Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dear Joan,

I can't believe that it's ten years ago today that you're gone. It feels more like it happened just a little while ago.

I miss you. I guess you already knew that. But I wouldn't wish you back into that suffering body that was so sick for so many years, a body that was wholly unworthy of the task of housing such a good person's spirit for so long. I'm not sorry to know you're free of dialysis, itching, angina, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the 1,001 million dietary restrictions that accompanied being both a kidney patient and a heart patient. It used to kill me to see you suffering with so many symptoms, and to see the couple of dozen or so different prescription bottles carefully arranged on the counter top, and to think, "Shouldn't a person who's taking all these meds, and following doctors' orders religously, feel better than this?"

And the depression. I bear that cross, too, you know. I have fought that demon for years, which you DID know, but even you never saw me in the kind of pain I've had at times since the downsizing. And every time I want to just give up, I hear your voice telling Joe and Joey D and me, "Even though I felt sick, I FORCED myself" to do whatever task it was. And I keep going. I remember how you never gave up, and I force myself. And GOOD GOD, I confess that I never grasped the meaning of those words to the extent that I understand them now. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. Still, you stood tall for years. If you could, I can.

Joe and Joey D and you and I... we were a bunch, weren't we? Other friends were in the mix, too: Karla and Betty and John R. and Bob, to name a few, but we four were a close-knit bunch. I miss all those Saturday nights we used to go visit you. I miss the lunches at Strawbridge and Clothier's, the *real* one before the store changed hands and changed business models, back when it was still the last family-owned department store in America. I wouldn't trade those times for anything.

By the way, I'm SO happy that I met Mark while you were still with us. I'm so glad you got to meet him, too. Especially since you left us only a few months after that. We missed you at my wedding. Well, I'm sure you were there, but you know what I mean.

Ten years. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that so much time has passed. Ten years since the people from choir and the prayer group attended your wake and, not having a clue who your blood relatives were, lined up and paid their respects to Joey, Joey D, and me. Ten years since Karla overheard someone from prayer meeting observe, during the wake, "THOSE were her children", meaning the Joes and me. Ten years since the Mass when I saw your choir robe on display in the loft, and burst into tears on the spot. Ten years since the blood relatives showed that they understood enough to let us friends be the ones who rode in the funeral-home-provided limo.

But also ten years of knowing that you've got no more dialysis, no more angina, no more bone pain, no more itching, no more nitroglycerine-induced headaches, and no more need to utter the phrase, "I forced myself" ever again. And you deserve that peace. I wouldn't dream of denying it to you for a moment.

So please say hello for us to the choir members and prayer group members who've since gone up there to join you. Give skritches to Misty, Melody, Harmony, Fazzolette, and Bogey for us, too. All of them can see you now as we never saw you on earth -- healthy and strong. Say some prayers for us, too, please -- I'm sure you remember well what a challenge it can be to get by, down here. But we're doing our best.

Till we meet again,


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Well, I'm home! To explain the somewhat cryptic posts that got sent earlier today from my cell phone: the Phantoms just had an 11:05AM matinee game vs. the Manitoba Moose (the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks).

Maxime Ouellet, who was a centerpiece of a blog post I made two years ago, was recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks and assigned to the Manitoba Moose. Today's game was the first opportunity I've had to see him play in person since the night I wrote the above-mentioned post.

To make a long story VERY short, Max has had a rough go of it so far this season. He was originally supposed to be promoted to the Washington Capitals as their backup goalie. But instead, he wound up sent to Washington's farm team, which is currently the Hershey Bears. The Bears already had two goaltenders, and they gave him a grand total of ONE start between October and now. They weren't even bringing him with them on road trips to Philly, which really got my goat because Max still has fans here, including me, who would really have liked to see him.

Anyway, Max got traded last weekend to the Vancouver organization. They promptly sent him to the Moose, who immediately gave him the start in their next game -- and he not only won, but earned the #1 star. :o) *That's* the Max we know and love!

I was praying that Max would get the start today, too, when the Moose came to Philly. And bless their coach's heart, he DID give Max the nod! I just hope that the others who still follow Max were able to get the day off work and attend this game.

It was another nervous-breakdown game for me, as no matter WHICH team scored, it gave me a pang of regret for the goaltender. (In the Phantoms' case, that would be our baby goalie, Martin Houle.) I wasn't quite as bad of a mess today as I was the last time I watched the Phantoms play against Max... THAT night, I thought I was gonna need CPR at any moment. ;o) The long and short of it is that the Moose won 3-1, and Max was the #3 star. For a guy who'd only started one game all season prior to this week, and that was back in October, he's sure off to a heck of a start with his new team!

I feel like I have a split personality after games like this. I hate to see the Phantoms lose. But I can't root against Max, so even though the Phantoms-fan part of me was disappointed for our boys, the Max fan part of me was happy for HIM. It's disorienting to have perfectly good reasons to feel both happy AND sad over the same game results.

But I'll tell you what. I have an extra reason to tack on to the "Why I feel happy" list. I went around back after the game to the visiting team's bus ramp. I had with me a greeting card that I picked up while Max was still in Hershey. It's an encouraging card, which I suspected he'd benefit from receiving while he was waiting for some ice time. But once I had it, something told me to hold off on sending it. That "something" was right, because today I got to hand it to him in person. :o) He's resumed playing and has had a couple great games, but I hope he bears the card's message in mind no matter what, because who knows what kinds of ups and downs this season will have in store? (I hope it's lots of ups, and few or no downs, but life doesn't always cooperate with me regarding wishes like that.)

OK, actually, I have TWO additions to the "Why I feel happy" list. The other one is that Max recognized me on sight, which impressed me plenty because the last time we saw one another face-to-face was November 2003. And smiled and offered a hug. :o) Anybody wonder why I dote on this kid? Not only has he got genuine talent, he's a genuinely nice human being.

Long story short less long: I saw a particular favorite player have a great game, got greeted BY him after the game (God bless his good memory), gave him a card, and got a promise out of him that he'd keep believing in himself no matter what. :o) Now that's what I call a productive day! I'd love nothing better than to have a bunch more days just like it! (Preferably with teams other than the Phantoms being on the wrong end of the score, that is.)

Maxime Ouellet, finally playing in Philly again.

Max is starting!

Max is starting!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Purrs, all! Captain and Stanley here.

We're 20 months old, but at this time last year we didn't have our Meowmy and Paw yet. That didn't happen until a month after Christmas. So even though we were born over a year ago, this is really our furrst Christmas in our OneTrueHome and we have questions.

First Meowmy tells us that if we're good, Sandy Claws will bring us toys on Christmas Eve. That's great news, because we love toys!

But then Meowmy and Paw spent this afternoon putting up a great big green toy rack full of branches, and hanging all kinds of pretty little toys from the branches. We never saw stuff like this before. We figured that we were SO good, Sandy Claws must sent our gifts a few weeks early.

So of course, we keep trying to check out the new toy rack and play with all the little toys. But Meowmy and Paw keep saying, "No" and chasing us from the toy rack every time.

What is this? Some kind of TEST? Is Sandy Claws trying to make us PROVE how good we are before we can actually HAVE our toys on Christmas Eve? Boy, no wonder hoomin kittens can't wait for Christmas Eve to arrive! And they don't even HAVE their new toys sitting there in front of them, that they're not allowed to play with!

So, what's up with this? Any ideas? We're all ears.


Captain and Stanley

Now all we need are stockings that say "Mark" and "Donna".