Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheese and Crackers

David had a cat named Zeus.   Lovely orange tabby that lived to be 23 years old.   Zeus was a very talkative cat, probably part siamese.  He would ask for his food,  talk to us when he was happy, sad or just felt like talking. 

David and Zeus shared a common love....cheese...of any variety.   Early in our marriage David got in the habit of wanting something to eat after we made love.  First it was cookies and milk but later on it became crackers and cheese.   Lucky Zeus, he would get a little piece of cheese whenever David had some.  

One night after a very pleasant lovemaking session,   I could not figure out why Zeus was sitting at the foot of our bed....talking....and then talking LOUDER.  He would not stop making noise.   Then David and I realized that Zeus was asking for CHEESE.   Sadly that night we did not have any cheese and crackers. 

I can assure you that for the remaining years of our marriage, there was always cheese and crackers around.  Zeus was happy and David and I began to ask each other if we felt like having some cheese and crackers....heeheee.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

She said, "It's a beautiful day for a funeral, Nana"

Actually, it wasn't a funeral on Sunday, it was a memorial and a celebration of my husband's life, but U'i is 7 and to her it was a funeral though she has never been to a funeral.

It was a beautiful day.  My daughter and her boyfriend spent the morning cooking and U'i and I hung out watching them and talking.  Rachel asked me if I knew what I was going to say.  I told her  I had no idea but that it would come to me at the right time.  U'i informed us that she had prepared a speech and she had written it down.  She found her Hello Kitty Clipboard and attached her speech and hunted up some paper to make a "sign in sheet". 

This kid always amazes me.  She had no one showing her to do these things, but obviously she had been thinking about it.  U'i is a deep kid, we always have thought she was 7 going on 57, just an old soul.  She would not let us read her speech at that time, so we had no idea what she was going to say.  I wasn't worried though, I knew it would be special.

My sister came by and Rachel gave Beck and U'i a "secret" task.  I had to leave the house so they could discuss this task and only allowed to come back after Beck and U'i had left the premises.

A couple hours later it was time to head out.  The memorial was at David's favorite beach, Ala Moana, specifically in an area called Magic Island. David liked going to this area because the park here has sidewalks throughout and it was easy for him to navigate in his wheelchair.   The setting is beautiful, and there always some people fishing off the shore,  others enjoying a picnic, kids and adults throwing frisbies or walking their dogs,  skateboarders, bikers, joggers, kite fliers,  just people out enjoying this paradise of Hawaii. 

David came out here often even though we live on the other side of the island.  He would catch the handivan and spend the day here.  Talking to strangers and I discovered later, he also ran into friends many times on his ventures.  He didn't always go alone, this is one of our favorite beaches too and we often spent the day here with him.  But for lone trips, this was David's favorite hangout.

On the way to the beach, we stopped to get my sister and U'i.  They had finished their secret project and proudly showed it to me.  They had gone to Walgreens with a flash drive filled with pictures and had made the most wonderful memory book of David.  I cry just thinking about it.  They had made several copies for other members of the family not able to join us for this memorial AND a bunch of single sheets of pictures and a journal entry that U'i had written and the Army newsletter bio of David.  These single sheets were to be handed out when U'i had guests sign in on her sign in sheet. 

As we drove to the beach, looking at the book and photos, everyone in the car was sobbing, when we weren't laughing over some of the silly pictures and the adorable captions U'i had authored.

The day WAS beautiful, perfect weather, sunny with a nice trade wind coming off the ocean.  We found a good spot under a shady tree and filled up an empty picnic table with food, drinks and paper goods for eating and drinking.  We tied our bouquets of helium balloons to a near by pole to mark the location for the coming guests. 

Slowly people began to come, they added their dishes to the potluck and we all hung out and "talked story" about who we were and how we knew David.  U'i handed out pictures and made people sign in on her clipboard.  It was very informal and people arrived slowly, on Hawaiian time, we had said 3pm, but it was after 4 when the last guests came.  Some people had brought leis, some for me to wear, some for later,  for our goodbye to David.  

After the last guest came, U'i took over.  Informed us that it was time to gather in a circle.  By this time our friend Bun and her husband had provided plastic chairs from her work for us all to sit under the shady tree.  My sister Beck led in a prayer of thanksgiving for David's life and to bless the food we would eat.

U'i took over from here.  Asking people what they would like to say about David.  Several shared their thoughts and feelings about this man, my husband.  Many expressed how he was not a complainer, how he did not have a "poor me" attitude.  One of the volunteers from the Army Museum that David also volunteered at,  shared that though his nickname for David was "Shorty", he always thought Dave stood tall, and cast the longest shadow of anyone he knew.  Many shared how David always spoke of his love for his family and for me, his wife.  Some stories were funny, some of the words brought tears to our eyes. 
One of U'i's teachers had come.  She shared how she was so moved by the bond that U'i and her Papa had because she had a sister who had lived most of her life in a wheelchair.  This sister had been a  cheerleader and had broken her neck in a fall during a cheer.  Mrs. Buck's sister had then been confined to a wheelchair and Mrs. Buck had seen how people looked at her with fear, or avoided looking at her at all.  She spoke of how those many years ago, anyone with a disability was treated "differently".  She was touched by the love U'i always showed David.  Touched by seeing her riding around on the back of his wheelchair and her obvious acceptance of him.  How she would see U'i urge her friends that showed fear when seeing Papa for the first time to come meet him, take a try at riding on the wheelchair. 

U'i pretty much MCd the whole afternoon. Introducing each speaker, and leading with applause when they finished.  She read her prepared speech and added some more thoughts. She introduced me, her Nana, the wife of David. She introduced her mother, Rachel, David's daughter. 
 She directed us to go get food when we were done speaking and afterwards she led us to the water.  U'i told us how earlier she and Mrs. Buck had tossed the rose her teacher had brought into the waves and watched it float away and how when they looked up, there was a rainbow. U'i said that rainbow was Papa smiling at them.  U'i then led the other guests to throw the leis or other flowers they had brought into the ocean and we each silently said our goodbyes as the flowers floated away.  U'i then helped distribute the green and white helium balloons to each person and we watched them float up into the heavens and shortly after that, the sun slowly sank into the ocean.  Goodbye David, my love.........

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Letter from my son

I feel horrible about the way David died. In his wheelchair, slumped over, probably trying to pick up his phone and couldn't pull himself up, his breath running out on him.

Why couldn't he have died somewhere else? In his bed, on the floor... Even on the toilet. He'd been in that chair for so many years, and others like it for over 50 years, reminding him of his inability to use his legs. That fucking chair.

Those were my first thoughts about Da that i had when my mom called me to tell me he died. Now my mother is asking me to say something at his memorial that i can't be there for.

What can i say?

I loved him so much. i LOVE him still. I love him to the point that i gave my daughter his last name instead of my own so that his name would carry on because he never had any children of his own.

I am glad he died in Hawaii... in a warm place, in the place he wanted to die. With my mom.

He loved you so much you know. When i lived with you two, it was great to see how much you were loved.

I remember all the evenings Da and i would go out to the barbeque grills at the Grove and cook. Those were the times where i wouldn't have to hear about cars and gearhead stuff. We would just talk about you, or Maya, or Rachel and U'i or whatever else was important. Those were the times where he and i really connected. Talking about the females in our lives... and how much we loved them.

I know this is hard on you Ma, i am crying as i write it, but you have been an amazing person concerning your life choices and your dedication to all those disabled people you have helped to have a better life. You even married one. Da loved you immensely and you could always see it in his face and hear it in his voice. And i love you as well... i couldn't ask for a better mother.

Sleepless in Kaneohe

Today the last of David's items went out the door.  All week I have been going through his stuff, throwing away papers no longer needed,  saving little trinkets for my kids, the grandkids, a few friends.  My feelings were strange as I tossed, deleted, sorted, donated and distributed stuff.  Part of me felt like I was throwing away my husband's life.........

Going through his computer,  thousands of pictures of cars, mostly older cars,  he called himself a gearhead,  cars were his passion.  No wonder his computer ran so slow, with all those car pictures on it.  His email buddies were always sending him pictures, of their roadsters, of races they had been in, pictures of their first cars, cars shows they attended........ pictures of pictures they of parts of cars, why these interested him, I have no idea, I could not name half of what they were.  That was just on the computer.....

Boxes we had in the closet, old car magazines.  Not too many of these left, we had sold most of his extensive collection on ebay in years past.  These sales had helped pay our bills.  A small box of 8 x 10 black and white pictures, maybe 200 in total, but original pictures of famous race cars.  I had talked David out of selling these, I knew he had this particular collection since he was 14.  His best friend's father had been an illustrator for car magazines,  doing "centerfolds" of famous cars of the 40's and 50's.  These photos were the photos he used to draw his illustrations for magazines like Car and Driver,  Rod and Custom, etc.  Some of them even had the magazine name stamped on the back.  They are pictures of not just the outside of the car, but also the underside, the engine, etc.   Views that car nuts love, but which look pretty useless to the rest of us.  Back when we were selling off other parts of his car stuff collections I had suggested he scan these photos and sell prints of them.  So he could keep these originals.  So...I've got that box and one of these days I will sell them.  I know they are worth some money, we made a few bucks off the prints and people were always asking if they could buy our originals.  So, that is a project I will set out on,  I know some gearheads are going to be very happy.  Maybe they will cherish these things, call them "Dave's car stuff".  

Another of his passions was radio stuff.  Walkie talkie, cb, ham radio, other stuff I don't know.  I have things he bought and I have no idea what they are, how much they are worth, but I will sell them too.  A model ship he hadn't built yet, still in the box.  He was waiting to have enough money to buy a radio controlled motor for it.  So, I'll be selling that. Its a model not made any more, that company only sells radio controlled car stuff now, no more boats.  

Jewelry he had.  Cufflinks from when he had to wear 3 piece suits to work, along with the tie tacks.  Most of those had been sold in years past, but I found a box with what must have been some favorites.  He had some rings, one with pot leaves on it. Looks like gold to me.  Some old watches,  some still run,  these are the windup ones,  the quartz ones probably still run too, just need batteries.   Some I will sell, some I will give to my kids and the grandkids.   

All the furniture is gone, the hospital bed, the hoyer lift, the hospital bedside table, the shower chair, the manual chair, the special desk with legs that were adjustable so his wheelchair could fit under.  The reachers, the blood pressure cuff..all of it donated.  My mom wanted me to sell this stuff, but it felt like blood money to me.

 David would have wanted someone in need to get this stuff.  We knew how hard it was for someone on a fixed income to come up with the co-pays for this stuff, or to have to buy it outright.  There are needy people out there and I know we would have appreciated having this stuff donated to us when we struggled to find the money for things he NEEDED.  Not wanted, but NEEDED.  So all of that stuff I donated.  

The  home health nurse who came over with  a big truck said her patients would be so grateful.  They could not afford the  co-pay of $2000 to get a $10,000 power wheelchair or  have the money to shell out for a hoyer lift or a hospital bed.  All stuff David had to have and we paid for out of our pockets.  Maybe the guy getting the power wheelchair will call it "Dave's chair".  I know he will be happy to have it, it will mean new freedom to him, a bit of independence for someone who cannot manually wheel himself around anymore, who has to be pushed everywhere.  I remember when David got his first power chair, how he felt independent, how he could go to the store on his own.  How he "picked up" our grand daughter from school.  Things he could not do in his manual chair any more.  Some other person will get that manual chair that we hung onto just in case we went somewhere that a power wheelchair could not get into, someplace not in  ADA compliance.   Even a manual wheelchair costs a couple of grand.  The cushion on his power chair was special, made of gel so he wouldn't get pressure sores, that cushion was over $500.  The home health nurse was so grateful for that, said she has a man who really needs that cushion.  All of it, she thanked me and thanked me.  We both cried.  She tried to give me a little money but I didn't want it, I knew David was seeing all of his things going to someone in need and he was smiling, happy to help.
Today, Sunday, we are having a memorial for him at his favorite beach.  This place has sidewalks going through the park, so he could get around.  We will throw leis into the surf, say goodbye.  My daughter asked me if I knew what I was going to say...I don't know, it will come to me.  My grand daughter, U'i, informed us that she has prepared a speech.  I'm sure it will be a doozie.  She has been writing about her Papa for the past two weeks.   Just 7, but already so eloquent,  I've cried when reading everything she has written.   After the memorial....what are we left with?  Just memories.  My heart is sad, but I'm so fortunate to have had over 12 years with this man.  I miss him so much already and cannot imagine never hearing him call out...."Sweets....." again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Nana, you can't watch Toy Story 3"

 "Toy story 3 is a very bad movie", U'ilani informed us.
"Ok, U'i why is Toy Story 3 a bad movie?"  I replied.   "They say swear words in it", U'i answered.  Rachel and I looked at each in confusion.  What kind of swear words would be in a movie rated G. 
I was curious, I had to know.  "U'i what swear words did they say in that movie?".
U'i whispered her answer,  "They said the "a" word."

Now I was really confused...."The "A" word?".
"Yeah, they said A blank cot."
Rachel and I were still confounded...a cot.....omg....ascot!

We are still laughing.  Good to know our 7 year old is protecting the world from horrible swear words!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

RIP David

We jokingly called him Hell on Wheels.  I miss him so much already.
Love you always, Sweetie.
The following is what someone at the Army museum where David volunteered wrote....thank you, Fran:

David Baumgardner was formally designated a US Army Volunteer on February 3, 2010. His official duty was security officer. This is the first time a volunteer had been assigned the duty as a security officer. The results were outstanding, and best of all, David enjoyed doing it. Expertly cruising along in his motorized wheelchair, he was often seen patrolling the museum to keep an eye on things. He counted the weapons on display, and kept a watchful eye on anyone who he felt looked suspicious. On several occasions he had to tell kids to be mindful of where they were and to keep their voices low. He was so vigilant he was even able to hear coughing of the occasional ghost reputed to haunt the dark halls and crannies of Battery Randolph. He could reproduce that cough very well, as those of volunteers who also heard it can testify.

David was born in Los Gatos, California on December 27, 1941. As a small child in the mid 1940’s, he contracted polio which confined him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. This did not stop him from having a full life in the workforce. After spending many years in California and Atlanta, Georgia, David retired as a Genzyme Medical manager and moved with his wife, Cat, to Hawaii to be near his grandchildren. All of us were inspired by his optimistic and humorous outlook on life, and not least, his smiling face—something which no doubt contributed to his looking much younger than 68! David was especially fond of cats. He owned many over the years, and was often regaling the other volunteers with stories about them. David passed away on October 26, 2010.

David, when we hear more unexplained coughing in the museum, we will have to wonder…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

He didn't read the fine print.......

More bad news today. There is no life insurance money. David never read the fine print that gave him 120 days to convert his life insurance at work to a personal policy when he retired. He went to his grave thinking he had left me with life insurance and there is none.
Pulling up my bootstraps....starting over from zero....the good news is that I only have to wait 5 1/2 years to be 60 and collect his Social Security. I will get more from that than he did as I get to collect on my first husband's SS too, since we were married more than 10 years. Meanwhile, I've got that whopping $255 check for funeral expenses coming from SS.
Remembering Uncle Chuck's words...."What happens in life can make you either bitter or better." I'm going to opt for the better, gotta keep reminding myself. I did hit the "anger" stage of the grieving process today, I will admit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walking through quicksand

Tomorrow will be a week. Tomorrow David's body is cremated. Today I started to sort through his things. Giving some things away, tossing out other things. Keeping a few cherished items. I'm not done, but I got a good start.
I feel as though I can barely lift one foot in front of the other. The nights are the worst. It is so quiet. Too quiet. I turned off the satellite tv. I never watched it anyway, but the sound was always there at night, as David loved his tv. All those cops shows, and the car shows. History channel. Stuff I would never pick to watch. But I heard it. And he was always saying, "Sweets, did you see that?" Of course I hadn't seen whatever it was, because I was on the computer or reading a book or doing some project. But I was there in the room with him and the tv. Now it is quiet. Soooo quiet. I could put music on, but every bit of music we own, David picked out. What I have listened to is worse than the quiet. Too many memories wrapped around each song. I'm selling the tv. I didn't watch tv most of my life, didn't even own one for at least 5 years before I met David.
Meanwhile, I try to slog thru the quicksand. In the quiet. I never knew how much this hurt for other people. I've never lost someone that I saw every day. Sure, friends and relatives have died....but those were distant deaths, I didn't live close to those people, I didn't see them, smell them, hear them every day. I haven't worked for 10 years. Spent a few years on the road with David, in our motorhome, going across the US. Then he had back surgery 4 years ago. Since then I have been with him.....24/7.....365 days a year. But I wasn't there when he fell forward and couldn't get up and suffocated. I wasn't there.