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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Catch Up Time

I have been a bad blogger. Sure you’ve heard it before, but it has been an eventful couple of years, to say the least. I’ve needed time to process and think before I could just regurgitate events in a way that didn’t sound like I was having a rousing pity party over here. (All pictures can be viewed larger when clicked.)

To round up the events in our lives for the past year and a half as briefly as I can:
Jan. 2005 – I officially become the Main Squiggler, with Robin Reynolds as Head Noodler at our new ad agency, NICE Creative. We don't want to be the biggest agency, just the most preferred.

Feb. 2005 – Mom has her last brain surgery to fix one last veinous anomaly, and starts having epileptic seizures as a result. Remember, she fell and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on Fathers’ day, 2004.

Mar. 2005 – Dad is diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and has immediate, radical esophagectomy. He is placed into an induced coma for more than three weeks after surgery due to extreme factors that take too long to explain here.

May 2005 – Dad is released from hospital, with feeding tubes and home care required by family. We start trying to talk him into seeing an oncologist, with no luck.

May 2005 – After one week at home, Dad gets to go back to hospital emergency room with a 103 degree temp. He’s in for another three weeks. Finally goes home in June.

July 2005 - We go back to Castroville to visit a more independent Dad and share some hot dogs and tater salad with stepdad John’s family in Santa Cruz. Dad seems a little stronger, more upbeat and this is much needed down-time for us, felt great. Tom and Joy Parker are great hosts, too.

Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec 2005 are spent trying to build the NICE Creative agency with Robin, getting back to a normal life, watching and praying that Mom and Dad will keep getting better, helping out with the recovery of both as needed.

Dec. 2005 – The NICE offices are robbed! Computers and work and some weird items disappear into the night. Work has to be redone, security upgraded, trust rebuilt.

Jan. - Mar. 2006 - Steve builds a humongous barbeque island in the backyard. Actually we call her the “Queen Mary,” she is quite large. He goes on to make legendary grilled meat dinners.

May 2006 - Rene graduated from ASU, had a great trip to Germany and Italy in June and went on to apply and make it into Rutgers for her Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on International Community Development. (What a mouthful!) She’ll be leaving for Camden, New Jersey on August 30, 2007. And right after she’s done in New Jersey she hops off to only God knows where with the Peace Corps. It’s only just now dawning on us that she’ll be gone another three years!

July 2006 - Steve and I fulfill a long-time dream and travel to Europe. Touring 2 weeks by rental car through Germany, Slovenia and Italy was memorable, educational, fun, nerve-racking, trying, hot and sometimes downright frightening. But, we did it, will always remember it and learned a lot--about the countries we visited and about our patience and navigational skills, too. :-) We stayed in small B&B's and penziones in the country-side and wouldn't have done it differently. (Except maybe next time we'll take a bus tour in Italy, instead.) My favorite new saying, "autobahn, schmautobahn!"

August 2006 - Stacy and I attend the Bei-Tottino-Bei Picnic in Soquel, CA. See the previous post!

Sept. 2006 - Dad’s cancer comes back big time. He has finally agreed to meet with an oncologist in Monterey. Dr. John Hausdorff is a great guy--we love him.

Nov. 2006 - The inevitable happened: Dr. Hausdorff tells Dad he's eligible to enter the Hospice program. With myself and my Aunt Betty as primary caregivers, we trade off days of the week as Dad's health, strength and weight slips quickly downhill. Strangely enough, as his body weakens, his mood strengthens. I wouldn’t trade back the time together with him for anything.

Thanksgiving 2006 - Betty, Dad and I are invited to our cousins' house in Santa Cruz for Thanksgiving. This is the first time I've been there for Thanksgiving and Claudie and Jon are experts (of course, they own a restaurant!) We got to see lots of folks we haven't seen in a long time, especially some of Claudie's relatives–she grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains near Bonny Doon. It was a great opportunity to get Dad out of the house to visit his cousins. He was exhausted but happy that he had gone. And having a chance to see Monica and Mike and Marcie and Mark and the new baby Lucas was a wonderful Thanksgiving treat!

Dec. 2006 - In spite of being gone so much, our NICE little ad agency survived it’s second year of business. How’d that happen? Yay for Robins sheer strength of will!

Dec. 2006 - Steve sold many barbeques throughout the winter, thank goodness. Mike and I convince our families that it's time to spend Christmas with Dad. It proves to be tiring for him, but he truly appreciates having the whole family there: Mike, Jessica, Adam, Karen, Joe and Addie, and myself, Steve, Rene and Stacy. Uncle Maurice and Aunt Betty came down, too. It was a house-full, but wonderful to be together.

Jan. 17, 2007 - Mom fell and sustained yet another massively traumatic brain injury. Worse than the first one. Horrifying deja vu ensues at the emergency room (for us that is; her memories are shot yet again).

Jan. 25, 2007 - Dad passed away quietly at home. Mike and I rushed to get there just in time to join Aunt Betty and say goodbye. Meanwhile, our step-dad John and sister Lynn were left in Phoenix to endure harrowing days in the hospital with Mom.

Feb. 1, 2007 - We hold a beautiful Celebration of Life for Dad; 430 of his closest friends and family attend! It was the way he would’ve wanted it.
Feb. 3, 2007 – Our families spread Dad’s ashes at his favorite duck blind at the Salinas Duck Club in Gustine, CA. Afterwards our little crew enjoy a toast to him at his favorite Duck Club stop-over in Santa Nella, CA – "Pea Soup Anderson’s". Thanks for joining us Linda, you were his lifeline and I can’t imagine you not being there for these last moments.

End of Feb. 2007 - Mom is released from the hospital with months of work and rehabilitation penciled on the calendar. Little did we know how tough the second go ‘round would be for John!

May 12, 2007 - Stacy graduates from NAU with a 4 year degree in Social Work. Wow! With all that was going on at home she stayed focused and on course. I'm so proud of her I could burst!

Mother’s Day 2007 – Four families all converge (hee hee...converge...vortex), at the Sedona Airport for brunch, and Mom celebrates her first day trip out of town with John and the Vette. She’s doing remarkably well for someone who has bruised much of the frontal lobes of her brain—TWICE!

May 2007 – Rene takes a temporary position at the NICE agency and Robin’s husband’s business, Utility Strategies Consulting Group, as Admin Assist and Analyst until it’s time to go to Rutgers. We certainly enjoy her company, her wit, her skills and will miss her immensely when she’s gone. What a great person she’s become!

May 18-20, 2007 Rene and I take a quick trip to Castroville for the annual Artichoke Festival. What a beautiful weekend it was—we got to work in the fried artichoke booth, and probably ate more than we sold! Rene and I discovered a new grilled artichoke recipe that was great. Click this link to download a PDF of the recipe.

April-July 2007 – A housepainting project is turning into a whole house cleanup and redo for Steve and I. Steve got a new High-Def TV out of it, but this will take some time for sure! We are incorporating memorabilia from Italy which Dad brought back from his trips. I especially like the handpainted ceramics from Gubbio and Deruta.

June 2007 – NICE Creative publishes its first book, “Life to the Max: Maxims for a Great Life by a dog named Max.” We are exploring more publishing options, but it’s kinda’ fun. This is a great book for anyone who’s ever loved and lost a beloved pet. Writing it was Robin’s way of working out her feelings for the loss of her dog, Max, and she shared it with me when our Gina died. We hope it will help many others as well.

June 2007 - Stacy applied and made it into a graduate program at ASU for her MSW. She’ll be doing her internship at Flagstaff hospital and attending classes in Phoenix—way to test your mettle, Stacy!

July 28, 2007 – A young cousin marries her sweetie in Monterey, and we stay at Dad’s house for the weekend. It’s a wonderful family reunion, and we are doing our best to get used to Ray not being there.
Following are some photos from Katie and Bryce's wedding and the get togethers at Michelle and David's, and Hugo and Delores' homes.
The wedding was held at a beautiful hotel in Monterey, with the ceremony held right outside next to the breaking waves. Michelle and David looked so proud of their youngest daughter. Bryce and Katie had done a great job, and the dancing and food were the best! Our cousins in Italy were able to attend the wedding. In the group photo above, clockwise from left to right: Norman Bei, Adamo Bei, Michelle Pecci (mother of the bride), Enio Bei, Patty Cook, Maurice Bessiere Sr., Elisa Bei, Lidia Bei, Daniella Bei, and Betty Bei Bessiere.

There was a buffet lunch at the Pecci's house on Sunday, where we got to say our farewells to Katie and Bryce who were heading home to Fresno and to pack for their Carribean honeymoon in a month. Les, Michelle and Karen were able to talk their dad into playing his accordian for the crowd. What a show! Story is that back in the early 50's all the young cousins decided they would take accordian lessons together; my Dad, Norman, Hugo, and Lance Bei were all involved. Hugo's the only cousin who made the lessons stick! (Click his picture abov for a very short movie clip.)

The next Monday night after the wedding, Mike, Jessica and I were invited to dinner at Hugo and Dolores' house. They surprised Mike for his 50th Birthday with a cake! The entire Italian entourage had shopped for just the right dessert. Usually shy, Michael was very touched. "Saluto, Mikey!"

August 8, 2007 – Rene and Stacy fly to see Aunt Lynn and Uncle Dwight (who have there own eventful timeline to publish some day) and have a great time in Pentwater, Michigan. The girls join Lynn in a parade, go sailing, pontoon-ing, shopping in Ludington and meet the puppies Charlie and Flabby Abbie! Thanks for sending for them Lynard. They brought back a lot of great tales!

August 2007 – The NICE Creative agency is moving along nicely, Robin’s book is on the way to being published on a larger scale, Stacy’s getting ready to start school, Rene is packing and slowly saying her goodbyes, and Steve and I are counting our blessings, one by precious one.

OK. And so... When it’s all written out the good stuff kind of balances out the tough stuff--don't you think? It feels as though two different lives were running in two tracks side-by-side; one with all the good things, the other contained the sad things. We are left with Dad’s house in Castroville, which we'll have to sell someday, but we’re in no hurry as Mike and I are very attached to it. Being trustee of the family trust keeps me busy on weekends--keeps me in touch with Castroville. Steve is calling Dad's house our "Summer House" in the meantime. Castroville will always hold a deep and personal place in my heart, and summer was when I spent most of my time there growing up. So it seems a fitting title. We hope to visit often--not just summers.

If I've skimmed too much or forgotten an important event (for our family, not the world!), please add a comment. I want to hear your thoughts. Life has become increasingly more precious, especially the part spent with family and good friends. It's difficult to catch up on events after so much time is lost. I'll try to add photos to the posts if possible. So keep coming back!

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