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Brown Sugar                                       January 10, 2010


We like to sip our morning coffee by the woodstove in these cold winter months. As I was sitting looking out over the Mill River, feeling peace, joy, happiness, Jim asked me if I wanted some breakfast.  Jim made me a nice bowl of oatmeal. He said it was a special treat with raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar.


“Brown sugar?” I questioned. “Really, I haven’t had brown sugar on oatmeal since I was a kid. That’s how I used to have it all the time – oatmeal with brown sugar and milk”.

“Brown sugar”, Jim said again, “like the song, Brown Sugar!” and he started humming that old tune and said; “I think that was Rolling Stones, probably we have it on one of our albums, maybe we have two albums.”


Now I know I had some Rolling Stones vinyl, but I think my brother Simon, took those. Anyway I did not remember having this song in my possession. I seriously questioned Jim’s knowledge of Rock and Roll. With Fraser as our witness we fell into a heated discussion over our hot oatmeal about the origin of the song; “Brown Sugar”.


Finally, I grabbed my laptop and looked it up on YouTube. Yes, Rolling Stones. We all listened to Mick Jaggar and started singing along. Well, we thought we were singing along. However, when I went to another site and checked the lyrics I realized, woe, I never knew the words to the song. Brown Sugar was about slavery and other unconscionable things! Did you know that?

Read the words:


Brown Sugar (M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright
Hear him with the women just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should

Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin' when it's gonna stop
House boy knows that he's doing alright
You shoulda heard him just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, now?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should, now

Ah, get along, brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, got me feelin' now, brown sugar just like a black girl should

I bet your mama was a tent show queen
And all her boyfriends were sweet sixteen
I'm no schoolboy but I know what I like
You shoulda heard me just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should, yeah

I said yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
How come you...how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
Just like a...just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo


As we sang the real words today, we realized it was a rap song! Did you know Brown Sugar was rap?


In the Rolling Stones version, the words on the record/radio are camouflaged by the music and hidden in the innocence of what we usually think of as brown sugar. With ‘Sugar’ being a young girl, this song is about what? I am horrified. The last three books I read; Water for Elephants, The Law of Dreams, and  Cheri feature victimization of; ‘tent show queen’, prostitution, and pedophilia. I am heightened to the reality of what these words and the lyrics of this song imply. I cannot get Brown Sugar out of my head.


This is what I innocently listened to and danced to all these years…Brown Sugar?

Wow, what else is there that I think I know which actually is quite different?

I need to pay closer attention to what I like.


Saturday at the Farm                                      Saturday January 9, 2010


When I woke up on Saturday, can you imagine my delight when Jim suggested that he and the boys go to Centre farm that day to chop dead trees. They had already discussed this with Meme. We could all go together! Well, the boys took the Mercedes and we took the Xterra. As we arrived at the farm, wow, the driveway was full. More than “who was there?” the question to ask was; “Who wasn’t there!”

(Keara wasn’t - she was with friends in Gloucester).


Upon entering I was stunned to realize that my brother, Ed, has commandeered / charmed my sister, Oren, into doing a sewing job for him FIRST. Apparently he heard she was coming with her sewing machine and called her that morning. As Meme tried to pacify me saying he had called her (once!), and it is something he needed by Friday when he goes heli-skiing. I struggled to explain that Oren and I have been planning this quilting bee for YEARS with phone calls, e-mails, and long conversations! Oh well, I could handle it. I was used to this, as usual in this family, the boys win out. She sewed Ed’s stuff first. Humph.


Ha ha ha! I am really just joking about all that distress. I am glad that Ed remembers that I made a triangle quilt for him. Ed and I share a fun banter – just like when we were growing up and Meme called us the “Bobsey Twins”. Remember the good times. Forget all those unresolved issues of childhood. I am happy that Oren was able to help him with his – eh hem, project.


Anyway, the house was a buzz with people. Meme was cooking. Ailis was doing the books. Justin was reading in Grampy’s chair. Elizabeth was playing her clarinet in the keeping Room with a blazing fire keeping her audience warm. Clover was following my commands. Sam was smiling and glad to be in the fun of a Saturday at the farm. How could I be upset? To see all the action visit: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=137574&id=659708314&saved#/photo.php?pid=3353308&id=659708314


Especially since Oren and I eventually took over the ballroom spreading our quilt piece-meal all over the floor. What a team we were! Sewing, ironing, measuring – Oren did most of it. Oren is so careful and exact. When I was sewing and the machine got clogged- zip, she fixed it without a nasty word. She works her sewing machine like a tree grows leaves. Is the quilt finished? No. I mean, it might have been if a certain person hadn’t dominated the sewer’s (Jim says “sue – er’s”) time that day…..


When I wasn’t sewing, I had time to photograph the three handsome woodsmen outside with the chainsaw! Now, that was something to see! Did they finish? No, there are still plenty more trees that need attention around the farm. Maybe after heli-skiing, Ed can help with that.


Plans for the Star Quilt                      Friday January 8, 2010                                  


The reason I am so excited about this quilt is that Oren is sewing it for me. My sister started making this luminary design coverlet years ago when she took a quilting class. Some of the material is from Ireland. I have a hard time understanding why she got tired of it and wants me to finish it. Maybe she just wants me to get back into quilting.


Last year when she heard I wanted to make a quilt for our new yellow bedroom, she thought of me. The star patches were all made. She gave them to me, even gave me a sewing machine, so I would take the task to completion. We have been to fabric stores to buy a yellow trim, to each other’s houses with the bag of material, arranging the pieces, making decisions for two years now. I wanted this finished. She did too.


Well, Oren is the best seamstress in the world – certainly the best one I know. If I want any sweet dreams under this quilt, I require her assistance to ‘sew up this’ project.


After calling back and forth to Oren all week, the decision was made to meet at Centre Farm to finish the Star Quilt. It is important to note that much arrangement – many e-mails, phone calls, and discussion got us together.


Bright Star                              January 7, 2010


Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving
waters at their priest like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

John Keats


Last night Jim and I ventured over to the Cabot Street Theatre in Beverly to see the movie; “Bright Star”. The movie portrayed the beautiful short life of John Keats who died at age 25. The real star of the show was Fanny, his friend and eventual fiancé. On the screen John Keats compared writing poetry to the way leaves grow on trees. Fanny wanted to understand poetry. As he showed her, Keats helped us all learn that poems are multi-sensory.


Jim said; “I think what Keats was trying to tell her is that you don’t learn poetry you feel it.” Fraser commented; “That’s one of those statements that is both true and not true at the same time. You have to read and study poetry to be able to really feel it.”


Keats shared his poetry with Fanny’s family – her younger brother and sister and her mother - allowing all the movie viewers to realize how timeless, “ageless”, poems are.


Dad always shared poetry with us. He encouraged us to memorize poems as kids rewarding us with a quarter. We loved earning money that way! Later dad enjoyed seeing us learn about different poets from William Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson.


Why do I display our narcissus in the nook for this post? I like to force narcissus bulbs that bloom in January. Each blossom of the narcissus looks like a bright star.


Wonderful Washington Street                                   January 6, 2010


Washington Street is wonderful, so much to do right at my doorstep. I am at my friend’s house for coffee in the morning. Another friend calls. The plan is made to cross country ski to Whale’s Jaw later that day.


Back at my home office, I see a family who moved here from LA to attend the Gloucester Public School Auditory-Verbal Inclusion program that my husband started in 1980 - the first of its kind, a model program. With me having an Auditory-Verbal parent guidance private practice also in Gloucester, this family wants to take advantage of both Watsons. I teach with the dad when he brings his daughter during his lunch break. Jim teaches with the mom when the 5 year old is at school. Not the usual Auditory-Verbal arrangement, but needed for this family now.


Consults for different school systems, new clients from early Intervention Programs, and lesson plans for current families keep me at my desk, on the phone, and answering e-mails. I suddenly realize I have to meet my friends to go cross country skiing.


For over thirty years I keep balancing work, play, and family. People ask how I manage – how I shift gears so easily. For me it is just the way I live. I am lucky that my passion for my job allows me to focus.  I feel fortunate that so much of what I enjoy doing is right in my own backyard. I am blessed with a family that fosters this kind of arrangement. My life allows a sense of balance.


With two friends and their dogs, Cloe and Brooklyn, we enjoy a winter afternoon deep in the woods of Dogtown – such a magical mystical place. The snow along the edges of the trail provides the smooth glide we love on our skies. We pass the familiar rock, “Peter’s Pulpit”, and know we are almost at the huge granite, “Whale’s Jaw”. This wonderland is right in our neighborhood. We all live on Washington Street. What a place to live!


Healing Cabbage Soup                                January 5, 2009


This winter we love to make soup. Cabbage Soup is delicious. Simmering it on our woodstove makes it taste even better. Apparently this soup has healing properties for whatever ails you. Try it.



  • 1-2  tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 quarts water/chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped


1.       In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook until onion is transparent, about 5 minutes.

2.       Stir in water, stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in cabbage. Simmer until cabbage wilts simmer 15 to 30 minutes, stirring often.


“Growing up Donovan”                                  January 4, 2010


What do you think Meme and I did on the first Monday of the new year?

  1. Thought about cleaning the attic
  2. Visited Grampy
  3. Returned unwanted items to LL Bean
  4. Shopped at the Coldwater Creek 70% off sale
  5. Made cabbage soup with Keara
  6. All of the above



If you guessed “F”, you’re correct! We had a lot of fun – laughing laughing laughing!

As we thought we needed this and that, it pained me how much we enjoy bargains. What a love-hate obsessive compulsive disorder. I thought of the quantity of clothes we each already had. I felt sick. I looked at her and remembered how hard we all are working to help her clean out her multiple closets, attics, basements. At one point, I put my choices down and walked. I tried to escape. I really did.  I wanted to drag her out, but we were just having tremendous fun.  Good stuff at cheap prices is irresistible. I loved shopping with her. I just could not deprive her of her joy of shopping. My mother always loved to shop. I remember stories of how she almost gave birth to me in a bargain basement. Meme was shopping at FB’s the night before I was born!


Even if I eventually give away all I bought to Savers, the Monday afternoon we shared was worth every penny spent. I felt good that my octogenarian mother cared to have the latest fashions. Seeing Meme’s eyes light up as she found her size in the color she loved was priceless. Hearing her say; “Now I am all set with my new clothes” sounded familiar reminding me my father would have approved of this clothing consumer expedition extraordinaire. He often treated her like a queen selecting outfits for her grand wardrobe.


After we made our purchases and went out the door, “going back in for more” was a peculiar behavior difficult even for us to understand. We were that bad. We just could not leave those bargains alone. An ongoing banter was trying to decide who found the best bargain for whom. We teased each other laughing and giggling as we drove to Sunrise. Once again, we lived a splendid performance of “growing up Donovan”. Do you think there could be a gene for “bargain shopping”?


We wanted to give Grampy a fashion show like old times, but thought it might confuse him. Instead, we looked at the photo album that Maury made. What a gorgeous book. I think Grampy liked the pictures and the memories. We certainly did! Maury enlarged nice scenes of “growing up Donovan” that funnily enough did not include shopping! With the exuberance we brought to that visit, Grampy in his wisdom knew that Meme and I had just endured another Donovan shopping spree. He shared our glee.


No Place like Home                            January 3, 2010


After visiting, Dublin, NH, Plymouth, NH, and Waterville Valley, NH this past  week seeing friends, hiking, skiing, skating, Jim and I found the best conditions for a beautiful cross country ski right in our own backyard – well, just down the street. We like to ski around the reservoir and up into Dogtown.

Marshmallow in a Blizzard    January 2, 2010 

2010 starts out with a snowstorm in northeast USA. Winds howl challenging the structure of our home. The high tide encroaches on our land. My world is a whiteout.  

It’s time to take down the colorful 2009 Japanese Garden calendar from Portland Oregon.  Sparkling jewelry covers the new calendar sent to us from one of Shauna’s friends. Opening to January, we realize the picture page is blank for each month. As I push the pin into the kitchen bulletin board, I chuckle exclaiming to Jim; “Look! I like it – it’s a good illustration of the snowy start to this year.” Jim laughs and adds; “I see a marshmallow in a blizzard!” 

Happy New Year!     January 1, 2010

In the 1980s Jim and I started a New Year’s Eve tradition of floating walnut fortune boats in a casserole dish full of water. We questioned how fireworks and drunken brawls could really inspire our kids for a healthy new year. We wanted a more creative way of teaching our children that the old year passed and a new year was beginning.  

The youngest person at the gathering, chose a boat, lit the little birthday candle melted inside, and placed it in the middle of the bowl. The room hushed. All present watched as this little craft moved toward the edge to land on a quote that was affixed to the side. For a moment in this crazy night everyone focused on you and what was ahead for you in the new year. Cheers and applause greeted you as your boat indicated what your fortune was. The room was quiet as you read inspiration to carry you through the next year of your life.  

Waterville Valley, New Hampshire was the usual spot for the Watsons to gather. This year Keara, Jim, and I congregated with old friends back in our beloved valley. The quotes we opened were: 

Jim: Don’t listen to what they say.Go See.-Chinese Proverb 

2010 is a year of discovery for you! 

Lea:  When you have developed “Bod hic itta” in your heart, All good things in lifeAre magnetically attracted to you and effortlessly pour down upon you like rain. 

2010 will be a magnetic year! ‘Bodhicitta’ is yours – seek and you shall find. It might be “like rain” in 2010, but not rainy. 

Keara: Sometimes it proves the highest understanding, not to understand. -Gracian 

Some interesting situations in 2010 will help you ponder this statement. 2010 is an important year for you and your family.

Happy New Year!


WatsonINGS 2009 an ABC poem by LDW                        December 31, 2009



Applauding Fraser at graduation from Saint Michael’s college

Braving February on Beinn Bhreagh in Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Celebrating the centennial of flight in Canada & the Silver Dart

Dancing – all 5 of us – under a tent at Northeast Harbor wedding

Enjoying Bermuda in April with Meme

Frostbiting in Boston Harbor on winter Saturdays

Giving Xan rides to airport for travel to Toronto, DC, CA, and Tokyo

Helping children who are deaf listen and use spoken language

Initiating the bathroom renovation project

Jaunting back to Baddeck with Keara and Xan in summer

Knitting once a month with wise women

Lending Fraser wheels for jobs in ME, NH, and RI

Meeting Samantha

Nearing the centennial of Killick

Opening the year at snowy Lake Tahoe

Painting watercolors for the Sawyer Free Library Auction

Quilting a quilt for our bed

Receiving Keara back on east coast after cross country drive with Fras

Sailing “Marlin” around Cape Ann – how many times?

Teaching professionals who want the LSLS Cert AVT

Understanding that not understanding is okay

Visiting Grampy at Sunrise

Walking Wingaersheek with how many siblings and their kids?

Xandering by the woodstove now

Yearning for those we lost

Zipping through another year



Good Bye 2009! Hello 2010!

WonderING about the WatsonINGS 2010........

Happy 50th Birthday, Oren                                         December 30, 2009


Fifty years ago, Santa brought me my Baby Dear doll for Christmas. Five days later my new sister was born, Oren Elizabeth. My mom had her baby and I had mine. I was seven and a half years old. We smiled at our babies and talked to them. My mom told me this is the way our babies know they are the most wonderful babies in the whole world.


I still have my doll. Her hair is a little frizzy and straggly and one plastic leg dangles from her cloth body. I keep her safe and warm in a special box in my attic. Just knowing I have her makes me feel good.


I still have my sister. Thank God. I almost lost her in December 1969 when a brain aneurism tried to kill her. I almost lost her again in the winter of 1981 when another brain aneurism tried to kill her.


My sister is tough! How many people survive two brain aneurisms and then go on to control horses, paint beautiful paintings, hike mountains, sew quilts, get married, have a daughter, collect dolls on the internet, and continue along Life’s path with beauty and determination?


I hound Oren about painting and doing more pastels. I think she is a brilliant artist.

I tease her about collecting dolls. I think dolls are….well, I guess I do like dolls a little.

I converse with her about parenting. I think she is a fabulous mother.

I wait for her to help me quilt. I think she will do it when she has time.

I laugh with her. I think we laugh about everything.

I love her just the way she is. I think she is a miracle.


I thank God every day that Oren is alive. I just don’t know what my life would be like without her. She introduced me to speech pathology. She taught me how precious life is and the need for basic communication – listening and talking. She taught me how to be a good friend.


Good friends support and guide each other. She challenges me to be a better person every day. I hope I do the same for her.


When I see Oren, Justin, and Elizabeth arrive with Clover in their new Hundai, I say hurrah!


And….I can’t wait to show her the new doll Santa put under the Christmas tree for me this year, go snow shoeing with her to a beautiful place, eat some gluten-free food, sew that quilt, and enjoy some more laughter just being together.

Mid-December Poem from my niece                                      December 29, 2009



Beach At Evening – by Elizabeth Anne Paulin


I stand on the sand that was just touched by waves

My flip flops near the top of the hill

I dig my toes into the sand

Feeling the wetness of the grayish-brown

I listen to the waves pounding the wet dust

And feel like I never want to leave

I see the rainbow of colors on the horizon

Rippling onto the salt water

Of the sandy golden beach



Cold River Afternoon  - by Lea Watson


From my window I see

Shade stretching across the upper lawn

The lower grass remaining lit

With black pencil shadows

Crisscrossing the long backyard

Smooth sapphire splashing across the wet sand

Of low tide in the river

Brown reflections hanging deep

Sunlight beaming up the cove

Tall branches reaching the blue sky

A gentle breeze blowing

The stiff oregano stalks

Winter is setting in

I feel the cold

from inside


Thanks to Elizabeth for sending me her poem and prompting me to write mine.

Keara was in the River Room, too!                            December 28, 2009


Being a mother can be tough. I try to think of everyone and everything, but I do mess up sometimes. I like to be reminded about this. Why? When someone brings it to my attention that I forgot them, it makes me realize how important being included is. Keara read over my Art House Sketch Book today and alerted me to the fact that I forgot to include her name. I apologize to Keara.


Some people might think of this as a ‘silly complaint’ or even ‘mother bashing’. I don’t, I see it as “healthy reminding” – open, honest discussion of a mistake made. I salute Keara fro bringing it to my attention. This is one mistake I can correct. Now, when Fraser was just teasing me about how I fold sheets and he and Xan started laughing, that could be classified as “mother bashing” – again I classify that as healthy discussion. How everyone folds sheets is different – even people in the same family.


Today I do want to post the following corrected e-mail exchange, not just because of the correction made, but because Jim and I finished our sketch books. We are mailing them to be included in The Sketchbook Project Library. http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject/about


Below is an e-mail from my youngest brother date Oct 5, 2009. He is sending it to his oldest siblings including me: Charles, Lea, Maureen, Ed (and maybe Grant). The synchronicity of my nephew, age 27, alerting him to read this book and then him suggesting I take a look at it while creating the “My life in a yellow submarine” theme for the Art House Sketchbook Project is wonderful.


START QUOTE: Add this book to your list?                     

Mike Donovan suggested this book, Here There Everywhere, and I’m enjoying it immensely.  Geoff Emerick was the sound engineer for all Beatles albums from Revolver onward.  He also attended most of the early recording sessions at Abbey Road (EMI) studio.  From a recording and music standpoint, the book is incredible.  This guy came up with most of what modern recording calls “standard practice” today and there’s a good argument that he should get co-producer recognition with George Martin.


But for the baby boomers, this book is probably even more important.  He was 17 years old at the time!  You can really feel in his writing how he believed things were changing – at EMI and across the globe.  Some things he mentioned gave me pause.  He simply broke rules to try something new, and was often reprimanded for it.


This was also a great break for me because, frankly, I’m a little tired of reading about blood clots, strokes and the cerebellum.


It’s worth a read!  And suggested by a Gen-Y’er!  Is that Mike’s generation? 

Here’s the Amazon info, but this is FREE at your local public library


Meme and five of the eleven         A Special Moment in December 2009


At one point during the Christmas Eve festivities, I noticed Meme standing in the kitchen chatting with Ed, Ailis, and Denny. A little voice inside my head told me to grab Oren so the five of us could rally round our mother for a photo. As we stood arm and arm, I heard one of us question;

"What if we were the only kids she had?"

Amid the laughter....

I heard Ailis proclaim; "I'd be the youngest."

Which prompted me to say; "I'd be the oldest!"

Denny added; "I'd still be the middle."

We laughed and laughed hugging Meme telling her what a wonderful mother she is!


Meme always reminded me to pay attention to my inner voice.

Best Yankee Swap Ever                                 December 24, 2009

Richie and Ailis hosted the Donovan Christmas Eve Yankee Swap. Appetizers were tasty for grazing and nibbling as the family gathered. Uncle Denny cracked 18 lobsters to serve us Lobster Newburg. Aunt Ailis made delicious Chicken Kiev. Keara and Meme made a huge salad. This was the Menu from “ her early days” when Meme hosted at a summer inn.


Desserts were a big hit: Keara’s Chocolate-Chestnut Roulade, Bonnie’s Cranberry Gingerbread trifle, Meme’s brownies, cupcakes, Oren’s cookies, my Philadelphia Cake with Rompope sauce and chocolate raspberry tart.


There was more swapping at this Yankee Swap than I have ever seen. The gifts included a range of paraphernalia from useful to ridiculous. There was a rule about not shaking or feeling, but – eh hem, even Meme was caught lifting and squeezing prior to selecting.


Richie’s brother, Chuck, got number 1. Number 2, Jim W, opened up a cupcake teacup that Ed went home with last year and re-gifted. Isn’t that a violation of the rules? Jim quickly swapped that with Chuck for a movie. Chuck, with number 1, held cupcake the whole time knowing that ultimately he could take any gift he wanted. In the end, Chuck chose the Scratch Tickets scratching out to $0. Uncle Chuck left poor young Richie holding the cupcake teacup. Eventually the lovely “ceramic dessert” got broken, so won’t show up next year. Uncle Ed with number 28 traded golf balls for ski goggles.


Fraser said: “I can’t believe Elizabeth slipped off the couch bumping her head just as her mother opened the sore spot hot/cold pad.”


Funniest moment? When Richie was opening the gift he contributed which had a distinctive shape and was not disguised by the wrapping. He was not kidding when he was saying; “I wonder what this is!” and after opening it – saying; “hey- I bought this! This was my gift to the Yankee Swap.” He traded the L.L. Bean butt sleds for goggles.


Hot gifts included; earphones along with Patriots hat, large chocolate snowman with $25 cash, Swiss Army knife with $20 bill. Fraser was afraid he was stuck with a salt and pepper set, but at the last minute got traded for SIGG Water bottle that he brought! I ended up with the $15 gift card to Starbucks – hey, I thought the gift price was $20-$25 bucks! Jim reluctantly took home the DVD “Four Christmases” and bag of Smartfood. Keara got an outlandish furry Red Sox Santa hat. Xan was lucky enough to get the set of 4 different colored butt sleds – might be good for our backyard hill when Dec, Dash, Hannah, and Jules come east in the winter.


A fair amount of bantering and grumbling was balanced out with lots of laughing and joking. All in all, a fun time was had by all. I don’t think anyone enjoyed their gift more than Elizabeth. She flew that alarm clock flying saucer all around the merrymaking.


On our way to the party, Jim and I had a really fun visit with Grampy. When we arrived he was sitting near the CD player singing along and clapping to Christmas music. He seemed delighted to see us. We enjoyed coffee and cookies with Ernie and Richard – all five of us sitting at a table. Conversations about their time in WWII amazed us. Dad followed along interacting with nods, smiles, amazed looks, and laughter. I tried to keep the bombing talk to a minimum, this being Christmas Eve, trying to talk more about peace. They all agreed. At two, we took dad downstairs for more music and singing in the front lobby. We left him singing the old songs. He seemed happy to be singing all the words he knew back when he was a younger man living the active life I remember as his daughter. I remember so many Christmases with my dad.


Christmas makes me sad. I realize the passage of time. The lives of those I love and indeed my own life passing. I love Christmas so much. I should be thankful and happy. I treasure these moments. I want to keep it all. Is that a good thing about Christmas? Christmas memories magnify what I miss. It is hard to grasp its elusive nature. I need to realize more about holiday depression, how I always get "a lot of stupid stuff" instead of what I really want. But, that’s not it, I think I have all I really want – I just don’t like it fading away.

Sound the Trumpets!              Dec 25, 2009


We woke to see the tree twinkling as we sipped morning coffee and opened our stockings. Little gifts from Santa delighted us as we laughed and shared the fun of the five of us together at home for Christmas.


The boys went to check out the waves at Good Harbor. Keara, Jim and I took a tour of Cape Ann first looking for Mass at St. Joachim’s in Rockport. Realizing a time error, we enjoyed cappuccino at Café Dolce waiting for a later Mass. Trumpets proclaimed the joy of Christmas Day for us at Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester.  Singing all six verses of; “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” with a clear trumpet harmonizing made me want to simultaneously laugh and cry – emotional!


Missing Father Bullock’s inspirational sermons, I kept an open heart to learn about how the Divinity upset the passage of time. That Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and is a mystery – perhaps too much for the human mind to comprehend. Sure, I want a savior to transform us. That I need to be transformed by the Light is true. I like Christmas. Christmas means happiness, sentiment, and good cheer. I loved singing all verses of “Angels we Have Heard on High” and clapping for the trumpeter. Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Back at 544, Keara and the boys cooked Christmas brunch. We opened more “pressies”. Boys went off the check the waves again while we walked down to visit friends. Hula hoops and Apples to Apples kept us laughing through the challenges of the day.
Christmas dinner brought us all around the table again along with Xan’s girlfriend, Sam.
Christmas night watching the movie Jim got at the Yankee Swap, “Four Christmases”, we learned in the beginning that “you can’t have families without lies” – famiLIES.  What? By the end of the movies a transformation happens and “HONETSY is the BEST POLICY” rings loud and clear.
Watch out – this movie was kinda funny, just a little over the top…but might be re-gifted in the family Yankee Swap next year! No lie!
Check out the alternative text on 4.0 the new non-web

NGS Sppof                 December 23, 2009

Every Christmas Jim paints Meme and Grampy a National Geographic Spoof! Yes, you who read this Navonod might be pictured in one of Jim’s watercolor parodies. Meme keeps the collection of 34 watercolors in a large black book.  These date back to 1974!

This year the subject on the NGS Spoof is the “Maltese Falcon” in Bermuda. This commemorates our stay at the St. George’s Club in April with Meme.   Can you imagine this 220 foot yacht docked right smack in the view from our condo.

For a more detailed account of our fun times in Bermuda with Meme and our meeting the captain of the “Maltese Falcon” visit our blog:


To view lots of beautiful photos of our wonderful week my Facebook albums:









Or just BING Maltese Falcon to see how a modern square rigger works.

“Jim gets struck at Sunrise                December 22, 2009


As we open the lobby door to Sunrise, we hear accordion music. A fine musician is entertaining the residents with Christmas songs. Grampy is in the left living room clapping, singing, leaning his head back – enjoying “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” and “Jingle Bells”. Jim and I share an oversized chair that we pull up close to Grampy. I sit in closer to Grampy. Good thing I chose that spot. We see a woman getting a little “Alzheimer’s agitated” across the room. The Carer assists out her along the aisle. As she passes us, she wallops Jim hard on the shoulder! She seems angry about something, but just keeps walking. Jim did not realize how dangerous Sunrise is, but takes it as a heavy dose of Christmas punch.


After the music, we read the Christmas cards Grampy received. A nice one from the Bartholomews describes the “winter bird scene in their yard” or the “winter birds seen in their yard”. Grampy enjoys that card and conversation.


Before we go up the elevator with Delmy, we admire the gingerbread White House featured on the table beside Grampy. Once on the third floor we sit in a quiet area on the comfy couches. Jim reads from ­The World’s Greatest Short Stories. This books proves to be one of the most valuable from Grampy collection as we make our way through story after story this year at Sunrise. Today Jim reads; The Wreath by Luigi Pirandello.


Grampy listens and pragmatically looks like he is commenting, but his expressive language is sometimes hard to understand. The story is about a married couple.

When we discuss a quote from the story, all of us seem challenged with what to say.


“It is fate that whatever belongs to everyone never belongs to anyone in particular.”

What do you think of that?


At one part, Grampy interrupts Jim to try to make a point. It sounds like he is trying to talk, but there are not many words in there. He apparently understands what he wants to say. One time he says: “One thing though, he went down and took the…he didn’t say go down there and wait.”  This seems relevant to the story. It is a complicated story about an older man marrying a younger woman who is still in love with a younger man who was killed. Jim and dad discuss who men should marry.


Jim asks; “Do you think you should marry someone younger that you or older?”

Dad answers: “I think younger.”


Habitual things like “I have to go to the bathroom” and “I’ll be right back” come out quite clear. This fascinates us.


The afternoon visit gives Jim and me a lot to chat about as we drive along snowy 128 away from Sunrise. We recommend that short story to everyone as we need to discuss it further. Being with Grampy stimulates intellectual debate. That is one thing I love about Grampy.

Christmas Tree Snags Grampy             December 20, 2009                

Readers who engaged in the “Grampy’s Christmas Tree poem typo e-mail” exchange of December 2008 might have a difficult time believing that the following story occurred at all. The fact is this event took place in early 2008 while the typo that triggered that lively e-mail discussion was made at the end of 2008. Grampy’s relationship to Christmas trees is fascinating. Ailis encouraged me to write this.


During the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008, Jim and I spent most Thursday nights with Grampy so Meme could go to choir practice without feeling like dad had to be with her. Choir practice was usually from 7-9 pm.


Jim and I enjoyed Grampy’s company when we were both together. We liked to be helpful. We liked to cajole Grampy. With two of us, the time passed more quickly. The shared experience, whatever happened was good and bad, and could be tolerated or enjoyed. I felt like I needed Jim with me in order to distract Grampy from some of the obstinate behavior that occurred. Dad became belligerent for no apparent reason – just down right stubborn. I did not really fear him being mean or dangerous, but I was on my guard.


When Meme went to choir practice, Grampy used to insist on going with her.

We tried to keep him entertained first at home, later we realized we had to take him out to dinner to keep him focused away from “being with Meme”.

He’d say: “I know there are men in the choir. They go to parties after the practice. I now what she is up to.”

If he accompanied her to the choir, he’d have to sit right beside her.

Even when I went to Sunday Mass to sit with him while Meme was up on the altar with the choir, he left me in the pew and went right up on the alter to be near Meme – if there was not a chair, he just stood near her.


One Thursday evening in January 2008, I was on my own with dad. I am not sure where Jim was. Dad insisted on going up to the church. I tried and tried to keep him at Centre Farm. When I said I would not drive him, he said he wanted to walk. I could not deter him. I decided that walking with him would indeed take longer than driving. That way Meme could have more time without him bothering her at choir. I knew we could meet Meme at the church and get a ride home with the friends who drove her there. A nice walk would do us both good – so I thought.


Even though I grabbed mine and coaxed him to wear his, he did not wear a jacket on this cold night. We walked down Main Street. I thought I might be able to help him amble back home, but he knew to turn right on Chestnut Street. We started up toward the church. Dad insisted on taking a sharp left up a hill that was NOT the way to the church. I told him this, but he said he thought I was trying to fool him. Again, I thought OK – this will take us a little longer and Meme will have a little more time without him bothering her. We walked up this hill which ended at a cul de sac with very nice homes. Dad wanted to walk through someone’s snow filled yard and cut through the woods. I said “No”. He started to go. “Dad, that’s trespassing. You cannot just walk through someone’s yard at night like that. I am going to call the police right now.” That is when I realized I did not have my cell phone. Luckily, he decided to walk back down the hill.


Back on Chestnut Street Grampy was walking up the middle of the road. I had to plead with him to get on the sidewalk as a cars came along going fast up and down this hill. He was walking as slow as a turtle. By the time we reached the church, no one was there. The parking lot was empty. The cars must have passed when we were up at the cul de sac. Grampy understood that choir practice was over. Everyone had left. We had to walk home.


Down hill was a little easier, but he was walking in the middle of the road again. I begged him to come to the sidewalk. As he shuffled over, the spot he picked to get on to the sidewalk was exactly where someone had discarded their Christmas tree in the gutter. Before I knew it, Grampy had tripped on the branches and was lying on the ground – all tangled up in the branches. We both started laughing. We laughed and laughed about how the tree snagged him and grabbed him down to the ground.


It was not comical as he tried to get up. He was not physically powerful enough to push himself up with his hands and knees. I was not strong enough to pull him. Again, I realized I did not have my cell phone. Of course, not a single car passed by now when we needed help. Grampy slowly – like a turtle – wiggled down the length of the tree to the wooden fence. With me pulling and him bracing himself against the railings, he gradually untangled himself from the branches. Finally he moved himself along the fence to stand up again. He was weakened by this ordeal and very cold.


We started moving on down the hill – joking about what the newspaper might say if he had died there.

“He met his demise snagged by a Christmas tree.”

“Prominent doctor found dead in the gutter alongside a discarded Christmas tree.”

We howled with laughter moving together – hugging each other now – as we made our way down the silent dark street.


The real funny thing about this was that there was nothing Grampy could learn from this experience. His “Alzhammered” brain would not retain information. He would not remember this. He would not realize the consequences. Everything learnt from the “wisdom of making mistakes” was not valid for him anymore.


By the time we reached Main Street, Grampy was exhausted and extremely weak. He could not walk even with me supporting him. I decided the only thing to do was for me to go get my car.


“Dad, I am going back home to get my car. I want you to hug this telephone pole here. Hug this wooden post just like you were hugging me. I will be right back.”


I left my dad embracing the pole near the school. I ran the short distance home, bounded in the door to quickly tell Meme where we were and what happened. Meme stood frozen in disbelief.


I dashed off in my car back to where I left Grampy wrapped around the telephone pole. There he was, my dad, the prominent doctor, alone, unable to move, not sure where he was, or what was going to happen. With relief I helped dad into the front seat of my Subaru and in a few minutes we were back home with Meme in the warm house – laughing as we recounted to Meme our tragic tale of how the discarded Christmas tree snagged Grampy.


An Ashtray  Sparkles Christmas Joy December 19, 2009


You might look at this picture and think; “What is that?” People see the actual object on a table and ask the same question. Look closer. Now you see a glossy clay ashtray in the shape of an oversized pipe. I gave this ceramic to dad on Christmas Eve when I was just a little girl


Mom and dad saved everything. That’s true, but last week, when I encountered this memento on a bookshelf in the upstairs barn, pangs puffed inside me like smoke rings blown from a pipe. Wisps of my young life appeared, lingered, and vanished into thin air.


This light and dark brown pottery piece in my hands evoked childhood scenes of shopping at the old Woolworth’s in downtown Wakefield. I examined this vestige from my youth inside and out, clearly it was never used for the purpose intended.  Japan” handwritten in black on the bottom placed it from 1950s. I remember when I saw it on the store shelf among tantalizing trinkets, it captured me.


Dad smoked a pipe then. He needed this. I knew. The selection filled me with confidence.  Securing my choice in tissue paper, I placed it in a shoe box.  My little hands smoothed the outside with green wrapping paper. My busy fingers tied thin red ribbon into a bow.  Running the blade of scissors to the end of the strand, my tight grasp eased, snapping magic curly-cues into action. Anticipating dad’s excitement upon discovering ‘just want he wanted’ delighted me.


On Christmas Eve growing up in the Donovan house, it was the custom to give thoughtful gifts to all family members. Each child would make or purchase a gift for mom, dad, every brother, sister and Mr. Z, our dog. After waiting for dad to eat supper and mom to finish wrapping her gifts, we gathered around the Christmas tree in the cellar. Everyone staked out their spot and had their dozen wrapped presents ready to give. As that pile became smaller, the heap of received gifts started to grow. Chaos ensued as hundreds of gifts swirled around the twinkling tree. Arms stretched and retreated. Hands offered and collected.


When I watched dad open my present that year, he was playing the drama of being real excited. I giggled as his eyes smiled with mine when his father fingers enveloped the gift, grasping the secret of my story. With the torn package in one hand and the other outstretched like the Statue of Liberty, dad gasped with astonishment holding up his shiny ashtray attracting attention. The surrounding present pandemonium hushed. All eyes were on dad.


Dad gleefully exclaimed; “Oh Lea, where did you ever get this?”

I beamed answering clearly; “Woolworth’s, daddy.”


Mom, dad, and I revel in this story time after time. Whatever age I was does not matter. This interaction is part of who I am as sure as the date of my birth, the color of my eyes, and the gifts I give this Christmas. A tender act of giving can be a joy forever.

NOEL                                                 December 18, 2009


This black and white snapshot captured four little angels youngest to oldest. This was in ancient times when the Donovan children numbered four.  


As kids we loved that cascading and rising Christmas carol; “The First Noel, the angels did say”. Ed stood at the far left holding the “N” straight, but backwards. Lea (me) balanced the “O” front and center. Charley gently tipped the “E” at an angle. Maureen gripped the “L” high and low. We lined up in front of the fireplace at 13 Parker Road Wakefield.


Mom and Dad sang carols with us at home, in church, and in the car. Both of them had good voices, but mom’s voice had a high lilt that really sounded exceptional When Bami and Bampi visited, we sang carols around Bami playing the red piano. I realized mom got the cadence in her voice from Bami. After dad got his HiFi set up in front of the living room windows, we sat on the rug as he played records for us. Attending Sunday Mass at Saint Joseph’s church prompted us to learn many Christmas hymns. Standing beside mom in the pew as her soprano voice filled the church, made me feel like I belonged to a movie star. Later, we sang every day at Saint Joseph School. Every Christmas mom and dad would take us for a drive to see Christmas lights. We all piled into the station wagon singing and laughing as we dashed through the snow over to Saugus where people really spent time decorating every detail of their house. Dad’s unique Christmas song originated on those evening car rides, probably to distract a baby from crying:


“I see a Christmas Tree ha ha HAHA

I see a Christmas Tree ha ha HAHA” ….on and on


As each baby came along, that simple ditty helped welcome every new member into our family traditions.


Jim and I loved to sing Christmas carols, too. Sometimes I tried to be like Bami and play the piano, other times we played Raffi records or tapes. However, as we dashed through the snow in our Subaru wagon, our three backseat angels learned to repeat their granfather’s famous ode; “I see a Christmas Tree haha HAHA” whenever lighted trees were spotted. Those angels also tried to sound like movie stars as they sang the cascading and rising verses of “The First Noel”…..Nohohoh  ell ell, Nohoh ell……Noel..Noel.

Is there a Santa Claus? - December 17, 2009

Christmas with Meme and Grampy always included a visit from Santa Claus.


At my book group last night, a friend announced that the original letter from Virginia O’Hanlon sold on The Best of Antiques Road Show for $55,000. Read on. The story

goes like this.


“Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/ and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.



"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”


I believe in Christmas, in Santa, in fairies, and in all that is seen and unseen. I don’t want to miss anything.  Thank you to my parents and my family for giving me a world full of wonder. I love the “C word” – Christmas is coming! Merry Christmas to all!


Dr. Al writes a prescription at Sunrise December 16, 2009

One day when I was in the Activity Room with dad he asked me;

“What’s that patient’s name?” We were in two chairs away from the semi circle of other residents in the Remembrance Unit. At first I thought –how nice, he wants to know the other people’s names here…… until it sank in, that the people were sitting in chairs waiting – waiting as if they were in a doctor’s waiting room – maybe not at 55 Salem Street, but at dad’s old medical building – One Salem Street.  I got up and asked the woman her name and when she looked at me blankly, I asked the carer. I relayed the name back to dad. He nodded his head as if he was in charge and confirmed the name.


I imagined him back at One Salem in his white coat with a patient’s folder in his hands standing in his waiting room with an expectant look ready to help the next person in need of a diagnosis from an Internal Medicine, heart specialist. I was lucky to work at One Salem doing filing and clipping the EKG forms. When patients or office workers knew I was Dr. Donovan’s daughter, I heard them declare high praise of his work. I was special to them because I was his daughter. I recall them saying enthusiastically; “Oh, you’re Dr. Donovan’s daughter? Well, he’s an excellent doctor and a wonderful man.”  I loved that. I saw dad in his prime – doing the work he loved. The people he worked with appreciated him.


Another day after Meme and I finished having lunch with dad, I walked away by myself sat down in a chair by the elevator. I wanted to give mom and dad some time alone. As I rested there, a lady sat down beside me. She inquired who I was visiting.


“I’m here visiting my dad, Dr. Donovan.”


“Dr. Donovan is here?” she asked with a rising inflection in her voice. “He was my doctor. Where is he? I have to say hello and thank him for helping me and my husband.” When I tried to explain that he had Alzheimer’s and might not remember her, she said. “That doesn’t matter. I just want to be able to thank him in person for what he did. He was magnificent to us. I can’t tell you how much he helped us.” I directed her back to where dad was sitting with mom in the dining room. With great exuberance this woman declared her appreciation to dad for all he did. Dad beamed. He knew what she was saying.


Last week when I visited dad, Cathy, the private carer for Rosemary, was going through a pile of sales slips on her lap. As Rosemary slept, Cathy sat beside her across the room from us. She was busily looking in her pocket book searching for something. Ignoring her, I chatted with dad and sang some songs. After a while, Cathy walked over with a slip of paper in her hand.


“Look at this prescription Dr. Al wrote for me earlier today.” She proclaimed as she handed me the white slip.


Sure enough, I could decipher my dad’s handwriting and his signature. Cathy said she had been complaining to Dr. Al about not feeling well. She asked him to write a prescription for her and he did!


At Sunrise, people call dad, “Dr. Al”. Everyone knows he is a doctor.

I am happy they treat dad with respect – respect for his long career as a brilliant doctor.


I appreciate having a dad who always loved his work. I know witnessing my dad’s passion for his profession has helped me develop mine.


Monday December 7, 2009  Santa Visits Sunrise by LDW

As I stop by Sunrise in the early afternoon I notice residents from the other floors gathering in the lobby. It looks like Santa is about to arrive. I hear Santa will make his way up to the third floor, too. 

I walk into the Activity Room in the Remembrance Unit. I see the Bingo players focused on their cards at the far table. Dad is by himself near the piano where Christmas music is playing from the CD player on top. Dad looks attractive in his dark green cotton sweater with the white snowflake pattern. I tell him how handsome he looks as I greet him. “Oh, thank you.” he clearly says. 

I like the music. We sing a few Christmas carols and clap to the beat. Dad knows all the words. After a while, I ask him if he’d like me to read a story or a poem. I have the Norman Rockwell Christmas book that Oren gave me. We look through the pictures. I am hoping he chooses “poem”. He usually chooses the final word that is presented. Today he says; “I want a story.” Clear as a bell! I laugh and tell him that I want to read a poem because I have laryngitis. 

“Oh, you do?” he replies and looks at me with that concerned doctor look he has.

I tell him yes and so I think a poem is better for today. He nods.

I read him; Christmas Trees by Robert Frost. Dad closes his eyes and listens intently.

(interesting – this poem was written the year dad was born) 

Christmas Trees Robert Frost 1920 (A Christmas Circular Letter) 
The city had withdrawn into itself 
And left at last the country to the country; 
When between whirls of snow not come to lie 
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove 
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, 
Yet did in country fashion in that there 
He sat and waited till he drew us out 
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was. 
He proved to be the city come again 
To look for something it had left behind 
And could not do without and keep its Christmas. 
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; 
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place 
Where houses all are churches and have spires. 
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees. 
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment

To sell them off their feet to go in cars 
And leave the slope behind the house all bare, 
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. 
I’d hate to have them know it if I was. 
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except 
As others hold theirs or refuse for them, 
Beyond the time of profitable growth, 
The trial by market everything must come to. 
I dallied so much with the thought of selling. 
Then whether from mistaken courtesy 
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether 
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said, 
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.” 
“I could soon tell how many they would cut, 
You let me look them over.” 
“You could look. 
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.” 
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close 
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few 
Quite solitary and having equal boughs 
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to, 
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, 
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.” 
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so. 
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, 
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.” 
“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?” 
He felt some need of softening that to me: 
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.” 
Then I was certain I had never meant 
To let him have them. Never show surprise! 
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside 
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents 
(For that was all they figured out apiece), 
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends 
I should be writing to within the hour 
Would pay in cities for good trees like those, 
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools 
Could hang enough on to pick off enough. 
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had! 
Worth three cents more to give away than sell, 
As may be shown by a simple calculation. 
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter. 
I can’t help wishing I could send you one, 
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

With this reading I feel a warm connection with dad – especially this poem which includes conversation in the lyrics.

I feel like I am conversing with dad. I am discussing a controversial issue just as if I am talking with Fraser. I like it. I am happy.  

As I look up, there is the guy in the red suit looking a little unsure of where to go. I call; “Santa, come right over here and sit next to my dad!” Dad welcomes Santa with a handshake and big smiles. I take a few nice photos. Santa gives dad a present. What could be better?

This is my favorite afternoon at Sunrise, so far.

When my dad was alive” by LDW               11.29.2009


After the Bartholomews and Meme took a windy walk on Wingaersheek, they joined us for Stuffed Clams and Portuguese Soup. We talked until after 11 pm! I appreciate having our three grown-up kids home for family gatherings like this.


Today I am picking up and reorganizing the house after the fun party. As part of the cleaning process, I am not sure why, Keara and I search through the attic. We try to condense boxes. Taking two and making one when we can – just some of her stored memorabilia from childhood. It is fun to reminisce about clothes, jewelry, key chains. Christmas decorations are found and examined for use. I unpack the favorite ceramic nativity set. I try it here and there and then set it up beside the woodstove in the River Room. I unroll the green felt tree sewn on burlap that Teeny made and hang it on the bathroom door. Each day until Christmas is made special by one little felt figure such as; “Christmas mouse”, a red train, an angel, and finally baby Jesus. I place the metal tree stand on the floor near the fireplace in the living room – hoping to put a tree in that spot by the weekend.


I am trying to clean my front porch. Jim and I want to make sure all the strands of Christmas lights work. We have white lights hanging like garlands the full length of our house. We keep them up all year.  For special occasions we turn them on. Sometimes we notice that a few strands do not work anymore. Now that Advent is beginning we want to fix the lights that are out. It is that time of year.


The long enclosed glass structure holds piles of possessions. Fraser keeps bags of biking, hiking, and “just graduated” belongings. Xan stores some wet suits, surf boards, and Mercedes parts such as his recently removed dashboard. Keara keeps a few sculptures Jim and I keep boots and shoes for skiing, hiking, sailing in cabinets. Other important equipment lies on and under the Deacon’s benches. In one corner I keep boxes of duplicate NGS hardcover books that dad collected. Last summer Jim and I took them from the barn. All moldy and dirty, I cleaned them with bleach wipes, sunned then, organized them only to discover they were all duplicates and not clean enough to sell to anyone else. Plus, Jim’s Uncle Gil says that the entire NGS magazine will be digital and does not encourage us to save any. Today I am ready to let the volumes go.


I carry them over to my Subaru wagon which is parked in my neighbor’s driveway. Jean Knight is decorating her house with the wooden painted Santa and stringing lights on her shrubs. She smiles as I make trip after trip to my car. Finally she questions; “Are you cleaning out your house?” I pause and tell her about the books on the porch. I am surprised when I say; “I have some of my father’s books. He collected lots of books and these bound National Geographics. He gave us some when he was alive, but then I found more. I thought I needed them for our collection, but I don’t.” Jean looked at me with a strange face and a questioning look. That is when I realized what I had just said.  “Oh, I’m sorry – my dad is still alive. I meant to say – before he had Alzheimer’s.”


Grampy is ready for the Appalachian Trail     November 23, 2009  


I check in with Keara. She and Meme are out food shopping for the big Centre Farm Thanksgiving feast.


When I arrive at the 3rd floor of Sunrise, I walk into the Activity Room. Grampy is sitting quietly right beside the Bingo table where 4 women are intent on the game. I walk up to him. He gives me no reaction. He does not know who I am until I smile and say; “Hi dad” That is his cue. He seems to know what being a dad means. I feel this. I hug him and hold his hands. We hold hands for a while because my hands are freezing and he is concerned that my hands are so frigid. I like that – that he is concerned about me.


We chat about the weather getting colder. When I tell him that today is Elizabeth’s birthday and that she is ten years old. I am surprised that he responds with an astonished expression saying; “She’s ten years old – really?”


I see my friend, Cathy, walking in the kitchen without Rosemary. When she passes me I ask her where Rosemary is. She says that Rosemary is asleep on the couch. I get up and walk across the room to chat with her and verify this fact. “Wow, that’s unusual, Rosemary does not usually sleep in the day – does she?” I ask. That is when Cathy informs me that Rosemary has been diagnosed with Leukemia. “It won’t be long. She’s 88- it’s in her bones and it won’t be long.” As we are talking quietly we realize that dad has been asking about where I went.

“Did she run away? Where did she go?” we hear him ask the Carers near him from across the room. I am shocked that he is asking these questions so clearly, and again feel good that he cares about me. Of course, just to be an imp, I hide behind the wall  - like a frightened child – and laugh with Cathy that my dad is looking for me – yikes!


After a few minutes, I walk back and grab a book from the bookcase on my way; A photo book about New England. We share the fun of the many familiar places. Dad enjoys as  I describe where and what each photos is. When I put that book back I take Bill Bryson’s A Walk in The Woods  - large print! I ask dad if he wants me to read this one. When he responds in the affirmative, I start reading the description of the Appalachian Trail. When I read like this, he responds appropriately to every paragraph and comment. It’s as if all the neurons and dendrites are alive for reading comprehension. Dad closes his eyes and concentrates on my voice. I feel connected to dad. I feel like he understands what I am reading. So much so, that…..


I pause and suggest that we plan a hike.

 “Maybe it is time we do the whole Appalachian trail.” I suggest and he says;

“What would Charlie think?” and I say;

“I think Charlie would love it. He’d be ready to go and Ed – what about Ed?” Dad says; “Sure, Ed would go.”


And we go on down the list of all my brothers and sisters tallying out that Oren and I would be the only girls, but all the boys would be ready to hike. We decide; ‘Not Meme.” And he laughs! I can feel that he wants Meme to go, but realizes no, she’s not ready to do this. We continue chatting about what foods to bring and what clothes to pack. He is very attentive to this whole idea.


I pick up the book and read a few more pages. As he listens, he closes he eyes. This time I think he has dozed off – I think he is dreaming about his hike along the Appalachian Trail.


Yolanda, the Carer, tells me that yesterday dad did not want to get out of bed. He was very tired all day and today he made her give him a big hug before she could get him out of bed.


I think about Rosemary asleep on the couch – and the “it won’t be long” comment. I look around at all the residents and it occurs to me that my dad is the healthiest looking one of the bunch.


Maybe a hike along the Appalachian Trail really is a good idea……..


Dad Holds the Baby         November 7, 2009


It was Thursday about 3 pm. I just finished teaching in Stoneham. Keara and Jim were waiting for me at home. I knew I didn’t have much time to stop at Sunrise, but I wanted to see dad.


I had called Meme to see if I could pick her up – no answer. Later, I found out that she went to Boston for her eye appointment – that’s another story. Later, I also learned that Denny had been visiting dad for the two hours before I arrived. Of course, dad could not tell me this. Does that even matter? We are locked in to this world of time with schedules and daily doings that seem so important.


I found dad as part of a circle of residents in the activity room. A noisy group of people were playing bingo at the table across the room. Dad was finishing a piece of cake. It was Harry’s 81rst birthday. Harry is the guy in the lounge/wheel chair who looks like a reclining statue sculpted with a quizzical look and a reaching arm. They say he was a professor at MIT but I am not sure about anything I hear at Sunrise – such as someone telling me that Meme had been in earlier that day – did she mean Denny?


I sat next to dad as he savored every crumb of the birthday cake leaning back in his chair slowly bringing his plastic  fork up to his open mouth from the small paper plate in his hand. After every crumb was gone, we sang happy birthday to Harry again – nice to get in the singing mood. Others joined in with our song.


On the other side of the circle, Bernada, the Carer, was helping Ruthie with the life size baby doll. Ruthie enjoyed feeding the doll a bottle, but soon lost interest. Bernada carried the doll around as she did her chores. With the doll on her hip, it looked so natural as if she were at home with her granddaughter. As she passed us, I asked to see her baby. As she carefully tipped her bundle forward I admired her cherub; “Oh, what a beautiful baby”. Then I heard dad say the same thing! I teased; “Goochie Goochie Goooo” and dad copied me as easily as if we were sitting around the red formica kitchen table at 13 Parker Road. I asked if I could hold the baby and Bernada passed the babe in swaddling clothes over to me.


Dad and I commented on the pretty eyes, the cute nose, the sweet face. We talked about how good the baby was. “ShSh! Now it’s sleeping. Don’t wake him up or else you’ll get in trouble!” We laughed.


I’m good at this because I played dolls until I was a teenager. Oh, and I had so many “real live dolls”, too! Dad seemed good at this, too, the father of eleven – however, when I passed the baby to him and saw him cuddle up to the infant-like bundle, I thought how unusual this looked to me. I do not recall him holding infants – just bouncing babies in his lap when they were older.


Here he is at age 89 playing dolls with me! Amazing. We took turns balancing the doll on our knees singing “Pony Boy” and “Track Track to Boston”. We laughed and laughed as the baby almost “fell in”. We sang all the family favorites. Dad was holding the doll singing “Rock a Bye Baby”. He closed his eyes and kept his arms tight for a few verses of : “Gypsy Rover”. After that we bellowed out the romping: “There’s a big ship sailing on the Illi Alli Oh”. I know he loved this. It was as if he held the doll caring for me – his little daughter – and, for every baby in his life. This all seemed so real to me – as if dad was fine. This was the most natural way to spend an afternoon with dad.


With Harry sculpted to our right and Rosemary on our left continually asking ‘Are you all right?’ I felt lucky that my dad could focus and participate in something that we enjoyed together. I left him holding the baby. As I got up, I kissed him and whispered; “Dad, You look great with this baby in your arms. I love you so much. I know you love me, too. You are the best dad ever. Take care. I’ll see you soon.”


Whenever I see any dad holding a baby dear, with masculine arms embracing a tiny life, I will remember this afternoon when I just had a little time to visit my dad.