We had a family dinner night and I took a bunch of pictures of Kai. In some of them he is being held by his great aunt Cathy and in others by his grandma, Tsai-Hong. Those are grandma’s hands in this picture. The wheel in front of Kai is actually spinning but to get that with some blur would have required a tripod and a little more planning, so just imagine it spinning and catching Kai’s attention. He’s a pretty easy going little boy, at least from what I’ve seen of him Maybe his parents would say otherwise, but he doesn’t really fuss much when we’re together or if he does, he’s easily satisfied.
Tagged With: Family
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday this year. That’s fairly common for us, as it makes life easier for all involved. It also allowed us to have that great trip to the art museums yesterday, when crowds were a little reduced. George and Carmela drove down and we all gathered at our house this year. With mom in an apartment and Cathy’s mom living here, the two family homes were not available to us. Getting fifteen people (all except Silas) around our dining room table was a little tight. Next year, he’ll be old enough to sit in a chair, so we’ll have to figure out something to get one more at the table. In the evening we took our standard family gathering photo.
It’s that time of year again. “What time of year?”, you may ask. Operation Christmas Child time of year, that’s what. Cathy scaled back this year. Last year when I asked how many boxes she was going to make she said “six, maybe seven.” She ended up with twelve. That was a lot and there was a fair amount of stress involved. I suggested she only do six or seven this year and actually stick to that. She decided that was a good idea, so the fact that she “only” did eight is pretty good. She was also a little less worried about making them all the same this year, and she finished a week early. We turned them in this afternoon after church. In this picture she’s holding five of the eight.
Last year we got a photograph of children receiving boxes that happened to include some that Cathy had packed. You could see the picture of us that Cathy had included in the boxes. That was pretty neat. We’ve had letters from recipients before and that’s always fun, too.
Tsai-Hong and I went over to mom’s this evening and put up some art in her apartment. She’s been there a while but there were other priorities and she also wanted to take a bit of time to figure out what should go where. We haven’t finished and there is a sheving unit that needs to be hung on the wall, for which I needed a few pieces of hardware. But we were able to get Sir Roger up, as well as her quilt hanging rod, behind the sofa and shown holding up one of her recent quilts in this photo. We also had a nice dinner together. She has more art than she has wall space to display it on, but we’ll do our best to get a few more things up before Thanksgiving and then she can decide what to do with the things for which there isn’t room.
We had a family gathering this afternoon. Instead of getting together for dinner, though, we had brunch together, which was a nice change. Of course, the centers of attention at these gatherings are the two children, Kai and Silas. Silas slept a fair amount this visit, so I only got a few pictures and they are fine, but not as good as this smile from his older cousin Kai. The weather has finally turned cool and autumnal and we had talked about taking a walk but everyone felt like staying indoors this afternoon instead.
In the evening I did a really stupid thing. I took everything out of my pockets and carried a few things to the basement to do laundry. Because I knew I’d want my phone downstairs, I took it with me. Unfortunately, I left it in my trouser pocket when I put them into the wash. I know people have had success drying out phones that have been dunked but (and I’m writing this more than a week later) after pulling out the battery and drying it in silica gel for a couple days, it’s dead. Still, 4½ years isn’t bad for a cell phone (which is sad in itself).
We had a family lunch instead of dinner this week and it was great to have Brady here for a visit. Steve was out of town but Maya brought Kai and Silas was here with Iris and Seth. Shortly before Cathy and I left, we put Silas and Kai on a chair together and took a few pictures. Silas isn’t really able to sit up by himself yet and he had a pacifier in his mouth for all but the last photo that I took. Still, it was pretty cute. Maya would tell Kai to kiss the baby and he’d lean over the kiss Silas on the forehead. Then he’d put his hands in front of his mouth and laugh. So sweet.
We had a family dinner night this evening, gathering at mom’s apartment and having Greek food from The Big Greek Cafe. Only one baby was there this time, with the other out of town, but Silas was generally in a good mood. He’s about 2.5 times his birth weight already and going strong. Still small, of course, but not nearly so little as when he was born. On the other hand, he’s developing much more in the way of facial expressions. He isn’t ticklish yet, but if he is startled, he certainly reacts. It was good to see everyone (or the everyone who was there).
We rented a truck today for the third time this year. The first time was on Saturday, January 6, when we moved Margaret from her house to ours. That was mostly her bedroom furniture and boxes of the things she’ll need here at our house. The second was on Tuesday, July 24 to move a bunch more furniture that we will either keep ourselves or get rid of more carefully (i.e. sell rather than give away). Today we moved furniture that was to be given away. We filled a 16-foot truck pretty full and took it to A Wider Circle (http://awidercircle.org/). They took most of what we brought, leaving us with just a few of the things to dispose of (when furniture isn’t good enough for charity, it’s time for the dump). There’s still more at the house, of course. Mostly things that will go directly to the transfer station, either metal (shelves, a dryer, a refrigerator, etc.) or trash (particle board cupboards that don’t last and aren’t really worth anything).
We had a family dinner night this evening at mom’s new apartment and dining hall. I don’t want to give the impression that I only enjoy these get togethers because of the two grand nephews (and it isn’t strictly speaking even true). Nevertheless, I do enjoy seeing them. Kai is such a cute little boy. He wouldn’t smile for me until his mom said, “Kai, can you cry for Uncle Henry?” This is the grin we got from that request. It’s when he smile that he reminds me most of Ralph, which is good, but also hard. I love this little guy. He’s his own person, obviously, and he has a lot of his mom in his looks, but there are moments when he looks just like his grandpa at that age. Not that I remember his grandpa at that age. When Ralph was Kai’s age I wasn’t quite two months old. But there are pictures.
Our week at the beach has come to an end and we leave tomorrow morning. The southern North Carolina beaches are great and I like Ocean Isle in particular. Partly that’s just a matter of familiarity, of course, and people who go to other beaches year after year almost certainly feel the same way. But one thing I don’t particularly care for is the drive home. It’s about 425 miles and the traffic between Richmond and DC is never good, especially on a summer weekend. But, drive it we must. First, however, we took time for a family photo out on the deck. As you can see, we’re sort of looking into the setting sun, so there’s a bit of squinting going on. From left to right: Henry, Dot, Danna, Kai, Maya, Steve, George, Carmela, Cathy, Dorothy, Jacob, and Kendra.
On the way to the beach in southern North Carolina we stopped in northern North Carolina for our annual family reunion. As usual there was good food and great fellowship. We also took our annual photos. Some years we do generational photos. This year we did families, based on “The Siblings”, none of whom are with us any longer. Except we always take a picture of “The Cousins”. Of the eleven first cousins, five are still with us and are pictured here (along with Catherine, Clinton’s widow). We also took a picture with the other spouses but I like this picture and decided to go with it. We also took a large group picture of the 58 people who were still there at the time it was taken.
We had a family dinner night ahead of going to the beach. Since Iris, Seth, and Silas won’t be at the beach with us, it was good to get together with them. Silas is growing like a weed, as children do at this age. His cousin, Kaien, is also growing and I have aome pictures of him, as well. But as I post this, we’re back from the beach and I know that I took pictures of him at the beach.
It’s really nice having a baby and a toddler around at family gatherings. They are both wonderfully cute. Of course it’s a bitter sweet joy, as it really makes me miss my brother (and I don’t really need a lot of help on that front). Nevertheless, if I’m going to miss him (and I am) there might as well be two beautiful grandchildren to help offset it. And at least for now, they are in town and we get to see them somewhat regularly.
On November 23, 1886, Cathy’s great grandparents, Fred and Lucy, were married in Sullivan County, New York. This was during the industrial revolution and before the area because known as the Borscht Belt in the early twentieth century. Fred and Lucy moved west. Cathy’s grandfather, Albert, lived in a suburb of Chicago and became a wholesale butcher. Because of that, Cathy’s father, born shortly before the stock market crash of 1929 and Roosevelt’s great depression, grew up with meat on the table. Years ago Cathy and I visited Sullivan County and found what we believe was the family farm, although all that was left was a collapsed barn.
We drove up to Canterbury Shaker Village today to see Dorothy’s cousin Abba. She has been there all week in their first resident artists program. The program was a success and they plan to repeat it regularly. Abba was chosen as one of only five artists (and one of two painters). We enjoyed seeing her work as well as wandering around the historic, Shaker buildings. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place, only occasionally disrupted by the sounds of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway just over a mile to the east (if you go on a non-race day, you won’t have that issue). We wandered around the gardens and down to the ponds on the eastern part of the property.
Some of the family got together for dinner this evening at mom’s place. This was our first family gathering at her new apartment and we ate at the dining hall. The food got mixed reviews, with some things being better than others, but none of it was bad, anyway. Of course, one highlight is seeing young Silas, now a little over three weeks old but still not quite up to his original due date. Cathy was happy to get a long turn holding him, and I took a few pictures while she did.
Like most babies, he slept some, cried some, and ate some. Also like most parents, Seth and Iris are pretty tired. Unfortunately he’s got his day and his night mixed up and is sleeping for longer stretches during the day. But he’ll get through it and so will they. In the mean time, he’s absolutely adorable when he’s asleep, as shown here.
As we were leaving, I took a few pictures of the sunset, which was quite nice. Nevertheless, sunsets are a dime a dozen when compared to pictures of babies.
On Tuesday I had a picture of Dot (otherwise known as mom) in her new digs. Well, today’s picture is back in the old place. It isn’t quite empty yet, but it’s getting there. As you can see, there are some books that are yet to be either claimed or given away. The lamp (an imitation Tiffany) and the wall hanging are tagged with their new destination. We also need to take down the hooks for her quilt-hanging rod and then put them up in the new place. The cabinets and shelves that dad built around the fireplace have held up pretty well. The original mantel was much more traditional. Dad had asked if he could replace it and when mom finally said yes, she came home to find the old one burning in the fireplace. He wasn’t going to take the chance that she’d change her mind.
Yesterday’s picture was Abba, one of Dorothy’s cousins on her mom’s side. Today we have Hannah, Abba’s little sister. We had her here for a few days to look through things at her grandma’s house. She was in on Abba and Dorothy’s surprise visit, although we were not and she didn’t give it away. Because we live so far apart, we don’t all get together nearly often enough so it was really nice to have so many here at once. On the other hand, it was a very busy week and by the time we got home and could visit, we were all pretty exhausted. Dorothy rightly suggested that we need to plan a get together with all the cousins in a place and at a time when we don’t have a lot of demands on our time, so we can all just enjoy being together.
Today, Cathy, Dorothy, Abba, Hannah, and Darius went to the zoo and then drove around downtown to see the sights. Naturally, David, Maggie, and I were busy moving things around and clearing out the house. No rest for the wicked.
We continued working on the house today. David, Maggie, and I worked mostly in the basement. Abba, Dorothy, and Hannah went through things, looking for things they would like to have from grandma and grandpa’s stuff. They each took a fairly wide assortment and those things went into the master bedroom to be moved later.
We started filling our second dumpster today and are making good progress. We also moved some metal shelves and 55 gallon drums out to the curb to be picked up tomorrow for metal recycling by the county. The shelves in particular were quite heavy. I moved three of them with the help of a young friend and then we moved two more with four of us carrying them. I’m glad those are done with.
In the evening we had tacos and visited back at our house. As usual, I took a few pictures, including this one of Dorothy’s cousin, Abba, which I think turned out well.
Mom moved to a condo today in a retirement community. We’ve been very busy with my mother-in-law’s move so were not able to do as much for her as perhaps we should have done, but between George coming down on Friday and staying through the move and the folks at Let’s Move, the move has happened. There is still plenty to do yet at the house but most of her things that she will have at the new location are in place and set up. As you can see, she seems pretty comfortably situated. There will be more adjustments, as well, of course, but the big moving day has come and gone without significant incident.
Oh, and Dorothy drove down from Massachusetts to surprise us. We were very surprised and naturally also very pleased. After a little while at Margaret’s house, we all went to see Dot in her new location.
You can easily collect a lot of things if you live in the same place for 50 years. If you also inherit things from your parents as well, it can really add up. Then, if you have enough space to store it all, its easy to leave it alone. But, as they say, nothing that cannot go on forever will. At some point, there is a reckoning. That day has arrived (that week, or month, or six-month, or year, actually). David and Maggie are here and David has been doing yeoman’s work on the store room in his parents’ house, pulling out bins, trunks, and barrels that have not seen the light of day for many a year. The contents of some were in good condition while others had been infiltrated by visitors and mostly or wholly destroyed.
The title of this post alludes to the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
With the birth of Silas last week, there’s a natural tendency to take pictures of him. That’s fine, but I need to remember the older cousin, and I do that today with this picture of Kai with his mom. Every time we get together, and it’s not all that uncommon, he starts the encounter being a little apprehensive, as though he has no idea who I am. I don’t know if that’s really what’s going on, but that’s what it seems like. He didn’t take long today (and he usually doesn’t) to warm up again and give me some smiles, particularly when he’s in the safety of his mother’s arms. Actually, we think he maybe doesn’t recognize me until I’m holding my camera. That’s entirely possible.
David and Darius arrived last night, along with Darius’s cousin, Maggie. They are here this week to help finish dealing with the things in the house. It’s a big task and it’s going to be a grueling week. Cathy and I are going to be off work but I wouldn’t call it a vacation. That’s not to say there won’t be joy and gladness mixed in with the heavy lifting, dust, and debris. Darius, in particular, brings substantial joy. The youngest of Margaret’s grandchildren, he’s a sweet kid (don’t get me wrong, he’s still a boy who can get up to mischief) and it’s great to have him here. Of course, when it comes to the heavy lifting, dust, and debris, he’s not quite as helpful, and I’m really glad to have David and Maggie here.
Last week I posted a picture of Iris with one-day-old Silas. Today, at age 8 days, this is Silas with Seth. It was really good to get together with the family this evening. It’s been a hard week for a number of different reasons including the one-year anniversary of Ralph’s passing and the impending move that mom is making from her house of so many years. Nevertheless, Silas reminds us that there is also new life and we take great joy in that. He’s a beautiful little boy and his parents are rightly proud and already deeply in love with the little fellow.
While we were in the ER on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, Iris and Seth also were sent to the hospital (but not the same hospital). After midnight, so early Thursday morning, Silas was born. Cathy and I went over at lunch time today and both of us got to hold him. I have to confess that I really love newborn babies. When I was young, they freaked me out a little, mostly because they are so small and fragile. After having one of our own, I think Cathy and I like them a lot more. Silas is an adorable little thing and we were happy to hold him. I realized after a while that my arms weren’t tired in the least. It won’t be long before holding him for any length of time is a chore but for now, at just over five pounds, it’s pure joy. I took a bunch of pictures, including some with Seth as well as some with grandma holding Silas. I got some of Cathy and she took some of me, also. But I really like this one of Iris. There’s every chance that there will be more photos of this little tyke in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Back when I was very young my parents papered the wall on one side of the stair well in their house with covers from “The Reporter” magazine. It’s a very tricky thing to photograph because the stair well is pretty narrow and the wall covers a lot of space. From the top of the stairs I was able to get a few pictures that sort of do it justice. At least if you’ve seen it in person, perhaps this will remind you of it. There’s one cover that shows up four places. We’re pretty sure there is another duplicate but we couldn’t remember where and couldn’t find it. It’s faded considerably in over 55 years, especially towards the top where the afternoon sun shines on it. But it’s held up pretty well, all things considered.
Today was about 90°F but we had a bunch to do in the yard and we gave it a shot. I started by pulling Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense), a really pesky weed. That requires gloves and it took me a while to find a pair, with all the disruption that’s happened to our garage. After clearing most of the thistle from the lily of the valley, I moved on to the fence along the south end of the back yard. That fence, a post and rail, is starting to reach end of life. Two posts are leaning badly and a few rails have broken. I pulled up three posts and took out the 12 rails associated with them. I cut them up (chainsaw) and loaded them into the van to get rid of.
This photo of Cathy was taken in the evening, as she was walking across the back yard towards me. She made faces for most of the pictures but then let me take a ‘normal’ shot, with built-in flash to help light up her face in the darkening day (taken around 7:50 PM).
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we went up to Pennsylvania this weekend with the rest of my family. George and Carmela came down from New Jersey and Brady from Virginia. The rest of us live relatively close but it was especially good to all be together (missing Dorothy, but college years are like that). Carmela wanted a picture with Kai and this is, I think, the best of those I took. Kai doesn’t have a great smile but I think it’s a good picture. After the near ninety degree heat we had on Thursday and Friday, it was a very welcome relief to have cool weather this weekend. And though we had a little rain, it didn’t really dampen our spirits.
We continued working on Cathy’s mom’s house today, again with Maggie and Laura in town. We started by moving some things that were brought home yesterday into the garage. That’s where this picture of Laura was taken. It’s not the best picture but, as it turns out, it’s the only picture I took all day. So, that’s what you get.
In addition to some work at the house, Laura and I went to a self-storage location and rented a 10×10 foot storage unit. It may not be big enough but it’s a good start and we can always move up if necessary. Cathy and I will be out of town tomorrow and most of Sunday, when the girls leave, so they plan to begin the process of moving things to that. Not everything will go into storage, of course, and we’d like to limit it as much as possible. But there are things we know will take significant time to deal with and we don’t want that to hold up progress on the rest of the house emptying. Photographs, for instance, need to be gone through and that’s going to be a slow process, particularly the slides and even more particularly the overseas travel slides. So, get them out of the way and deal with them this fall.
We’ve been working on emptying out Cathy’s mom’s house and it’s a reasonably big job. They bought the house fifty years ago, so there are naturally a few things scattered about. The four ground floor bedrooms are mostly done (it’s a rambler but with a large basement). A few weeks ago we moved on to working on things in the basement. Between Cathy, our friend Julia, and me, we’ve made some good progress. Last night, two of Cathy’s nieces came and today they helped us make even more. Maggie and Laura are fun, of course, but this was no pleasure cruise. There were boxes to carry and papers to go through. And go through them we did. It was quite warm today, reaching nearly 90°F. Fortunately we were working mostly in the carport and there was a little breeze, so we weren’t too uncomfortable.
Cathy decided that her old doll house had served its purpose and it was time that it be recycled. It’s made entirely of cardboard, so that works out well. She wanted one last picture of it before it went into the van, though.
We had a family dinner night this evening and it was a good time. I don’t want to say that Kai was the center of attention but, well, Kai was the center of attention. We’re expecting some competition for that attention sometime in early July (give or take a week or more). But for now, he’s it and he’ll still get plenty of attention after his cousin in born. He’s one and a quarter today. Apparently he’s been walking quite a bit, mostly at day care and not so much when family is around. Tonight he walked a few times and when he did, he got cheers. When he gets cheers, he cheers himself, and that’s what he’s doing here. He’s very (and rightly) proud of himself. It won’t be long before his parents are run off their feet trying to keep up with this little fellow. He’s quite adorable and so, we adore him.
We had a nice dinner, as well, with dumplings from Mama Dumpling (a.k.a. China Bistro) as well as other dishes. Good as always.
Yesterday evening, after our 3.5 mile walk on the battlefield of the Third Battle of Winchester, we visited the National Cemetery in downtown Winchester. We went there again this morning because Cathy had remembered the name of another man in Henry’s (Cathy’s great, great grandfather) division. One marker was for a man in his company and who died of wounds received the same day Henry died. Henry’s remains were never identified so we assume his is one of the graves marked, like the one in the lower right of this photograph, “Unknown U. S. Soldier”. For all we know, this is his grave (unlikely, but possible).
The large column on the left memorializes Brigadier General David A. Russell. He commanded a brigade of the 6th Army Corps in which Henry served. Gen. Russell died the same day as Henry, September 19, 1864 at the Third Battle of Winchester.
Now that Cathy’s mom has moved in with us, we needed to integrate her computer into our home network. The small office just inside our front door (and now just outside her bedroom) is where my computer has been for over a year and where Cathy’s has been since the construction started towards the end of October. Now Margaret’s computer is here, as well. By the time I’m writing this, on January 14), the table is gone from the middle of the room and it’s much easier to walk around. My computer and the printer is to my right, along with a tall bookcase. We need to put a few pictures up on the walls, but it’s coming together.
As usual, we had a three-part Christmas this year. We started by opening our stockings and a few presents at home. Then we went to Cathy’s mom’s where we had our traditional breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage. We opened a few more presents there. At about 1:30 we (including Cathy’s mom) went to my mom’s. We had our equally traditional dinner of enchilada (plus lot of other food, of course). In the evening we played a game. This year we each submitted five of our favorite songs. George then compiled them and played a segment of each. The idea was to guess which songs went with which person. It was a three-way tie for first place with the winners getting 12 out of 14 correct.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our Thanksgiving meal today instead of the more traditional Thursday. Iris had to work briefly in the morning but she was at mom’s before I got there at about half past noon. Our meal was the traditional turkey and all the fixings but of course, the real feast is being with family. I’ve decided to post two pictures from today, one as we were sitting down to eat. clockwise from far left: Steve, Danna, George, Carmela, Margaret, Dot, Cathy, Dorothy, Tsai-Hong, Iris, Seth, Maya, and Kaien
After dinner we sat and talked and occasionally laughed. Steve showed off the leather armor he has made for his live action roll playing (LARP) and I got some good pictures of both him and Carmela dressed in it. We also took family portraits, both with my camera and with mom’s. This is one of mine. Front, from left to right: Carmela, George (with Chester), Margaret, Cathy, Tsai-Hong holding Kaien, Steve, and Henry. Back, also left to right: Iris, Seth holding Bean, Dot, Dorothy, Maya, and Danna
Cathy and I went out to dinner with her mom, Margaret, this evening. It isn’t every day that you have a 91st birthday. In fact, a lot of people never have it even once. But she did, so we celebrated. We went to a newish seafood place and had a nice meal. After that we went to York Castle for ice cream. Not the biggest birthday bash in history, but it was relaxing and we had a nice visit. We talked about upcoming transitions and things seem to be beginning to move along those lines (more information on that to come as it happens). In case you’re wondering, Margaret had blacked mahi-mahi (a.k.a., the common dolphin fish, Coryphaena hippurus) and Cathy had stuffed flounder (most likely something in the Paralichthys genus). I had cod (Gadus morhua), oysters, and shrimp.
It’s been a long couple days and we’re slowly beginning the process of recovering from Wednesday. Yesterday we spent much of the day with family. Today we just hung out at home most of the day but had everyone over in the evening. In the normal course of things I would have gone out to take pictures in the yard but I just didn’t feel up to it today.
We had Indian food from Bombay Bistro this evening and were together again, doing not much of anything in particular. Of course we played ‘pass the baby,’ as we do in these situations. And I took pictures.
This isn’t the best picture of Kai that I’ve taken but it’s good enough. It’s about time I got a good one of him with his dad (and I think it’s quite a good picture of Steve). There are others, of course, including pictures of the dogs, but it’s Kai-week, so here you are. I’m not saying that there won’t be pictures of Kai again coming soon, although I think tomorrow will be something else. But you never know. And I’ll get back to flowers (or better yet, insects) soon.
If you don’t like baby pictures then I suggest you look away. There may be a few of them over the next few days. After yesterday, you won’t be surprised to learn that we’ve spent a little time with family. Spending time with family generally leads to pictures of Kai. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s picture is of him, too.
He’s a cute little beggar and getting cuter at a ferocious pace. He’s also making progress towards talking and crawling. On the other hand, he’s so often in someone’s arms I don’t know how he’s ever going to learn to crawl. But he will, I suspect, and then life will get more complicated for his parents (and all of us when they come over).
Ralph L. Hartley
June 10, 1958 – June 14, 2017
Life can be hard and I’m not really sure what to say about this picture. As I get older I find, not surprisingly, I suppose, that there are fewer and fewer people that have known me all my life. My parents, of course, knew me when I was first born. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles, basically, as well. But my dad is gone and so are my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles. And now my older brother, Ralph. He was only 18 months old when I was born, but he has been there since my beginning and I have known him my entire life. Being so close together in age, we did a lot of things together, especially as kids. We fought, of course, but we played, as well. The family traveled a bunch, going out west and back a few times when we were young. Then in 1971 we moved to England, camping through much of Europe on the way. Ralph and I went to the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys that year. We explored castles and designed our own. We took another trip out west when Ralph and I were in high school, hiking down the Grand Canyon. We went to Greece for eight weeks in 1981, camping almost the whole time. Ralph only stayed for half of that but it was a really good time (and boy, did he have hair then!).
It was about that time that he met Tsai-Hong. They were married in 1982 and have had a wonderful marriage and two amazing children, now both married. In December of last year their grandson Kai was born. Late in 2015 it was clear that Ralph was ill. In January, 2016 he was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January of this year he had a bone marrow transplant and although the transplant was successful, the cancer was still there. They decided to do some traveling and went on a cruise in the Galapagos and another in southeast Alaska. Ralph was an avid and experienced caver and he took five of us into a ‘starter cave’ in West Virginia a few short weeks ago (see Saturday, May 06, 2017).
We all knew it was only a matter of time before he was gone but it came much more quickly than any of us expected. My mom called me early this afternoon to say that Ralph’s breathing had become labored and that I should come over. He was able to hold his precious grandson one last time before he left us, and that was so sweet.
We disagreed on many things and we fought from time to time (sometimes, particularly as kids, physically). But Ralph was the first friend I had and for most of my early life, my best friend. Some of the memories we shared were shared by no one else. I’m amazed by how rich I am in terms of friends and family. Richer than I could ever possibly expect or deserve. But, to quote something I read once, “the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow…. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.”
UPDATE: I’ve fixed a few typos, including two years, which were wrong.
We went up to the Farm today and everyone was there, which was great. I took what some might consider a lot of pictures and baby Kai was in his fair share of them. There are a bunch of Kai with grandpa Ralph and that’s what we have here. It isn’t the best angle for seeing their faces but if I went to one side or the other I’d get the back of one head. I got a bunch that I think are good but decided to go with this one, which I like pretty well.
We had the pleasure of baby sitting this little munchkin this evening while his parents went to a movie. Kaien (pronounced like Ryan with a K instead of an R, or simply Kai) is just over 5 months old now and really is starting to show a personality. He smiles a lot and thankfully is pretty easily distracted if he starts to fuss.
He slept for about an hour of the time we had him and then had a bottle, which was also pretty easy. After that we enjoyed singing to him. He especially loved Old MacDonald Had A Farm, especially the animal sounds that Cathy made. She sang quite a few verses, including some with animals that are not generally considered farm animals (do any farmers keep lions?). We also sang some songs by the Limeliters. Interestingly, their album Through Children’s Eyes was one that Cathy and I both listened to as children, so we both know the songs on it. Anyway, we sang a few songs from that. He mostly just stared at us throughout.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we drove to West Virginia and spent the night at the PSC Field House in the North Form Mountain area. We got a reasonable night’s sleep and after a hearty breakfast, six of us headed off the Hamilton Cave. Ralph and Stephen are both experienced cavers but the rest of us were beginners. We’ve all been in the big, commercial caverns like Luray or Carlsbad (although I’d really like to see Carl’s Good cavern!). I’ve been in a reasonable number of caves in the USA, France, England, Greece, and Slovakia (although it was Czechoslovakia at the time). But this was the first time in a cave such as this. Hamilton cave has a pretty good maze of passages and I’m certainly glad we had two people who knew their way around.
After checking in at The Register, we made our way to our first goal, the Slab Room. This is named for the large slab of rock that fell in the distant past (well, probably recent in geologic terms, but it was more than a few years ago). Getting here involved passages where we had to crawl on all fours and a couple stretches where I had to take off my small day pack and push it in front of me while I slithered along on my front in what I know as an army crawl. You know the one, where you are lying prone and you pull yourself along with your elbow and push with your knees. It can be fairly tiring, especially for someone carrying extra weight and with not-terribly-strong arms. But we all made it through. There were other places where we could walk upright and they were very welcome, I can tell you.
There was an even tighter spot than those the required an army crawl. There is one place where the passage gets fairly narrow between two smooth, nearly vertical rocks. They are closest together at just the wrong height from the ground for someone about my height and with a larger than necessary midsection. If you know what i mean.
It was not quite Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit’s Hole but it was tight. Fortunately they didn’t hang dish towels on my legs. Getting through that required getting up on my toes so my largest part was a little higher than the tightest part, and then getting a bit of a push from Stephen. The second picture here is further into the cave than that tightish bit. It shows Seth sitting in a fairly large room as the others made their way up behind him. The last picture was actually taken between the other two. I don’t often take selfies but I thought in this case I would. So, that’s me in my caving gear. Looks as though I’ve been crawling in the dirt, doesn’t it?
As you can probably guess by the fact that I’m posting this, I made it out. We all had a good time and were certainly glad we went. I will confess to being glad to see the sunlight again and to be able to stand up without worrying about hitting my head on a rock.
Today was day one of our two-day, family caving expedition. The eight of us met up at Ralph’s and drove to south of Petersburg, West Virginia. We arrived before sunset at the PSC field house and got settled in. It’s not exactly four star luxury but then, we were not expecting it to be (it’s actually pretty nice, really). This is the view back down the road we came up. It’s certainly a good idea to have four wheel drive and reasonable clearance on that, especially the place where it crosses the creek. After a horrendously rainy morning, the drive was quite nice and we arrived to a beautiful, cool, breezy evening.
We gathered on Friday for our family Thanksgiving and of course we took our traditional family photo.
This afternoon we had a nice visit with my cousin, Lisa, and her lovely family. This is Alec and Audrey, her two children and Dorothy’s second cousins. We certainly don’t see them as often as we should but it’s always a treat when we do. We shouldn’t need the extra incentive but Dorothy actually does have more reason to visit Tampa now, so perhaps we’ll make our way south sometime.
Stephen and Maya were down for a wedding over the weekend so the locals got together for dinner on Tuesday before they headed back to Boston.
But this is not your run of the mill Iris. Among other things, she’s one year through med school.
Cathy gave me a new camera for Christmas, a Canon 60D, to replace the 10D that I’ve been using since April, 2003. The cameras are quite similar in their controls but the upgrade includes a pixel increase of 285% (from 6 to nearly 18MP). This photo is the 19th exposure on the new camera. A few days after this picture was taken, I decided to see if I could take at least one picture a day for a year. That “Project 365” resulted, ultimately, in this blog. For that initial year (2011), the photos were posted to Facebook. I continued taking a picture a day in 2012 and this blog was born. I’ve begun the process of back-posting the pictures from the first year, but I’m not done yet. I hope you find a few pictures that you can enjoy.