October 2010

Yes, I did take the bus across town to the one and only “known” sewerage dump point in Melbourne, so it was good to have the time to do all the other bits and pieces as well, such as checking the battery fluid levels. In retrospect, I really should have filled the fresh water tanks while I was there, because we almost ran out of water on the way home.

We left Melbourne on Saturday morning and headed out into some “new” country, through Shepparton and across some back roads to Yarrawonga.

From there, we found our way to a Regional Forest Park on the banks of the Ovens River, where we managed to get the bus in far enough to park in a great spot by the river. I of course just had to unhitch the Zook and take it for a spin in 4WD mode and get it thoroughly dirty!

Sunday – We were heading for home via Wodonga and the Hume Freeway when our dinner guest called to cancel, as she had to work an extra shift. Suddenly we realised that “we don’t have to be home tonight, we can stay out another night”. So we ended up staying at the caravan park at Holbrook, where we had a big paddock to ourselves (because we didn’t need power) and the dogs could run as much as their little legs could carry them, which they did. It was also an opportunity to exercise the generator, which we also did. We have solved most of the problem of the exhaust blowing back into the cabin and stopped the remainder by stuffing a towel down the drain tube while we had it running.

Monday – We decided to reprocess our eating habits to suit our own stomachs, by stopping in Gundagai to cook the steaks that had been earmarked for last night’s dinner.

We needed that break, because we both noticed that we came into Canberra feeling relaxed, with nice full bellies and no pressure to need to eat when we got home.

Tuesday – Just as well, because I was driving to work when I got a call from Nancy (Julie’s sister), to say that her Mum had not recovered from the previous infection and was not expected to last even another 24 hours. Even by that time, the doctors had her on morphine to make her as comfortable as possible. When I called Julie at work, she went into her severe trauma coping mechanism, which I haven’t seen before, where she just shuts down all feelings so that she can get through the day. Since then, we have acquired bus tickets to Sydney, plane tickets to Seattle, plus the same for the return trip, and will be out of here on Saturday morning. Nancy called around midnight Tuesday night to say that Mum had died quietly in her sleep. Needless to say, Julie is still in shut-down mode and I am in overload mode. We’ll survive!

Friday night. It’s been a rough week. Both of us have been in in a “deal with the trauma” mode, with Julie getting through the essentials at work and me just doing my best to hold it together for a combination of doing what I have to do at work and trying to be there for Julie if and when she needs it, and not let my own emotions spill over into being cranky. It’s a very fine line, not always possible.

Saturday (twice). Tim dropped us off in Civic on his way to work, 3 hour bus trip to Sydney, which was alternately snoozing and taking note of some of the roadside scenery that I don’t normally get to see. Really good to see water in Lake George, and also in the wetlands overlooked by one of the rest areas further north. A 3 hour wait in Sydney was at least tempered by finding a cafe away from most of the Food Court noise. The 13 hour flight was at least bearable by having a collection of spare seats available, especially down the back where we were, so I was at least able to stretch across 2.5 seats for a few hours sleep. Julie didn’t sleep at all.

San Francisco proved to be a bit of a zoo, especially with delays getting through security and in particular walking past another entry point further on the walk around to domestic where the security area was almost empty. On the flight to Seattle, both of us simply dropped off to sleep for an unknown period of time! We got lost a couple of times getting out of SeaTac, but managed a very smooth pickup by April’s former work colleague Theresa and her husband Wayne, who very kindly took us straight to Nancy’s place at Ballard.

A few of the more valuable and precious items of Mum’s jewellery were divided between the 3 girls, with Julie receiving a lovely gold and diamond ring that Mum had loved and had worn often.

Then followed a very nice get-together dinner with all of the immediate family, including Mike & Duncan, plus Scott & Charlie, the cousins from Spokane.

And a navigational exercise in getting back to April & Mike’s place for the night (thanks for the car, Janet), where we slept for about 14 hours and only woke up when Mike woke us at 12 noon on Sunday, so that we could be at the Memorial Service at 2pm. In my opinion, it turned out to be a solemn but reasonably light-hearted celebration of Ada’s life.

One of the eerie aspects of Ada was her fascination with the number five, or multiples of it. It started when Dad discovered that she was counting their dates and he waited, and proposed on their 50th date. They were married in 1950, the twins (Janet & Julie) were born in 1955, Nancy was born on June 15, they were married for 60 years, and Ada died on the 5th day of the 10th month of 2010, at 5:05 am local time. As Bob said, even at the end, she just had to have the last word. As with many families, it’s unfortunate that it’s a funeral that gets everyone together.

Monday. We went to Dad’s place to hang around with him and Nancy for a while. He of course is feeling quite fragile, but is also not feeling well, as he has a cold. We’d had a late start to the day and had to bolt back to Mike’s place to meet up with him and go to visit April. Unfortunately, we missed the return ferry and had to wait for over an hour (they usually run every 30-40 minutes) and finally got home around midnight.

Tuesday. Went down to Dad’s place again, briefly, on the way through Seattle to Kent to catch up with Katie, whom both of us have known since the first time I came here. While down that way, we went to J C Penney’s, where they had a half price sale on jeans and managed to buy 3 pairs of size 10 (US), which is size 12 (Aus), to match her new girlish figure. Then back to Everett to go to dinner with Sam & Heather, together with Mike & Duncan.

Wednesday. Down to Dad’s again and this time, Dad invited Julie to go through her mother’s closet and see what she could use, which she did. She will be taking home some things that her Mum used to wear, that she will wear herself and treasure the memories. From there, it was over to Nancy’s for dinner and a good look at their new house. Julie wants one just like that, complete with the view over the water.

Thursday. Called in on Dad again. We had an insight into how organised Mum had been. She had previously deliberately ordered online, a bottle of her favourite perfume, WoodHue by Faberge, with instructions to Bob to open the package and give one each to the girls. By the time we got down through Seattle again to get together with Cathie & Colleen, her 2 best friends from Boeing, it had started raining, which made for a VERY concentrational trip home in peak traffic.

Friday. We had arranged with Mike for Duncan to take the day off school, so that we could take him out for the day. Julie had planned to cook him eggs for breakfast, but didn’t want to “break” April’s microwave or try to find her way around the kitchen, so we took Duncan to breakfast at Denny’s instead. Amazingly, he ate most of his spaghetti, plus most of my eggs and some of our waffles. After that, we headed for “The Farm” for a tour of their corn maze, made in the shape of Washington State, and the purchase of suitable pumpkins for Mike & Duncan. Ticked off the list and nowhere near as expensive as we had feared.

After that, we were on a time crunch to collect Mike early from work and head for the ferry to visit April again. It seems that Mum was on our side, as we were one of the last half dozen vehicles onto the ferry. On the return trip, it has always been a dream of Julie to be sitting in one of the two front vehicles on the ferry. Unfortunately, we missed by one car and you don’t dare cross over into the other lane, because they can get very cranky when you don’t follow their instructions.

Saturday. Last night, there were kids sleeping over downstairs, so we had moved up into Duncan’s room, to snuggle up into a single bed for the night. Fortunately, we have spent enough time sleeping together that we can actually do that. As Mike was still asleep this morning, we had a visit from Duncan, who was encouraged to snuggle up with us for a while, until we had to get up and get going. At this point, it was time to decide which stuff we need as carry-on and get everything else squared away in the suitcases. Then I dropped Julie off at Dad’s place while I took the GPS to the Post Office (yes, I had worked out earlier in the week that this one would be open). It has been acting up for ages and I have already had several long conversations with their support people, so it was a good chance to send it back, for them to send a replacement to Mike and he will send it on. Then refuelled the car, took the luggage out and handed the car back to Dad. Thank you so much Dad for the loan of it. We sat and chatted with Dad while we waited for Nancy to arrive to take us to the airport.

This is Alki Beach and West Seattle.

Now sitting in a cafe in San Francisco International Airport over a couple of glasses of wine, watching the people traffic go by as we wait, and wait, and wait. A Police Officer came past on his Segway and very kindly posed for a couple of photos. Actually, he was hanging around to see the baseball live on TV in the cafe. We still have another couple of hours here!

OK, just in case you were wondering, we did make it home safely, but extremely tired, especially after the bus trip back to Canberra. We caught a taxi home, got partially organised, went to bed and slept for about 12 hours.

On Tuesday, we were both due back at work, and both of us had a raging cold (or whatever) that we had caught. Julie lasted until early afternoon and I wasn’t far behind. I at least had some sick leave, so I could take the rest of the week off, but she had run out of leave, but managed to take Friday off. Her main problem is that she is coughing so hard that she throws up, which means she is not getting enough nutrition to keep fighting the symptoms. All that was last week, and we have survived the week in varying stages of unhealth. Really looking forward to the weather warming up a bit soon!