persimmonfrost: (caddy)


Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...

Gustave Doré’s illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate XXII: Canto VII: The hoarders and wasters. Oh yes, there’s a place in hell for the likes of me.

I spent all last week cleaning my bedroom.  A week, you ask in horror, imagining a scene from “Hoarders?”  Well yeah, and there’s a reason why.  Several, really, that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I schlepped and dusted and mopped and sorted.

I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of moving here.  Before that I’d spent about fifteen years caring for my parents in a home that became increasingly cluttered due to… well a lot of things.  They were in the antique and resale business for more than 50 years, and kept quite a lot of wonderful stuff for themselves (and me.)  When Dad retired, a lot more stuff came upstairs, got stored in the basement or out in the garage. (I don’t even like to think about the fact that I walked away from a full garage and a half-filled basement when I moved.)  And as their health deteriorated, we added a lot of home health clutter to the mix.

Housework became an exercise in simply keeping up with the increasing mess, keeping critical things like kitchen, bath and bedrooms clean and relatively neat.  Dementia, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and a host of other, more minor ailments are not tidy afflictions.  You don’t cough delicately into a lace hanky and swoon on a velvet couch.  There are pills, and ointments, syringes, bandages, adult diapers, walkers, hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, canes, gait belts, commodes, and more dirty towels and garbage than you can begin to imagine. There are the useful gadgets to help with routine tasks and the not-so-useful gadgets that waste time, money and emotional energy.  There are piles of magazines and newspapers, piles of laundry and mail, stacks of games and toys intended to, if not improve cognitive function then at least slow the loss. We even had some sort of machine that was supposed to help Mom’s hip knit. (The bone never solidified.  Or something. What I recall of those days is imperfect.)  In short it’s a long, messy business and once it’s over there is a fantastic amount of stuff left, in this case on top of an already fantastic amount of stuff.

All of which is to say nothing of my own clutter, all the stuff I had, all the stuff I bought to make myself feel better.  (Bad habit.  Working on breaking it.)  When my folks passed I was left with a over 4,000 sq. ft. of stuff piled on stuff.

I promptly got about as sick as I’d ever been in my life, and while I was in a decongestant-induced haze I had a dealer come in and take what amounted to about 1/3rd of the stuff to sell. The money stopped coming a year or so ago, so I assume it all sold or has been given to charity. I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay.  And when I moved I still had about 4000 sq. ft. of stuff to move into about 2200 sq. ft. of space.  So for five years I’ve had boxes of stuff

Caddy looking down at his momstacked almost everywhere in this apartment.  Why? Well chalk some of it up to being lazy.  And depressed.  My family was gone and about eighteen months after I moved, my beloved Caddy died, too.

But I also think that some of this reluctance to get on with living here was because I simply didn’t know how or even if I wanted to.  It was an enormous change that I never really wanted to make.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, all things considered.  But the whole process was something I never felt ready to cope with.

Our Alter Egos

Little by little I’ve been easing into this new place. We have a garden, and every time we plant a rose bush it’s really an act of faith.  The basement is finished.  We’ve gotten to know our neighbors. (Many of whom we both love to pieces.)  I’ve got a couple of rooms painted.  And last week I got everything in my bedroom squared away.  (Okay, to be fair, I still have one tote to empty, but it’s the odds and ends of cleaning. And the room needs painting.)  I’m building a sense of belonging that I desperately need if I ever want to feel at home here.

I love this place.  I don’t ever want to leave.  I think if I ever needed to leave it would kill me.  I suppose that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?  I just need to let myself feel like it’s home.

This is what helps:


Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee

Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Christmas 2012





Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (caddy)

I see a lot of stories about dogs and cats who have been rescued and a few of them have really touched me.  One of them is the story of Boo, a bulldog puppy with hydrocephalus. With permission from Boo’s mom, Diane Messer, I’m going to post his (and her) story here so you understand a bit of what’s going on with him.

Boo is a 7 week old bulldog/beagle mix I ran into while looking on… I periodically check on there for puppies/kittens/etc that may need handraised, which I consider my specialty and I very much enjoy. I’ve always wanted a bulldog so I saw the ad for him and his siblings. My chihuahua has a mild case of hydrocephalus and so from previous research I knew what he had immediately. I contacted the people who had him and they had stated he was kind of sickly and smaller than the other babies. I told them I would take him since I’ve seen his problem before… so two days later I had a transport meet them in Indianapolis to pick him up… it was a five hour run for him and boy he was tuckered out!

The next morning we took him to see my regular vet, who is an older guy but usually he’s really good… just not this time. He confirmed it is hydrocephalus, weighed him (3.9lbs)… and gave him a dose of Panacur and sent one dose home… But he refused to give him anything to help with the fluid in his head, even though I had researched and had been given advice on what medications would help… wrote those down, had them in hand. All he would say that day was “There is no cure for it.” which of course I already knew! Tomorrow we see a vet in my town (8/27/12) and hopefully she will be patient and kind enough to listen… without reccommending he be automatically put to sleep. If she doesn’t help, then we will be taking a trip to KY to an actual neurologist vet. We plan to do whatever has to be done to help Boo. I figure there’s a reason I ran into his little picture.

As for me, I am a 31 year old mother of three (ages 12, 11, and 9) who is a stay-at-home mom and technically disabled. The dogs/puppies/etc that I rescue and eventually rehome give my life some kind of meaning. I don’t understand why but I just go with it. It makes me happy… and I’m sure it makes them happy too. :)

I started following Boo’s Facebook page and was so impressed by the care his family is giving him that I decided to donate a little something to his ChipIn.  It wasn’t much; I don’t have a lot to give away, but it seemed like a good cause.

Unfortunately a couple of days ago, Boo began to act oddly.  His vet wasn’t available so he was taken to a new vet (Tracey Gillespie at the IVEC) who told Diane that he had a heart murmur (In itself not always a huge problem) and he might be suffering from congestive heart failure. (A bigger issue to be sure, but not one that will necessarily kill him any time soon.  My father lived with CHF for a quarter of a century, and was not a man to take great care of himself!

What this means though, is at best the diagnostics, vet visits and treatments for both the heart problems and the hydrocephalus are going to cost a lot of money. Boo’s family is committed to his welfare and will do everything possible to see that he has a good life for as long as it’s possible.  His mom has said that if the time comes when he does not have a good quality of life, then they will do what needs to be done.  I find this reassuring.

I’m writing this not to ask you to donate money, though if you want to, that’s great.  Rather, I’m asking you to spread the word about Boo.  If this story gets picked up by the media, someone out there may be able to help them with the astronomical costs related to the surgeries this little guy may face.  I know money is tight for most of us.  But it’s easy to post and repost.

Now you may ask how I know that Diane is on the up-and-up, and that’s a fair question.  After having followed Boo’s saga for a while now, I have to say that my opinion is that if it’s a hoax she has a LOT of people working with her and it’s a very well thought-out hoax.  But when I asked her for copies of Boo’s bills, she responded immediately and I’m going to link to them here so you can look for yourselves:  Here is the bill from the Eastside Veterinary Hospital and this one is from Indianapolis Veterinary Referral where Dr. Gillespie took care of Boo.

So if you’re of a mind to help either by passing along this story, or donating a few bucks to the chip in, that would be great.  This little guy is going to end up putting a big dent in his family’s budget.  But — and I recognize that not everyone will understand or agree with me on this — our four-legged kids are family too, and we don’t give up on them unless they’re suffering.  Boo is not suffering.  He’s happy, and with luck one day he’ll be relatively healthy.

Thanks for your attention.

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Thumbs Plus that is, still my favorite way to organize my image collection.  There are occasional problems, it’s true, but for the most part it’s a damn good program.  If you’re struggling with a large digital image collection you might want to take a look at it.

Ella Jane Osgood

In the process of sorting the photos I’ve already digitized, I came across some images that I’d love to share.  The first is my great-grandmother, Ella Jane Osgood, who was born in 1851 in Vermont.  She moved

John Walter Wilson

to Illinois to teach and married a farmer, John Walter Wilson, whose father moved to Illinois from Glasgow as a young man.  The Osgood women all had sultry eyes.

Ella Jane’s mother, Ellen Lee Osgood was born in Vermont in 1823 and died in Chicago, in her grand-daughter’s home, in 1922.

Ellen Lee Osgood

Lucy Kingsley Osgood

Ella Jane’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Kingsley Osgood was born in Vermont in 1783 and lived to be 91 years old.

It’s through the Osgoods that my family is related to: Katharine Hepburn,  John Hancock,  Robert H Goddard,  Robert Frost,  Samuel Morse,  Richard Lovelace,  Lillian Gish,  John Steinbeck,  E.E. Cummings,  Philo T. Farnsworth,  Julia Child,  Bette Davis (Who had the Osgood eyes),  Laura Ingalls Wilder,  Robert Graves,  Amelia Earhart,  Shirley Temple, and a number of Presidents and First Ladies.   My mother’s family has been in this country since at least the 1580s.  I’ve traced her family back to the late 12th century.

Minna Rusche Furhmann and her three sons.

My father’s family are relative latecomers to this country. The earliest mention of any of them settling here is 1606.  Pikers! His maternal great grandparents came from Germany in the late 19th century.  Minna and Henry had three boys, the eldest of whom, Henry Jr., was my great grandfather.  Most of Minna’s relatives remained in Germany and I have postcards and photos that they sent to her.  There’s evidence that there were any number of trips back and forth to visit each other, and her grand-daughter, Clara, may have moved back there at some point.

My father’s father came from Stroud in the UK.  He was the oldest boy in a family of eleven children, and I’ve saluted his mother’s stamina by naming one of my characters “Hopson” for her side of the family.  She looks like she could keep eleven children in line, doesn’t she?

My grandfather’s parents and some of his siblings

I enjoy the heck out of doing this.  I love the old photos; they make me feel more connected to my family even though I never met most of the people in them.  It’s a picture-takin’ family on both sides, and I’m the richer for it, particularly when I consider what it means to have old daguerreotypes like this one:

unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men

unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I also have a treasure trove of old snapshots my maternal grandparents took not only on their travels, but around Chicago at the turn of the last century.  Here’s a photo of Lincoln Park, looking north from the lagoon area, near the zoo towards the conservatory.

Lincoln Park, about 1910 or so

I could do this all day. Every day.

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Five years ago today I lost my mother.  On the 27th of January of that year, I made this drawing of her as I sat by her bedside.  At the end, she rarely even opened her eyes, so she always seemed to be asleep.  That was funny because when she was still at home, she told me that she hated sleeping, and I remember writing a poem about it.  I have no idea where it is now, and the only bit of it I recall was the line how she would meet Death, sitting up in a chair, refusing to close her eyes.  I couldn't have been more wrong, could I?

She had suffered from a peculiar form of dementia for years.  Lewy-body dementia, it's called.  You can look it up; it's not an attractive disease.  I'm only now beginning to realize how long she'd been ill, and I find it disconcerting that we could have gone so many years without actually realizing that what was happening to her actually had a name, a diagnosis.  It wasn't just Mom getting old and difficult.  It wasn't just the diabetic retinopathy affecting her vision.  It wasn't just age-related incontinence on a grand scale, or persistent allergies or an essential tremor, or any of a hundred other little indignities that this fucking disease visited on her.  (I still, to this day, wish it was a person so I could peel it like a grape and roll it in salt before I stabbed it to death.  That's the level of anger I still feel over what it did to her.)

The dementia was so demanding, so draining that until I realized that my father didn't have a clue how to use the ice dispenser on the door of the freezer, something he'd used every day for years, I didn't realize that he was suffering from Alzheimer's.  That's how much of my time and attention Lewy-body dementia demanded.  I short-changed him because I couldn't not focus on her.  I spent fifteen years watching her die of this.  Fifteen years that I knew about.  It was churning away in her brain even before I became a caregiver.

I remember that there were days when she seemed fine, when the only sign that there was something wrong was that she couldn't remember things too well.  And sometimes I'd tell her a joke, usually the same one because she never remembered that I'd told it to her.  I'd say, "Mom, do you know why cats lick their own butts?" and she'd say, "No, I don't.  Why?"  And I'd say, "Because they can."  And every damn time she'd giggle a little and say, "Oh, you!"  Every time.  It got funnier with each telling.

What wasn't funny were the middle-of-the-night hallucinations, the tantrums, the spite and the anger.  What wasn't funny was the day she said to me, "I'm losing my mind, aren't I?"  And I lied.  I lied and kept on lying because I couldn't ever say to my mother, "Yes, you're losing your mind.  You're going to end up sitting and staring until you finally just stop."  I swear to you that if I could have stood between her and this thing that was eating her up I'd have done it.  I couldn't.

I did what I could to make things better.  I brought her a tray of snow when she couldn't go out, and watched her build a little snowman.  When she could go out, I pushed her around the block in her wheelchair.  Later, when she was in the nursing home, I brought her ice cream and took her  out to sit in the sun.  Most of the time she closed her eyes and didn't speak.  When she did talk, it was about the distant past.  She thought I was her mother.
One day I sat down with her at the nursing home -- this was after I'd started taking anti-depressants and had begun decompressing -- and apologized to her.  I had no hope of her understanding anything I was talking about.  She could rarely concentrate on what she was hearing, much less comprehend the meaning.  I told her that I was sorry I'd been short-tempered, and mean, that I hadn't understood things, that I hurt her feelings and said things that I didn't mean.  The whole time I was talking she was looking around aimlessly as if she saw things that I couldn't.  I very nearly stopped because it seemed so pointless, but I pressed on because it had to be said. It was the right thing to do.  When I finished she looked right at me which she hadn't done in... probably months, and said, "Thank you for that."  And then she was gone again, lost in that odd, narrow world she inhabited.


The day she died, I'd come to the nursing home for one of those meetings they ask you to attend where they tell you what they're doing and how the resident is responding, and honestly I knew it would be the last time I'd see her, but I didn't say so.  Then I went to her room and sat down with her.  She was restless; I hadn't seen her that active in years.  I held her hand and talked to her.  I talked for a long time and I said a lot of things that I needed to say to her.  Not apologies this time, other stuff.  She stopped moving around and she looked at me.  I don't know what she was seeing, but she grew calmer.  And then she closed her eyes.

I left the room to go have a little cry, and while I was gone she died.

Eleanor C. 1935

Mom was beautiful.  She didn't deserve the end she got, but none of us have a choice about that.   She was the finest woman I ever knew, and I will miss her every day of my life.

If there's someone you love, tell them.  Whenever you can, as often as you can.  You think there'll be time; you think tomorrow is soon enough.  It's not.  It's a lifetime of tomorrows, all of them missing the things that make today special.


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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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