Catching up…

I have once again, not been keeping up the website as the last entry was back in November 2017.  The hole Penny left remains empty.  While I am keeping busy, this is not the life I was building towards.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at the Beach 2017 for the first time without Penny.  Speaking for myself, I very much missed her presence.  Thanksgiving was her week when she could take care of her family.  It felt empty without her.

We scattered her ashes at dawn on November 20th in Salvo.  We also scattered her ashes in the kitchen of the house we rented as the bag split as I was removing it from the case.  I suppose the kitchen was equally an appropriate place.  Steven wrote a poem, put his writing in a bottle and threw it into the sea.

It was a good week, but I found myself mostly subdued.  Shaun, Jenn, Steven, and Glenn took care of our Thanksgiving feast.

I have spent the past several months getting my new home organized.  There remains much to do, but I will get around to it as the sprit moves me.  I recently enclosed my patio so I can now use it without having to deal with insects or frogs.

In March, Val and Bill rented a beach house in OBX and I was able to spend the week with them, Doreen, and Jen, Greg, Maddy and her friend.  Val arranged for Doreen and I along with Val to make the cookies our Nana and Mom made each year.  It was a two day effort, but we had fun and the cookies came out very good.  I hope we get to do that again.

The rainy season here has at times filled up the retention pond behind my house bringing all sorts of bird wildlife along with a frog population explosion.  I sighted a Sandhill Crane nest on the far side with two eggs.  They hatched sometime during my recent vacation, so I do not know if the babies survived or not.  The pond has mostly dried up, but several species of birds still forage there for food.  I love that aspect of this house; I can just look out my windows and see nature.

I am still not as active in the community as I feel I need to be, but I will get there eventually.  I need to learn how to dance as there seems to be monthly events at the Magnolia Center where that skill would come in handy.  I usually go to Burger Nite with Anne, Terri and Diana.

One of the nice things about Trilogy is the group trips they organize.  Next month, I am going to see the Capone dinner show with a group.  In September, we are going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and also a ice hockey game.  In early November we are going to see the Jersey Boys in Orlando.

I had my first house guest (not counting grandchildren) in May when Val came down to spend a week with me.  As much as I enjoyed her company, I was most impressed with her courage in making the trip.  She was not a fan of flying or heights, but braved all that to come visit me.  I took her to the California Grill where we watched the fireworks after dinner.  We rode one of the boats over to the Wilderness Lodge as I wanted her to see our favorite Disney resort.  We also went to the girl’s school award ceremonies.

We are continuing the tradition of spending Thanksgiving at the Beach.  I have rented a house down in Avon.  I intend to continue it as long as I am able and family shows up.

Last month, I took a couple of cruises with Jenn and Savannah.  I will detail that trip in later posts.  Thank you for reading….

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Changes

I have made a lot of changes over the past couple of months.  Hopefully, they will be good ones.

I closed on my house in Florida earlier in October  and  returned to Virginia, to purge and get the house ready for the market.  I discarded a lot, but at times, it seemed endless.  There always seemed to be more stuff.  I hope that I remember this after I move to my new home and resist getting more ‘stuff’.

The POD was delivered on the 19th, loaded on the 20th and picked up on the 21st.  I  mostly took personal stuff; the bulk of the household went to donation centers or the landfill.  On Monday afternoon, the 23rd, I headed for Florida and my new home.  The Virginia house went on the market on the 28th.  No nibbles yet, but it is a slow time of year and the Mapledale vehicle traffic is not helping.  Fortunately, I am not under pressure to sell.

I admit to being tired, both physically and mentally and emotionally.  A lot of the house was easy to deal with, but not the kitchen.  This was Penny’s domain.  I discovered forgotten appliances and kitchen gadgets and it was difficult to separate her from the stuff.  It is strange the connections our minds make.

I am now in Florida in my new home.  The POD is now empty and going to be picked up this morning.  Unpacking is sporadic, partly due to the lack of furniture and shelves and partially due to distractions.  Yesterday, I got my Florida driver’s license and registered the car.  Today will be spent clearing out the den/office in preparation for the desk arriving on Saturday.

One of my new neighbors is hosting a pot luck later this month and that will give me an opportunity to meet some of my new neighbors.  I try to get out for at least one walk each day and want to start doing some of the community activities as things settle down.  I am going to a Meetup on Friday at the local Dunkin Donut place.  Right now, I am battling the post office as my mail keeps piling up in my Virginia mailbox instead of being forwarded.  Mike discovered that while stopping by to check on something for me.

One advantage to being here is that I get to see the kids more.  Yesterday was Jenn’s birthday and I was invited to go out to dinner with them.

With the arrival of my household possessions, Penny’s absence crept back in.  I think she would have liked this community except for the summer heat, but if she were here, we would likely not be in this place.

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Time passes so quickly

I was reading a blog relating to the Disney Cruise Line and the writer was reporting on the location of Disney’s four ships. He noted that the Magic was finishing up its last Med cruise of the season and would be heading to New York on Saturday. We sailed these same two cruises last September and it would turn out to be the last cruises Penny and I would share. Four days after our return, the cancer would reassert itself back into our lives and the final journey would begin.

We were so fortunate in so many ways. Cancer is an evil thing.  However, I believe it could have been so much worse. Penny responded very well to the chemo. Not only was it effective in pushing the cancer back, but she did not experience most of the side effects. It bought us some time and we used that time as best we could. We made trips to the beach, spent three weeks cruising to places we had never seen before and were able to share one last Thanksgiving together with family on the Outer Banks.

I was caught off guard by the realization that it had been a year since we went to Europe. This past year and a half has been something of a blur or maybe a fog. Once the cancer entered our lives, nothing was normal. Looking back, I can now see how brave and strong she was. She was determined to live her life as best she could. When the radiation started taking her mind, she fought it; worked on ways to hang on to her mind and memory. Despite her fears and pain, she always treated everyone she encountered with kindness and caring. She never stopped trying to be Penny until her body could no longer support her. Blissfully, the end came quickly.

Since then, those of us who loved her (and there are a lot) have had to continue our journey without her. We try to make sense of how such a wonderful mother, wife, and friend could possibly be gone. Speaking for myself, I have not found that answer.

But, we have the memories and her love.

Penny believed that the love never goes away. She taught me that. Lucky me…

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Starting Again

It is not news that it was never our intention to move to Florida. Despite the fact that our lovely granddaughters live there, it was always our dream to live out our days near the ocean.

I do not know for sure if I can say Penny and I completed each other, but I do know that we were enough for each other and we would have been happy together almost anywhere. Now that she is gone, I am left with trying to build a new life, create a new existence for myself.

A few weeks after Penny passed away, I escaped to the ocean a couple of times to look for some healing, some answers and even some sign Penny was still with me; that she was ok and still present somehow. It was hard, as it should have been. I did not find any answers, but I did heal a little. Whether that was from time passing or from the support I received from my sisters, I cannot say for sure but probably both.

Returning home from these escapes was always difficult. A day or two after returning, sadness and deep grief inserted itself. Val called it reentry. Once home, I am reminded that the life we had no longer exists and everything that seems the same is not because Penny is no longer there.

Around mid-summer, I started looking at Florida communities. I was more interested in the feel of the community than the models or even the amenities. I stayed two nights at Solivita near Kissimmee and six nights at The Villages. Solivita was nice, but you had to drive quite a ways for services such as groceries, restaurants,etc. The Villages was at the opposite extreme. Almost everything you would need was a golf cart ride away. The Villages also had three town centers that had restaurants, movie theaters and stores. The Villages are also huge; 120,000 residents and climbing.

A realtor took me to visit about another six or so communities in Central Florida. I found that having open spaces and views appealed to me and a couple of communities I visited had that, including Trilogy Orlando. After Jordan and I returned from our cruise, I booked a stay at Trilogy Orlando.

I spent three nights at Trilogy doing what they call a ‘test drive’. For a very reasonable price, I was given a furnished home to stay in and had access to all the community amenities. The sales consultant showed me around the community and we viewed several of the model homes. She made sure I met several residents. I was favorable impressed by the community. People seemed friendly and welcoming. Trilogy is a small development, only about 1200 homes.

I liked one of the models in particular, the Heather, but none of the homes currently in inventory appealed to me. The homes were nice, but I did not like the lots. I wanted to return home to think about it for awhile and assumed that I would just have a home built if I could find an agreeable lot.

A couple of weeks after I returned to Virginia, I happened to be looking at houses in realtor.com. I discovered a four year old Heather model on a large lot backing up to a Conservancy area. This gave me a great view to the West without having houses right behind me. Shaun and Jenn offered to check out the house for me and upon their recommendation, I flew down to Florida to look at it and subsequently made an offer.

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My future back yard…

I am scheduled to close at the end of the month. I have been getting some things fixed up in the Virginia house and once I have closed on the Florida house, I will figure out a plan to move to Florida.

I will be about 50 miles from the kids; about an hour drive. Close enough to help out when needed. Jenn has kindly offered to be my interior decorator as I will be leaving most of our furniture behind and starting over.

I am taking a leap of faith that I can build a suitable new life in Florida. I remind myself that assuming I stay healthy and if Florida does not work out, I can try another place.

Since losing Penny, for the first time in a very long time, I am alone. I need to be careful not to let that continue. I am not looking to replace Penny, more to develop friendships and relationships. Trilogy seems large enough to have lots to do, but small enough to have an intimacy to it. I do not know what the future will bring, but time will determine if I made the right choice.

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Catching up – Alaska with Jordan – July 2017

After the Disney cruise with Savannah, we returned in time to attend Jordan’s AAU Nationals Volleyball tournament held at the Orange County Convention Center. While Jordan’s team did not make the finals, they placed very well in the overall standings.

After the tournament, I spent some time visiting/staying at various communities before returning to home for a short respite.

Before long, I was back in Florida. I was able to see the rodeo on the final day of the girl’s summer camp.

The next day, Sunday, Jordan and I were up bright and early (well early anyway) for our flight to Vancouver. When we arrived at Canada Place, our room was not ready yet, so we spent some time having lunch and walking around. We also did the Fly Over Canada show. It was very similar to Soarin’ at Epcot.

Finally it was Monday and after breakfast, we headed for the ship. A nice part about staying at the Pan Pacific in Canada Place, is that the cruise terminal is right below the hotel. So we hopped on the elevator, headed for the terminal and began the check-in process. Before long, we were finished and waiting for the boarding process to begin.

Once onboard, everything went smoothly. We had lunch in Triton’s, found our stateroom, visited the tween club called Edge and checked out the rest of the ship. We watched the sail away party and were soon underway. Our luggage found its way to our stateroom and it was time to dress for dinner and head to the show. We had late dining, 8:15PM so we attend to the early show. I generally like the nightly shows, but the first night is usually not my favorite. It is generally a mashup of Disney stuff and a short variety act. My favorite shows occur later in the week.

I have misplaced or tossed my Keys to the World card, so I do not remember the dinner rotation.  We were seated with three other young ladies around Jordan’s age and their parents.  One family was from the state of Washington, one from Hawaii and one from England.  We had a great server named Jose from Peru who had a magic trick for the girls almost every night.

The next day was an at sea day.  On previous Alaska cruises, we started up the channel, but on this one, we headed out to sea.

Our first port of call was Icy Strait Point, AK.  This was the first time Disney had visited this port.  Icy Strait Point is only open when cruise ships are in port.  Our excursion was a Whale, Wildlife and Bear Search where we rode a high speed catamaran looking for wildlife.  We were fortunate to see several whales and some sea otters.

We arrived in Skagway the next morning. Our excursion for the day was a Chilkoot Horseback Adventure. We rode our horses to the beautiful Dyea valley. I never tire of Alaska, it is so beautiful and wild. The ‘hair nets’ were for the bugs which was not much of an issue except when we were in the valley. All the horses here are rescues. During the winter, they are taken up north to where they have a heated barn and freedom to roam the ranch. Profits from the excursions are how they maintain the horses and the facilities. My horse’s name was Moose; short for caboose. He likes to be at the end of the line and does not like any horses behind him.

The next day, we arrived in Juneau for our Helicopter Glacier Trek. We took a van to the airport where we were outfitted with our outerwear. We then boarded our helicopter for our aerial tour on the way to the Mendenhall Glacier. We spend almost two hours hiking around the glacier with our guides. When Penny and I did this tour, it was earlier in the season. There was more melting this time and the blue ice is just beautiful to look at. The port stay in Juneau was only half a day, so we did not get a chance to wander around the town.

Our final port was Ketchikan. Our excursion was titled Alaska Coastal Expedition. In some ways, this was a neat excursion, but felt like it came up a bit short at the same time. We really did not see any wildlife except for when she fed the eagle. It was neat piloting the small boat and it was fun to be out on the water, but I likely would not choose this one again.

The next day was spent ‘as sea’. We cruised the channels of Southeast Alaska on our way back to Vancouver. This is one of the more beautiful parts of the cruise as we navigate past large and small islands with beautiful mountains and waterfalls.

Finally, all the restaurants on the Disney ships are themed. Two of them have special shows as part of dinner. Tiana’s Place is a Mardi Gras theme and feature live music. Animator’s Palette has a special show where you are given a special piece of paper upon which to draw your character. The papers are collected before dinner and are scanned and animated, becoming the dinner show. It takes a little while to load the 2nd video as it is rather large.

Lastly, here are some of the pictures that the Disney photographers took onboard.

It was a good cruise. I was disappointed to not see more wildlife this trip, but was delighted to share Alaska with Jordan. I hope we get to do it again.

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Catching up – Bahama’s with Savannah – June 2017

I was able to spend some time with Shaun and the girls over Easter at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I noticed that the girls were struggling a bit with seeing me and not their Nana.  They loved Nana dearly as did she them.  It is hard to deal with loss at such a young age and with someone they care about very much.  I talked to them about it and when I returned home, wrote them a letter attempting to speak more about the subject of loss and grief.

It occurred to me that maybe I should try to build some new memories with them and I started thinking about ways to do that.  After discussing it with Shaun and Jenn and then the girls, we settled on taking a Bahama cruise with Savannah and an Alaskan cruise with Jordan.  This had the added benefit of getting me out of the house and doing something that Penny and I loved doing.  I knew I was not ready to cruise by myself, but having the girls there might help.

The cruise that Savannah and I took was called a Disney double dip in mid June; two days at their island of Castaway Cay and one day in Nassau.

We had a good cruise.   We did parasailing and snorkeling excursions while on Castaway.  Savannah did not warm up to the tween Edge club until the last night, but she had a good time roaming the ship.

 

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Not enough

This past week was a difficult one; sadness and loss invaded almost every day since I returned from the Outer Banks.  I have been unable to determine if it is just the grief or being at the beach without Penny or having a week at the beach with my sisters and then coming back to our empty home.  Probably a bit of each.

I had a relatively good two weeks on the Outer Banks.  The weather got better each day and spending the second week with two of my sisters was wonderful.  However, Penny was missing and we all felt it.  She was such a loving force.  Cindy wrote something about Penny in the house guest book that I wanted to share.  We all miss her a great deal.

I was thinking this morning about Penny and life and death.  It occurred to me that life and death was sort of a binary; you are either one or the other.  I was remembering the weeks after we learned of the cancer.  Nothing went as we thought it would.  We knew there was no beating the cancer, just delaying the end.  We did all we could without falling down the rabbit hole, but the end still caught me by surprise.  So quick, so abrupt and so final.

Of course, looking back, it is easy to put the pieces together, but while in the middle of it all, we were focused on getting Penny back on her feet.  Her electrolytes would go low and they would adjust her medication and she would come back.  What we did not know or see was the cancer had come back quickly and worse than before.  No one sat us down and made it clear what was happening until it was too late.  I had expected there would come a time when a doctor would start talking about palliative care or hospice. Our primary doctor brought it up just before Penny was admitted for the last time, but she did not want to make a decision at that time.  We both thought they would boost her electrolytes and we would go home.  We were wrong.

It is easy to get lost in the system; each doctor is working on his own piece of the puzzle.  We thought that her oncologist was monitoring Penny’s stay in the hospital, but it turned out no one was and it was another doctor that ordered the CT scan that told us what was going on.  I was ready to start hospice the next morning after consulting her oncologist, but Penny passed away early that morning before I could get her home.

I have wandered off where I wanted to go.  We take so much for granted.  Even when faced with the certainty that the cancer would take Penny so young, it was easy to miss the important things.  Holding her hand, giving her a hug, just laying next to her and holding her.  Yes, we were able to go on one of our dream cruises and we were able to make one more Thanksgiving at the beach with family.  We were lucky the seizures did not occur until we were safely back home from Europe, but cancer is not to be denied and any life cut short is to be mourned.  We were just getting to the good part.

Looking back, I wish I had held her more, hugged her more, looked into that beautiful face and eyes more.  Towards the end, it was easy to get trapped into focusing on just taking care of her.  She was hardly eating and she needed help with everything.  I know that I did the best I could have for her, but there are days when I wish I had been able to do more.

Losing someone, losing Penny, is overwhelming.  I tell myself that no matter what I felt I could have done more of or differently, I likely would not feel any different or better now.

Now she is beyond pain and any of the flaws of our world.  I will always love her and I will always miss her.  I am lucky she chose me to live the last part of her life with.  I would not have traded it for anything.

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Part 8 – Back to Barcelona

This post got lost temporarily.  I have lost interest in talking more about our cruise, but please enjoy the pictures we had taken.

The Mediterranean cruise went fairly quickly.  Since we were staying on board for the Westbound Transatlantic cruise, but with a different stateroom, all we had to do was pack our luggage and the room stewards took care of moving us to our new room. We were directed to one of the lounges where Disney had provide coffee and pastries while we waited for the other guests to disembark.  There were about 90 of us that were doing the back-to-back (B2B).  Once the ship was cleared, we were escorted ashore where we checked in again and received our new Key to the World cards.  After a short wait of around 30 – 45 minutes, we were allowed to re-board the ship.  The staterooms were not ready yet, but we had the open decks and the Cove Cafe available to hang out in until boarding started and lunch was being served.  Love B2B’s.

These are some of the pictures the Disney photographers took of us during the Med cruise along with some of our own.

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Today is a special day…

Many years ago, but not enough years ago, I met my love, Penelope, for the first time face to face. We first connected on an old fashioned BBS chat room. I had just checked into a general room and she sent me a hug. I was intrigued and soon we were chatting, and then chatting privately. That was followed by tons of emails where we talked about everything, consoled each other and supported each other. Eventually, there were phone calls augmenting the emails.

This went on for several months before we actually met. We agreed to meet at the Crown Books store in Tyson’s. The first time I saw her, I admit to being a bit disappointed. You build up a mental picture of people that you have never seen, but have heard or read their writings. She looked nothing like I expected, but I eventually saw her inner beauty and fell in love with her outer beauty. That smile was hard to resist.  I brought her a loaf of nut bread, a sure fire way to win any woman’s affections. I remember she kept looking at me with this smile/grin and I kept wondering what this woman wanted from me. I need not have worried. She only wanted to love me.

Our first meeting led to walks during lunch and eventually more, much more. I would never have guessed from that first meeting how much I would grow to love this wonderful women. How lucky we were to become friends first and lovers second followed by a very short 17 years of companionship and love. I hated what the cancer was doing to her and to us, but through it all, we held each other up as best we could.

I can still visualize that day when we first met. I would give anything to have a do-over and experience it all again.

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I lost my best friend today

December 23, 2013

This morning, Penny passed away after battling cancer since this past May. We had so many ups and downs, but through it all, we held onto each other and hoped for the best.  In the end, her passing was a blessing as there was no hope and the cancer was attacking her liver and lungs.  As she began to weaken and it became evident that her time was short, her sudden decline still came as somewhat of a shock.  Most of her family were able to spend time with her before she passed and her two son’s were by her side when the end came.  I did not get there in time to say goodbye a final time.

I miss her terribly.  Sometimes, there is this surreal normalcy and then I read something, see something or have some random thought and the loss comes flooding in, overwhelming me.

Penny and I were only married for 17 years.  We always said, when we were asked how long we had been married that it was not long enough.  Now, more than ever, I can clearly say, it was not long enough.

We met when our previous marriages were failing/ending.  We spend months writing and talking before we ever physically met.  She and I became best friends.  There was just something about Penny that let me feel safe and understood.  Her smile, her kindness were irresistible.  Neither of us were really interested in marriage having done that and failed, but it soon became obvious that we were more than just friends.

We decided to go to counseling in an effort to avoid our previous mistakes, but in hindsight, I think that the counseling was just something to give us the courage to try again.  We need not have worried.  We were able to work through everything, talk about everything.  That is not to say that we did not have some moments of discord, but one or both of us could not stand the emotional distance and we would start talking again.  She knew everything about me and loved me unconditionally.  For my part, I would have done anything for her.

The inside of our rings are engraved “Best Friends, True Love”  That was absolutely true.

On our delayed honeymoon, we went to WDW and stayed at the Wilderness Lodge.  It was her first time and she fell in love with most things Disney.  We made many trips there over the years, especially after buying into DVC.  We started our own little traditions; dinner at the California Grill and breakfast at Olivia’s.  We took Segway tours of Epcot and behind the scene tours of the Magic Kingdom.  We were down there for Shaun and Jenn’s wedding and encountered a woman in a gift shop talking about Disney cruises.  This person worked for another cruise line and as part of her job was awarded free cruises.  She said that she gave those to family and paid to go on Disney.

That intrigued us and soon we had booked a Caribbean cruise.  We were fortunate to link up with two other couples to share dinner with each night that we thoroughly enjoyed being with.  On our first cruise, we snorkeled, fed sting rays, parasailed and had our first couples massage.  We were hooked.  Since that time, we have done Alaska sailings, sailed to Hawaii and most recently, the Mediterranean and Trans-Atlantic.  A total of 14 cruises, all Disney.

Shortly after we were married, we were looking for a way to meld our two families together.  We understood, that divorce and new spouses is hard on our kids.  When my boys were in scouts, we used to go once a year to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a Labor Day weekend camping trip.  I had never been there before, but I found it beautiful.

I suggested that we rent a house for Thanksgiving week that was big enough for all our kids and invite them down.  It took a couple of Thanksgivings for it to really catch on, but it has become a family tradition that we will continue into the future.  More than that, it became our favorite place to be.  It was our plan to retire there, but life had other ideas.

Penny was the center of our family.  Her loving nature drew people to her; you could not help but like/love her.  One of her son’s commented that she treated everyone like family.  I think that is a perfect description of who she was.

I am very lucky that I have so much family to help prop me up.  My children, grandchildren and stepchildren have all closed ranks around me to help me though this time despite their own grief and loss.  To be surrounded by so much love is another gift from Penny.

It is now Christmas morning and I have been unable to sleep most of the night.  I found myself listening to a couple of voicemails from Penny on my phone.  I miss her so.

I hate cancer.  It is an evil disease.  No matter what medicine tries, the cancer finds a way around it.

Looking back, I guess we were somewhat lucky.  When Penny was diagnosed back in May, we initially thought we did not have much time, but the chemo worked and she went into remission.  We were able to take one of our dream cruises in September around the Med and then the ship back to New York from Barcelona before the cancer found a way to her brain.  The radiation treatments, sepsis and then the cancer coming back took their toll, but she almost always had a smile and treated everyone with kindness and grace.  She hated being a burden, but understood it was what it was.  The medical staff always treated her with kindness and she the same to them. They loved her smile.  Her heart knew no bounds.  I miss her so.

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