Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer, Interrupted

We had been planning our trip to Saint Paul, Minnesota for months. Though we had briefly stopped in Minneapolis when we returned from a road trip to the Dakotas, we had never been to Saint Paul. And even better than that, this trip we were going to visit our absolutely amazing niece Amy and her husband Shawn. We were excited! We would stop first in Madison, Wisconsin (I'd never been there as well) and then on to Saint Paul for a long weekend. At our house we have a large map of the U.S. on the wall with black pins in all of the places we have been together. To deserve a pin on the map we decided we had to have actually done something in that city, like spend the night, so Max found a B&B in a close suburb where we spent Thursday night. I had been to Wisconsin many times, but Max hadn't, and Madison is a great city to visit. On Friday morning we only had a 4 hour drive to Saint Paul.

Life didn't work out the way we'd planned.

Don's oldest brother, Bill who lives in Tulsa, was scheduled for surgery this summer- nothing spectacular- though with Bill even "routine" can end up rather spectacular. The week prior to our visit Amy (Bill is Amy's father) and Shawn had gone to Tulsa "hold" Bill's hand- though I'm not sure any of us can imagine "holding" Bill's hand. He is one tough guy. They would be back to Saint Paul in plenty of time for our visit- and we all planned to celebrate Bill's recovery. We knew this wasn't going to be an easy surgery, but Bill done pretty well through two previous and much more serious surgeries so this one would hopefully have the same outcome.

But it didn't work out that way. Though the surgery went well- and we were all celebrating the good news- suddenly things weren't going so well after all. Didn't seem like such a big deal at first- a temp and some difficulty with his blood pressure. But it just kept getting worse and worse.

We were going to cancel the trip. Amy was spending every night in the ICU...And didn't know when she would return to Saint Paul. But then Bill got better, and we again sighed a big sigh of relief and began packing. Shawn and Amy drove home to Saint Paul, and we headed out from Cincy to Saint Paul via Madison.

The bad news started coming again on Friday morning. Bill's blood pressure was unstable again- and they were having more difficulty than usual stabalizing it. We drove into Saint Paul and spent lots of time hugging and hugging and hugging -and waiting and waiting and waiting for more news from Tulsa.

We decided to head out for some lunch. We headed for a local "burger joint" called the "NOOK" for a famous Saint Paul burger.

No, I didn't eat the whole thing. I split this one with Amy and we both were able conquer this double decker.

After lunch we decided to head to St. Pauls Cathedral. Each of us wishing to spend some time in prayer- and to light candles for Bill. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is a truly spectactular building. The dome is absolutely enormous and the stained glass and the art work make this building one to see if you are in Saint Paul.
As Amy and I left the cathedral we shared our prayers- and they had been the same. We had both prayed that God would do the very best for Bill, not what we might selfishly want- but rather would do what was the very best for Bill. My cell phone rang before we stepped outside. It was Kelly, our niece and Amy's sister. Through her sobs she told us that Bill was not responding to the medication. They couldn't stabalize his blood pressure. There was nothing that could be done to reverse the down hill race. We held our breathe in between phone calls from Tulsa until the news came that the end had arrived. Bill had always been a stoic, tough and determined man. He had lots of physical problems that resulted in almost constant pain. He never really complained, but it was obvious the pain was there. After this surgery the problems with blood pressure, some acute organ failure, and what ever was causing the fever eventually could not be overcome. When the decision had been made to stop giving him the vasopressors that were keeping his blood pressure up, he passed away within 15 minutes. His pain was finally gone.

Now the next two days passed in the cloudy space of "this probably really isn't happening, and I'm going to wake up soon and get on with my life". I mostly sat on the porch and read. There really isn't much a sister-in-law can do. I began reading Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley a very poignant memoir about the loss of a mother and father within just months of each other. It's not easy to plan a funeral that isn't expected. I know people do it all the time, but this time we were involved. Someone needed to quickly write an obituary (I got that job), timing for the visitation, the entombment, the memorial service and a hundred other things had to happen. One thing about Ellen is that she can organized and execute plans. So we spent the next two days in Saint Paul and provided whatever was asked of us before our drive south to Tulsa.
Occasionally I'd be joined by Amy and Shawn and Don..
But I have to tell you. They had a lot, lot, lot, lot to do. They were busy. The phone rang constantly on first one cell phone and then another as they assisted with arrangements for Bill- arrangements that had not been given even a cursory thought just two weeks prior.

We decided that for dinner we'd take Bill with us. Bill had taken both Don and me- and then later Amy and Shawn- on our separate visits to see him and Ellen in NJ/NYC for a really, really, really great steak at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Steak was Bill's absolute favorite and he loved eating at this steak house.. We headed for the best steak house in St. Paul with the plan to celebrate Bill life by doing what he liked to do best.

Shawn even had Bill's signature drink, Beefeater Gin on the Rocks- with Pickled Okra garnish instead of an olive (we brought our own pickled okra).
Monday we all loaded in our car and headed the 700 miles south to Tulsa.

We gathered for the first time as a family- now lost without the head of the Lucas Clan. We went of course to Bill's favorite hang out for breakfast- Tally's located at 11th and Yale.

We all had the cinnamon roll...or at least as much of one that we could eat. Tally's has great breakfasts and the owner had become a real friend of Bill's. We always went to Tally's when we visited Bill in Tulsa.

We then lived the surreal events of the next two days. If you'd like you can read Bill's life here as it was presented in the local newspaper, the Tulsa World.

Then on Wednesday morning we traveled together to the Mausoleum to say goodbye to the husband, the father, the brother, the friend.

Shelby, Bill's oldest granddaughter sang at the mausoleum.

I believe that I have never been so moved as I was with the haunting sound of the bugler that played for Bill at the Mausoleum. You'll want to take the time to listen to this. And this as well...(both have been uploaded to The bugler actually played a trumpet, but he didn't use the valves so it was essentially played like a bugle. And he was amazing. We were all gathered in a small room, kind of a chapel, and just behind us and to the side was where he played a number of appropriate pieces. The sound of the horn reverberated against the marble walls of the mausoleum and Max is correct in saying that the sound was haunting.

A grief made visible...

There is a hole that will remain in the hearts of all who loved Bill, a husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather, a friend...
We have always been the "four Lucas boys". Now the eldest, one I looked up to so many times in my life as a role model and a friend, is gone. But we will remember him for who he was and what he did in his life- both the good and the bad. There are lots of lessons from Bill that will stay with us as we continue on as the "four Lucas boys".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Celebration:Graduations and Weddings!

I know, I know- I'm really behind with blogging- but you see- Retirement is tough!  Why with at least 45 minutes for coffee with Don before I even get out of bed- And then with a leisurely breakfast and reading the NYT cover to cover- and of course a walk with the Brute- and dinner for the Don- followed by baseball on the TV!  There just isn't so much time left over...  And of course sometimes a nap is just too good to pass up!  So I've been cycling in between "really, really, really busy" when the kiddos come to town and "really, really, really 'I can't believe I'm doing so little".  But I'm resolved today!  I'm going to show more discipline! 

This was the year for weddings and graduations!  We've already talked about Amber's graduation from Loyola.  But there were more!  Our niece, Kelly, graduated with her masters in education from Bluffton University- followed just two weeks later by our grandniece's graduation from Bluffton High School!  Then a childhood friend of Amber's was married (on the same weekend that we made the trip to Bluffton for Shelby's graduation from high school- I think you're beginning to see how I might needed to have rested for a while!) And Marianne and our "Grands" were here for a good friend, Erin's wedding.  Now we're going to save Erin's wedding for a blog about the visit with Marianne et al- After all our beautiful girls were in the wedding!  But we're going to pile it on in this post and cover both graduations And the wedding.  You'll need to rest when we're finished- I know I will!

So let's start at the beginning- a trip to Bluffton for our niece Kelly's graduation with her masters degree in education.  Now we have ENORMOUS respect for all who slug their way through graduate education- but we would be remise if we failed to mention that our amazing Kelly actually completed this Herculean task while teaching full time- and mothering our 3 grandnieces and grandnephew (of course with much help from her husband Pat!).  For those of you who don't know Kelly, that's her in the middle below looking at the camera.
And this is Kelly being Hooded by the Dean of the Graduate School.

An below she is receiving her Diploma.

And Kelly's Biggest Supporter!

And finally at home in her back yard-Diploma in hand.

And what celebration would be complete without FOOD!  Well none of ours I can assure you!  It was a bit more complicated than just getting food.  Kelly decided she wanted to go south a short drive to the thriving metropolis of Lima, Ohio where the choice of eating establishments might improve over what was available in Bluffton (Luke's Diner).  Unfortunately, it also happened to be Mother's Day and the first place we went to had a 2 hour wait.  Luckily we did have our intelligent telephones and was able to look up telephone numbers of other local establishments and finally ended up here at ?????

We were hardly recovered (I know, I know, I know- maybe we're taking "recovery" to a whole new level!) when it was a BIG WEEKEND of both a graduation AND a wedding!  You got it right!  A graduation and a wedding!

Amber and Evan came from Chicago for the wedding of her childhood friend, Lauren Postolski.  Don and I were so lucky to nab an invitation as well.

But first things first.  We started with a hardy breakfast that sent us off to Bluffton for Shelby's Graduation- more about that later in this blog.  As you well know- I just don't miss many meals!  In fact I can't remember any day in my recent history where I "forgot" to eat. No siree- My memory is not fading on that front!
We love to "breakfast" on our "porch"- year round!

But first let's talk about the wedding!  We got all dressed up and headed to the party!

Lauren and Amber were childhood friends.  In fact for a number of years she was a part of our family.  But children have a way of growing up- and moving on- leaving all of us behind with some pictures- and a lot of wonderful memories of sleepovers and holidays-

and trips away and of course "dress up" at those very first formals (the one below is 8th grade I believe). 

Now I hadn't see Lauren since she (and Amber) graduated from Wyoming High School. And then I watched her walk down the aisle- so very beautiful- so very grown up- truly a "time stopping" moment. The rushing realization- for her- and me- that she's all grown up- to be married- with a handsome new husband (and I might add after completing her graduate education this year in speech therapy!).  Where did all those years go? We did the only thing we could do- Yep you got it!  Ruined our eye makeup! What an absolutely wonderful young woman this little girl I knew so well has grown to be! 

It was a GREAT PARTY- as all GREAT WEDDINGS are!

But sandwiched in between that breakfast on the porch- and the wedding the next night- it was off to Bluffton for the high school graduation of our Grandniece Shelby.  (Are you getting tired from all the "partying" yet?).  I do want to mention that we were delighted that Shelby chose University of Cincinnati for her higher education- and we're hopeful we'll see even more of her.  Maybe just to do her laundry!

Kelly and Pat managed to host an absolutely "over the top" graduation party!  In fact all graduation parties I've attended (and I might add that with 7 kiddos we've been to a LOT of graduation parties) pale in comparison.  And this party was wonderful!  And of course the best part for us is that it afforded us an opportunity for FAMILY TIME!  Life just doesn't get much better than FAMILY TIME!  Here are Kelly, daughter Bailey, and Elaine, Kelly's mother.

Here we add in Lucas, Kelly's youngest.

And Sarah, Deseree, and Anthony joined us on this trip.  I really was trying to smile, but Max was awfully quick with the shutter.

Shelby getting her Diploma and then bowing to all.

Here are Shelby and her siblings...

Shelby and her  proud Mom...

And finally Shelby with her Diploma and Aaron, her main "squeeze".

So as you can see- we have been busy- And having a great time with all the celebrations!