15 entries categorized "Favorite posts"

Rocking the Bruise Look today

One of the (dis?)advantages of being color-blind is that I tend to dress simply, in solid colors and materials that are easy to match—basically the adult version of Garanimals. I also favor darker colors in general, and a lot of navy, green, and blue in particular.

Today, then, I am an unintentional 6-foot freshly inflicted contusion:

  • Navy boxers
  • Black socks, shoes
  • Dark blue jeans, black belt
  • Navy tee under a black Henley
  • Navy hoodie under a black wool overcoat

This is the result of a few standard clothing items (I always wear black socks) mixed with random grabbing out of the dresser drawers and laundry basket.

Tomorrow I will probably happen to choose brown or green and so will switch to the Healing Bruise look on the holiday, because with the new year comes optimism, or something like that.

Headline of the day: “Assault by cake reported at North Seattle KFC”

Courtesy of an entry yesterday in the Seattle Times Today File blog, emphases mine:

Working in fast food is no cakewalk.

In fact, sometimes it can be a downright cakefight.

Case in point:

On Saturday, Seattle police Officer Nic Abts-Olsen responded to reports of an assault at the KFC in the 13200 block of Aurora Avenue North. The weapon of choice: Cake.

Lemon cake, to be exact. But more on that shortly.

As Abts-Olsen and his partner Cliff Borjeson rolled to the scene, details of the attack trickled in from dispatchers: “Unknown male was throwing cake at employees.” Followed by the ominous: “They can no longer sell the cake.”

Employees told the two officers that a man walked into the store, threw a KFC-brand cake at them and then left.

Fortunately, the man’s aim was off.

Staff at the KFC were only able to provide a vague description of the man.

But they offered a much more vivid description of his weapon: “The cake was described as a lemon cake, yellow in color and circular and costs exactly $5.19,” Officer Abts-Olsen wrote in a report.

Things I remembered just by working from home

In no particular order.

  • I don’t particularly like working from home.
  • Flexie. The keyboard is not your resting place.
  • Drinking one’s own canned beverages? Feh.
  • Alamo!
  • These kitchen-table chairs UTTERLY BLOW for anything more than about 25 continuous minutes of use.
  • Seriously, Flex, go the hell away!
  • Yay whatever music I want to play, at whatever volume.
  • Remote access is simultaneously
    • cool
    • mind-boggling, even if you know at least the basics of the technology involved
    • irritatingly slow
  • Annie: The claws are not required for standing on my leg, ow ow ow ow ow
  • This neighborhood is almost freakishly quiet on weekdays.
  • The sofa, it calls to me....

When I couldn’t work from home, in the days when my job didn’t offer it (retail is hard to do except at the store) and before the technology was fully baked (hail the days of Citrix on Decker Lake Lane!), I wanted to work from home all the time.

Now I can work from home pretty much whenever I want and I avoid it. I like keeping my home and my workplace distinct and physically separate, too easy to lose work/life balance otherwise. And no cats at the office, which makes it orders of magnitude more productive. Or at least far less cat-hair–covered.

Is this what it means to gain perspective, or (gasp!) to become an adult?

A tale of three men

Gerald Raymond “Jerry” Nunn

My father died last week. Not entirely unexpectedly—he had some recent serious health problems—but it was still a shock to get the call the morning of August 8 that he had died the day before.

This is the story of three different men, all of them my father, each living a distinctly different part of one life.

Continue reading "A tale of three men" »

Thirty-six hundred and change

It occurred to me a couple of days ago how much my life has changed in the last ten years, so I started pondering it a little more deeply.

In the last ten years, I have

  • lived in five cities across three states
  • held three jobs, each in a wildly different industry from the previous
  • moved seven times
  • bought two new cars
  • had three wireless phone numbers on two different carriers
  • experienced great financial freedom and worrying financial instability
  • had four main email addresses
  • fallen out of contact with both of my parents

Not remotely comprehensive analysis of the decade, but certainly some of the high (and low) points.

Here, then, some details to illustrate life’s unforeseen adventures.

Continue reading "Thirty-six hundred and change" »

Logic of a viewing

I don’t get the phenomenon of the viewing. The funerary custom, that is.

The last viewing I attended was in 1996 or 1997—I feel terrible that I don’t remember the exact date—for a member of Salt Lake Chapter, Order of DeMolay, the youth group I was involved with until mid-1995.

I wasn’t particularly close to him, but I was pleased to be included in the service because it gave his family the chance to tell me how much I’d meant to him during the time we’d both been involved with the youth group. And it gave me a chance to reconnect with many of the Chapter members whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

And then it was time to pay my respects, so I went into the parlor where the family stood stoically to one side, the casket to the other, a receiving line starting at the casket and filing toward the family to offer words of condolence.

The deceased had been in his mid-teens. He’d died unexpectedly from a medical condition that had come up quickly (I also feel bad that I don’t recall the details of it). The casket was open, and he was the first dead person I’d ever seen up close like that.

I’ve heard many times how people lying in caskets supposedly look like they’re deeply asleep, at peace. But he didn’t look that way to me. He looked gray and cold. He looked dead.

The display of the body in this way utterly mystified me then, and still does now. As I gazed at the casket surrounded by flowers, the body resting among the ruffled satin coffin lining, I thought:

I don’t understand this. It has to be extraordinarily more painful for the family to look across the room and see their son this way.

Ronald Reagan lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda
Ronald Reagan lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda

It makes even less sense to me when the casket is closed, as is the case for Ronald Reagan. The photos show long lines of people slowly filing past the flag-draped casket, paying their respects, and I just don’t get it.

They know the former President’s remains are inside the casket. The primary reason for the closed casket is almost certainly Reagan’s physical condition at his death—he had wasted away over the last decade of his life and might not even have been recognizable to most of us now. I’ve seen this type of change directly: My grandmother also succumbed to Alzheimer’s and was but a shadow of her former self, both physically and mentally, when she died.

Of course for most of the people who’ve waited in lines in California and now in Washington, D.C., seeing the casket provides them a sense of finality they may otherwise miss. And it’s an appropriate honor for a man who served two terms as President of the United States, whose administration saw some of the biggest changes in the world.

But it still mystifies me.

Related CNN.com story

I remember

My grandmother, Eloise Sadler Hills, would have been 95 today.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

We grandkids called her Gammy, and she called us Gammy’s Lambies. She was always fond of lambs.

She died September 15, 2001, after a long life full of love and family, friends and acquaintances, good times and bad. The ups and downs of a life that spanned the amazing changes of the 20th century: Two World Wars; the Depression; the Baby Boom; the astounding social and economic progress of the post-World War II era and into the 1950s; the even more amazing social change of the ’60s; the cultural insanity of the ’70s and ’80s; and the winding down of a century and a life well lived in the ’90s.

Gammy was 62 when I was born. (I’m named for my grandfather, Donald Lynn Hills, who died before I was born.) I remember about the time I was 6 or so, she was so vigorously alive—enjoying her daughter and her grandchildren, her friends and extended family, the daily activities that filled her life. She lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia then, so it was a really special event when we’d pile into the car for the overnight drive to visit her. We usually spent a week or two, made a visit to Disneyland each trip, had so many wonderful times with endless happy memories that still warm my heart.

My grandmother experienced many hardships just in the final 20 or so years of her life, those years I most clearly remember about her. In the mid-1980s Gammy’s husband Bob died, and she moved to Salt Lake City to be closer to her daughter (my mother). And then Gammy ran into other troubles.

She endured a series of medical problems—cancer and its treatments, an intestinal blockage, a few other things—and eventually she began slipping into the initial stages of senile dementia. She could no longer live alone, so she moved into my parents’ house. Mom went to extraordinary lengths to make sure Gammy felt at home there. When she first moved in, she was the vibrant woman we’d known our entire lives, a bit worse for wear but with the light of life shining brightly still.

We were fortunate for that. She’d tell us stories of life in Salt Lake City “back in my day,” of life in the greater Bay Area (Menlo Park, Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea) and the Los Angeles area (Santa Ana!). We lived those stories with her as she reached deeply into her memories to bring them to life for us.

But she slipped further from us. Eventually she needed more care than we could provide. Then came another medical emergency, and it was time to find an extended-care facility where she could go after her latest hospital visit and where she would receive round-the-clock attention from professionals who did the work because they had extraordinary passion for it and were damned good at it. We searched for several days and eventually found Highland Care Center near 4500 South on Highland Drive. It was a godsend.

By this time Gammy spoke but rarely. When she did talk, as often as not it was to tell whomever was with her that she didn’t know where she was, or who was with her; she needed to get home right away, she didn’t recognize this place. She had starkly vivid memories of life on 1100 East in the first half of the 20th century and she retreated into those memories, taking comfort from the images of a life that existed only within her own consciousness, 70 or more years in the past.

Of course we had trouble with it. It was difficult to watch this vivacious woman slowly waste away and withdraw further into her own mind. Sure, she had lucid moments—she always recognized my mother, and pretty often she knew me because she held on to the name association with my grandfather—but other faces she knew only sometimes, never predictably.

We always assumed she was suffering, and I suppose she was in some discomfort now and then, but we overlooked the fact that in her retreat to memories of her life so long ago, she’d found a part of her life that was well worth reliving.

She was enjoying a moment forever.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I’m sorry to say that I stopped visiting Gammy regularly after she moved into Highland Care. I’d been the most adamant about finding a good care center, and I did the research and asked all the questions when we visited the place the first time. Once that was done, I stepped back and became shamefully reticent about visits. Oh sure, I visited regularly, several times a week at first, but over the next several months it became an occasional drop-in and the regular visits for birthdays and holidays.

It was hard for me to see my grandmother changed so much from the smiling, talkative, warm woman of my youth to this quiet shell of a person, the suggestion of recognition flickering only occasionally across her face when her family visited.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

In September 2001 I traveled to Chicago on business. I flew into O’Hare on September 10. The next day saw the terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and the day after that marked the start of my grandmother’s descent toward death. Mom called me Wednesday to tell me Gammy wasn’t doing so well, might not survive much longer, and three days later Gammy was gone.

I couldn’t get back to Salt Lake until the 16th, by which time my sister, my aunt and cousins, and other family members had come together.

We held no funeral. Instead we gathered on September 17 for a long dinner at a beautiful restaurant, Tuscany, where we cried and laughed and told stories and toasted the memory of a woman who had brought so much joy and love into our lives through times good and bad.

Gammy wanted to be cremated, and in October 2002 we made a trip to the Bay Area to realize her wishes. We scattered her ashes in Monterey Bay and drank a toast to her memory at Coit Tower, in remembrance of her trips there with my grandfather and my mother, when they’d offer a toast as they gazed out on the city from the top of the tower.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

It’s funny how our emotions reveal themselves as time passes.

I made my peace with Gammy’s death a few years before it happened, for she had long since ceased to be the person I’d grown up knowing.

She was still physically there, certainly, but the emotional process of grieving the loss was already complete.

Now, as I finish writing, I feel a lump in my throat and a tightness in my face, and I’m surprised by them. But now I know even more the strong effect she had—still has—on the people, the events, the places that made me who I am today.

I take my name from a man I never met. The name was a true honor for me long ago when I’d heard stories and seen photographs and had some sense of the history of my mother’s family, but the honor is magnified immeasurably now, for my name became the most solid connection I had to my grandmother in her final years.

My mom would say, “It’s Donald here to visit you,” and Gammy’s eyes would light up like the sky at sunrise.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Happy birthday, Gammy.


Two years ago today, my grandmother died.

It was a long time coming. She'd been suffering from senile dementia for quite some time, starting with a hysterectomy and radiation treatments for uterine cancer in her mid-80s, followed by another major abdominal surgery when the radiation led to a bowel blockage. She never really recovered her faculties, fell into depression and more medical problems and slipped away from us over a period of years.

I'd made my peace with the idea of her death a long time before she died. When I visited, her face would light up the room, and I think she knew who I was. I'm named after my grandfather, her husband, and the connection we had was strong enough to shine through the mists that blurred her memories and perceptions in her last few years. But the woman I knew as my grandmother was no more, and so when her time came, I was ready for it.

I was also in Chicago, traveling on business the week of the terrorist attacks. I arrived in Chicago on September 10 and planned to return September 16, and I stuck to my original itinerary even when I knew my grandmother was near death because civilian airspace was still shut down and driving to Utah wouldn't get me back in time either.

I found out about her death when my cell phone rang at 10:00 Central time that Saturday. My mom spoke only a few words, and I spoke back what words of comfort I could summon from 1200 miles away, the detachment of the moment further wrapped in the horror of that entire week. And when I was done with that call, I went into downtown Chicago with my friend Matt and we spent the day wandering the art museum and the shopping areas and took a trip up to the observation deck in the John Hancock tower.

I celebrated her life on my own that night, at one of my favorite brew pubs: Taylor Brewing Co. in Lombard, just down Butterfield Road from my company's headquarters in Downers Grove and further down the road from my hotel.

I celebrated her life again when I returned to Salt Lake. Our family gathered on September 17 to share in the memories of my grandmother's long life. We passed around photos and played favorite songs and I gave a toast that I cannot for the life of me remember, but for which I still get compliments from my mom and my aunt and cousins.

We all returned to routines over the next few days: Back to work, to school, traveling back home for those few who didn't still live in Salt Lake. The immediate pain faded a bit, but the deeper sorrow lingered for my mom and my aunt.

We scattered her ashes near Monterey, California, on October 18, 2002, returning her to one of her favorite places in the world.

We were fortunate to go on that last journey with her.

Two years later

Two columns of light stream skyward where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. The lights appeared as dusk settled in New York City and the lights will remain on through sunrise tomorrow.

These last two years have flown by. I so clearly remember wandering around in a daze this day in 2001, catching brief views of the television coverage of the buildings’ collapse, the Pentagon crash and fire, the Pennsylvania crash, the shutdown of US airspace. The endless repeat of horrifying images, the networks’ unfathomable need, it seemed, to replay the crash of the airplane into the second tower.

I remember the hours I spent at Taylor Brewing Company that night. The phone call with Mom that night and the next day when she told me Gammy wasn’t doing so well, there wasn’t much chance she’d make it more than a few days. Our discussion that I wouldn’t be able to get back to Salt Lake in less than three days, and that I was planning just to keep my originally scheduled return flight for the following Sunday and would take my chances.

I remember the drive to Milwaukee Wednesday, the uncertainty that I may be turned back at the state border and I wasn’t even sure if anyone would be at the Milwaukee office when I got there. The drive back that afternoon, another stop at Taylor Brewing and ongoing imagery of the attacks.

The phone call early Thursday from Mom, confirming that Gammy was slipping away and probably wouldn’t last more than a day or two. Talking again about not being able to get back before Sunday anyway, and planning to spend Saturday in downtown Chicago because I hadn’t been there before and since there was nothing I could do from 1300 miles away, and since I’d already made my peace with Gammy’s absence from my life, it made no sense to me to change those plans. Mom’s agreement, through tears, as I asked her to call me the moment anything changed.

The numbness of ongoing coverage Friday morning, and the anticipation of meeting a good friend that night. The giddiness as the end of the workday approached—I was meeting this person for the first time, and we had no idea what we were going to do. Uncertainty as I made my way into Downers Grove to find the train station, and when I spotted him standing on the sidewalk waiting for a blue Ford Escape to appear. The small talk as we made our way to dinner, and over dinner, and after as I drove to my hotel. We were going to downtown Chicago the next day and decided we’d both stay in my hotel room because it had twin beds and no point in driving all over the western suburbs when we could both sleep in the room and just hop the commuter train in the morning.

Starting awake when my cell phone rang at 10:00 on Saturday. Gammy had died about an hour before. Katharine was on her way to Salt Lake with her friend and coworker Heather. They’d work on funeral arrangements and so on when Kat arrived, and I would stick to my originally scheduled flight the following day, with greater confidence now that air traffic was beginning a slow return to normalcy. Our discussion through Mom’s tears that I would be following my original plan, spending Saturday in downtown Chicago, that if anyone needed me I would have my cell phone on me all day.

Getting up and showering and being quiet about it because the phone and my conversation hadn’t disturbed my friend, and finally heading for the train station around midday. The train ride into Chicago and the walk from the train station to the El, and the walk from the El to the John Hancock Tower, and the exit from the observation-deck elevator to the corner of the building facing O’Hare, where the crowd gathered to make sure no airplanes swerved toward the downtown area.

Walking along the downtown streets to the art museum, and the return to the train station, where we parted ways with a handshake and a smile.

The express-train ride back to Downers Grove, a welter of emotions and images bubbling up within me. The need to lose myself in mindless entertainment, and another trip to Taylor Brewing, the hours of NTN Trivia. I won about a dozen games, lost another dozen or so. Returning to my hotel around midnight and crashing into bed, up early the next day to check out of the hotel and go to the airport to deal with any schedule problems and to have plenty of time to get through security. And the ensuing breeze through security, the flight on schedule, the return home, and the arrangements for Gammy’s death.

Seven days that felt like five or six years at the time.

Now two years later it seems like it was over in the blink of an eye.