Friday, July 18, 2003

Wow, Dial-up is REALLY SLOW
But, alas, it's all we've got right now.

Yes, we are back in Pittsburgh and the settling in process continues. Many things have happened since I last wrote.

Uncle Sock
Writing about this is hard, because it makes it more real and more final. My Uncle Scott passed away on July 4th after battling brain cancer for a little over a year. He would have been 50 in October.

Rick and I got the news when we were whooping it up on the shores of Lake Erie ('whooping' is still legal on the Ohio side). My parents had called me earlier in the day to tell me they were driving up to Boston to help with Uncle Scott, as the hospice nurses had left my aunt alone for the weekend. I guess hospice nurses don't work over holdiays.

Mom sounded worried. The health report she received from my aunt did not sound good. "It could be a few days or hours now," she told me. Now, we had all been hearing news like this for the past year, and the news is so overwhelming and painful that you tuck in a little corner of your mind and try to recommence your normal daily activities. Mom was most upset over the fact that she and Dad wouldn't be able to help us move the next day. I was concerened that they made it up to Boston OK and stopped worrying about me.

My dad called back a couple of hours later to tell me that my uncle had passed. My reaction sounded businesslike to me: What time did he die? Who was with him? Was everyone OK? And after I hung up I tried to recommence my dailiy activities, which that day happened to be saying farewell to our Cleveland friends the traditional way--swimming in the bacteria-laden lake and drinking lots of beer to counteract its effects. I did OK until around dusk when our friends' families began joining us on the bank to watch fireworks. The sight of husbands, wives and children enjoying a perfect Fourth of July holiday seemed resolutely unfair. I asked Rick to take me home and leave me alone for awhile. And then I went through a box of tissues.

Moving Day
Rick brought me some ice cream later that evening, which helped me get to sleep. We were up at 8 the next morning to pick up the U-HAUL so we could haul our butts out of Cleveland. With the help of Rick's brother we had the truck packed, apartment scrubbed, and cats drugged in about 3 hours.

[The cats really do not like travelling very much, which I've documented in previous postings. This trip was no exception. We gave them each a 1/2 mg of kitty Valium--the maximum dosage the vet recommended--and they still yoweled the whole way to Pittsburgh. Albeit, it was a much more subdued yoweling, but yoweling nonetheless. They promptly went to sleep once we stowed them in the backroom of the new apartment, and when they finally emerged, they were loopy most of the evening. It was rather amusing watching a very stoned Casper loll about on the bed, begging for pets, his inner eyelids half shut.]

Moving in was a thrill. Imagine hauling really heavy furniture into a new apartment a mere 2 1/2 hours after you hoisted it into a moving truck. Now imagine hauling it up 40 stairs. Forty very steep stairs. Repeatedly. In JULY. Our reinforcements back in the 'Burgh helped tremendously, but it was still gruelling work. We got all the boxes and such in by early evening. Sunday and Monday we were preoccupied with setting up the apartment. You know, emergency trips to IKEA for new light fixtures, then emergency trips to Lowe's to by lightbulbs that don't come with the light fixtures from IKEA.

Daily Activities
Tuesday morning came and I realized what I was trying to push out of my head with regulary daily activities was now a necessary activity. Rick and I headed up to Boston to join my family in honoring my uncle's memory. The viewing and funerial services were very difficult, but it was also comforting to see and hear from the many people whose lives my uncle touched. My father gave a wonderful rememberance speech about lending a wedding ring--an inexpensive gold band--to my uncle when he and my aunt were first married. Although my uncle was very prosperous later in his professional life, he never replaced the ring. He was wearing it when he died.

It was also wonderful to interact with my uncle's sister and her family--people I've met before but really never spoke to. I am sorry it was this that finally brought us together, but still happy to make the connection. And I got to hang out with my cousins again. Two tremendous kids who I think of as my younger brother and sister, even though they're pretty much grown at this point. We all went out to dinner together and "bought" some bread plates for their mom at the restaurant's "gift shop." We were glad for a chance to be silly.

My aunt asked friends and family to email her their thoughts and feeilings about my uncle. Impressions that she plans on collecting and giving to my cousins as a remembrance. This is what I wrote.

Uncle Scott was my favorite uncle. Some people might suggest that this is somewhat a hollow moniker as he was my only uncle, but he was my favorite nonetheless. I always loved the way he took such an active interest in my brother's and my lives, which was so important, especially in a small family like ours. He was always generous and very fair. He was exacting and precise but still warm and loving.

When I think about Uncle Scott, a couple of stories stick in my mind. The first one is my parents' first impression of Scott--as a young Penn State graduate. Mom and Dad described him as a "frizzy-haired guy with a baseball cap stuck on top." Seemed a far cry from the button-down, conservative Uncle Scott I knew. But somehow I also knew they were the same person.

I remember back to junior high when I was playing oboe with the school band. Uncle Scott was amazed I could play such a difficult instrument, but not know how to whistle. So he taught me how to whistle. He was a great whistler. (I never quite got the hang of it.)

I remember Uncle Scott and Peter trying to teach me how to power slide with figure skates. (Much harder to do with a single blade.)

I think of Uncle Scott perpetually with a Poland Spring water or cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee in his hand.

I think of reading the paper with Uncle Scott during our morning commute to South Station. And meeting me again for our commute home.

I remember his dry wit and feeling pleased when I was finally old enough to match it (or better yet, beat it).

I remember a tremendous spirit and heart.

That will always be with me.

Big Sighs
I miss him a lot. I think about him everyday. While I'm doing my everyday activities.

Other News
I started working at the Coffee Tree, but evidently aggravated a sprained ankle that I got, I presume, while I was hoisting furniture up 40 stairs. So now I'm on a self-inflicted medical leave. I've pretty much been confined to the apartment, armed with ice packs and ibuprofen. It sucks. We discontinued our DirecTV and TiVO until our monthly income settles down a little bit. And up until a couple of hours ago I had no Internet access. (If you can call dial-up "access.") I did just finish a fantastic book--Life of Pi. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Helped put a few things in perspective. (Like how I'm pretty blessed if my biggest gripe is slow Internet access.)

And I've been bonding with the cats. We'd been having some behavioral problems with them just before we moved--let's just say there was irreparable damage to the futon cover--which seems to have been resolved. The cats seem very content in their new environment. There's lots more places to hide and climb, and the barking neighbor dog doesn't seem to phase them. During the move we found Eno's favorite toy--a little shaky ball with reminence of an elastic band attached to it--and she has magically reverted back to a carefree, playful kitty. If you throw the ball up into her hammock, which is hanging from a high window, she'll run and jump into the hammock, cram the ball in her mouth, and jump back down to you. It's not exactly "fetch"--she rarely drops the ball anywhere near you--but it's pretty close for a cat.

I have some really cute pictures of Casper muching on the daisies Rick bought for my birthday. I'll post them to the site after we get our DSL set up.

The "William Alistair" link to the left has pictures of Dawn's baby boy. Dawn is my very very good friend, for those of you who don't know. She was the tall Germanic Swede in my wedding party. We took French together. Son petit fils est tres adorable!

Umm...Rick started work back at Valhalla. They have him training this week. All seems well, although I think he's concerned with their volume of business.

Think that's all for now. I'll try to be more diligent with my updates.

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