How to die

She’s 80 years old, and weighs less than her age.  Pound for pound?  The toughest woman on the face of the planet.

Edna was my admin assistant when i did my reluctant tour as branch manager a few years back.  We joked at the time about her diminutive size, but no one was ever going to deny her a request for documentation, signature or assistance.  Bottom line:  Shit got done.  We were at the top of the admin heap in a large research organization simply because of her knowledge and tenacity.

Her trials and tribulations would have destroyed most mortals.  Pregnant with her second child, her husband was struck by lightning and killed on a golf course during a Father’s Day outing, throwing her into the ranks of “single mother” before the days of affordable child care.  She continued to work, and her children never went without necessities, discipline or love.

Tough as nails, she also demonstrated solid home defense skills. A dumb bastard attempted to take advantage of her situation for his own benefit.  He entered her garage late one night, and attempted to break into the house.  She heard him.  “If you open that door, you’ll regret it”.  He did.  She shot him in the thigh, and watched him bleed while she called the police.

While handling the necessary and potentially crippling administrivia that daunted my organization, she also battled a chronic form of leukemia.  But Edna was no stranger to cancer, having survived breast cancer (double mastectomy) in her 50’s, and colon cancer in her 60’s.  For her?  Another annoyance.

She kept working part time for a few years after i’d moved on to the new job, but finally retired for good two years ago.  At 78 years old.

Last summer, i got word that she’d been hospitalized with pneumonia.  They found metastatic cancer in her lungs.  She decided to try some “gentle” chemo for a bit, but it made her weaker, so she told them to shove it.  Her son and daughter-in-law lived near by, and were providing daily care to help her maintain independence.  It was the hip-breaking fall in the bathtub in October that set the final showdown in motion.

Her daughter-in-law and son moved in to provide round-the-clock care.  Hospice was notified, and home medical care was kicked into play. 

Today?  A pizza party at her house, with a few of us from work.  The people she liked.  Edna never suffered the office fools with much humor, and was quite specific on who she didn’t want to darken her doorstep. 

Worried about the needs of her son and his wife, she insisted that they take next weekend off… and invited a neighbor to come and stay with her so they can return home for a little respite care themselves.  Her neighbor, a gentleman in his early 70’s, was glad to assist.  Edna informed him in no uncertain terms that sex was out of the question… mainly due to the fire hazard from the oxygen!  Sparks would be bad…

Speaking of fire, she’s still smoking.  With an oxygen hook up, i did a quick safety check.  Separate room for the oxygen and the smokes.  As she said “What’s the point of quitting now?”

Weighing in at 61 pounds, the cancer gets more nutrition than she does when she eats… and she’s too stubborn to feed the cancer.  Perhaps a month or two before she’s gone.  The toughest broad i’ve ever met tackled life Edna-style.  And is taking on death the same way…

Happy Hippies…

In the early years, we never got much vacation to ourselves.  Family travel and events chewed up every available day of discretionary leave.  Understanding the clock hanging over the heads of our aging parents, we’d suck it up and dutifully hit the road – especially over the winter holidays.
Alternating the Christmas event between respective parental households, we’d either drive 1,000 miles to Florida to spend a week with his parents, or we’d enjoy a quiet morning rising from our own beds and then haul children, food and presents down to the Trailer Park for the annual flea market and freak show for the rest of the day.
It was the Trailer Park Lifestyle, however, that eventually gave us just one holiday for our own little clan.  With all of the divorces in my family, Thanksgiving was a nightmare. 

My sister and brother were often stuck with complex “prisoner exchange” situations, moving their children from one place to another – while attempting to satisfy the familial requirements of the “spouse du jour”.  If they didn’t show up for at least three meals during the day?  Someone was going to be cranky.
Chaotic, at best.  Explosive, on at least one occasion.  We’d generally return home feeling battered – and bitter.
The solution?  The Trailer Park adopted a “time-shift”, moving the group gathering to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We took turns hosting the meal, it was generally “pot luck” style, and it worked well for many years.
Miracle of miracles, this now allowed for my family of four to create our own tradition.  Given that my ex-husband and i are dirty hippies share “non-traditional” tendencies, we decided “pizza, beer and football – in pajamas” would be the order of the day.  Oh, and we were ridiculously fucking thankful for all of these things*.
The kids were still in elementary school, and i think they both took some sort of perverse pleasure in letting their friends and teachers know that we ate pizza instead of turkey and trimmings.  Not just any pizza, but home made – from hand-tossed crusts, to customized toppings.  One of the few culinary activities i could handle…
On occasion i’d pick up a stray from the office.  Typically single male engineers, away from family and not planning to brave the highways for a taste of Mom’s gravy**.  Rather than surprise them with the meal, i’d warn them first.  “Pizza, beer, football.  Pajamas optional.” 
This year, my adult children were at my place for Thanksgiving – and wanted to do it again.  The “gourmet pizza buffet” was on… The kids and i were joined by two of my close friends, and a slew of their own for perhaps our best Thanksgiving yet. 

i stumbled through a 5 mile “Turkey Trot” in the morning, then slept for a couple hours.  The Boy just slept til noon.  The Girl joined her boyfriend’s extended family for a more traditional meal in the early afternoon.  Somewhere around 8:00 pm? It just came together…
Laid back.  No formal “seating”, we grazed.  Shared nibbles of unique pizzas, lovingly crafted to our own tastes***.  Alcohol may have been involved.  Billiards and music happened.  Talking smack.  Messing with each other.  Tripping over a big brown dog, awash with canine joy for all the attention and floor scraps. 
It was damn near perfect…

Where have all the hippies gone?

 * Not just the opportunity to avoid dealing with The Trailer Park.
** Absolutely not, under any circumstances, a euphemism…
*** There was enough meat on The Boy’s pizza to feed a cannibal army.  Must have hit his stomach like a brick.