Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Continuing Saga

Well... after we drove to the beach house and stayed a few days, we headed south to Simi Valley to see my mom. To pick up where we left off, we had to drive inland about 60 miles and get on Interstate 5 heading south to avoid the mudslide area in Montecito. It is not the most interesting of journeys, and we much prefer driving the coast south, but we did get to see miles and miles of pump jacks in the Lost Hills oil fields of Kern County. Weirdly modern and prehistoric looking at the same time, like crazy metal dinosaurs.
Pump Jacks
We made it to my sister's on January 16th and visited with my mom right away. She was very sleepy and mostly stayed in her bed. Our plan was to take her for her thoracentesis, the removal of the fluid between her lungs and chest wall, on January 18th. She also had a CT scan and blood draw lab work on the same day. It all went well and a very timely fashion. We decided that day to stay in Simi Valley until my mom's follow-up appointment with the oncologist on January 23rd to get some idea of what the prognosis would be. Now that was the VISIT FROM HELL.

To start with, the staff had booked my mother's appointment (and three other patients) for 1:00 pm. The problem was that the doc doesn't start seeing afternoon patients until 2:00. It was a simple error, but a total bummer. Then, when we did see the oncologist she had not seen the test results, the CT scan report, or lab results. She was utterly unprepared to discuss my mom's latest health issues. Truly disappointing in every way. So, we took her back to the Memory Care Facility and planned our trip back to the beach house.
My mom on January 20th
My mom's decline is noticeable in every way. She spent most of her time in bed when we visited, which we did twice a day. She could only put up with us for an hour or so before needing to take a nap. I asked her if she remembered how many children she had, and she did. She said, "I have four." I asked her if she knew their names. She said, "Marc, Michael, Lynn, and the other one." That other one would be me. We had a good laugh about that.

We spent eight days in southern California and headed back to the beach house on Wednesday, January 24th. We were absolutely thrilled that we hadn't gotten the flu while we were there in over-populated flu epidemic land. We were literally living in fear of that the entire time we were there. Then, on Thursday the staff at the Memory Care Facility called my sister to say our mom was not feeling well. By Friday she was in the ER, diagnosed with the flu and the pleural effusion had already returned. As I type this she is in isolation in the oncology ward of the local hospital. We're waiting to hear the prognosis.

One way I lift my spirits, I run out in the morning to photograph sun rising over Monterey Bay. I am utterly grateful for these moments.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fire and Rain...and Mud

Highway 101, photo taken by CNN news
We had been planning the trip south to see my mom, and especially with her latest health issue of pleural effusion, we knew it should be soon. If you remember we had to reschedule a  journey in October because of the big wine country fire, and then my brother had to reschedule his journey because of the huge (biggest in recorded California fire history) Thomas fire. So of course, after the big fire came the one big destructive rain in central California. We waited for that to clear out and then came the mud. Seriously, part of the route we take from the family beach house to my mom's in Simi Valley is closed INDEFINITELY due to a mudslide. This is a mudslide on a road that sees 100,000 cars a day, Highway 101, a major California highway. So, we're having to remap our trip, take a significant detour and head east before we head back west. Has the world gone mad? I'm just curious.
The Golden Gate Bridge on a beautiful Saturday
We left our quiet peaceful home behind the redwood curtain and drove south on Saturday. We stopped at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge and drove up the winding road for a look. After all the times we have driven this route, we hadn't ever stopped there before. Well, it was crazy busy with cars, bicyclists, and joggers, but the view was worth every bit the effort. We'd like to try it again when it's not a Saturday afternoon on a three-day weekend. It really is so beautiful up there.

We're taking my mom for a procedure on Thursday to remove the fluid from her lungs, and then a short while later in the same hospital she is scheduled to have a CT scan. We'll know more some time after that. I'm hoping to write between now and then, but in case I don't... please wish us luck. And thank you for being such kind and supportive blogging friends. You help balance the madness of the world at the moment.

Monday, January 08, 2018


i went looking for a particular picture in my box full of an old era of images. actual physical pictures. and many with 35 mm negatives. the box weighs 30 pounds. on top are large photos. some old family pictures. many are b&w prints i made when i had a darkroom. i bought film in bulk. it went into a dispenser which would put film into the light tight little canisters which fit into a camera. some of you may remember film cameras. take a picture and move a little crank to advance the film one frame, ready for another exposure.
robin's modern digital camera and my old slr film camera

i would load the camera and go take pictures of anything that caught my eye, using up  a full roll. after developing the film i would make contact prints. strips of film laid flat on photo paper and exposed to light and the developed into visible prints. often i would look at a frame and wonder why i took that shot. what was in there that i found interesting? so i began to understand how to get the object of interest to stand out in the final picture. an angle of shooting. consideration of depth of focus. lighting.

contact sheet. himself center in the bottom row

detail of the capitola trestle. might be upside down.

after i got some kinda handle on getting what i wanted in pics of things i started on people. i had a medium telephoto lens that let me get nice face shots from 7 to 10 feet away. in a setting with several people i would take out the camera and play with it a bit until it was no longer an item of attention. then i would take pictures of friends and family with the intent of finding the relaxed beauty of each and giving each the result. not so much a smiling face as a truly relaxed face. it was a private thing for each person. most were happy enough with their picture to share it. most said that the picture was not how they pictured themselves. most would say of a picture of someone else “that’s such a good picture of you.”

an old friend. all the way from high school til now

anyway… i got tired of pictures after going through just the top layer in the box. now there are all the small prints from commercial developers, many in their envelope with film strips. may take me a while to search till i find the one i want. and each is an invitation for some kind of side trip of memory.

oh, i'll go back to looking for what i want.  did a bit just now. there are a lot to look through. it's a picture of homemade campers at my house in fortuna gathered for a marvelous thanksgiving celebration sometime in the early 1970's.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Hello 2018... far, you look pretty much like 2017. What did I expect? Miracles? No, not really. Just looking forward to changing the calendars and hoping for the best.
Low Clouds hugging the coast range

My sister celebrated her birthday on January 2nd and went out to dinner with her family and brought my mom as well. It was all going so well. My mom was in fine spirits and had just been holding her great-grandson on her lap, while waiting for dinner to be served. Suddenly, she said she felt hot and not well. She started to shout in the small restaurant, "I'm sick. I feel sick. I think I'm dying." Then she passed out, right there at the restaurant with her head on the table, just like that. An ambulance was called. Turns out that with the flu epidemic, there wasn't a single hospital bed available in a 20 mile radius, so she had to travel a bit further north to an ER in a hospital she's never been in before. After many hours in ER, she was admitted. They weren't quite sure what was going on. First possibilities discussed: pneumonia or congestive heart failure.
Dim winter light in the afternoon

By January 3rd, my siblings and I were still wondering what was going on. The hospital staff were narrowing it down to some malfunction with my mom's pacemaker. As of this writing, we still don't have an actual diagnosis or plan.

To say this beginning to 2018 didn't quite measure up to my very low threshold of a dream would be an understatement.
Full moon rising above a neighbor's rooftop

We did get to watch the full moon rise on January 1st and take some walks on January 2nd, before the deluge.

The other day, I wrote on Facebook that my mom used to say to me when I was young, "Tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you what you're like." When I read your comments, I feel very lucky to be among such kind-hearted, good-humored, compassionate and mindful humans. Thank you thank you all for your truly wonderful and uplifting comments on my end of 2017 post.