heart attack-ack-ack!

Also last Monday, my aunt had a heart attack. I posted something about it, but locked it down to friends at the time. The situation was not good for a bit. However, the latest email update was from her instead of my uncle. And she gets released from the hospital tomorrow! Which is most excellent news! Likely to be no permanent damage even. I am thrilled because we’ve had enough crappy news in my family the last few years. We could stand to go a decade or two without more.

Eulogy for Gramps

I meant to post the eulogy I said at Gramps’ funeral last year, but didn’t get around to it. Posting now as a method of archiving it so I can toss the paper copy. I kept it short because I knew I was going to be unable to hold in the waterworks. As it was, this still took me nearly 5 minutes to say.

My hero died on Wednesday. Since I was little, Gramps has been the man I want to be. Many people are known because the do something very well. In Gramps’ case, he was a firefighter. I once watched him run to a burning cabin from the Ponderosa community club. That was great, knowing he saw that danger and knew what to do. But I didn’t want to be a firefighter; I wanted to be like Gramps.

I want to be loving and open. Gramps and Gram were married over 60 years, and their marriage was still as strong last week as it was 30 years ago when I was a kid. I want to be able to call my wife lover-girl, in front of anyone. He didn’t hide anything. Like him, I want the self-confidence to tell people what’s important about me. He was generous and without judgment. He patiently taught me how to drive a standard shift, while I killed the engine of his car over and over. Never once did he tear me down. When a student I was mentoring started applying for scholarships, Gramps gladly spent an afternoon going over scholarship applications with her so she would be ready. He gave his time because I asked and because she needed it. Nothing more. I could list his good qualities for some time.

Now he’s gone. I miss him already. We all do. That’s why we are here. But what I’ll miss most is the living example of who a man can be. I’m proud to say I’m his grandson. I hope that people who knew him will tell others, That’s Cleo Hathaway’s grandson, not because of blood-line, but because I’ve learned well from him. Because I still want to be like my hero.

My Genealogy

One of the things I’ve been doing over the last few months is assembling my genealogy. Unfortunately, I was spurred to do this because my grandparents died. I *should* have done this last year when I could have asked them some questions. I’ve got the big book of Hathaways. My grandmother had some cobbled together information on the Swedes. My aunts on my father’s side assembled some information on the Weisses, Solle’s and Sorenson’s but not a lot. (There’s also a decent amount of information put together about my step-father’s family.)

I’ve been piecing all this together. I’ve also been digging through census records and other stuff available online. In addition, I’ve been able to match up people in my family tree with family trees other people have put online. Whenever I’ve been able to add to the tree through my own digging, I get a little thrill.

I’ve two great grandparents who emigrated from Sweden early last century. I’ve got pretty extensive records for the Swedish family. Also on the maternal side of the family are the Hathaways, who came to the U.S. way back. There are lots of other families that married into the Hathaways along the way, so that branch of the family is essentially mutt. The original Hathaway immigrants were English, but we’re talking three or four centuries ago. The records for the Hathaways are extensive too.

On my father’s side of the family, there are the Weisses from Wisconsin. My great grandfather Joseph Weiss’ parents emigrated from Germany. His wife was a Ryan, born in Wisconsin to an American and a Canadian. My other great grandfather on my father’s side was William Solle Jr., son of German immigrants, though they married in the U.S. and I presume they met here too. His wife was Flora Sorenson, daughter of Danish immigrants. Until a couple of years ago, I thought this whole side of my family was German.

By my addition, that makes me one quarter Swedish, one quarter German, one eighth Danish, one sixteenth Canadian, and five sixteenths a mixture that includes some English. Of course, the Canadian blood probably isn’t First Nations, but I don’t know who comprises that part of the family yet.

Anyhow, except for the Hathaways and possibly the Ryans, all my family are pretty recent immigrants.

I entered in the known information for my step-father too, even though they aren’t blood relatives for me. I knew his family was German. But what I didn’t know was that they didn’t immigrate from Germany. Both sides of that family were Germans who emigrated from Russia in the early 1800s and colonized Russia, in a part that’s now in the Ukraine. They left Germany due to Napoleon. A generation or two later, some of them left there and emigrated to the U.S. settling in North Dakota. Had no idea the Germans had colonized Russia. From what I gather, it was at the invitation of the czar.


Gram has been losing weight for a year or so, mostly due to lack of appetite. Scans of her digestive system showed some abnormalities but nothing conclusive. A few weeks ago, Gram started bleeding though. This put in motion additional tests. Turns out she has uterine (or ovarian, I’m not sure) cancer.

It’s early stage. And essentially the choices are: surgery or slow death. Tuesday she goes in for surgery.

Since she’s so underweight, the surgery isn’t a slam dunk success. Getting the cancer is the least of the problem actually. She may see an extended amount of time recovering, and is at greater risk of complications. I’d be worried if I hadn’t already gone into do the next right thing mode.

Next week I’ll start fretting about Gramps’ upcoming surgery.

Moving day done

Yesterday was the big move for my grandparents. They were about as cranky as I’ve ever seen them. They had 62 years of accumulated stuff in the place they’ve lived in for 36 years, and they wanted to keep as much of it as possible despite moving into a place roughly 60% the previous size. They also felt like they were out of control since neither of them physically could help much with the move. On the roller coaster and not able to get off until the ride is over.

But we made it. Jennifer, Sharon, Jason and his dad John came and helped. My brother Joe and his former partner Mike took the day off and helped, despite Joe being under the weather. My aunt and uncle helped Gram and Gramps supervise, as well as drove and packed.

Jason and I got yelled at by the building staff. You can’t use that elevator! And then they sent someone outside to yell at us again. We thought God intended us to use that elevator because it came 5 times in 10 minutes but the other one never did. We were wrong.

I am sore. But oh my god I am so happy knowing their health is so much better taken care of there. After an emotional move and getting Sharon a vehicle, I just cried as I drove home. So happy to have all of this come together.

Thank you so much to the people who helped. I have no way to say how much this meant to me.

Need moving help

Photo by artnoose

I need moving help.

Here’s the scoop: My grandparents are moving into an assisted living place. Originally Gramps wanted to hire movers, but he got back the estimate today and it was thousands more than he expected. The actual move is one bedroom and one living room worth of furniture. They are leaving the second bedroom and the kitchen out. I need 3 to 5 people to help with the move, either with loading or unloading. Pizza and beverages (at a minimum) will be provided. I’ll probably have a pie or two too.

Here’s the catch: It’s next Wednesday the 20th. Short notice and not a weekend. But even if you can only spare a few hours in the evening, we could use the help.

I’m expecting loading to be early afternoon (noon to 3pm) and unloading to be evening (4 to 6 pm ish).

So, can you help?

Edited to add locations: Moving from 6535 Seaview Ave NW (by Shilshole Marina west of Ballard). Moving to 12509 Greenwood Ave (Ida Culver House in Broadview).

Christmas 2010 at Swedish Medical Center

At 12:07 this morning I got a call from my grandfather. When he calls, I answer. He’d passed out in the hallway and had called paramedics. He assumed they would take him to Swedish like they normally do. There’s a “normal” course of events when Gramps has a heart attack. This is his 5th or 6th in 13 months and he has another 3 or 4 hospitalizations in addition during the same time frame.

So I did my normal course. Get dressed. Make coffee. Call Joe. Dawdle on the internet for 15 minutes. Then leave for the hospital. I got there 15 minutes before they did.

I am always fine when I get the call. Driving up Lynn is fine. I start to get worried this will be the last time I see him about the time I get on the freeway. By the James St exit I am a wreck and near bawling. But I pull it together while climbing James St. And I’m all business by the time I get to Swedish.

That is my “normal” progression.

My main concern is Gram. She has dementia and stress makes her worse. So this morning I walked to meet her at the ambulance and took charge of her while the paramedics wheeled Gramps into emergency. They thought I worked there and were surprised I couldn’t tell them the access code for the emergency doors.

Gramps was admitted overnight, though now it has stretched into 2. Gram cannot stay by herself though she thinks she is fine. So I am crashing on her couch for the second, hopefully less sleepless, night.

The docs who downloaded his pacemaker data confirmed a heart attack. Without the builtin defibrillator, he would have died. It’s the 3rd or 4th time it’s saved his life.

Family history

My mom never talked much about family history. But driving my grandfather around the last 6+ months I’ve learned a ton that I didn’t know before.

  • Gramps’ mother’s family was Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, but Gramps quit the church after his mom died. He was irritated that none of the church members his mother had loaned money to would repay. Gram also said he wasn’t too happy that the church changed it’s name a few years ago. Even so, he’s contacted one of the local churches because he wants to have one of their ministers conduct part of the service when he’s buried.
  • I’d thought he’d grown up in Ballard. He graduated from Ballard High School, but his family moved around a bit before that. Around 10, he was living off Delridge near where Chief Sealth High School is.
  • I’d thought his dad had grown up in Western Washington. His mom did, and his grandmother came to Western Washington in the late 1800s, but the Hathaways came here in the 20s from North Dakota.
  • My great grand-father wasn’t born Otto Hallin. His original name was Otto Omaan (sp?). He changed it after the Great War when he got his citizenship. Supposedly he knew a Hallin in the Army.
  • Two of Otto’s brothers returned to Sweden rather than serve in the Army during the Great War. Otto nearly disowned them. Gramps thinks this is why he changed his name.
  • My great grandmother’s maiden name was Nordwall (sp?). One of her brothers shortened it to Nord when he became a citizen.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I remember of his family stories off the top of my head.

Nuclear test

The last few days have been hectic to say the least. Most of it bad, but not all. Here I shall write about the bad stuff.

Thursday I got a call from Gram. Sort of. She called, but didn’t realize I’d picked up. I could hear her talking to a nurse in the background saying her phone wasn’t working and asking the nurse to call me. Nurse asking for my number. Gram not knowing. I hung up and called Gram thinking the nurse would hear the ring and show her how to answer, but I got voice mail. While I called, the nurse called me and I still haven’t figured out how to switch calls on call waiting, so that went to voice mail. But at least now I knew what hospital.

Gramps was feeling pressure in his chest and short of breath. So he called 911 and went to the ER. They don’t know what’s wrong exactly, though whatever it is isn’t as bad as the heart attacks and blod clot he had in December/January. He’s definitely weaker than he was a couple of weeks ago. And he definitely had more fluid than he should around his heart. They upped his dosage of ferosimide (I probably misspelled that) to get him to piss away the fluid. He’s lost about 7.5 pounds in 4 days, with no bowel movements (which is beginning to be an issue).

Tomorrow morning they’ll put some nuclear material in him and watch it go through his heart on a machine. I don’t know if they’ll send him home afterward, or if they’ll be keeping him.

Meanwhile, I’ve been driving Gram there to visit every day, and spending a fair amount of time with her outside the hospital. Her dementia has been pretty bad, and Gramps didn’t want her to be alone for too long. He’s said they need to hire help, and I think he means it this time. He’s withered in the face of Gram’s opposition before. We even had a conversation with Gram, and she seemed more resigned in her opposition than obstinate. It’s a good, albeit minor, sign as far as I am concerned.

My aunt Gail arrived today to help out watching Gram. One of the things she wants to do is go look at assisted living places with me. We’re hoping that Gramps’ doctors insist on something like that. Both Gram and Gramps need it.

Me, I’m a ball of stress. I’ve gotten very little sleep. But I’ve also taken some time for myself as well. Unfortunately, that cut into my sleep, but it was worth it.

I haven’t forgotten the Walk to Defeat A.L.S. I have half an article on drugs written up, and hopefully I’ll get time to finish it within the next few days. In the meantime, my Walk to Defeat A.L.S. page is still up, and still taking donations.

Thinking about my father, or lack thereof

Yesterday was Hallmark Father’s Day. Nisi Shawl’s post about her father got me thinking. Crying actually. I cry easily at sad things. Losing mom last year exacerbated this tendency in me that seemed to be getting more pronounced as I got older.

I felt the need to write about my relationship with my father, but after writing the following, it’s inadequate. My memory is spotty and jumbled by years of emotional tumult. So take it as a confused mental image more than anything else.

I grew up without a father.

My dad died in December 1972 after what I understand to be an ugly battle with cancer. I was 2. My brother Dan entered the world the following month, January 1973.

I’ll never know what kind of father he would have turned out to be. Probably pretty good. But it’s a big what if.

In 1975, mom married my step-father Andy. He wasn’t and isn’t the father I wish I had. I call him dad, and father, and it’s somewhat more than convenience for me to do so. Where exactly he fits and what a good definition for my feelings for him are pretty hard to describe. Properly, it isn’t dad. But it isn’t not dad either. (Oh, how Zen of me!)

I never felt like dad treated me like one of his kids. I felt like he treated Elaine, Matt, and Joe as his favorites because they were his kids. They got to do things I didn’t. I got punished more severely and for stuff at a lesser threshold of badness. Worse, he was mildly physically abusive to me.

I remember him coming into my room once, very angry. He had his belt off, and he meant to give me a thrashing. The proper way for me to take a spanking was to submit meekly. I didn’t that time. I scrambled off the bed as he hit me with the belt to try to slide underneath the bed, or over my brother’s bed. I didn’t get away. He grabbed me and held me and hit me with the belt quite a few times. Maybe a dozen. I don’t remember exactly, as it was a long time ago. I think I was 12 or 13. He was very angry and taking it out on me.

One of his favorite punishments was to make me kneel bare-kneed on gravel or our asphalt driveway. It doesn’t start off as too painful, but after just a couple minutes it hurts quite a bit. After 30 minutes, it’s excruciating.

I didn’t get punished for no reason. He didn’t get drunk and start hitting, for instance. It’s just that I got punished hard.

I never received a word of encouragement from him. He made fun of me for chewing my nails. He made fun of my hair. I didn’t have to work on the farm, so I had it easy.

When I was 14, I lived with my paternal grandfather for a year on weekdays. Weekends I stayed with mom and dad. Friends and family were told it was because taking Metro to Seattle Prep was easier from where Grandpa Weiss lived in Broadview. I think I even pitched it that way to mom. But that wasn’t the real reason. The real reason was that as I hit adolescence I became both more angry at dad and more scared of him. It didn’t work out after that year though. When I moved back, things were different with dad. We still didn’t get along. But he never hit me after I started high school either.

To be clear, there are some people who suffer horrible abuse at the hands of their fathers or whatever substitute passes for father in their house. What my dad did to me was minor in comparison to the psychological and physical scars that I’ve seen on some kids. Nevertheless, what I experienced, no child should experience.

What do I wish I had for a father? I totally would have liked Ward Cleaver or Mike Brady. Sure it’s not realistic, but that’s about all I knew besides what I had. I didn’t have very much contact with other dads. Holidays with uncles. Getting the occasional ride home from someone’s dad in Cub Scouts.

That’s not completely true. I had one other model for what a father could be: John Sloane. He’s pretty awesome as Jason’s dad. John does everything a dad is supposed to do. He even did a few dad things for me. For instance, when I needed someone to help me learn how to drive, Mr. Sloane Senior took me out to practice driving. My dad refused to get in a car with me in the driver’s seat.

Anyhow, I really don’t have first hand experience for what a father is like, day in day out. Among other things, when I become a father, that could really bite me in the ass.

Years ago, he married a woman with two kids when he hadn’t even had a good role model for a father himself. A few months after that his first child was born and two more were born before he’d been married four years. Married four years and five kids in the family. More or less he was in over his head. He did what he knew.

My dad couldn’t read up on how to be a good father. His reading skills are elementary. He only got as far as the 8th grade. He’s not a person to ask advice. He couldn’t see how what he did would hurt me. He thought he was curbing my bad tendencies and setting me on the correct path.

Tomorrow I will drive to Lynden to bring a check to dad. I’ll also be signing some paperwork that puts me and my brother in control of dad’s house. Mom worried that someone would try to take advantage of dad. So rather than leave everything to him, Joe and I are trustees. It’s for his benefit.

A quarter century after I moved out of the house for a year because of this man, I am in charge of seeing that he is okay. And I am fine with that.

Andy has good intentions. He’ll help you out if you need help. His next door neighbor has multiple sclerosis and can’t drive long distance without pain, so dad drove him an hour each way for a doctor’s visit. He was mom’s primary caregiver, even when mom was not nice to him and criticized every little thing he did. He loved mom. He’s a doting grandfather as well.

Once I was an adult (i.e., mid 20s), our relationship changed for the better. I wasn’t an angry kid, and he didn’t feel like he was responsible for me. We don’t have a lot to talk about, but we don’t have anything to argue about either.

How he raised me is a thing of the past. It’s not that I’ve forgiven. I’m no longer actively angry, just sad about this hole in my life. It’s hard to describe how I think of him. He’s both the person who hurt me gravely years ago, and the man who loved mom and treated me well as an adult. Kind of a cognitive dissonance, and it actually helps.

He’s not my father, and yet he is my father.