Category Archives: Goodbyes

Insulated Starbucks Cup with Screw-On Lid and Green Plastic Straw – Part Deux

Apparently, if you search google for “insulated Starbucks cup,” you end up here on my blog.  “Insulated Starbucks Cup” is the phrase that brings me the most traffic, almost one full year after I posted about an insulated Starbucks cup.  That post still gets hits and comments.  The latest comment is from this April.  That post actually has more comments than almost all my other posts, except for the one about grasshoppers.  (Maybe I should change the name of my blog to “Grasshoppers in a Starbucks Cup” and watch the traffic go wild.  Would that light a comment fire under all you lurkers out there?)

I’m not sure if that speaks to the low-quality of my usual content or the obsessiveness of people searching for the perfect cup or the love of all things Starbucks.

Make no mistake about it, though.  The clear plastic, re-usable, Starbucks cup with screw-on lid and green plastic straw is the Perfect Cup.  It is as close to perfection as a beverage holder can ever hope to be.

Last year, I posted about losing this perfect cup. Starbucks only carries them in the spring.  I found it then.  I entered my local Starbucks and a light shown down from the heavens illuminating the sole remaining cup.  The angels sang and since I always listen to angels, I bought the cup.

I carried it everywhere.  My mother asked me if it was my adult pacifier.  I said, “yes.”

See, in the hotter months, I drink a lot of ice tea and I am very particular about how I like to drink my tea.  I like it with lots of ice in a cup with a lid and a straw.  I would end up stopping into Starbucks way too often for tea because I wanted the cup with the lid and straw experience (oh, and the chai lattes, but that’s a different addiction and a different post.)  I could brew my tea at home, but I had no cups with lids and straws.  Sometimes I would re-use the disposable Starbucks ones until they got all wrinkled from repeated washings.  Then I found my cup and it is perfect because I can now brew my ice tea at home and drink it from a cup with a lid and a straw wherever and whenever I want.

Heaven.

Then I lost it.  It was July and I went to a nail salon for a pedicure and I left my beloved cup.  I rushed back as soon as I realized it, but it was too late.  Confused by its camouflage as a regular disposable Starbucks cup, they had thrown my cup away.  My perfect cup.

I immediately went to a Starbucks.  They didn’t have them anymore.  I went to another and another.  I dispatched IT Guy to all Starbucks near him. Between us, we hit no less than 10 Starbucks in two days.  (I drank a whole lot of chai.)   I checked the Starbucks web site.  I put up a plea here.  Nothing.   No cups.

So I went on ebay and I found one . . . for twice what I paid for it originally plus shipping from Washington state.

I bought it.  I had it shipped to Delaware where we were on vacation.  I don’t regret it at all.

My cup and I have been happy together ever since and I’ve been pleased by all the hits on my cup posts that show others feel the same love I do.

There has always been the danger of loss though.  If I lose it again, what then?

Last week, while I was driving carpool at 8:30am, my cell phone rang.  It was a friend who was on a business trip in Georgia.  “Hey, I’m in Starbucks and they have a big pile of those cups here” he said.  Fifteen minutes later I was in Starbucks buying another perfect cup . . . a back-up cup to protect against loss.

And then there were two . . .

one filled with delicious ice tea and one in waiting.

And all is right in my world.

Gratitude

I have been saying “Thank You” a lot in the past few months.

I actually always say “Thank You” a lot. I am a big believer in expressing gratitude. I believe it is important to let people know when they’ve helped you, how you feel about them and the impact they have had on your life.

I’ve been to several funerals in the past 2 years. Most were to support friends and co-workers who had lost someone dear. One was for someone I held dear ““ my grandfather. My grandfather, Louie, is one of the most important people in my life. He was an example of a life well-lived, a life full of love. He was a good man.

Louie was a man of much love, but few words. We didn’t talk a lot about feelings. “I love you, too, my girl” was pretty much the extent of it. It wasn’t until late in his life that I could get him reflecting about his own life and usually it was only after he had his afternoon “vitamins” (a shot of Wild Turkey) or after dinner. I don’t take after him that way. I am a woman of MANY words and I will talk about my feelings and your feelings and the feelings of the cashier at Trader Joe’s, too.

A few months before he died, I decided I needed to tell Louie how I felt about him, how important he was to me and what he had taught me about life. I wanted to tell him. I didn’t want to tell everyone else as part of his eulogy, so I wrote him a letter ““ a long letter ““ and I told him. I thanked him.

We never talked about the letter. There really wasn’t much time and his health deteriorated so fast, but I know he read it. I know he let my aunts read it. I didn’t speak at his funeral, but I did write a tribute to him here on my blog and pieces of that were read during the eulogy. Then I told everyone else what Louie meant to me, but I had already done the important part. I had already told Louie what he meant to me and thanked him.

I don’t think you should wait until someone’s gone from your life to express how you feel about him or her. I think you should express your gratitude, even if it is for deeds long done. We thank people reflexively for holding the door open for us, but perhaps do not do the same for the friend who carried us through a rough time, the mother who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know, the spouse who knows all our fears and loves us despite them.

I’ve been saying “Thank You” to a lot of people who affected my life almost 2 decades ago ““ “Thank you” to Evan for saying hard words that I needed to hear. “Thank you” to Rich for listening to all I had done, all I had let happen and loving me anyway. “Thank you” to Dustin for always, always, always treating me like a beautiful girl. “Thank you” to James for steady and honest friendship and for stirring my Coke flat when I was sick to my stomach in Merrifield.

As I was thinking about this last night, I was wondering who is the person to whom I am the most grateful. I am certainly hugely grateful to Ben, my partner of 17 years. The list of things he has given me is immense and on-going. I try to thank him along the way, so I don’t get too far behind. But if I really consider the person to whom I owe the most gratitude, it has to be my mother. As a mother myself, I know now there is no other person who has thought about my well-being more, made more sacrifices and earned more gratitude. Motherhood is a strange relationship. You give everything you have and then you find some more to give to a person who is very likely not going to remember it. You know your job is to give and if you do your job well, someday your child will pay forward all you have given them to their own children. You don’t really expect them to know what you’ve done for them. It is beside the point.

Thank you, Mom, for all the things I know you’ve done for me and for all the things I never knew about or I’ll never remember.

Thank You.

Roo – 3/95 to 7/9/08

Everything pointed to lymphoma and by this afternoon, she couldn’t even lift her head. IT Guy, the kids and I were all with her for the end. We told the kids she is now in doggie heaven with Avery and Aspen (our greyhounds) and Grandpa Louie is taking care of them all. He loved dogs. I hope this is all true.

Roo was with us for 11 years. She is so much a part of the fabric of this house and this family that I can’t really grasp that she is gone. I’m going to be hearing her nails clicking on the wood floor behind me for a long, long time. Roo spent so much time laying on our small bathroom floor, I don’t know if I know how to use the toilet without having to rest my feet on a dog. People will now be able to approach my house without Roo’s shrill, headache inducing bark to greet them at the door. The bunnies are free to run in our yard and no one will eat their poop. (One of Roo’s favorite past times.)

Roo, I hope you get to chase lots of squirrels and eat lots of bunny poop. I hope you never have to go in a car or to the ocean again. I hope there are no thunderstorms where you are now. I hope Heaven is a giant, tiled bathroom floor. I hope you have endless snowballs to catch. I hope you remember how much we love all love you.

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Roo’s in ICU

Last night, Roo continued to decline.  We talked to our vet again and decided to take her to the Barn, a 24-hour vet referral clinic in Gaithersburg.  Our vet said she was likely to send us there anyway because they have a neurologist on staff.  We drove home from  Delware.  I dropped IT Guy and the kids at the house at 9pm and Roo and I drove on to Gaithersburg.  When we got there and I went to get Roo out of the van, it was clear she was much worse.  She didn’t even lift her head when I opened to tailgate.  She had no muscle tone at all when I picked her up.  She just hung from my arms like a furry noodle.  I guess we looked pretty bad because a man, who was sitting out front smoking a cigarette, threw his cigarette down as soon as he saw us and ran to the door to hold it open.  The staff took us straight back to a room.

Roo was running a fever of 105.7.  They wanted to put her on intraveinous fluids, intraveinious antibiotics and then do blood work, an x-ray, an ultrasound and a CT scan.  The vet sat next to me quietly explaining that all of that would cost $6000 to $8000 and that was just the diagnostic.  I was almost speechless with shock.  We don’t have that kind of money.  We can’t even consider that kind of money.  I was sitting in a vet clinic at 10:30pm with a deathly ill dog suffering at my feet and we were putting a price tag on her life . . . and it was too high.

I knew this decision was coming in the next couple of days.  I just wasn’t expecting last night.  I wasn’t ready to make it that fast — alone and exhausted.  The possibilities are:

1. she has cancer and it is pushing on her spinal column.  Cancer would also cause the fever.  If she has cancer, we don’t do surgery or chemo or radiation.  Roo is 13.  We won’t put her through it.  And then there is the price tag.  We could never pay for it without sinking even more into debt.

2. She has a spinal cord injury, although this seems less likely because of the fever.  It would require surgery and rehabilitation.  Same case as above.  We can’t determine this without the CT Scan which costs thousands of dollars.  And then we haven’t even talked about the cost of the treatment.

3.  She could have a really bad infection.   She might respond to antibiotics and she could recover slowly with heavy doses of antibiotics.  This is pretty much our only real hope.

Last night, the vet told me it would cost $1200 for them to keep her overnight and give her fluids and antibiotics.  I had to decide if we would pay that for one night or if it was time to let her go right then.  It was now 12am.  We opted for an X-ray in hopes it would show something.  It didn’t.  At 1am, I pulled out the credit card and charged $1500 to pay for the night’s care and an ultrasound in the morning.  We decided to see if she would respond to antibiotics – although even that route will cost $3000.  I don’t know how we’ll pay for it, but at 1am last night, it came down to this.  I couldn’t put her down in that moment, by myself.   I bought myself and Roo a few extra hours with a few thousand dollars I don’t have.  I hope we get good news this morning, but I don’t think we will.

Roo Dog

My dog, Roo, can’t stand up.   This is not good.  Not good at all.

Roo is my neurotic pound puppy.  I got her from the animal shelter 11 years ago.  I was there getting licences for my two greyhounds.  You have to walk through the kennels to get to the licensing office.  Roo put her paw up on the door of her run and looked at my with her soulful Disney eyes.  We were doing lots of greyhound rescue then and Roo was not a greyhound, not even part.  She is a Norwegian elkhound mix (probably border collie and German Shepard.)  But she had those eyes and IT Guy had always wanted a frisbee dog.  She looks like a frisbee dog.  Roo came home with me.

She turned out to be way too neurotic to be a frisbee dog.  Roo has epilepsy and has mild seizures.  She is terrified of everything outside the front door of her house — strangers, noises, cars.  During thunderstorms she would wedge her entire 40 pound body behind the toilet until you couldn’t see her at all.  I don’t think she had a very good home before she came to us.  She was a different dog in her backyard though.  She ran with the greyhounds.  She hunted rabbits and squirrels.  She barks at a frequency and volume that makes you feel like your brain might bleed.  She is gentle with the kids and affectionate and sweet.  She will chase sticks and balls, but she won’t bring them back.  Instead she hides them under the azalea bushes that line both sides of our yard.

She has had Lyme’s disease, cancer twice and various stomach ailments, but she has never slowed down.  She has outlasted both greyhounds. You wouldn’t know she is a 13 year old dog except she has lost a lot of her hearing in the past 2 years.  The deafness has actually been a blessing for Roo.  She can’t hear all the things that used to scare her and therefore, she is a much friendlier and more confident dog.

Then this weekend she started having trouble walking.  We noticed it when we arrived at my mother-in-law’s house at Bethany Beach on Saturday.  Roo was losing her balance and listing to the right when she walked.    By Monday, IT Guy was waiting at the only vet on the Delware coast with Roo for 2 hours to get seen.  The vet gave Roo a cortizone shot and prescribed some anti-inflammatories until we could get her home to our vet.  We talked to our vet, who said she would have done the same thing and told us we don’t need to rush home because we need to see what the shot does for Roo.  Roo started looking better.  Last night, she was walking out to the corner to pee on fairly steady legs.  I began to think maybe she was OK.

We got back from the beach this afternoon and when I went to get Roo to go outside, she couldn’t stand up under her own power.  She is alert and bright-eyed, but her hind legs just don’t work.  Her reflexes are shot.  She falls almost as soon as we let her go.  She managed to go to the bathroom, but I had to hold her up at the water bowl so she could get a drink.  I hand fed her while she was lying down.  Another call to the vet and we have an appointment for the first thing in the morning.  I’m trying not to be negative, but I can’t imagine a good outcome.  This will be the 4th dog with whom I’ve been down this road.  I know where it ends.  The kids are very worried and Ace tears up whenever he looks at Roo.  If it is time for her to go, he is going to take it very hard.  We all are.

Then again, you never can tell with Roo.  If any dog can rally, it will be her.  She’s recovered 3 times already when we thought she wouldn’t.

Say a little prayer for my Roo dog.  She is a good girl.

Where to go from here?

My blog is stuck. Because I’ve written about Louie here (and so many people have read about him), I don’t know how to move on. I feel the pull to get back to writing posts, but everything I can think of to say seems to trivial after what I’ve said and what I feel about losing Louie. My life has continued with all its mundane details. I have to figure out how to deal with my little preschool student who keeps stripping off all her clothes in the hallway. I have to start the Christmas shopping and figure out how to pay for it. I need to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner. We are out of toilet paper.
As I’m sucked right back into the swirl of everyday life, I’ve at least been able to keep my grief and my memories of Louie at the top here on this page. But now, the words are clamoring to come out — words about all of these mundane things. If I let them, those words will push Louie down the page until he is no longer at the top. If I let them, they will push Louie off the front page all together.

Louie, himself, would tell me to get on with it. He was one to live every moment of every day. He felt the profound and the mundane to be one and the same. It is all life, equally valid, equally worthwhile, equally worth living. He has never needed to be on the front page to know his value. I imagine he would tell me he doesn’t need to be there now. He would certainly tell me to go buy the toilet paper.

So I guess it is time . . . moving on . . . .

Lighting a candle for Louie

Today before we left my grandfather’s house in Clarksburg, we were looking around in the garage and the barn to see what was in there. Over 60 years of life have been fully lived in that house and the trappings of those lives fill all the corners, nooks and crannies.

We climbed up into the attic over the barn to see if the old cradles my grandfather had made were still there. My kids were fascinated with climbing into the old, dark, dusty space. We found the cradles, my sister’s old bunk bed, part of a dollhouse, the front glass of some old pinball and bowling games and my mother’s old sulky (horse buggy.) For my little Tink, though, the find of the day was a large, plastic, light-up candle with Noel written across it. It is almost as tall as she is and she claimed it the minute she saw it. She wrapped her arms around it and single handedly dragged it out of the barn and all the way across the yard to the house. “Look what I found!” she announced to everyone standing there. “I need a Christmas decoration for my room.”

It is a horribly tacky, faded, dirty, really old yard decoration. I actually remember it being in my Grandma’s yard for many Christmas’. It was exactly the sort of thing Grandma Molly always loved. She had the candle. She had the moving Santa and Mrs. Claus dolls she put in the bay window. Sometimes Grandpa would climb up on the peaked roof of the house and put Santa in his sled up there. The candle even has a bit of Louie’s touch. It’s plastic bottom is attached to a large square piece of wood, presumably to make it more stable. The cord was tucked neatly inside, just like Louie did everything – carefully and neatly.

There was no way I could tell Tink she couldn’t have the candle. Not after she had dragged it so far with such determination. Resigned to having it as the new addition to my Christmas light display, I put it in the back of the van for the drive back to home.
The first thing Tink did when we finally arrived back at our house this evening after over 4 hours of driving was grab the candle and wrestle it out of the car. She left behind her new Barbies — Island Princess and Elina the Fairy — in favor of getting the candle in the house as quickly as possible. Suddenly I realized I would not have to put the candle in our outdoor display. Tink was dragging it up to her room. She had found a new nightlight!

Here she is tonight, asleep by the light of her candle. For most of the past year, she has slept with all the lights on in her room. Not tonight. Tonight she insisted all the lights be off and only her candle be lit.

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She told her Grandma at the church yesterday that she wanted to light a candle for Louie-Louie. In all the commotion of the service, we never lit the candle at church. She certainly lit one tonight though and I think it is perhaps more fitting. Despite my great sadness, I feel peaceful watching her sleep in the glow of her great-grandparent’s Christmas candle. It is like they are watching over her and maybe me, too.

Louie

My grandfather, Louie Ribas, passed away early this morning.

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He is one of my heroes.

He loved my grandmother, Molly, his daughters, Marion, Marcella and Elizabeth. He loved his grandchildren, Cheryl, Louis, Andrew, Peter, myself and Emily. He loved his great-grandchildren, Lauren, Brian, Sonya, Nicole, Brandon, Ace, Tink, Katelyn, Elise and Ian.

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He loved and provided for his family for his entire life.

He lived his life in a small circle. He rarely left his home in Clarksburg, WVA. When I was a child, he would only stay away from home for one night. In his later years, that sometimes extended to 2 nights. If you checked his suitcase, you would find a pair of pajamas, a toothbrush, a package of Oreos and a bottle of Wild Turkey. Those were his only necessities outside of his family. He lived his life in a small circle, but he touched so many people in that circle. Louie was always there when you needed him without question, without judgment. In a time when so many people put themselves first, Louie always put his family first. It is a rare and wonderful thing.

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Louie taught me about acceptance. When something had to be done, no matter how difficult, he just did it, without comment, without struggle. He accepted whatever was in front of him and dealt with it calmly. In his 90s, he would put on his golf cleats to mow the giant hill in his yard because it needed to be done. He would take his time. He wouldn’t hurry. And the lawn would get mowed. He would say to me, “You think too much, my girl.” He would say to me, “Take it easy. You go too fast.”

Louie was a carpenter, a craftsman. He built the green house on the hill where he raised his family, where his grandchildren and then great-grandchildren would come stay. Louie made beautiful furniture for everyone he loved. I sleep in a bed he made for me when I got married. Ace sleeps in another bed made for me by Louie when I was a child. Tink plays with the doll house Louie made for her, complete with tiny pieces of wooden furniture. He shipped furniture to his family all over the country. Whatever you wanted, he would descend the long flight of stairs into his garage workshop to create.

Louie went through life accompanied by many beloved pets. His dogs would accompany him to work, riding next to him in the cab of his truck. His cat would take naps with him, curled in his lap and purring loudly. Louie cared for these animals, loved the animals, but for some strange reason, he couldn’t come up with names for these animals. First there was the collie, Star, and then there was the next collie, Star. Lucky dog #3 received a new name — Fluffy. Dog #4, a collie-shepard mix, was also Fluffy. Then Cat walked into Louie’s life. We called this no-tailed cat, King Tut, because of his regal attitude, but Louie just called him “Cat.”

Louie had a twinkly, ornery smile that lit up his entire face. He laughed a lot.

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He and my grandmother teased each other, played together, fought with each other, laughed together and loved each other for 59 years.
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He was a wonderful dancer. At family functions, he and my grandmother would glide across the floor like they had danced out of a Hollywood movie. I loved to dance with him and even though I never knew how to dance properly, he always danced with me, ignoring my awkward trips, hops and stumbles as he swirled me around and around.

Louie Ribas was a good man, a rare and wonderful, good man.

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I am fortunate to be his granddaughter.

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Heaven Fairies

Tink, 4, and Ace, 8, are experiencing death of a loved one really for the first time.  They have lots of questions about Great-grandpa Louie and about dying.  We have not been consistent church-goers and I’m regretting it at the moment.  It would be easier if we had a faith based framework and community to help explain.

Here is this evening’s bath time conversation between myself and Tink.

Tink (floating around in the bathtub surrounded by the following naked Barbie dolls, Wonder Woman, Little Mermaid, Jasmine, a Beach Barbie and Sleeping Beauty) says, “I wish I could call the fairies.”

“Why do you want to call the fairies?” I ask.

“I would call them and 6 or 5 or 12 of them would come.” she says.
“But what for?”

She flips over onto her back and kicks her feet, making little waves that splash over the edge of the tub, “I wish there were Heaven Fairies.  Then I could call them.”

“Well, there are Heaven Fairies, sweetie.  Those are angels.  Angels are Heaven Fairies.”

Tink sits up abruptly, “Then I can call the angels!”

“Why do you want to call the angels, sweetie?” I ask.

“Because if I could call the angels then I could ask them to put Grandpa Louie-Louie back together again.”

Amazingly, I do not cry.  I answer, “That is a really wonderful idea, Tink.  But remember, Grandpa Louie-Louie is in Heaven now with Grandma Molly.  He really loves Grandma Tink and she has been waiting for him there.  He would be happy with Grandma Molly.”

She considers this idea then fixes me with the steady, blue gaze and the slightly furrowed brow that means she is thinking hard and asks, “Do you have to stand?”

She has lost me.  “Stand?  What do you mean?”

“Do you have to stand while you are waiting?”

“Waiting for what?”

“Do you have to stand the whole time you are in Heaven waiting for someone you love to come?”

Oh.  I get this image of a giant barely moving queue snaking through the clouds, like the DMV but with harps.  Not my idea of heaven.

“No, sweetie.  I don’t think you stand the whole time.  You can do other things, like watch over the people you love.  Maybe Grandpa Louie and Grandma Molly are watching us right now and feeling happy because we are thinking about them.”

This time we make it out of the tub and into pajamas before the next question comes.

“Mommy, do you leave your body and just take your head to heaven?”

We must get back to church soon.