Saturday, December 06, 2014

Three Seasons of Catching Up

It's been over six months since I posted anything here so on a rainy, cold day in December I've stolen lots of pictures from friends' and family facebook pages and snapfish albums to fill in some of what I've been up to.  The rechargeable batteries I used in my camera finally gave up after many years of use so I haven't taken any pictures in months.  New batteries have finally been purchased, the old ones still last a month or two powering the transistor radio on a charge.
The most significant development is the progression of my sister Mary Ellen's brain tumor.  She was dealing with it pretty well for a year without suffering much pain, but she had some seizures in August of 2013 that left her with little use of her left side.  It's been an honor and a pleasure to be so close to her ever since I moved to this area, in fact I credit her living here and introducing me to Ithaca as a primary reason why I ended up here.  The cancer has meant spending even more time with her and helping with her care.  This past September she came down with a case of shingles which left her in a condition where she could no longer remain at home and has moved into Hospicare.  It is a six-person residence offering hospice services to people who need a higher level of care than they can get at home, without the constrictions and regulations of a nursing home.  
Fittingly, in August Gail participated in their largest fundraiser and one of Ithaca's most cherished events, Women Swimmin' For Hospicare.  She helped raise about $400,000 towards their operating budget by getting sponsors for swimming across Cayuga Lake.  She's not pictured here, but you can imagine she looked just like this on that beautiful August morning.  The swimmers are actually Nancy and Amy and their boating companion, Beth, took the picture.

A silver lining is that many of my siblings and cousins have been coming to Ithaca on a regular basis to visit Mary Ellen.  Sue in particular has been here for months at a time, as was my nephew, Matt.  I now get to see my mom almost weekly when she comes with Janet from Buffalo.

I've since taken a sort of leave from work, I go for the morning and if no other family members are in town I go up to Hospicare in the afternoon and keep Mary Ellen company and do what can be done to make her comfortable until my brother-in-law, Frank, comes back up in the evening.  As you can tell from the top photo this has led to a mutual adoration.  The picture below it is from GrassRoots Festival in July, she says she looks frightening in the picture, but no one looks their best after a day at GR, especially when they have a medical condition that forces them to drink so many fluids that they have to use a port-a-john just about every hour.
As for Frank, he's proven Mary Ellen's skepticism expressed in the look in this photo from our niece's wedding a few years ago was unwarranted:

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