Archive for February, 2011
Very glad we were in NYC when the news of my father’s death arrived. Taylor was coming up for the weekend and the three other kids plus grandkids are here, so we’ve been blessed with companionship/solace/distraction. Given the circumstances, it’s been a good week.
Tina and family came in from Connecticut last Sunday for brunch and a dip in our building’s pool.
Swimming with Grandpa has become a tradition during our visits:
When Taylor visits, our agenda turns to food. He’s almost 6’5″ and has the metabolism of a hummingbird. We walked over to our fave nabe place, Cafe Fiorello, for a bite of lasagna:
The CE was hoping for snow, a wish he shared with every New Yorker he encountered, risking great bodily harm in the process. It’s been a long winter here. His prayers were answered with a fresh few inches of the white stuff early in the week:
In an effort to be “real” New Yorkers, we did not let the snow slow us down. We headed over to the UES to see the just-opened Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt. Not to be missed next time you’re in the city. The exhibit runs through June 5, and the museum itself – Andrew Carnegie’s former home – is a jewel.
The CE’s Christmas gift from me was a night at the opera, specifically, La Boheme at the Met. It was a lovely evening.
Since I recently finished a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, I had on my to-do list for this visit a trip downtown to find his birthplace. It’s right there at 28 E. 20th Street, complete with a guided tour of the house conducted on the hour.
As always, we spent time with Ang, Bob, the boys and Tiny, who, unfortunately, had a bit of a scrape with another dog this week. Poor baby has seven stitches in his ear:
Yesterday we enjoyed what has become a tradition with each of our visits to the city. Tina came into the city and Ang and Karen dashed over to join us for a child-free champagne respite.
Daniel has been camera-shy this visit, but we’re meeting him for dinner tonight and I’ll try to get a few snaps to add to this post. Tomorrow we fly to Chicago and drive to Indiana. My father’s funeral service will be held Tuesday morning. Thanks to everyone for all the thoughtful encouragement this past week.
My father died yesterday. He was 89 years old and lived a full, happy life. We were not especially close; a product of the “Greatest Generation”, he provided faithfully for his family, and considered the little time he had left over after working ten-hour days, six days a week, to be his own. He was in his element on the golf course and in his public life, where he delighted in the attention he received as a small town celebrity, dispensing gardening advice over the radio waves and to packed audiences of gray-haired ladies at local garden clubs.
You don’t miss what you don’t know, so it was never of great concern to me that I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father. The distance was a comfortable one; he was always cheerful, never mean, rarely angry – he just wasn’t generally present.
This arrangement worked well until about ten years ago, when my mother died and Dad was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer a few months later. Perhaps he re-evaluated his life. Perhaps he was lonely at the loss of my mother. Whatever the catalyst, suddenly my father was interested in me. He asked about my children. He actively sought a relationship with my husband.
This was annoying, to say the least. I don’t do well with change.
Now I was having to make room in my life for someone who had never been part of it and I, being the deeply flawed person I am, resented the imposition. Where had he been during my childhood? Where had he been during the early years of my children’s childhoods? My thoughts ran along the lines of an uptight theatre usher: “No late seating allowed!”
Fortunately, my father was patient and persistent, and my husband provided gentle reminders around the theme of “better late than never”. I slowly adjusted to sharing a bit more of my life with my father and hearing about his. He liked to talk, by the way. His stories were many and long. He savored his life, especially now that he’d had a cancer scare which had been barely beaten into remission through an intense course of radiation that left him with nerve damage in his legs and a panoply of other side effects. He never complained. He always smiled.
At one point, I happened to mention I had just read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, which is widely touted as a modern-day parallel to the Confessions of Saint Augustine. He expressed interest; I sent him a copy of the book. Soon after, he paid a visit to his parish priest and asked if he might renew his acquaintance at church. He was heartily welcomed, of course, because God is a much more gracious being than stubborn and resentful adult daughters. God understands “better late than never”, and it is never too late with Him. In his last years, my father attended mass often, sometimes daily, and he became close pals with Father Sullivan.
The cancer, inevitably, returned. The last year and a half of his life was a blur of ups and downs. He began to end all of our phone conversations with “I love you”, another change that called me deep consternation. In our family, no one ever, ever said I love you (a failing that I may have over-corrected in my own parenting, since my constant declarations of adoration for my children have led them to consider themselves, if anything, somewhat over-loved.) Responding in kind was a tough order. I stumbled over the words; the awkwardness of this new intimacy made me hesitate and stammer. Did I mention that I am deeply flawed?
A final, cruel run of chemotherapy last spring took more out of him than he could bear, and he finally said “enough”. The doctors told him he should probably make the acquaintance of the local Hospice folks, but, characteristically for him, he never wanted to trouble anyone so he managed to the very end without engaging their services. He nearly died before Thanksgiving, but rallied for the holidays and celebrated his 89th birthday in January with a visit to a nearby casino.
He never, ever complained. Not once. He demonstrated a courage and a grace that astounded me and everyone around him. During our last visit in December, he took my husband aside, as he had many times before, to tell him how much he admired him for both success as a businessman and his devotion to me and our children. I often joked that my father had a “man-crush” on the CE. What was probably more accurate was that he saw and admired in the CE was a dedication and fulfillment in marriage and fatherhood that he wistfully wished he could have shared.
A few weeks after his birthday in January, he returned to the hospital with complications from the cancer, which was now on a crash-course, attacking organs throughout his abdominal cavity. The doctors suggested he might have two to three months to live. Working around our scheduled trip to the East coast, the CE and I tried to decide if we should stop through the Midwest to visit Dad on our way to New York or the way home. We chose the latter, thinking he would be in better shape after a chance to rally from the latest surgery. He had begun physical therapy and was hopeful of being released from the hospital soon.
I spoke with Dad almost every day in the past few weeks. With long practice, I was finally improving at our parting “I love you’s”. On Monday, I told him I had stepped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light a candle for him and say a prayer. He was deeply emotional and wept with gratitude at this simple indulgence, thanking me profusely. I did not tell him that my prayer was that he not be asked to suffer unduly. On Tuesday, he told me again how grateful he was that I had lit a candle for him. He cried again. “I’ll see you soon, Dad”, I said. “I love you, too.”
On Wednesday morning, I received a call that Dad had gone into renal failure and slipped into unconsciousness. That night, I lay awake, wondering if I should catch a plane in the morning. I drifted into sleep around 6 am and was awakened by a call at 9 – Dad had passed away a half hour before. In the end, it was not him that waited too long, but me. But thanks to his concerted and persistent efforts over the past several years to salvage our relationship, there was nothing left unsaid and no unfinished business to be conducted. He was at peace with God and with his family; a final gift for us all.
Dad was a “celebrity” to the end; his passing was announced as “breaking news” on the Elkhart Truth’s web-site, where a story about him is posted today: http://www.etruth.com/Know/News/Story.aspx?ID=535427
It’s true. Chloe is vindicated. After all the speculation, here are the pics to prove it.
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, which makes me think of love, which, of course, makes me think of chickens (right after I think of the CE, of course).
Many of you know that we are in wait mode for some new additions to the flock. ETA for our four new babies is mid-June, and here is a preview of the breeds we’ve ordered:
Dr. Seuss must have played a part in coming up with this breed. They are the teddy bears of the chicken world, known for their docile temperament and excellent mothering abilities.
The first known account of a Silkie sighting came from Marco Polo, who spoke of seeing chickens with fur-like plumage during his travels to Asia in the 13th century. Silkies have five toes – one more than other chicken breeds, and are known for their blue-black colored skin and bones.
Silkies come in a number of colors but I decided on traditional white for my first Silkie chick. Silkies in North America are bantam-sized, so she will be just a little girl.
MILLE FLEUR D’UCCLE
A true bantam, in that there is no standard-sized equivalent for the breed, the Belgian Mille Fleur D’Uccle is one of the prettiest of chickens. Mille fleur, which translates to “a thousand flowers”, refers to the spangly feather pattern that makes these friendly birds so irresistible.
These little feather-footed beauties were first bred outside of Brussels in the late 19th century. They lay a small white egg.
BLACK COPPER MARANS
These birds originated in the western France town of Marans in the early 20th century and are prized for their dark brown eggs.
The eggs of hatchery stock, which I will be getting, are not known to be as dark as those from breeder stock fowl. But of all the Marans breeds, the Black Coppers are known to lay the darkest eggs. Every account of the Marans breed is accompanied by the factoid that theirs are the eggs preferred byJames Bond.
The pigment of a Marans egg is deposited just before laying via mucus glands within the last 10 centimeters of the hen’s oviduct. Thus, unlike the coloring of other chicken eggs, the pigment can actually be removed through vigorous scrubbing – not that anyone would choose to do so. The Black Copper Marans temperament is described as “stately and gentle”.
The forebears of the Sussex chicken reach back into history to the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43. Speckled Sussex are favorites among chickenkeepers for their docile and curious temperament.
Their speckles are known to increase with successive molts, so these birds just get prettier with age. They are good layers of tinted or light brown eggs.
Our baby chicks will come from Mypetchicken.com, (www.mypetchicken.com) which is a boon to backyard flock keepers. They have partnered with a hatchery (I’m not sure which one) to offer sexed standard size and bantam chicks, and will ship small orders, unlike most hatcheries, which will ship no fewer than twenty-five birds at a time. While hatching, baby chicks ingest their yolk sac, which keeps them nourished for up to 72 hours, allowing time for them to be priority shipped through the US mail to their new homes.
Here is a video of baby chicks being hatched:
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
File this one under poetic justice.
The world is full of things I don’t understand, but cockfighting is is right up there near the top of the list. CBS Los Angeles reports that “a California man attending a cockfight has died after being stabbed in the leg by a bird that had a knife attached to its own limb”. The autopsy report stated cause of death as “accidental sharp force injury” to the man’s right calf.
I’m not saying cockfighting should be punishable by death, but it is senseless and barbaric, not to mention illegal. Very sad all around.
My friend, Nancy, sent me a link to this great piece in the New York Times by Elizabeth Giddens: Domestic Lives: Chicken Vanishes, Heartbreak Ensues
It details the disappearance of a city chicken in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I promise you, it’s excellent reading AND there’s a happy ending!
Road trip! We’ve had a stretch of weather so gorgeous here that it’s probably cruel to even mention it to all you East coast Polloplayer readers, but in the interest of art education, share we must. Thanks to Alexandra’s and Victoria’s willingness to watch over the menagerie, we set off for a Getty weekend last Saturday morning.
Neither of us had driven south on PCH 1 of late and we were thoroughly struck by its beauty.
Our biggest challenge was finding the entrance to the Getty Villa (if you go: 1) you must purchase tickets in advance and 2) the museum can only be accessed from the northbound lane of PCH; go to http://www.getty.edu/visit/ for info) but once there, we feasted on the Greek and Roman antiquities with a fervor that only a pair of geeks like ourselves could muster. The CE, as you know, has a passion for ancient bronzes, and I had just wrapped up a re-reading of The Iliad and was looking forward to mingling with the gods and goddesses of old.
We were not disappointed. Here are a few of my favorite things:
My favorite find of the day was a small terracotta piece that caught my eye as we walked past a glass case in a hallway. I had one of those moments of transcendence that only art, and poultry, can provide: this depiction of a woman feeding her chickens made me smile. I love the way she stands, reaching out so tenderly to the hen, and the way the baby chicks huddle beneath their mama. Centuries may pass, but the quotidian rhythms of life remain the same.
We treated ourselves to a stay at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, where we always get a kick out of their signature tradition of embroidering the pillowcases with guests’ initials:
Dionysus would have smiled approvingly upon our dinner that night. If you’re ever in Beverly Hills and haven’t eaten for, say, a week or two, Mastro’s is the place to go http://www.mastrosrestaurants.com/ Unless you are a vegan, in which case, you be unmoved by steaks the size of a breadboard and seafood towers that arrive in a trail of dry ice vapor. The key to the experience is to somehow leave room for the famed Butter Cake for dessert.
Not having realized what we were getting into for dinner, I had made reservations for brunch the next morning at the landmark Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge.
We weren’t all that hungry, but ended up being glad we kept the reservation, as, mid-way through our meal, none other than Marky-mark Wahlberg sat down at the table next to ours.
I could not bring myself to snap a photo, but we heard him discuss his love of golf- he apparently has a 5 handicap. The CE was tempted to approach him for a part in his next film but we thought better of the idea and proceeded with our plan for the day, which was to complete our sweep and visit the Getty Center.
Like the Villa, the view and the grounds of the Getty Center are by themselves worth the price of admission (which is free, by the way)
But there are also jewels like this Van Gogh inside:
All in all, a great LA getaway. Can’t wait to do it again!