Tag Archives: family

’tis the season

I’ve spent the day preparing a feast for our family and friends. Brni cleaned and set the house to rights and then the two of us sat watching the DVD set of Boston Legal as we wrapped presents to put under the tree.

I’m very much into the holiday season this year. I feel better physically than I have for a long time, plus both my children are in a good place this year. There’s also a weird peace knowing that my dad is not suffering the confusion of dementia anymore. I’m sad he’s gone, but relieved he’s at peace.

So tomorrow–no today–I will celebrate Solstice/Yule/Christmas by offering food from my heart to those I love and cherish.

Happy Christmas to all, friends and family.

return of christmas

This time last year, my back trouble was so debilitating that we had to cancel our Christmas party for all but immediate family and a few very close friends. But this year saw the return of our annual Christmas open house after my successful surgery. It was a long, happy day full of food, drink, presents and lovely people.

Here are a few photos of Christmas morning behind the cut.

Protected: keepin it all even

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is this a friggin’ test?

if so, i’m gonna start cheating.
my dad is descending into the depths of dementia.
my second son’s heart is broken to pieces.
and then last night, my first born called. my darling son loves to talk on the phone for extended periods of time. everyone who knows me knows that i hate to talk on the phone for more than brief, utilitarian intervals. i do not see the phone as an instrument of social interaction, but rather an implement to waste time or transmit bad news.
as the conversation progressed, i became aware of the fact that michael’s thinking was becoming somewhat rigid and a little scary. it was as if he morphed from my brilliant, open-minded child into a irrational stranger who could think only in absolute black and whites. it was rather frightening. his speech got somewhat slow and slurry and it started to sound as if the words were forced through gritted teeth.
then the phone went staticky and we were cut off.
i waited a bit then called back. his girlfriend answered and said he was in the midst of a migraine seizure. i told her to call 911. i called back 10 minutes later and michael had closed himself in his bedroom with the phone so she couldn’t make the call. i convinced him to open the door and call 911.
at the emergency room they checked him out, gave him a CT scan, and sucked out some spinal fluid to see if he was bleeding in his head.
i don’t know the end result as the horrible and mocking woman who works in the ER refused to tell me anything on the phone. michael finally called around 1AM to tell me that he was ok and waiting on the results of the spinal tap but that the CT scan showed nothing remarkable.
i have not heard from him since and there’s no answer on his home or cell phones.
i don’t know what to do since it is apparently against the law to ease a mother’s mind and it now stands that there is not one person in my family who is ok.
not one.


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birthday wishes

my in-laws have a tradition of going out to dinner to celebrate birthdays. the birthday person gets to pick the eating establishment. this sounds reasonable, but my in-laws aren’t known for their culinary wisdom and sometimes do odd things at the table.

this time, we ate at paul’s favorite chinese place in west chester. they have an impressive, laminated menu sporting creatively named dishes. the dish i picked was named after a chrysanthemum.

as i was looking at the menu, i saw movement out the corner of my eye. upon further inspection, i found a rather large roach-like bug nestled in the folds of my scarf. i quietly showed brni my little visitor then i gently shook him off my scarf and onto the floor. that’s when i decided to fill up on those crunchy things you dip in chinese mustard and wash it down with medicinal doses of wine to kill the germs. my dinner did not disappoint. it was very pretty and wholly inedible.

towards the end of the meal, brni’s father gave each one of us a pamphlet that he picked up in florida from some nursing home. we have five wishes, and they are:
1. the person i want to make care decisions for me when i can’t.
2. the kind of medical treatment i want or don’t want.
3. how comfortable i want to be.
4. how i want people to treat me.
5. what i want my loved ones to know.

after we fill it all out, we need to have it signed by two witnesses who are willing to swear that we are not crazy and they aren’t going to make a fortune when our designated loved ones pull our plugs. brni and i made a rather quick exit after that.

i feel kind of guilty about dumping the roach on the floor the way i did, because now that i think about it, he was probably just trying to hitch a ride to safety.

an old house occupied

My aunt and uncle, Sally and Bob live in a lovely, old farmhouse on land originally deeded to William Penn’s son. Best they can figure, the house was built around the mid 1700s. This is probably a very good guess since Bob and Sally are very thorough people in all things. Built of stucco covered stone, the original building was one square room downstairs where all the cooking and indoor activity occurred. One wall is taken up by the original walk-in fireplace, complete with hooks for cooking. Tucked in the corner to the left of the fireplace are very narrow, winding stairs to the original upstairs bedroom. Above that, a small attic.

Over the centuries the house has been added on to and modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing installed. As there were no building codes to comply with for the oldest renovations, the rooms all have their own character. Floorboards were laid without regard to the direction of the previous ones. The new kitchen just sits on the ground without basement or even a slab underneath. The second and third bedrooms added centuries apart aren’t level with the original. The almost one hundred acres of farmland have shrunk to about a 1/2 acre surrounded by several developments. But the basement is still dirt. The house sits in the middle of some sort of weather vortex where storm clouds circle, thunder rumbles and lightning tears the sky but never settles overhead. You can watch the show but the plants still need watering when it’s all done. It’s all rather erie.

So Saturday, Bob and Sally had us all over to celebrate my dad’s 76th birthday with a cookout on their wrap-around porch. Bob brought out some old maps he’d found of the area which showed his house and the dates that people past had occupied it. One of the previous owners was named Ephraim Cobbs. He and his brother owned the property in the early 1800s. One story led to another until Bob told of the pipe tobacco and whispers in the night. The house, it appears, is haunted by a very soft spoken man who smokes a pipe by the fireplace. Nothing is ever disturbed, doors never slam, no cold spots or rearrangement of knick knacks. Just quiet conversation by the fireplace at the end of the day.

I think Ephram must have had a rocking chair and a sweet smelling pipe.

on the heels of the thanksgiving disaster…

things started out nicely enough, unwrapping presents over coffee and biscotti. brni was pleased with his new gi and jesse was happy to get his rock salt lamp and the inevitable socks stuffed in his stocking. brni blessed me with my very first drum. a lovely little djembe with a lizard pattern dotted across the base. time spent later cooking for the winter party. family came. friends came. michael brought his lovely friend, joy and his two dogs.

then things turned very wrong.

one of brni’s friends let michael’s dogs loose. why? how? i don’t know. i wasn’t there. i was in the band room with a friend from our dojang talking about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. brni came down and stood over me with his winter coat on, and told me that the dogs had been let out the front door. michael had raced after them, chasing them across lancaster pike and back, but lost them in the night. when michael returned to the house, he collapsed in an emotionally exhausted heap. i didn’t quite understand what brni was saying at first. how could all this have happened one floor up without me knowing? bill, brni and i ran out with flashlights and leashes in a vain attempt to catch the dogs.

the dogs, moogi and wil are silken windhounds. they are a new, rather rare breed, established from the borzoi (russian wolfhound) and whippet. they hit a top speed of 35 mph and have no body fat whatsoever. christmas night was bitterly cold; not a good night for skinny dogs. brni went back, called 911 and filed a report. bill and i gave up the search shortly afterwards. the house emptied out rather quickly after that and i made brni take rebecca home. it was not a night for guests to be sleeping over.

i paced most of the night and finally fell into a fitful sleep around 4am. when i got up, michael and joy were already out searching. they got back around 7:30 and michael got to work creating flyers to post everywhere. then the phone rang with news that the dogs were found! they were frolicking between the large yards on daventree road, just three blocks away! we piled in the car with raw meat, leashes and trembling relief. wil saw michael first and came running. then moogi took his eye off the cop and ran to his family. michael gave them the meat that was to be their christmas feast. joy ran from the car and i asked, “do you have the leashes?” she stopped, looked adorably sheepish and ran back for them. so much joyful running after such fear and sadness…

at home, the dogs were closely inspected. they were terrified, cold but frostbite and injure-free from their grand holiday adventure.

and i am rethinking the whole holiday party thing. we had a good 12 year party run, but the gods are not on our side anymore, and i think we need to heed the ever so obvious warnings.


wish i could gather up my children, turn our clocks back and heal the past of hurts and trauma caused by my poor judgment.
if only…
i don’t know what to do to ease it all; smooth it out; kiss it better. brni says write it down. but that scares me. can i put it out there in black & white? can i live with myself? and do i share it with them, so that they see what i know? what i did? what i didn’t do? how i failed them both?
so, if i start, i have to start with michael’s birth. a long way back…hardly a blink of my eye. i should start soon, because if i blink again, it might be too late.

the turkey’s revenge

we moved the birds out and most of the bits of clutter and clustered the plants (2 large bananas, and other way too big plants for our tiny house) into the corners, pulled out the table and used the longish plant table to extend it lengthwise. there’s no lighting in the room, so i scrounged every candle i owned and placed them around so we could see our food.

i had everything set and ready so that all i needed to do was cook and put the food out for our thanksgiving feast.

then people started showing up. my sister criticized everything. my dad kept sticking his face into mine and grabbing stuff out of my hands while i was trying to cook all the last minute crunch time dishes…you know all the stuff that gets done all at once. my son, michael finally had to ban dad from the kitchen. brni tried to squeeze in 2 more place settings when his brother and girlfriend unexpectedly arrived, upping the body count to twelve. lori began helping him and started rearranging chairs and generally confused the issue. jesse went in and used his magic to bring order back to the room.

i came within a breath of losing control of the dinner. brni’s mother and my sister had dumped a bunch of debris on the kitchen counters (fried bread (why?), purses, paper bags with nothing in them). michael (along with everyone else, i fear) realized what was happening. he held me by the shoulders, somehow centering me so that i could go on. he even managed to clear off enough space to carve the free range, freshly sacrificed bird.

finally, we sat down and the food was very good despite everyone’s efforts at sabotage.

after pie, freshly whipped cream and coffee, they all cleared out rather quickly. hate to eat and run, thanks for feeding me. among brni’s mom’s too many parting words were, “i don’t mind if we do this at my house next time. it is much bigger and if everyone else brings the food…”

my cousin and jesse’s girlfriend dropped by on their way back from their respective family feasts. we all had a wonderful time chatting and drinking slivovitz. then, in a feeling of love and warmth, i gave michael a big bear-hug and destroyed his back. his pain was intense and his left arm was rendered useless. love hurts.

i had to literally carry him, walking backwards over to the chair. after many horrible minutes (or was it hours?), jesse helped him up and outside to try and keep him mobile. they did a lot of talking and it came out that jesse’s father had thrown michael against a wall when he was eight, which michael believes was the start of his back problems. this was news to jesse (i hadn’t related details of all the violence his father subjected us to). jesse’s anger and hatred of his father rekindled in the flame of his brother’s pain. bless me father, for you have sinned.

when michael got to the point where he could walk on his own (more or less), i had brni set up the massage table. i put michael on it and gave him reiki. the only way i can describe his face, mind, body and breathing is clenched. after i started the reiki, he slowly began to breath normally. his face softened and he began to snore. by the time i was done, his breathing was completely normal and his snoring quieted. i managed to get him up to bed and tucked him in. his dogs snuggled in around him and i went back downstairs to find jess and brni doing the last of the cleanup.

it was now 3am. completely spent, i went to bed.

yesterday, we decided that the 2 1/2 hr drive home would be too much for michael. so i loaded his dogs into the back of my forester, placed michael in the front seat and drove them to baltimore. brni and loki followed in michael’s car. luckily, traffic on 95 was lighter than the usual friday afternoon/evening stop n’crawl because the gods, in their infinite wisdom, created black friday and everyone was worshiping at the malls.

today, i plan to keep my feet up and read something totally inane and entertaining. i may break out the epsom salts and settle into a tub full of lavender oil.

i also plan on canceling all future thanksgiving celebrations.

a proper sit down

thanksgiving will be here soon and i need to prepare. aside from cooking, i need to find table space for 10 people. my table can seat six, but the room is so narrow that one side of the table is shoved up to the wall, so in actuality, it serves only four. so what i need to do is somehow make an L or T shaped table using my plant table. of course this means rearranging the animal cages. looks like the birds will have to be moved out…to the bedroom? and the plants piled decorative (i hope) on the floor in the corner.

then there’s the problem of chairs. of the four old thrift shop maple chairs, one was hopelessly broken. the seat was split right down the middle, one half had the back still attached, the other piece looked like a deformed stool. brni managed to glue and brace it together again. i just put the last coat of tung oil on the repair job. brni had four chairs from his small dining set that loki decided were chew toys when she was a pup. the seats were basically devoid of stuffing, which really was no great loss because the vinyl covers were a lovely puke green and had been long praying for and end to it all. so, i took them apart and have almost finished recovering them. they should be done in less than 2 hours, but that will have to wait til morning.

i’ve learned a lot about chairs and sewing today. first off, when in doubt, use a staple gun. second, where fabric is concerned, you can’t eyeball your cuts. third, bottom of the line, 24 year old singer sewing machines never die. my poor old machine has not been out of its case since 1989. when i realized i had no choice but to sew the backs of these chairs, i didn’t think it possible that the sewing machine would even turn on let alone sew. i should try to figure out how to make clothes, just to pay homage to this tough little machine.

so…i have 4 maple chairs, 4 fake wrought iron chairs with lovely new cotton floral covers in rusty fall colors, 2 very old black hitchcock chairs and just in case anyone else shows up unexpectedly, i have stained white plastic deck chairs.
i think i’m ready to plan the meal after i move the birds, lizard and plants.
this just might work out.

so, now, all we need is the food.

a very bad day–monday mourning

yesterday was a very bad day.
driving to work, early in the morning, the car in front of me decided to turn left. as i approached it’s rear, an oncoming car wanted to turn left between us. no time to stop short to let the oncoming car clearance. i checked my rear view mirror and saw a car that looked to be aways behind. i switched to the right lane to get out of everybody’s way.

about a quarter mile on i see luisa’s car behind me and i wave. she’s pissed. she’s yelling at me. i motion to her, “what the fuck?” she makes her way ahead of me and stops near where i usually park in the lot at work. she gets out of her car and comes up beside me, yelling, “you ran me off the road! it was like you didn’t even see me and i ended up in the Chili’s petunias!” i said, “i didn’t see you! omygod!”

i realized that the car i saw in my rear, objects-are-closer-than-they-appear mirror, was luisa’s and she was probably right at my side.

ogod. i almost killed my friend!

it’s a true friend who, after you fail to kill her, comforts you in your realization that you almost totally fucked up.

later that night, i found out my uncle died.

uncle andy was truly my second father. we lived next door on 3 acres of ground. there was me, my sister lori, my cousin donna and her brother andy. all of us in descending, two and a half year order. we played together. ate together. bathed together. grew up together.

my mom died in 1989. uncle pete died a couple years ago. now uncle andy. that’s it for the ferrilli’s. my mom’s line is gone. there’s no one but my dad and aunt rose left to hold the line between us and mortality. and their hold is tenuous…slipping fast into the oblivion of failing health and dementia.

it’s our time now. our time to plan the funerals and to face the reaper one on one.
we are holding the line now and our grasp is slipping and our children are turning to face the future.

remember, be here now.


sitting in easy pose on the couch, laptop appropriately on the lap, putting off trudging upstairs to install oodles more memory in my mac (memory brni so sweetly bought for me. graci baby!).

jess had his impacted wisdom teeth removed today. he only had three. his surgeon told him to thank me for that. barely half an hour after the doctor took him he was done. they called me into the recovery cubby to sit with him for another half hour.

jess was stoned. definitely stoned. i was jealous. he saw me and said, “hey, mama! do i have holes in my head?” i told him he did and he said, “when are they going to take my teeth out?” i told him they already did. he was done. he said, “i’m done? heeeeyyyyy…they only took a second!”

he went on and on talking, laughing and philosophizing about teeth. he explained to me how he was only using 30% of his right, front tooth, 10% of his upper lip, 50% of his lower lip and 90% of his tongue, but 0% of his jaw to talk. he then decided that they should put a video camera in the recovery cubbies to tape people after surgery, “because 9 out of 10…no, 3 out of 20 people are really funny. they could tape them and then sell the tapes on the market and make a fortune!” i laughed so hard i wheezed. what my loved ones refer to as my “muttly laugh.”

finally, it was time to go.

and his temper turned.

he wanted to go to the gryphon for coffee. he didn’t care that he wasn’t allowed to drink coffee or talk a lot or that people might be put off by the guy with the gauze in his mouth dribbling blood-tinged saliva. i told him i couldn’t, in good conscience, drop him off at the gryphon but if he left to go there later, that was his choice.

he railed and ranted for several hours about leaving, etc. i managed to distract him with ibuprofen, vicadin, ice packs, yogurt w/molasses and a reiki session until the anesthesia and novocaine wore off. by 3:30 his was still loaded but at least not totally fucked up, so i took him to whole foods to buy soft foods and then drove him home.

my hands are empty. i hope he’s ok.

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