes back to snow.
We will all move on from the past two weeks, but it is important to remember. Here's to my mom on Christmas Eve. Here's to my family.