Saturday, October 08, 2005

Saying Goodbye to Sandy

I forgot to mention, along with my other travels, going to Sturbridge to the funeral of Sandy Smith, wife of John. John is the brother of Lee, Roxanne, Linda, and Jenivee.

Sandy died during the second week of September after a long, ten year struggle with breast cancer. I was glad to have met Sandy and to have gotten to know her, even if it was only briefly.

When I first met Sandy it was at her husband John's birthday party. She and John and their two teenaged daughters, live in Sturbridge, MA. I don't remember how old John was that day but the party was held at Sandy's mom's house. I remember Sandy as being an upbeat, friendly person with a ready smile and an optimistic outlook. It was hard to believe that she was in constant pain, had little energy and had to lie down every so often due to the cancer ravaging her body. She had long lost all her hair but seemed to have been reconciled to it.

Sandy was easy to get to know and she was the kind of person that you immediately felt relaxed around. As was noted by her pastor at the funeral service, which was attended by around 300 people, she made everyone feel like they were her best friend. Sandy was a genuinely nice person, easy to like and liked by all.

At her husband's birthday party I didn't realize that when I said goodbye to her that day that it would be the last time I'd ever see her. And, in that respect, I certainly didn't think that by saying goodbye I really meant Goodbye.

I'd like to think that through her death people came to appreciate their own life and learned to live each day like it's their last. Sandy lived life and lived each day fully. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to have met her.

I think that rather than saying goodbye to Sandy, I'd rather say - Sandy, it was nice to know you; I'll see you around again sometime.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Back & Forth to Baltimore & Other Travels

A few weeks ago Julie, Dixie and I headed down to Baltimore to visit. It was a long weekend and one that was very enjoyable. Arriving on a Thursday afternoon (we made the trip from Boston to Baltimore in just over 6.5 hours) we were able to stretch our legs and clean up at my sister Fran’s, where we stayed, before heading out to the annual meeting of my old agency. The annual meeting was almost like a reunion of sorts for me. I got to hug and talk to many of the staff and to enjoy, for the first time, the meeting from an outsider’s perspective.

I have to say that Andrea is doing a wonderful job heading the agency. I always knew she had the leadership ability as well as the managerial skills to pull off being successful as the executive director. Since she’s taken over from me nothing has happened to change my opinion of her capabilities. Now, if her detractors would just roll over and let her go to work.

On Friday night Julie and I went to Camden Yards and watched the Red Sox beat up on the Orioles. The O’s may have had a chance earlier in the season but seem to have imploded, given what happened to Palmerio, Sosa and Ponson. Maybe next year the O’s will make a run of it. I have to say since moving to Beantown I’ve become a Sox fan. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of Red Sox Nation.

On Saturday we went out to my sister Judy’s house, where she and her fiancée, Denny, live in Fallston, and had a luncheon that couldn’t be beat. Earlier that morning, my other sister, Fran, Julie, Dixie and I went over to the Gunpowder and took a nice hike along the river and then looped up along the Sawmill trail. It was an easy 3 mile hike. Most of the hike was along the Gunpowder but some of it was along a stream feeding into the Gunpowder. The stream was replete with small waterfalls, bubbling brooks, lots of rocks and had a bucolic feeling to it. It was a nice hike topped off by an excellent lunch, good conversation and a relaxed mood by all present.

On Saturday evening we caught up with my youngest daughter, Kayt, and her boyfriend, Mikey. We all went to G & M’s, a restaurant in southwest Baltimore County (maybe actually in Anne Arundel County) and had the “Baltimore’s Best” crab cake platter. Everyone agreed it was the best crab cake ever.

On Sunday morning Julie, Dixie and I pointed north and headed back up the road. I was able to get a box of Berger’s cookies to take back with us. For those of you who don’t know, Berger’s cookies, made by the DeBaufre Baking Co., is a vanilla cookie topped with an ounce of chocolate. So, four of them weigh a quarter pound. The problem is, you can’t eat just one. Believe it or not, the cookies were intact upon arriving back in Waltham (actually Watertown, which is where Julie lives – I gave her the cookies to share with her teens. I only ate one - ok, two. But that was all).

A week later, Kayt came up to spend a week with me. It was nice having her around and having some time to spend with her. On one day Kayt, Julie, Mark, Andrew, Barrett, Victor, Dixie, and I went to Purgatory Chasm, a state park which is located in Sutton, Mass.

Purgatory Chasm is a chasm (duh!) that is about ½ mile long, and, at its deepest, about 75 feet deep. You start out at ground level and then descend into it. It is very cool. There were lots of other people there rock scrambling and, like us, poking our heads and bodies into caves, climbing up the cliff face to get a bird’s eye view and generally having a good time. The origins of the chasm are unknown. There were three theories listed on the marquee at the state park. One was that the chasm was formed as a result of glacial melt; another was as a result of earthquakes; and, a third was that of an ancient riverbed that carved out the chasm. Interesting stuff. At any rate, we had lunch and then walked through, up and around the chasm until our legs were too tired to continue.

Yesterday Kayt went back to Baltimore with a new hairdo, new glasses, a new brace on her hand, and hopefully, new things to think about. We’ll see.

Me? Julie and I went to the gym tonight – we’ve been trying to be consistent working out 3 times a week but we’ve been inconsistent doing it. I also gave Dixie a bath. She really needed one.

A couple weeks before we went to Baltimore Dixie picked up a case of scabies from the park where the dogs hang out. The vet explained to me that because Dixie’s immune system is compromised due to the heart murmur, Lyme disease and dysfunctional thyroid, she is more susceptible to catching things. So, she caught scabies. I had to give her a special bath and sponge on foul smelling stuff that had to dry on her and, 8 days later, had to do it again. Plus, I had to give her antibiotics twice a day for three weeks. The poor dog. All the skin on her belly and between her legs turned black from the stress of it.

If there was an upside to all of this, it was that it seemed the Lyme disease has gone into full remission. She’s been as lively and as carefree and as much of an Airedale as she’s ever been, certainly since she and I moved up here almost nine months ago. It’s good to see her happy and pain free.

Anyway, that’s the gist of what’s going on up here in early October.