Maine, Florida, Boston and Loved Ones Lost – February – May, 2015

Oops! I just found some pictures to compliment what I was saying about beautiful Boston….so, a day after I posted this, I edited it to add the pictures.  Hope you enjoy them…..

Like I do every winter I flew back to Maine on February 17th,  to attend to filing our taxes. I don’t mind winter and figure returning in February, I have missed the brunt of it. I must confess, this year was a little difficult to leave summer of South Africa to return to the piles and piles and piles of snow that Maine had received.

In the past, when I flew from Johannesburg, I would fly Joburg, JFK, Portland, ME. This last trip, I had to fly Joburg, JFK, Boston….funny thing I discovered there are not many flights into Portland, Maine in the middle of February. I guess tourist don’t consider Maine “vacation land” while under several feet of snow. After exploring all of my options, I decided that it I would arrive home quicker if I flew into Boston and caught the bus to Portland.

When I arrived at the bus terminal at 6:30 PM, it was dark. I got a taxi to take me home and could not believe the height of the snow banks on the side of road. I had to have the taxi slow down as I couldn’t see past the snow bank to tell the driver where to turn for our street!! I have not seen that much snow since I was a youngster over 50 years ago.

It was a long, long winter and the spring wasn’t much better as it was so cold and dreary. One thing that totally amazed me was in the spring, there was a severe drought and we had fire warnings throughout the state. Now how does that actually happen after over 8 feet of snow has just melted?

It was an emotional winter of saying good-bye to loved ones. I can rationalize at 60 years old, I am at that age when many of my loved ones will be passing on. That said, it doesn’t get any easier to say “farewell.” I have shared before that I have a strong faith in God and truly believe that when people pass, they are going to a much, much better place. It is those of us who get left behind that I mourn for. We are left to pick up our lives and move forward knowing that it is going to be sometime before we see our loved ones again. Thank goodness for all of the memories.

Left to right: Dean Patterson, Judy Dawson Top L-R, myself and Suzanne Cohen

Bottom L-R: Dean Patterson, Judy Dawson
Top L-R, myself and Suzanne Cohen

In November, family and friends said good-bye to Judy Dawson who lost her long battle with lung cancer. Judy and her husband, Peter; who passed very suddenly a couple of years ago, were long-time residents of Hallowell, my hometown. I the antique round wooden table in her kitchen drinking a perpetual cup of coffee. I loved their Christmas Eve parties and if I was in Maine, I would always make an effort to attend. It was like stepping back into time being surrounded by so many friends from my formative years….the adults and their children, who now have spouses and families of their own.

December was the passing of another friend, Mike Williams who I met in 2000 when I lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi. While living in Pascagoula, I was embraced by this wonderful group of people who met every Thursday at the local coffee shop. It was there that I met Mike and we kept in touch after David got transferred. Mike was such a lovely man who had a strong commitment to his family and faith. His wife, Carolyn, had Alzheimer and Mike took care of her until his health failed due to COPD. He had to place Carolyn in a nursing home. She passed away on December 6 and December 14, Mike went to join her. I am grateful for the internet, phone and “snail mail”. I always hoped that I would see Mike one more time but guess that will have to wait for a little while longer.

The last time I saw Lizzie.

The last time I saw Lizzie.

In an earlier posting, I shared with you that the week before I left Johannesburg, for the states, Lizzie had to be put down. For those of you who don’t know, Lizzie was my girlfriend’s dog who I took care of last year for four months while Suzanne battled cancer. Lizzie and I bonded immediately and I was so excited to be returning home so I could take care of her again. Her illness happened very suddenly. It was liver failure and in a couple of days, she was gone. At 15 years old, she had a great life. It was such a shock, though because in January, she had her annual physical and the vet said that she looked great and would outlive us all.

I think that Lizzie sensed her mom and my dear friend, Suzanne Cohen, would soon lose her battle with cancer and didn’t want to be left behind. Suzanne had battled and beat cancer several years earlier. The doctors told her that she had a 5% chance of it returning. Great odds but sadly, Suzanne was in the 5%. She fought it valiantly and at one point, we thought that she had beaten it again. That wasn’t to be the case. A week after I returned to the states, Suzanne went to be with her husband, Dick, who had passed several years ago. Suzanne was a creative, energetic, smart business woman who had such an impact on my life. Always the encourager and seeing possibilities where others saw roadblocks, Suzanne helped me believe that I could travel to far away places. I honestly believe that she stayed on this earth long enough for me to get back to Maine to say my good-bye. It would have been so difficult to lose both of them without not being able to say good-bye to at least one of them. Thank you for that gift, Suzanne.

Don Johnson

Don Johnson

In March, David lost his dear friend and mentor, Don Johnson. It was Don who saw all the wonderful possibilities in David when he was working as a laborer for Don’s company. Through Don’s encouragement, David returned back to school. Whenever David had a lapse of confidence, this very humble man was a phone call away and would always say “I know you can do it.” There are so many stories of how this man touched peoples’ lives. It was evident at the memorial for him as over 600 people were there to pay their respect to him.

Thelma celebrating 90 years.

Thelma celebrating 90 years.

April, we said good-bye to Thelma Cousins and Lonnie Woodward. Thelma was our 90 year old neighbor and “second mother” to David. After she was widowed, she continued to live by herself. She was one of those stalwart “downeast” women. On March 29th, we celebrated Thelma’s 90th birthday with a surprise party and shockingly, two weeks later, she was gone. The neighborhood will not be the same without her across the street.

My mom and Lonnie in happier days

My mom and Lonnie in happier days

Lonnie lost his year long battle to ALS. I knew about ALS but had never been around someone who was diagnosed with it. It was a long year watching this vivacious and talented man decline. Even though he was unable to speak at the end, he always found a way to communicate and kept up his wonderful sense of humor. I have to sing praises to his wife Nancy. I only hope that if I am ever faced with a life challenge that I will handle it with the grace and strength that she did.

I have not shared these losses with you to depress you but to honor these people’s memories. They all had such important roles in David’s and my lives. For David and me, it has been much to absorb and process losing so many dear people. We are just grateful for our faith because we know that we will see them all again in the next life.
Mom turned 81 in March

My mom spends her summers in Maine and her winters in Florida. When my stepfather, Paul, was alive and in Maine in the Veterans Home with dementia; she didn’t spend as much time in FL. This winter, since my stepfather has passed, she was able to spend the full season there. I am not a fan of FL and try to spend as little time as possible there.

With my stepfather’s passing, this year was a year of many “first” for my mom. It was her first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Paul; her first Valentine’s Day and anniversary alone and then, it was her birthday. I didn’t want her to be alone for that day so made arrangements to fly to Florida to spend a week.

At that point, I had only been in Maine and the cold winter for about two weeks but I was ready to escape to the warmer climate of Florida. As fate would have it, it turned out to be one a very cold week. Doing my morning jog, I would find myself moving faster to get warmed up!

The Myakka River

The Myakka River

This is Myakka River that flows near my mom’s home in Florida. Part of it is a state park and it represents the “old Florida” that I truly love. Sadly much of the vegetation of “old Florida” has been destroyed for development purposes. This newly developed FL is what I do not like….the adobe strip malls, four-lane roads, stamped out housing developments all the same beige color with the same tiled roofs.

I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise one morning at the river.

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As I was standing there, I saw from the other side, something swimming across in a wiggling motion. For the life of me, I could not figure out what it was. As it got closer, I realized that it was a baby alligator.IMG_0672

This Little Blue Heron spent the morning with me, enjoying the sunrise.

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I enjoyed my morning jogs in the park. I never knew what I would see. One morning, this stork was meandering around.IMG_0684

I saw this snow shovel with it’s appropriate sign and thought it was cute. Maybe everyone, who makes the decision to spend their winters in FL should bring their old shovels. It could be the beginning of a “shovel graveyard,” much like the graveyards for old cars!

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Across from mom’s trailer, was her good friend Sharon from Ohio. Sharon had sweet Riley who would come over every morning to visit mom and get her treat. She was a sweet dog and full of personality. She was cute and she knew it! Sadly, Sharon and Riley will be spending next winter in Ohio. Sharon sold her trailer but said that she would come to the park next year for a visit.

Riley and me!

Riley and me!

Mom and I had a great visit with my college roomie, Penny.  She and her hubby have moved to Florida for good.  They are happy with their decision and I am happy for them.  It was certainly a bonus to get to see Penny, it had been a couple of years.  I say that we haven’t changed a bit from our college years!!!!

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Penny and me

All in all, I had a great and fun visit with mom. We celebrated her birthday by going out to lunch at the Venice Beach pier with friends Ashton and Nina. In the afternoon, some of mom’s friends in her park, had cake and ice cream with her. That proved to be one of the best and funniest moments. I had put only a few candles on the cake. I lit them inside and when I brought the cake out to her in the backyard with everyone there, the wind blew out all but two of the candles.

“Hurry mom, make a wish and blow out the candles!”

I was telling mom to quickly make a wish and blow out the remaining candles. Here she is trying to do as I was telling her but she didn’t do it fast enough, as the wind blew the final two candles out. It was then that she told me she couldn’t blow out the candles because she had a mouth full of crackers. I just thought that this was the funniest thing!

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It took me back to my days as a young camper at Camp Wayaka during the silly relay races that we would have. One of them was eating crackers and having to whistle before we could swim a lap. Have you ever tried to whistle with a mouth full of crackers! Thank you, Betty Baker, for capturing the moments. I will always cherish that memory of my mom’s birthday.

Back in Maine, I stayed busy with all the things that needed attending to since I had been away. I was able to spend quality time with my dad. At 85 years young, he is doing very well.

Dad modeling the apron that David bought for him to do his housework!  He is very independent!

Dad modeling the apron that David bought for him to do his housework! He is very independent!

At one of his doctor visits, the Dr discovered that his kidneys were not functioning properly. His medication was adjusted and after several trips for blood samples, Dad got a good report right before I left to go to Namibia. It was a good thing as I could tell that he was getting very frustrated doing the follow-up visits and getting the blood samples so frequently.

My brother, Perry, was having renovations done on his home and his French Bulldog, Jack, didn’t like all the noise. Perry asked if I could take Jack for a week…..six weeks later, he went home. I loved having the cuddle bug around. He is going to be featured in the next children’s book I write.

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My nephew, Jack!

My bed partner when David is away!

My bed partner when David is away!

A day at the beach!

A day at the beach!

I love the time that I am able to spend with both of my parents. In the earlier years of our life, being apart from family was difficult but as the years pass and I see the slight decline in my parents, I wish that there could be two of me. I want to be with David and share his adventure but I also realize that time with my parents is precious and want to spend as much as I can with them. There is no easy solution and I am grateful that my husband is patient when I return to the states and that my parents are equally as patient when I return to David.

David arrived back in Maine on Saturday, May 2 at noontime.  My mom and Nancy Woodward, who had just lost her husband Lonnie, arrived Saturday evening. Everyone was in good spirits and it was nice to share the house with others!

The next day, mom and I zipped down to Wells to visit with Aunt Helen, mom’s sister. I think it was one of the first beautiful, sunny, spring days that we had experienced. Mom, Auntie and I all went out to lunch and when we came back, I took Auntie to my cousin Carolyn’s house for a surprise 80th birthday party that her family had planned. It was great seeing the whole “Springer Clan” with all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren running around. It is a rare occasion when you can get everyone together in the same place!

Aunt Helen, Carolyn, Nancy and Larry, her children.

Aunt Helen, Carolyn, Nancy and Larry, her children.

One Wednesday, David and I hopped the bus and rode to Boston to spend the day. We had not been tourist in Boston forever!!! The tunnel, that was built to divert traffic under Boston, was completed in 2002 and we had not seen the benefits that having the tunnel. Boston is such a wonderful walking city and even more so, with the park that was developed after the streets were eliminated by the tunnel.  This was some of the art that we enjoyed walking in the new park on our way to Faneuil Hall.  IMG_1746

We were blessed with another sunny, spring day and enjoyed it by walking all around the city. From South Station, we walked along the “new” park…new to us and arrived at Faneuil Hall and got something to eat. I had a bagel and David had macaroni and cheese. We ate on one of the park benches outside and enjoy some “people watching”. After our snack, we wandered through some of the shops and made our way over to the North Shore or “Little Italy” of Boston. I love this area!! It is such a vibrant place with Italian restaurants, coffee shops and the neighborhood fruit and veggie stand. Friends standing on the sidewalk, with their thick Boston accents, discussing the Red Sox game from the night before.

We walked past Paul Revere’s house. I have seen the Old North Church that he began his ride on that fateful night but never his house.IMG_1747

From the North Shore, we walked over to Boston Commons. We passed the State House with its glorious gold dome and into the park.

Make Way for Ducklings!

Make Way for Ducklings!

One of my favorite things at Boston Commons is the duck statues for the book “Make Way for Ducklings”. It was the Wednesday before Mother’s Day and someone had placed bonnets on some of the ducklings. It was so cute!IMG_1751

The famous Swan Boats were floating around the pond……

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and the flowers were in bloom.

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It was a glorious day to be in the park!

We got back to Portland around 5:00 and were hungry so made our way over to Two Lights Lobster Shack for a large feed of fried clams. If you are thinking, that isn’t the healthiest choice, you are right but it is something that David and I treat ourselves to only once in a great while and it had been awhile.

Sunday, May 10 was Mother’s Day. Kathy, Kevin, Perry, my dad, David and myself all met in Hallowell to have celebrate the day with Mom. It was so nice to have the family together, which is a rarity with everyone’s busy schedule.

David, my dad Ray, Kevin, Perry, myself, Mom and Kathy

David, my dad Ray, Kevin, Perry, myself, Mom and Kathy

Perry, Me, Mom and Kathy

Perry, Me, Mom and Kathy

After Mother’s Day, David and I spent the next few days getting ready for our flight back to our new home in Swakopmund, Namibia. We left on Thursday, May 14. Will be sharing that new adventure with you soon…..

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