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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

A Heartfelt Loss

In Life on August 24, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I found out, through a front-page article in The Oregonian the other day, that my old boss and friend and father-figure Bob Gerding had finally succumbed to the cancer he’d been living with for many years. He was 71.

Bob is always going to have a place in my heart. I worked for him from 1987 – 1994 and became fast friends with his wife Diana and son Eric. He was honestly like a father to me. I still remember vividly a number of times when he pulled me into his office and said “what’s going on?” and I burst into tears because I was 20 something and going through infertility. He reminded me of my dad, only better. He listened. He paid attention. He made me feel like he would be there for me, like a parent, no matter what.

And when I was getting divorced and needed a job after 10 years of staying home with my (adopted) kids, Bob was the first person I called. He didn’t have anything for me but he knew a guy… and boom, just like that I had a good job and was on my way to a new and better life. I don’t think he ever knew how much that meant to me.

The last time I saw Bob was 2 years ago. I was at OHSU getting my last chemo treatment when he walked in the door. He was getting a treatment, too. He came over and sat with me and my parents for what seems like hours, entertaining us with stories and distracting me from my pain and fatigue. It was an absolutely wonderful end to my chemo horrors, and a lovely catch-up with a wonderful man.

Rest in peace Bob. You affected so many people in your too-short life and you leave an incredible legacy through your work with Gerding Edlen. But to me, you leave a memory of great love for life and for those you came into contact with. I might have just been an administrative assistant/office girl, but you treated me with dignity and respect and like part of your family. I was very blessed to know you.

Daddy

In Life, Parkinson's on June 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

Papa SmallWe are in the bathroom. Daddy sits on a wooden chair in front of the sink. Barechested. Hollow. White underpants baggy, sized from another lifetime. I hold the shaving cream can over his cupped hands, squirting a small ball into his left palm. I watch amazed, as old muscle memory takes over. The blank mask of Parkinson’s has dulled expression, slowed reaction, but still he can put the shaving cream where it belongs. Slowly dip right fingers into the left palm. Daub right cheek, then left. Dip fingers. Upper lip, then neck, until his 2 days growth is covered in white.

I wet a blue washrag, wring it out and carefully wipe the excess from his hands. Together we find a razor; I wet it and hand it to him. I watch his reflection in the mirror, amazed that he can still bring razor to cheek, pull down, strip away the white, only smooth cheek left behind. He shaves himself without a nick. I wish I had a camera so that I could photograph him in black and white. He is dignified and capable in this moment. How diligently he works the right side of his face and his upper lip. I think about how long he’s been practicing this morning ritual. I wonder how long he will be able to continue.

When he’s half done he hands me the razor. Without shame or apology he asks me to do the rest. This is only the second time I’ve done it and I know I have to press harder than I want to in order to get a close shave. I’m afraid I’ll cut him, but I don’t. When I’m done I rinse out the washrag, warming and wringing, wiping his face. He has sleep in the corners of his eyes. I notice how dark his eyelashes are, how blue his eyes, and wonder if they’ve always been that way. I run the washrag over his scalp and hair, trying to restore some order as well I can. I notice his ears need cleaning, but he’s losing patience with the hard wooden seat. I run the washcloth over his upper body. His shoulders are small. Hunched. Shrunken. I remember being a little girl in the pool, standing on those shoulders while he was underwater, waiting for him to pop me up into the air. He was so big then. So broad. So capable.

I dress him. Help him to stand. Watch carefully as he maneuvers with his cane to his favorite chair and slowly, painfully eases to a seat. “Thank you,” he says. “You’re welcome,” I reply. “I’m happy to be here.”

Daddy.

Kindle

In Life on March 8, 2009 at 12:58 pm


I’ve had my Kindle 2 for about a week now. The pre-order was a Valentine’s present from Bob, and I wasn’t any too happy about it actually. All I really wanted was a bunch of tulips and a card.

Why didn’t I want a Kindle? It seemed VERY extravagant to start with. About $400 all in which to me is a LOT of money. I’ve never been what you would call an early adapter I guess. It was technology I didn’t think I needed or wanted as I’ve been happily reading regular books for 40 years now. There was some bitching along the lines of “you bought this for me because you wanted it for yourself,” what we like to call Pulling a William, in honor of my father who once bought my mom a set of binoculars that had a built-in compass in them. Besides, I thought to myself, I buy my books used at Powells or Goodwill. Except quite often I don’t. I pick up the latest literary paperback fiction at Target at least a couple times a month… impulse book shopping that I don’t admit to.

At first I explored the free books websites, wirelessly downloading classics I missed in high school and college like Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Okay, that was a start. Halfway through Catch 22 I get a little bored and start thinking about other books. I download samples. I start reading a sample. There I am, Saturday morning with my coffee and my Kindle, four and a half chapters into The Reader by Bernard Schlink and I’m gripped. I want the rest of the book. Power the wireless on, hit “download” and Boom in what seems like just a few seconds there it is. For about $8 I’ve got the book. I read and finished the book within a day. All from the comfort of my favorite reading spot at home.

I get it now.

Thank you Bob. You were right. I do love it.

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Holocaust, Personalized

In Family History, Life on February 16, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I read the book “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay and it awakened in me an intense desire to learn more, not only about the Holocaust, but about my Jewish Prague relatives who were victims of the Holocaust.

Several years ago, when my sister was working for the Red Cross, she did the research to find out their fates. When she moved to Europe I became the caretaker of the Red Cross papers, but I hadn’t really dug in to understand what they were, and what they meant.

We hear all the time about the 6 million Jews. Sometimes we even hear about the other 5 million made up of homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, Catholics, Poles, disabled peoples and on and on and on. It’s mind boggling. How many is 6 million? How many is 11 million?  How can we even begin to imagine what it must have been like for any one of those people? Any one family taken?

And so I began my quest to understand. What was it like in Prague in the early 1940’s for Aunt Helena, my maternal grandfather’s aunt, and a widow from 1938, and her adult children Martha, Ottilie, Vilem, Pavel and Ervin? Did those distant cousins have children? What did they do for a living before they were reduced to laborers because they were Jews? What must it have been like to have been a family of means, slowly reduced to living in a ghetto with nothing? What must it have been like to pack a suitcase and be put on a truck or a train, not knowing where you would end up? I read about Terezin. I examined their transport cards and researched the death camps each one was sent to. Auschwitz. Treblinka. And others. Some of the cousins lived for years. Others for only months. Two don’t have final transports listed. Does this mean they survived? I have so many questions. I feel so compelled to try and understand the horror. Sometimes I have this strong feeling that at this moment, I amthe only person on the planet thinking of them. Of their names. Of the lives they were forced to give up. All for the “crime” of being born as Jews.

There are times in life when you can face horror. This was one of those times. I watched Nazi propaganda films, “Schindler’s List” and numerous documentaries. I read Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and Art Speigelman’s wonderful graphic novel “Maus” along with several other memoirs. I poured over websites to learn more. The mug shots from Auschwitz will stay with me always, as well as the images of smokestacks. Suitcases. Bone-chilling cold. Starvation. I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like as a mother to have my children torn from me. To have to turn my back on a parent, a loved one, a friend, in order to ensure my survival. And how would a person return from that? How would it be possible to go on with life after surviving extreme horror?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it is my job to remember those relatives. It is my job to be sure my children remember. We all know much more about the Holocaust than we did before and hopefully we are better for it. Kauders (nee Neustadl) family, Bless You.

Happy Birthday Big Boy!

In Life on September 11, 2008 at 1:03 pm

May this be your best year ever!

A belated happy birthday

In Life on August 5, 2008 at 4:34 pm

to me.

Last week I had a birthday. It was a lovely day spent with Bob playing tourist in our beautiful town (after sadly seeing Lauren off at the airport… but that’s a subject for a different post) visiting the Chinese Garden, my favorite store “Garden Fever”, dinner at Bernie’s Southern Bistro and a stroll through the throngs of weirdos at Last Thursday on Alberta. A perfect summer’s day.

What keeps resounding in my head is what a difference a year makes. It’s a lesson to take with us at all times, that no matter what we are going through, eventually time passes and we feel better. Life goes on. Intellectually I knew that last year’s cancer treatment was finite, and that my strength would return and my hair would grow back, but while I was in the midst of it there were moments when, understandably I might add, it was hard to keep the finite nature of the beast in focus. It seemed as if I would be on my ass on the couch forever, destined to be an aching, nauseated, fatigued, bald observer of life but never again a participant. It sucked. I wrote things like this.

Now look at me! Nearly a year post-chemo and 9 months post-radiation I am healthy and strong and capable of doing everything I want to do. I have a wonderful boyfriend and a great new job. I’ve been able to totally mostly keep up with everything life throws at me (with help from my family – I’m not super woman) and sometimes I have more energy than I know what to do with! The garden is whipped into shape,  I’m cooking again, I can hike, bike, walk, you name it. I can even tourist all day and not have to take rest breaks!

What a difference a year makes.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Countdown to departure

In Life on July 28, 2008 at 5:31 pm
I love love love this girl
I love love love this girl

Only three more days until Lauren goes back to her mom’s house in Houston.

Sadness.

A wonderful weekend

In Life on July 22, 2008 at 6:49 pm

You never really know, do you, when you agree to go stay with your parents how that is going to go. I’m happy to report that we had a fabulous weekend with the ‘rents at Black Butte.

Meems, as always, is the consummate hostess. And she’s really, really funny. She made us perform a family talent show. We did it. It was extremely amusing.

  

Dad continues to be sharp and funny and observant. I treasure my time with him.

Bob was having a serious case of golf lust. Maybe next time he can play 18 holes. His talent show performance of “William Shatner recites the lyrics to Elton John’s Rocket Man” had me in stitches.

Oh golf course, how I love thee

Oh golf course, how I love thee

And happy children. The girls are inseparable. They’re also the proud owners of sweatshirts from the $12.99 store that say “SIS TERS” under an inexplicable seagull design. The town of Sisters… seagulls… wtf?

JJ rode his bike a TON. We had a beautiful evening ride through the meadow at sunset. Lovely.

A great weekend. I love my family.

Last night’s beauty

In Beautiful Images, Gardening, Life on July 15, 2008 at 4:48 pm

And Lauren, being extremely funny:

What I saw

In Beautiful Images, Life on July 13, 2008 at 1:20 am

Lauren and I took a walk last night. I brought the camera. Here are a few highlights:

Does anything say summer is here like a daisy?

Artichokes look like sculpture from below.

I’m fascinated by spirals found in nature. This is the inside of a new canna leaf.

Long shadow legs.