Tagged With: Family

Happy Birthday, Margaret

Margaret and Cathy

Margaret and Cathy

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.

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Stephen and Kai

Stephen and Kai

Stephen and Kai

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.

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Kai

Kai

Kai

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).

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Ralph and Kai

Ralph L. Hartley
June 10, 1958 – June 14, 2017

Ralph and Kai

Ralph and Kai

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.

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Ralph and Kai

Ralph and Kai

Ralph and Kai

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.

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Kaien

Kai

Kai

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.

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Caving Expedition (Day Two)

Seth, Stephen, Carmela, George, and Ralph in the Slab Room

Seth, Stephen, Carmela, George, and Ralph in the Slab Room

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.

Seth in Hamilton Cave

Seth in Hamilton Cave

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.

Self Portrait, Hamilton Cave

Self Portrait, Hamilton Cave

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.

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Caving Expedition (Day One)

View From PSC Field House

View From PSC Field House

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.

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