Monterey Bay-cation

It’s been a busy year, as my few (dare I say rarified?) readers know, and ultimately Debbi and I decided to take a low-key vacation this month to unwind a bit. We decided to go to Monterey for a couple of days at the end of last week, and then take a couple more days off this week to relax and catch up on things.

Thursday morning we loaded into Debbi’s car Flo, and headed out. We had breakfast at Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos, which was very tasty, although the portions were about twice as big as we expected. Then we drove down Highway 1 to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a seaside town about half an hour south of Monterey which we’d never been to. Its downtown is cute, although mostly split between upscale boutiques and touristy souvenir shops. Carmel Beach City Park is quite nice, though (albeit extremely windy during the time we were there).

We drove up to Monterey along the 17-Mile Drive and through Pacific Grove. The former costs $10 admission, but I much prefer driving along the latter’s coastline, a rocky shore whose character and ocean waves for my money easily surpasses the views on the ritzy private drive.

In Monterey we stayed at the Spindrift Inn, which is right on Cannery Row. We looked at several hotels along the street and decided on this one in large part because we were able to get an ocean view room for not much more than we could get a street-side room in other hotels. Plus they had free wi-fi, continental breakfast delivered to the room in the morning, and a wine and cheese social in the late afternoon.

So we walked in and found that the view from our window looked like this:

View from the hotel room

Yes, we spent plenty of time over the next two days sitting in that windowseat. And the rest of the room was pretty nice, too! We definitely recommend the inn to anyone looking to spend a few days on Cannery Row.

Of course we spent the next morning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is the signature sight in Monterey. We saw an otter feeding, their current exhibit on cephalopods (I loved cephalopods when I was about 10 years old, and I still think they’re pretty cool), and lots of jellyfish (which Debbi loves). Even a staff member who was carrying a tube with a bunch of small jellies:

Handheld Jellyfish

Plenty of good food during the weekend, too: Hula’s Island Grill, the Whaling Station steak house, and on the drive home Aptos St. BBQ. And a visit to the Monterey branch of Bookbuyers. Alas, despite Cannery Row having a zillion candy stores, none of them carried chocolate cordials, thus saving me from myself. Well, almost, since we did make a couple of trips to Ghirardelli for ice cream sundaes.

Saturday we drove home and stopped off in Santa Cruz to do some shopping, and we made it home to have a relaxing evening with Chinese take-out for dinner. And appreciated having air conditioning at home, since while it was nice and temperate in Monterey, we were having a high-80s heat wave at home, which has persisted the rest of our vacation.

While there’s not a tremendous amount to do on Cannery Row, and we didn’t want to drive around any more than we did, we definitely had a very relaxing and fun couple of days down there, and might do it again someday!

Since then we’ve spent a couple of days puttering around the house – paying bills, having dinner with friends, etc. – before heading up this morning for a trip to California Academy of Sciences (yes, we’re still members!), with the usual follow-up trip to Borderlands Books. And here’s my obligatory panoramic photo from the roof of the Academy:

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

They had a couple of new exhibits at the Academy, too: One on the use of color in nature, and one on whales. Honestly I enjoy their rotating artifact exhibits such as the whale one more than the long-term, permanent installations. Variety and rotation is what makes it worth going back multiple times per year (and, in turn, having a membership).

I don’t think we’ve taken a vacation to just have time off for ourselves since Disneyland in February, so this was long overdue. We’re both in a bit of denial about going back to work tomorrow, but life marches on – with or without us.

Good Samaritan

This morning I did my good deed for the week. Maybe even more than one, in the space of 10 minutes.

I was biking to work on the Stevens Creek Trail, when I came across a guy helping another guy up who had apparently fallen over while on his bike. I stopped to see if they were all right, and it turned out that the first guy had pulled over to change a flat tire, and the second guy had stopped to help, and somehow lost his balance and fallen over.

Fortunately, no one was hurt (the second guy said one time he’d fallen over on his bike and broken his arm – ow!). The second guy’s seat had turned 45 degrees and he needed a hex wrench to get it straight – which I loaned him since I carry one in my seat pack. The first guy had finished replacing his tire, but needed a pump to inflate it, and I have a frame pump on my bike, so I loaned that to him. In fairly short order they were both on their way, and so was I.

Then, just about a hundred feet up the trail a guy hit his brakes and came to a sudden halt, burning rubber on the pavement. So I stopped again and asked if he was okay. He was, but his chain had somehow slipped off his gears. I’m not sure why that required coming to a sudden stop on a downhill, but I suggested he continue along to where the other two had stopped since there was a turnout there, and where he’d stopped was just on the wrong side of a blind curve (bad enough that the city mounted a convex mirror at it). Since I was also stopped on the wrong side of the curve, I got back on my bike and continued on – hopefully he took my advice.

I don’t know if it was the short rest break or just feeling good about myself, but I powered my way through the rest of my ride and made up a little of my lost time. But hopefully I earned some karma points today.

House Band and House Fireworks

One nice thing that happened at our open house last week is that my friend John came down from his place on the upper peninsula with his wife Mary. John was one of the guys I played Magic with every Monday until the regular host moved to Texas. The game moved to a new venue, but also a new day – Wednesday – which is much less convenient for me, and John got a new job closer to home so coming down here to play on a weekend wasn’t convenient for him, either. So it’s probably been a couple of years since I saw him, and I hadn’t met his wife before.

He’d also invited us to his Fourth of July party, and so I was inspired after seeing him again for us to go. So we did!

(Aside: John is also one of my regular sparring partners at Ascension on iOS.)

The party was in a way their own open house, and in addition to seeing their home, his son C and his rock band Time Heist (named after the Doctor Who episode) played a couple of sets in their back yard. They’re quite good! C usually played lead guitar but switched with the bassist sometimes, and they’re a rare band where the drummer is also the vocalist. Their first set was a tad wonky because the guitar was mixed down below the bass and drums, but it seemed to get balanced out for their second set.

After a comment I made to John, they did a rendition of The Who‘s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which was quite good (even if it did perhaps show the limitations of the drummer also doing the vocals, as both parts are pretty demanding), and C did a chunk of the synthesizer part on guitar, which was nifty. Afterwards I reflected to myself that we’ve gone in less than 50 years from the song amazing everyone in rock music with its technical prowess to one that a high school trio can credibly cover in a back yard. And that’s why we’ll never see another .400 hitter in baseball. (Okay, that sentence only makes sense if you read the book on the other end of that link, Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House.)

(Sigh… why did I not take up guitar or piano in earnest when I was a kid? One of many things I regret not having had the discipline and/or interest to pursue when I was young.)

Anyway, a couple of other guys from the old Magic group came by, too, and now I have a couple more people to invite to next year’s open house.

The food was good, and John mixed some tasty cocktails as well. We hung out with everyone, and towards sunset came the other reason to stay: John lives in one of the few cities around here where it’s legal to buy and shoot off your own fireworks. So he set off a bunch in the street in front of hid driveway, and sure enough, two police cruisers drove by during the show and didn’t even slow down. A pretty nice display all in all.

We finally headed home an hour or so after sunset, and had a great time. I’m definitely glad we made the time to head up, and hopefully we’ll see them again before another year – or three – has passed.

Open House 2015

Yesterday we held our fifth annual open house, our annual summer party which started as a housewarming but which we enjoy enough to throw every year. It’s a fair bit of work to set up, if only to clean the house, buy the food, and throw the cats in a room (so we can leave the doors open), but at the end it feels worth it.

This year I made margaritas again, but instead of Debbi making sangria I made a gin punch called mother’s ruin, which we discovered at a cocktail party a friend threw last winter. I made a triple batch of what’s in the recipe, and we went through almost all of it. Debbi used a triple slow cooker we received as a wedding gift to make dips, and also prepared meatballs for sandwiches. So we had plenty of food – especially considering that a few folks always bring things to munch on as well. (It’s gonna take a while to go through the enormous box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates someone brought!)

I doubt we’ll ever get the turnout we got for our first open house, but we probably got 40ish adults plus 8-12 kids during the course of the day, including a few folks who hadn’t been before, which meant showing off the house to them, which is, frankly, one of the fun parts, since we love our house! Of course it’s also why we had to do all the cleaning!

The biggest downside to the open house is that so many people show up that I don’t get to talk with everyone, and there were a few people who I think showed up and then headed out (maybe several hours later) without my saying more than ‘hello’ to them. If anyone reading this wanted to spend more time specifically talking to me or Debbi, in the future your best bet is either to show up early or stay late! A couple of friends and their families showed up right around start time so we were able to chat with them at some length, and then our neighbors and our friend Paul stayed late. If you want to meet our cats, staying late is also the way to do that, as in the evening we closed the doors and let them out of their room.

One of the fun things about the party is all the kids who come over, putting our back yard to use it doesn’t often see, and also getting a bunch of our friends’ kids together to play. As usual bubble blowing was a big hit with the kids. We should have kids over more often just to have them stomp down the uneven soil in the yard!

Once again we were blessed with nice weather, a little warm at the peak of things, but not the 90+ degrees it had been a few days ago.

And then today we remembered why we always hold the open house on Saturday rather than Sunday: It’s gonna take us a few days to finish putting the house completely back together.

It was worth it, though!

The Adventures of Mr. Orange Kitty

In the few years we’ve lived in our house, we’ve become familiar with a number of neighborhood outdoor kitties. For instance:

  • The small tortoiseshell we think lives in the house behind us, and who sometimes walks through our yard.
  • The tuxedo cat who lives across the street and sometimes hangs out on our front porch.
  • The tabby cat who also lives across the street but who mostly stays over there.
  • The young cat down the street who sometimes walks with us to the edge of his territory when we go for our neighborhood walk. He has a collar so he’s probably an indoor-outdoor cat.

Our most common visitor, though, has been a large orange tabby who we call “Mr. Orange Kitty”.

As far as we know, Mr. Orange Kitty doesn’t have an owner (no collar, doesn’t want to interact with humans). He also walks around like he’s the ruler of the neighborhood. (We actually don’t know that he’s a “he”, but he’s a big guy – probably 15 pounds or more – so that’s our guess.)

Sometimes we see him hanging out on the front porch (occasionally with tux boy), but he runs away when we get close. He walks across the street, hides under cars (and seems to know to avoid them when they’re driving down the street), and comes into our back yard to sleep in the sun on our patio. He has on occasion attracted the attention of our indoor cats; they find him interesting, but he’s realized their appeal to him is limited. Here he is exchanging a look with Blackjack, which means this is probably from 2011:

Mr. Orange Kitty & Blackjack

But we mostly see him sitting on our back yard fence, especially in the spring and fall when he can sit in the sun when it’s cool out. He also sleeps on the roof of the shed in the yard behind us, or even on the room of the house next to us. A couple of times I’ve place cat treats on the fence near where he sleeps to see if he might warm up to us, but no luck so far – he takes off whenever someone gets close to him.

The sad recent development is that a month or so ago we noticed that he looked kind of disheveled (well, more than usual) and was walking with a limp. Around the same time we stopped seeing him on the fence, so we think he got hurt somehow – perhaps in a fight, since we do sometimes hear the sounds of cat fights at night – and that he might not be able to jump onto the fence any more. I actually hadn’t seen him at all for a few weeks – which is quite a while even for him – but Debbi says she saw him crossing the street heading for tux boy’s house this week, so he’s still around.

Since we don’t see him in his usual spots anymore, we put a cardboard box on the front porch for him (or any other cats) to sit or snooze in. No sign yet that they’re using it, but we know cats like the porch so hopefully some of them have found it.

Hopefully Mr. Orange Kitty will heal up and be able to get back to his usual routine. Of course, we have no idea how old he is, so if he’s an old guy then he might not heal up. But I wish him the best, because he’s been a cheerful part of our corner of the neighborhood for the last few years.

Nap Time


This past weekend Debbi and I flew back to Boston for my Mom’s memorial service – or her “momorial” as I started thinking of it.

Since Mom passed away in March, my sister Katy and I have been working on her affairs. As the executor of her will I’ve been setting up her estate, while Katy’s been working on the memorial and having her remains interred. It’s been a lot of work for both of us, and Debbi pitched in to help planning the memorial.

We took the red-eye flight Wednesday night – and boy am I getting tired of red-eyes. I think our next trip back we’ll take a daytime flight instead. On the other hand, we landed on time Thursday morning and had a quiet day hanging out with my Dad, and later with Katy and my nephew I when they drove up. It was refreshing to land and not have something I had to get done that first day.

Friday was the memorial. Mom’s remains have been buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery since, as Katy put it, Cambridge was always the center of the universe in Mom’s mind.

The memorial was held at the Bigelow Chapel at the cemetery:

Bigelow Chapel

We arrived around 10 am to find the priest and pianist both already there, and the caterer setting up for the luncheon afterwards. We started a bit after 10:30. Besides the priest – who I thought did a really good job – Katy read a poem she’d selected, and one of Mom’s oldest friends shared a personal remembrance. And then I shared my own memories.

Writing my talk had taken chunks of time off and on for a week previous, and it was not easy to figure out what I wanted to say in public. And even after practicing it the night before, I was glad to see the others speak first so I could adjust to deliver it a bit more extemporaneously rather than just reading it.

So, although I read it somewhat differently, this is what I prepared:

When I was writing this, I kept going back to the month before Christmas of 1999. I’d just moved to California, and I was feeling pretty homesick. Mom suggested that it wasn’t too late to come back to visit, so I lined up someone to watch my cats and flew back for the holidays. It was just what I needed.

Visiting Mom for me was a time to relax: We’d sit and eat breakfast and read the newspaper, hang out reading books, and sometimes go out to eat or to do some shopping. We’d enjoy the warm days on the deck of her house, or watch the Red Sox games at night. If I headed into Boston to meet someone for dinner, I’d walk back from the subway to find the outside lights left on for me even after Mom had gone to bed.

Like me, Mom was something of a homebody. She’d talked once or twice about moving after Katy and I finished college, maybe after she retired, but she stayed in her big old house as long as she was able. It was hard to beat the location, of course, but it was also obviously her home, where she wanted to spend her time and read her books and sit with her cat. And she made it a comfortable place for me to visit and get away from things in my own life for a while.

* * *

Mom was always thoughtful about sending little gifts – thoughtful in the sense that I think she either really thought about them, or she’d come across something and think about someone it would be a great gift for. Gifts that maybe made you raise your eyebrows at first, but then you’d find out that they were just what you wanted somehow. One year she gave us an electric pepper shaker which Debbi thinks is the best thing ever. She’d send me articles from the Boston Globe – okay, mostly Red Sox articles, but still.

She especially had a talent for finding greeting cards for every occasion. Even when she moved to assisted living, and she was no longer driving, she managed to find clever cards for the holidays and for my birthday. The first Christmas after she moved she gave me a couple of things which included a little flashlight which I still use to find cat toys which have rolled under the furniture.

They weren’t grand gestures, but they were the little things that she kept sending year after year. Eventually I started putting more thought into finding good cards of my own to send, but I don’t think I’ve gotten up to her standard yet.

* * *

No remembrance of Mom is complete without talking about pets. She loved her pets, and she loved other peoples’ pets too. She was one of our few house guests who would leave her bedroom door ajar for our cats to visit her at night. I remember one time – after she’d visited – sending her some pictures of our cats, and she asked, “But what about my friend, Blackjack?” Debbi’s cat had snoozed with her most nights while she’d been with us.

Mom and her cat Maggie were made for each other: Maggie had had a rough kittenhood, and needed someone patient enough to let her get used to being a house cat. But Maggie is also an independent cat, which I think suited Mom’s lifestyle after she retired. So they had their routines, both together and separately. The last couple of years Mom would tell me how often she’d get up from her spot on the couch and Maggie would immediately move to it for the warmth. But I also have lots of pictures of Maggie sitting on Mom’s lap getting petted, both of them happy to have the other.

* * *

These last few months lots of people have said to me how they appreciated Mom’s friendship, or her presence in the various communities she was a part of. I know all of you have your own memories of her, from different times and places that I didn’t really see, from school, or teaching, or volunteering. She did a lot of stuff, and touched a lot of people.

I know she’d be touched and grateful that you all came out today.

Thank you for coming.

After the service we walked out to her grave. We were lucky that the humidity of the previous day had broken for a while, so it was a pretty nice walk. The caterers switched out the chairs from the service for tables for the luncheon. It was nice to talk to Mom’s friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years, and catch up with some other people I don’t see often enough. One guest said that he appreciated the luncheon since, as he put it, funerals are often an opportunity for closure, but the luncheon was also an opportunity to keep some things open.

The chapel was a great venue, too. If you look at it superficially it might seem dark and maybe a bit dreary, but it honestly didn’t feel that way inside, with lots of wood and gentle lighting. The fact that it was bright outside to help lighten things up through the stained glass was probably a factor, too.

Bigelow Window

I remarked that I think Mom’s reaction to the service would have been that we didn’t need to go to all that trouble. But Debbi added that she’d have loved that we did.

Things started wrapping up around 1 pm, and everyone had left by 1:30. I guess I wish people had stuck around a little longer, but I wouldn’t have wanted things to go on too long, either.

So we had the rest of the day to hang out, as well as Saturday morning, to hang out. Katy and I left after lunch on Saturday, and Debbi and I drove down to visit her family for the rest of the day. Her niece – who I guess is also my niece now! – was performing in a dance recital and also celebrating her 14th birthday. The recital was – okay – a bit long, but actually pretty fun overall. And we had a fun time hanging out for dinner and cake afterwards.

Sunday the weather was a mix of rain and humidity, and our flight home was delayed an hour and a half due to the weather. On top of that, Debbi had been fighting off a cold and it blossomed Saturday night, which made for a miserable trip home for her. But we finally made it home, unpacked, and collapsed into bed, surrounded by kitties happy to see us.

We both took Monday off, and on top of Debbi being sick, I came down with a splitting headache late in the day, which clobbered the rest of my day. But at least we were able to get over our let lag, and make progress fighting off our respective ailments.

The week leading up to this trip was very stressful as I worried about getting my talk done, how it would go over, and worrying about the memorial generally (even though I wasn’t the one doing the work). But it all went as smoothly as we could have hoped, I thought. And now we have a lovely spot where we can visit Mom when we go back to Boston. As a final image, here’s the view from her grave site. I think she’d have loved it.

Lake View

Mother’s Day

Mom never cared much about Mother’s Day that I can remember. Not while I’ve been an adult, anyway, and I don’t remember it ever being a big deal as a kid, either.

One thing Mom was really good at was finding fun and clever greeting cards for holidays and birthdays, and even when she moved into assisted living where her greeting card options were basically limited to a single CVS, she was still able to find some great ones. So over time I started putting a little more effort into finding good cards for her for holidays, too. So for me, Mother’s Day involved sending her a card, and giving her a call.

Today is the first Mother’s Day since she passed away, and it’s definitely melancholy because of that. No more phone calls. (In fact, if you call her phone number – which she had for almost 44 years, it was kind of hard to call to cancel it – you get a recording directing you to my phone number.)

I’m planning to call my sister later today, though (not only because she’s a mom, but to discuss some stuff about her estate), and it seems appropriately congruent with the (Hallmark) holiday.

Off The Grid

On top of getting married last week, today was Debbi’s birthday. We haven’t done a lot to celebrate our birthdays in recent years – neither of us has a lot of stuff that we want, and sometimes we take a day off or go away, but usually all we do is get a card and go out to dinner together.

Tonight we decided to try something new, going to the Off The Grid gathering of food trucks in Palo Alto. Well, it took us a little while to get there as something was wrong with the left turn light at a major intersection, but we did finally make it. Debbi drives past this location on her way home from work so she’s seen it setting up for a while. And I wanted another go at Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos, since my work catered them in a few weeks ago and they were delicious!

It was pretty quiet when we arrived a bit before 7 pm, probably because it was also getting chilly out (a far cry from the 90 degrees it hit on our wedding day last week!), but within half an hour there were a couple of dozen people milling around. There were – I think – 7 trucks plus a guitarist, and the hotel hosting the event was smart enough to have a tent selling beer and wine, too. We were both in the mood for barbecue, which we got from Roderick’s, and it was good! Debbi also got some clam chowder from Lobsta Truck. And then ice cream!

Off The Grid has a bunch of locations where they set up around the Bay Area, and some of my San Francisco friends know them from their presence up there. I like the idea because I see a lot of food trucks around, but some of them look pretty dodgy, and I figure a larger organization like this is a good way to be exposed to the better-quality ones. (Sure, there’s no guarantee, but there’s no guarantee with a restaurant, either!) I have tried following some food trucks via a Twitter list, but haven’t had much luck with it mainly because I haven’t figure out how Twitter lists fit into my online workflow.

Anyway, we’ll probably go back this summer as the weather warms up – it was a nice change from our usual weeknight dinner fare!


So Debbi and I got married!

We’d been talking about it and then planning it since last summer. For my part, I think the stuff with my Mom over the last few years made me think more seriously about it, in case something happened to one of us the other one would have some rights to care for them. Plus we’ve been together for 14 years, so it’s not like we rushed into it. Exactly 14 years, in fact, as April 30 is our dating anniversary.

We got married in a 15-minute ceremony at the Santa Clara County Clerk Recorder in downtown San Jose. I went in over Thanksgiving break last year to make the appointment, and then we bought rings (picking them up in February), and then last week went in to get the marriage license. We mostly kept things under wraps until sometime in March.

Last night our friend Karen flew in from Portland because I think she had to see it with her own eyes to believe it. We wanted to have a low-key event so we didn’t really encourage people to fly in for it. So Karen was the only out-of-towner we expected. Debbi took half a day off to pick her up, and they hung out at home for the afternoon. I gave her one frivolous little gift, a tiara which I thought she might wear for dinner after the ceremony. In fact, she wore it almost the whole next day!

The next morning we got up and drove to Sprinkles to pick up three dozen cupcakes for dinner in the evening. Then we went to the Crepevine downtown where several of our friends met us for brunch.

Back home we started changing for the 2 pm ceremony. The doorbell rang and I went down to see who it was, and we got the biggest surprise of the day – Debbi’s sisters flew in from the east coast for just the day to come to the ceremony and to dinner! It was nuts – Debbi couldn’t believe it! We got to show Janine our house, and Dianne found the cookies I had baked a few days earlier.

Yes, I wore a suit to the ceremony:


We happened to get the same woman, Tina, who had sold us our marriage license the week before, to officiate the ceremony, and she was a lot of fun. I think we had 10 people at the ceremony, so we ended up with lots of pictures, including a bunch in the courtyard outside afterwards (where we didn’t linger too long because the mercury hit 90!). K in particular took a bunch of great photos that I need to get from her at some point (besides the ones up on Facebook). I thought Debbi was going to be fighting back the giggles for the whole ceremony – neither of us are very comfortable being in the spotlight like that.


Debbi decided to wear her dress for the rest of the day, but I changed out of my suit when we got home and hung out for the afternoon. For dinner we invited a bunch of friends out to our traditional anniversary restaurant Don Giovanni where we were seated in their new(ish) banquet room we’d never been in before. It had some space for the kids to run around in, and a couple of good-sized tables. We were able to talk to most of our guests during the night. And my credit card company didn’t put a fraud alert on the card when I paid for it all! Yay!

Debbi’s sisters headed back to the airport a little after sunset (they spent less than 12 hours on the ground in California), and people gradually filtered out as dinner wound down. We came back home with Karen – who’s heading back home tomorrow – and we collapsed ourselves.

All in all I think it was just the wedding day we’d been looking forward to.

And now on to the rest of our lives.


The Final Mom Trip

We’re back from what I think of as “the final Mom trip”, even though Mom wasn’t there (she passed away earlier this month), and even though there will be a memorial service for her later this spring. But this was the last trip to her last home.

Debbi was kind enough to come with me to help out with whatever she could help out with. We took the usual red-eye flight to Boston and stayed with my father. The timing was not bad, as after Boston’s record-setting snow total we could have arrived just before one of the city’s huge blizzards. Instead it was cold, but still mid-20s at the coldest, and the foot-and-a-half of snow still on the ground was slowly melting.

We landed Thursday morning, and in the afternoon drove over to The Falls at Cordingly Dam, the assisted living facility where Mom’s lived for the last two and a half years, since her knee replacement surgery. Mom had moved to a new apartment in January when she was declining more rapidly, and my sister Katy went up then to dispose of most of her stuff (since she had way, way more clothes and books and tchotchkes than she needed – or even wanted by that point). This was my first visit to this room, which was small but had a terrific view overlooking the falls for which the facility is named.

The room felt very much like her, with many familiar things. The most unsettling thing for me was seeing her glasses and shoes sitting there, as if she’d just stepped away for a minute and could soon return for another normal visit with us.

My sister drove up for the trip too, and met us at The Falls in the afternoon, as we started going through her things. The main things to deal with were her collection of pictures, and her furniture. Katy and I divided up the pictures, and Katy decided to ship a few pieces of furniture back to her home. And we kept a few books, and a handful of other keepsakes. But that was about it.

Friday Katy, Dad and I went to Mount Auburn Cemetery, where we plan to bury Mom’s ashes so we could check out their available spots. Katy had said that she’d gone with Mom to a funeral for one of Mom’s friends several years ago and that it was very pretty and Mom seemed very taken with it. Plus, it’s in Cambridge, which Mom has always felt attached to, ever since she went to college there. So it seemed appropriate. Even with all the snow I could see how pretty the cemetery would be at other times of year, and after talking to one of the representatives and going out to see some spots, we decided on a spot to bury her, one I think she would have loved.

Saturday was another day of going through Mom’s things, and then Katy left Sunday morning. This was one more milestone, as I said goodbye to Mom’s cat, Maggie. We think Maggie is about 12, and she’s had a rough time of it, switching homes twice these last few years. And I don’t think Mom was really able to interact with her near the end – The Falls staff took care of her. I guess she sat quietly with Mom for most of the last couple of weeks, and the morning Mom died she apparently meowed to get peoples’ attention. Debbi says she thinks being there at the end gave Maggie some closure.

When we visited this week, Maggie was always lying behind the couch, although she would let us reach down and pet her. The director of the floor said Maggie had been coming out for attention when she went in to feed her, so at least she was getting a little love. We’d been unable to find another home for Maggie, so Katy took her back home with her and was going to try to integrate her into her household, which has two 1-year-old cats already. Maggie deserves a happy ending, so hopefully it will work out.

From there Debbi and I drove down to visit her family and take a day off, hanging out with her sisters and their pets, and eventually the kids. It wasn’t exactly a quiet day, but it was a fun one. In the evening it started snowing, which led to Boston breaking its previous record for snowfall in a season. I got to brush snow off of Dad’s car, something I don’t think I’ve had to do for a car since I moved to California. But the drive home was not bad, as once we got on the main roads they were pretty clear.

Monday we went back to Mom’s apartment and picked up the last few things I wanted, and also met the shippers who collected the items Katy and I were each keeping. This was also the last goodbye for me to The Falls and to my Mom’s “space”. I hope she feels that we did all right by her and the things she felt were important.

Tuesday’s main event was meeting with some attorneys to get moving on executing Mom’s will, of which I will be the executor (I guess the modern terminology is “personal representative” for her estate). I’d really had no idea where to begin, but I got a referral from the lawyer I’d used to draw up her power of attorney in 2012, and the folks we met with were very helpful, so we’ve hired them to work on the legal end of the process. It sounds like it ought to be all something I can handle remotely, which is good because those cross-country flights get pretty wearing. And it doesn’t sound like there are likely to be any glitches along the way. So that was a big weight off my shoulders.

And Wednesday we hung out for the morning, then took the T to the airport and flew home.

It was a draining trip, but I got everything done that I wanted to, and it all turned out pretty well, I think. I guess I’m still a bit numb from it all, but on the other hand it’s not like Mom’s passing was a big surprise, so I’ve been gradually getting used to the idea for a couple of years now.

There’s a certain glum finality to the process of going through stuff and closing things down, which will continue for a while as her estate gets handled. But it’s not a sudden thing, it’s a series of events and a bunch of work. I guess that’s something I’d never thought about before.