Monday, May 25, 2015

in memoriam - 2015

Taking a break from a basketball game (the kids) and cleaning out the garage (Charlie and I), to put up our American flag …


And remember those who gave all for our country.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dad's celebration of life

My family nominated me to write and deliver my father's eulogy last week, and I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to find the right words, or say the right things. I was also so afraid that I'd be an absolute basket case, unable to talk. Instead, the day before Dad's funeral, the words miraculously came to me in less than an hour time; and I was able to deliver them almost tearlessly.  I'd asked for clarity and composure, and my father in heaven responded.  

Both of them!

Here's the eulogy I delivered, and some of the photos that I took during the service. The weather was perfect, a beautiful blue-sky day with nary a cloud in sight. The skies and seas were calm; both literally and figuratively. The only thing that could have made it better, is if my mother was physically with us - but because she could not leave Jim - she was most definitely with us in spirit. Mom, I know you and Dad were so proud of us.  I was, too.

Good morning everyone, thank you for being here today.  We’re gathered here not to grieve, but to celebrate the life of my father, Walter Francis Foley.  You may know him as Walter or Walt, the tireless pharmacist who worked the bench at Snow’s Pharmacy and served the town of Concord for more than 30 years.  For his seven children, he was Dad.  For his 20 grandchildren, and five great grandchildren, he was Grampy.  For all of us, he was a good and kind man, a quiet man, who worked so hard, loved a good joke or story, and spent his life serving others.


A lot of people work hard. But to put it in perspective, my mother and father had six children in seven years.  Their sixth son, Walter Junior, was born a few months after Snow’s Pharmacy opened.  Remember: this was 50 years ago, back in the days before all-night drive through pharmacies, or places where you can fill your prescription while you shop for groceries.   In the 1960’s if you needed medication, you got it from the drugstore, when it was open.  Snow’s was always open for those in need.  


For the next six years, my father with the unwavering support of his devoted wife, Mary, worked seven days a week, often heading down to “The Shop” in the middle of the night to prepare medicine for people who needed it, urgently.  Dad (and later all of the kids) also delivered prescriptions, free of charge. 

(17 of my father's 20 grandchildren served as his pallbearers)

“Running deliveries” meant driving all around town, and bringing medication and supplies to those who could not leave their homes. This was really sacred work for Dad, because he knew that sometimes, he might be the only person that his customers had seen all day, or all week.  So not only would he bring them their medication, he would sit and talk with them. People knew that he cared.  And he did. My father did not take a single vacation until the summer of 1970.  And, so it is, I was born nine months later, in the Spring of 1971, just three days before my father’s 40th birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!


But you know, my father didn’t ever call it “work.”  It wasn’t work to him, it was his life-long passion and God-given calling to help other people.  Whether it be the thousands of customers that he served through the years in his beloved Shop; or the strangers whose roads he would plow with his Ford Truck after a big snowstorm.  Or the patients at Emerson Hospital he so gently transported by wheelchair and gurney for a few years, following his third and final retirement from Snow’s.  My mother and father, together, instilled in each of their seven children a work ethic and sense of compassion, that is stronger than welded steel. 

(My brother, Wally, reading Ecclesiastes.)

Because my mother was so devoted to raising our family, my father was able to devote his attention to his profession. And he was the inspiration for two of his children, his daughters Marylou and Beth, to also choose pharmacy as their careers.   What a tribute!

(Wally's children bringing forth the communion gifts.)

Earlier in his life, Dad served as a radio operator in the Navy.  And the flags are at half-mast, today, in Concord Center because of Dad’s service to our country.  His time in the Navy sparked a love of the ocean, and some of my best memories of my father are those spent on the boat with him, sitting up on the fly bridge, Dad’s got a can of Budweiser in his hand, I’m on his knee, and he’s singing, “Bell Bottom Trousers and Coats of Navy Blue!” Some of my most frightening memories were on the boat, too, because as my siblings can all attest, there were a few times, we had trouble at sea. On the upside, Dad gave us a wonderful opportunity to get on a first name basis with the Coast Guard.  There’s always that silver lining!


The past few years have been difficult sailing for my father, but he navigated the rocky waters of Parkinson’s with grace.  And I have been blinded by the love and devotion that my family has shown to my father during this time. As we heard in Wally's reading of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.  And as we heard in Janet's reading of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “These three remain: Hope, Faith and Love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” The family tree really is the strongest tree and I am so amazed and proud of how beautifully our family has demonstrated that.  


To my mother, who has been a role model of what it means to forgive and love.  To my Aunt Peggy, who drove in from Boston to visit my father so frequently, always equipped with chocolate desserts for his sweet tooth. 

To my sister Marylou, who would fly up to visit Dad, and slept many a night on the pull-out couch at Robbin’s Brook. To my sister Janet, who never showed up to visit Dad without her manicure kit in hand and would spend hours, restoring Dad to his handsome glory. 

To my sister, Eileen, who nurtured Dad’s spirit with inspirational scripture and verse. To my brother, Wally, who never ceased – not even in Dad’s final hours - nurturing his heart with laughter.  My father’s final words were spoken in response to Wally, when my brother asked him if he’d like a Budweiser beer.  His reply? YES!


But most importantly, to my brother, Frank and my sister, Beth.  

God Bless You, both. 

To Frank – for visiting Dad nearly every single day, for bringing him to your home, for letting him in to your heart, and for doing everything you could do to carry out his wishes. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but we are thankful to you.  

To Beth - for being Dad’s Number One wingman, not only on the pharmacy bench, but in life.  You have devoted yourself to Dad, and at least for me, I never would have had the relationship that I was so blessed to have with Dad, if not for your unwavering and selfless efforts.   


In the words of another great Concord man – Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."


By this definition, my father was a wildly successful man.  He loved, and he was loved. And so many lives breathed easier because of him.  Dad made the world better, just by being in it.  But Dad wasn’t only successful; he was incredibly lucky to have a family that adored him. The last time I talked with Dad, was when we wished each other a Happy Birthday - just two weeks ago. He was with me when I took my first breath at Emerson; and I had the privilege of being with him when he took his last breath - in the same hospital.  


This past Sunday night, and early in to Monday morning, he was at various times, flocked by his children, several grandchildren, and his sister – who held his hands and feet, sang him his favorite songs including a more risqué version of “Bell Bottom Trousers”, and recounted some of our best family memories. 

(Father Gomes, also a former Navy pharmacist!)

Dad did not leave this world alone; he was surrounded in laughter and love, and it was magnificent.


So thank you again to our dear friends and family for being a part of our father’s successful life. Maybe you came to my father for medicine, but the truth is, each and every one of you were HIS medicine.  Your kindness, your friendship, your stories, your lives … is what made his life so happy and full.  


Science has taught us that energy is neither created nor destroyed, so it is our most heartfelt prayer that you always feel our father’s loving energy surround you. He is now part of the thousand winds that blow – the diamond glints on the snow; the sunlight on ripened grain; the gentle falling autumn rain.  


Dad will forever live in in the hearts of those who loved him.  And he will forever be remembered every time we pick up a broom, because Dad so loved to sweep.  


To our Aunt Ann, thank you again for being here; my father would be so honored that you sang at his Celebration of Life ... you always were his favorite singer.  

(Our amazing family cantor singing, "The Prayer of St. Francis.")

Monday, May 04, 2015

a beautifully sad day

This morning, we said goodbye to our Dad, Walter.


In his final hours, he was surrounded by his children, and his younger sister, who gently held his hands and feet, kissed his cheek, told him stories, sang him songs, and loved him.  Together, we gracefully and peacefully helped to usher him from this world.  It was one of the most beautiful and powerful experiences of my life.

daddy and me

Tonight in Massachusetts, the air is soft and warm. The first wave of spring flowers have erupted with their yellow blooms. And although it is not very clear from my iPhone photo (distorted by lights from the elementary school), there is a gorgeous full moon rising in the sky, shining on us all.


I'm certain it's no coincidence.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

pass the dramamine, please

At this very moment, our house resembles a scene from "Hoarders: Buried Alive!" and I have a lot of work (read: days and days) to do to get things back in order. But I'm taking a quick moment to capture a few things happening, for posterity...

The kitchen demolition started yesterday.


The fan over the stove came down and with it, a huge dead rodent.


The interior wall between our breakfast room and kitchen also came down, and between it - a bird's nest, with eggs.   Yes, see - this is exactly why we needed to update our kitchen before it goes on the market.


The children have adopted the eggs, accidentally cracked a few open, and have found the equivalent of fossilized raisins inside.


The one remaining egg, Elizabeth named "Crystal" and after she took it to school for "Show and Tell" has crafted a cotton ball chair / chariot that she pushes around the house.



Last week, Carolyn's vision was checked and it turns out, she's near sighted.


In case you cannot tell from this photo, she was only a little excited to get her new glasses.


Meanwhile, her sister is extremely jealous, and is certain that Carolyn faked the test ... just like she faked a vision test a few years ago in an attempt to get glasses.  (The optometrist wasn't fooled.)


A few years ago, my mother suggested that Carolyn might have a problem with her adenoids, because she snores and breathes through her mouth.  I didn't think too much about it,  until I shared a hotel room with her during our recent road trip, and heard snoring from my 10-year old girl that rivaled her father.  So I googled, "Sleep Apnea" and was interested to read that it can be an underlying cause of attention deficit disorder.  When I returned home, I promptly took her to see her pediatrician - who referred us to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) - who we visited, today.


Within minutes of being in his office, he'd scoped her nasal passages and it turns out, Carolyn's adenoids are huge and completely blocking her ability to breathe through her nose. Her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy is now scheduled for next Thursday, April 30th.

Lesson learned: Mother's always do know best.  Especially when they've raised seven children, their first name is Mary, and they are retired from the nursing profession.

Because we have no kitchen, I took the children out to dinner tonight, and didn't notice until we arrived at the restaurant, the outfit that Henry was wearing. At one point in life, I would have been dismayed by thermal ski underwear tucked in to his father's dress socks, and who knows what else is going on here?  But I don't have the energy to be worried about things like this, anymore.

Is he safe?

Is he clothed?

That's good enough for me!


Charlie walked in, as I'm writing this, and informed me that the washer just officially broke and while the timing is fine - because we were planning to get a new one prior to the sale of the house; the timing really isn't "fine" because we have four loads to wash including the one saturated load currently in it.

The guinea pigs - who have been temporarily relocated to the laundry room while renovations are underway - were left out in the sun last week for a few minutes too long and almost died.  I nearly gave our little black guinea pig, Chocolate, mouth to mouth resuscitation to bring him back - but after a cool, two hour bath, and a hair cut - and injecting fluids in to his mouth by syringe, he recovered.   Now, just a week later, we think he has mange because all of his hair is suddenly falling out.

Let's see, what else is new? Well, over the weekend, my children innocently googled a picture of "kissing" and went down a rabbit hole of internet porn.  Thus began conversations I wasn't expecting to have with our ten-year-olds for at least another two or twelve years.  Also, we've implemented internet security measures even I cannot bypass.

My co-worker told me that my life is never dull; and I told him that situations usually comes in waves. Although lately it seems like the waves are more like tsunamis.

Like anything, it's all in your attitude.  So we're trying to look at what we're doing, and the next few months of change, as a FUN ADVENTURE.

Hang on y'all! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

kindness, courage ... and a little bit of magic

Today is my birthday ... which seems impossible that it's already here, again.  This has to be the fastest year in the history of my years.  Hopefully, this was a total anomaly, due to all the other things we have happening, and this next year won't go past quite so quickly.

When Charlie was commenting to me last week that he intends to get in to really good shape now that he's 47, I gently reminded him he's actually 48.  I'd thought he was kidding, until I saw the look of genuine surprise, and then shock on his face as he said, "Well.  I might need to see a doctor about this..."   

Today I woke up to happy children who were piling on top of me in bed.  They excitedly handed me wonderful presents that they had carefully selected from items they found around the house and lovingly wrapped.  Within my bounty of gifts was a lovely frame that I bought in 1998, and a pair of my exercise socks that look almost new.   It was a great start to what would be a perfect day (until just before bedtime when I realized that I lost my iPhone, who knows where?).

After a few hours in the office, I left work early and met Charlie and the children at the movie theatre for a 3:30 showing of Cinderella.  We went in to a completely empty cinema and watched during the previews, Elsa throw Anna a surprise birthday party (Henry incredulously asked, "Did you know Anna has the same birthday as you?!") before we all enjoyed what would be one of the best movies we've seen in a long time.  What made this movie so fantastic, aside from the acting and set design, costumes, and fact it was a Monday and we were in a theatre) was the underlining message of "Be Kind and Have Courage."  Those are the same principles we're trying so hard (read: so, so, so, so times infinity plus one) to impress upon our children.  Be Kind! Have Courage! 

Seems easy, right?  Until you try to teach your three 10-year olds to be kind to each other and their 7.5-year old brother, and you wind up taking very long walks because how can you model kind behavior when they make you lose your marbles and you threaten to send your little angels straight back to heaven?

OK, so I know people don't "make you" anything; but children really have a way of trying your patience in ways that cannot be succinctly described.


What I want to remember the most about TODAY,  is my beloved husband and children (yes children, your mother really does adore you) - sitting with each other in a big empty theatre, watching a wonderful movie together, and thinking, "Kindness, Courage, and Magic.  This life really IS pure magic."  


And I'm enormously grateful.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

git 'r done

Hello Blog!

Life is all aflutter these days as we've been preparing to put our Virginia home on the market and determine where precisely we'll be next.  A few weeks ago, we decided to pull the kids out of school for a few days, prior to their spring break, so the family could accompany me on a business trip to the great state of Texas and check things out.   If you follow the "minutiae of our daily life" via Twitter, you know that over the span of two weeks, we drove more than 3,000-miles, transversed 13 states (including what were 10 of the 11 Confederate States of America), crossed the Mississippi twice, and had an overall great time.

Because the children were out of school, during our daily drives, I read aloud 147 pages of our fourth graders' Social Studies book and ensured that our route included several historically relevant landmarks like Jamestown, Yorktown, Monticello, and the Cumberland Gap.  Pictures to follow soon!

It was a totally awesome trip, and my dream of homeschooling our clan for a year (or more), while traveling the country in an RV was ignited. Of course my enthusiasm put Charlie in a semi-state of panic that I'm going to suddenly resign from my profession and buy a camper (and National Park Pass), but he needn't worry. At least not THIS year.

Because we're getting our home ready for sale, we had our (never before finished) hardwood floors refinished during our trip...


And the preparation and aftermath of that activity has nearly paralyzed us. According to the children, it seems like our house is a snow globe that someone picked up and SHOOK. Everything from our upstairs was moved to our downstairs, where it still largely remains while we paint the house and update our baseboards ... and I'm certain the upcoming move will be far less painful.


Later this month, after Charlie finishes the second bathroom that he started in September;  we're redoing our third bathroom, and gutting our kitchen to the studs because we have a six-inch hole in the floor that needs to be repaired and if we're going to fix the floor, we might as well do the whole thing.  You know what they say about mice and cookies, right?


I've maintained that our kitchen has been like GLORIFIED camping, but according to multiple realtors, most people aren't too keen on glorified camping in their home kitchen.

It's a shame. 


We'd held off on doing these big ticket item upgrades because after watching our children run down the hall with crayons in their hands, marking up the walls as they went; we decided having money in our pocket was the best possible investment (for our dollars and our sanity).  But now, with the encouragement of several realtors who have convinced us that these improvements are well worth our effort, we're squeezing in to four weeks, what we might have done in four years. 

It makes sense to me.  

Then again, I did recently suffer a head injury

Saturday, March 14, 2015

can i have this dance for the rest of my life?

Tonight is our annual Daddy-Daughter dance, and so it is, I'm home with our two boys, while Charlie is at the dance with our beautiful daughters.


When I think back to our first dance, it amazes me how much our girls have grown emotionally and physically.  From the latter perspective, Elizabeth is as tall now, as Carolyn was when she was in first grade...  


And from the emotional perspective, I'm absolutely sure our girls will collapse in to a heap of embarrassment when their father drops his suit coat and jumps up on the dance floor to dance gangham style in front of all their friends.

You better believe he's been practicing.