Summer Solstice – a little different this year

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. For the past two years on this day, I’ve been knitting from sun-up to sundown to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease in honor of my mother who passed away after a long decline with this illness.

This year, however, I’m really busy with volunteering as president of our lake association and this is the season where all the planning (or sometimes the lack of planning) comes to fruition and I have to take the morning to accomplish some lake tasks – register our DASH (pontoon boat for suction harvesting invasive milfoil) boat, pick up some plastic boxes to store papers so they won’t be eaten by mice in storage, etc.) And I have a couple of phone calls to make as well. By the time I actually get to sit down to knit, it will be noon at the earliest – and I was out of the house before 9am.

But as I knit today, I’ll be thinking about my mother and the disease that she so feared as a younger woman. I remember her saying things like, “I must be getting Alzheimer’s,” when she forgot something. If there’s a reality of manifesting your own destiny, then I’d say my mother did just that. She was forgetting things that mattered by the time my children we in elementary school and she was in her mid-sixties. My age. She forgot her purse when we went to the grocery store, she forgot to take the emergency brake off when she was driving the car, she forgot that she’d already mixed the mayonnaise mixture for potato salad. She couldn’t organize things like the grocery list and shopping for groceries so she said that there was enough even though there wasn’t. She forgot how to feed her cat and would stand in the middle of her kitchen with a can of cat food and couldn’t figure out what else she needed to get the food to the cat. She forgot how to make coffee in her coffee pot so she would walk to the local restaurant for her coffee and say that she liked the walk in the morning. She left her purse at the muffin shop, and the jewelry store, and forgot it when she went to the gas station. The list is lengthy. She forgot so much that we couldn’t leave her alone with the grandchildren and that was very hurtful. We had to take away her keys to the car eventually and hire people to help her and care for her. And eventually we had to find her a home in an assisted living care home. None of us enjoyed any of that.

And then mom forgot who we were.

She lived for ten years after her diagnosis. Watching our mother and grandmother fade away was so sad. The kids didn’t want to see her at the end, preferring to remember her as the vibrant, active, fun, happy grandmother. She became agitated and tearful, she couldn’t speak and finally she was bedridden, curled in fetal position, hands atrophied, gaunt, empty-eyed. She passed away in the fall of 2008. She was 76 years old.

I’ll knit today for my mother and in hopes that a cure will be found so that families and victims of this horrid disease don’t have to experience it as we did. And I’ll have a bourbon old fashioned cocktail tonight in her memory. My mother and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye but she loved me and she adored my children and I wish she could see them today. She’s missed so much and we have missed her, too. Cheers to you, Mom. I hope you can see how great your family has grown and continues to grow. We are all here because of you (and some help from Dad, too.)

Gone knitting.

The Longest Day

June 20th, the summer solstice, is the longest day and each year The Alzheimer’s Association uses this day as it’s fundraiser.

This year I joined Ann Budd’s team (for the second year) and with a co-worker friend, we decided to knit together this year at Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine where we both work. So when the sun was starting to rise, we were up and getting ready to “load in” with everything we needed for the day.

This is what 4:19am looks like

We arrived at the store a bit before 5:30am and got settled. We had planned to watch Knit Stars, YouTube videos and maybe more but we’d also invited customers and friends to come and sit and knit for a bit with us. Happily, that happened and the day passed more quickly than we could have imagined. Also happily, we shared many memories of those who we loved and lost to this horrible disease. That’s what the day is all about. Remembering … my mother, Glenda’s Val and the other people who are or were so loved by our visitors and all of those who donated online through our links.

On father’s day, my sweet husband brought us pizza for dinner and Vickie brought a beautiful Strawberry Rhubarb Solstice pie for dessert! It was delicious! (We each walked to Sela Tea for a salad for lunch and had some good snacks between! Snacks are important!

We raised over $2,000.00 for Alzheimer’s research and we had a wonderful day. We chose to wrap it up around 8:30pm for a total knitting time of 15 hours. Glenda finished her shawl, I finished the body of my cardigan and worked on my shawl for my daughter. Lots of progress was made.

We left for home with grateful hearts and a lot of hope that our money raised this year may, indeed, enable a cure for this horrible disease that takes away our loved ones one memory at a time. We spent the longest day making our memories. I got home in time to take one last photograph of the moon rising over the lake and a fabulous shade of, what else? Purple!

Gone knitting.

Why I Bake

Granola – before

Obviously, baking yields something delicious at the end but I don’t just bake for the result. It’s about the process, too.

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, always had something that she’d just baked on her pantry shelf. Always. She never failed. (The pantry also had a metal three-drawer cabinet that housed her “candy drawer” at the bottom where we could always go for a chocolate treat.) Chocolate frosted, only on the top and in the middle, yellow cake. The same yellow cake in cupcake form with chocolate frosting. Cream puffs, chocolate chip cookies … often the same but never boring.

My gram would take the time to bake with me and I think that’s why I love to bake. I so enjoyed being with her while we baked together and if we didn’t have time to bake together I always knew the love that went into it. Precious moments. Gram didn’t have a lot of money to buy stuff but she gave me the gift of time.

As I bake, my gram is with me. I can feel her in my heart and it makes me so happy. As I’m writing this my eyes are filling with tears which is a message that my words and feelings around this are true. (Bristol Ivy said I had “ocular incontinence” and she’s not wrong!) Baking centers and grounds me. It is something I shared with my children and with with my grandchildren; the ones of the heart and the blood ones if we are so blessed.

Granola – after

Meanwhile, it settles my heart in a bizarre year. I always know that baking something fills my belly and my heart.

Knitting does something similar but it doesn’t have the heart connection to my family like baking does. I love knitting, don’t get me wrong. I can sit and knit for hours and be “in the zone” where time is lost and my mind is focused. It’s good for my soul. I’ve been knitting a lot through the pandemic and have been experiencing a little soreness in my left arm – I don’t stop and stretch often enough. I’ve also been sitting too long and have worked over the past year to get up and stretch more to help my hips and back. Both passions have helped me to pass the lockdown time in a state of (mostly) contentedness and peace and they’ve been such a blessing. My husband enjoys the fruits of my labor on both fronts.

This week I’m rushing to finish his birthday socks. I’ve got one done and one to go.

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter Designs in Manos Alegria

Gone knitting.

Memorial Day (and Every Day) Gratitude

Boathouse ... Our Flag Flies Every Day

Ned painted the flag on the side of our boathouse several years ago. Some days we go about our business without so much as a glance. Days like today, however, I look at it and feel so grateful to my father and the other Veterans (and soldiers) who have fought and are fighting for our freedom.

My father fought on a battleship in World War II. He was a gunnery soldier and shared stories about living on the ship where they had a pet monkey and the men dressed in drag to perform plays for fun. Dad didn’t like monkeys (they were dirty) and he never ate another hotdog, having had them “up to here” during his service.

The captain of Dad’s ship was a “drunkard” and I have pages and pages in his handwriting of charges that dad would have filed against the man. We may never know if any of those charges of abuse, drunk and disorderly, etc. were officially filed or if my dad just wrote them down for himself. (He did become a lawyer, after all!) Somewhere I have a map of his tour of the South Pacific that he made and I’m sorry to have given away or sold his uniforms and the “treasures” that he brought back with him. Only now do I recognize their value. Family heirlooms today that I would be grateful to hold and preserve for my family.

Many of my Rockwell forebears were also soldiers. Bits and pieces of historical documents  are in my safe-keeping and one day I’ll get them scanned and shared in another blog. One a soldier in the Revolutionary War who was called to duty in the summer of 1776 … check this out! From the State of Connecticut 1907. I believe that Julia L. Rockwell was my grandfather’s sister or his mother making the soldier my great or great-great-grandfather … though I don’t have the genealogy to confirm that here! (I will confirm at a later date.)

What!? You can’t read the old handwriting?! 🙂 I had to work at it, but here is what I think it says:

Oct. 24,1907 

Dear Madam, 

Enclosed find corrected certificate. (a clerical error in former) Records at best are somewhat meagre, Troops were hastily summoned from the floors and the workshops and in this particular case company with, other was raised to serve “until the exigency was over” In summer of 1776. Washington was in need of a large force to meet the enemy’s threatened attack upon New York.

 Very Rightly, (?)

 William EF Landers

Adjutant General

Cool, yes?

Suffice it to say that I am proud to be American today – and every day. I am grateful to my family members who have answered the call. My father, my great- or great-great-grandfather (?), Bud King (who is the Grand Marshal of the Oakland, ME parade today … he’s the oldest living veteran in Oakland) and Bethany, Jordan, and all the rest who have served or are serving  … Thank you for your service!

Gone knitting!

To My Dad

"I want you to know that I built you a home in my heart. A place where our memories live and our love never fades." ~Brigitte Nicole

I realized today that it was the Ides of March and the anniversary of your death. Twenty-seven years have passed. I was almost 27 when you died. You’ve been gone as long as you were in my life. It seems that each year when I light the Yartzeit candle in your memory that the pain and sadness are just a little bit farther away. But when it comes time to really think about (and write about) the reality of living half of one’s life without a father, the tears flow. So, the pain is really still there and perhaps just as raw as it was the day that I got that surprise phone call from mom. I knew something was going on but expected her to tell me that the cat had died. Not you. We’ve missed so much time together. You’ve missed so much.

You’ve missed being here to enjoy your six bright, beautiful, unique grandchildren be born and grow up strong and independent. You’ve missed witnessing the marriage of your two sons and meeting your first-born who is a wonderful man. You’ve missed being here for so many birthdays and lobster dinners, successes and failures, Thanksgivings and school plays. Mom’s Alzheimer’s and pets. We all have missed having you to call about a legal issue or watching you puttering about in the yard with your too-high jeans and white socks. You missed the day I spotted the elusive Roseate Spoonbills and helping us chase the squirrels off the bird feeder in Maine.

I know you’re up in heaven watching over us all. I hope you and mom are getting along as you always expected us kids to do. Pat Kelly and Sam and Nouk for us. Hug Mom and Gram and Ethel. Seek out Rick and Charlottes parents and thank them for raising our big brother. They did a great job.

We carry you in our hearts. Always. I’m working hard to make sure you’ll be proud of me when we meet again.

I love you, Daddy,

Memories and Peace

Whenever I hear this song, I’ll remember Diane. She was my neighbor and friend. She called me to ask me for help with caring for her children. I couldn’t help her when she really needed help. I know it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my rules, I tried my best. I simply couldn’t provide an au pair for her children when we all knew she was leaving our world for a better place, leaving her children to grieve her loss, open and raw. The program regulations do that to protect the au pairs. I still felt helpless.

It’s funny how songs reminds us of something and can have such powerful, nearly physical memories attached to them. This version is only slightly different from the original but still invokes strong memories for me. Diane’s in the arms of the angels and her family soldiers on. They moved away and, last I heard, they were moving on; Jim was remarried and the kids were doing well. Tyler and Samantha. I’ve not heard from them for a long while. I don’t expect I will again but I still think about them and Diane every time this song is played.

My loss is not like theirs but my life, too, was forever changed in 2007. Everything I ever believed was called into question. It’s been four years and a half and I’m still working to make sense of a re-ordered world. A world that is strangely unsafe and only somewhat familiar. Without choice, I’ve been soldiering on, like Diane’s family. I do pretty well most days and am grateful for friends and family who have faith in me when I loose faith in myself. I know I have angels in my life who are watching over me (as Diane, no doubt, is watching over her family) and hope this path will dump me out into a sunshine-filled field where I can find safety, comfort, happiness and peace.

Gone knitting.