Sunday, December 7, 2014


I lied a little bit. We did indeed put the tree up last week, but it sat undecorated, save for one sad candy cane all week long.

Finally  we pulled out all the decorations and started the big job of decorating the tree and making room for all the decorations we have - nutcrackers, snow globes etc. 

Neither Steve nor I were fully prepared for the level of emotion that would be involved with that. I did tell him I wanted to skip the stockings this year because it would be too hard to look at one for Maggie and too hard to look at an empty space where Maggie stocking should be. But every box had reminders and things of Maggie's we hand't seen in a year. She was here last Christmas and we had no idea what was coming.

I miss that little Elf. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We Need a little Christmas, right this very minute.

I am about to break a family rule. It's December 2 and I am going to address Christmas. My sister Joan's birthday is tomorrow and we would never really talk about Christmas until after her birthday But those were back in the days when Christmas season was limited to a month rather than the three month extravaganza we all enjoy now. So sorry, Joni. You're out.

The Holidays are not easy when you've lost someone. Halloween, Maggies' favorite holiday, was hard and Thanksgiving was even harder. We were unprepared for both holidays. We never even carved a pumpkin for Halloween; and the Thanksgiving box never made it out of its basement storage spot until noon on Thanksgiving Day when I realized I didn't have my pilgrim salt and pepper shakers for the table. Both of those dates sort of sneaked up on us and we didn't get any of the joy of preparation.

Because of that, I decided we need a little Christmas, right this very minute. Steve brought the tree up last night and we will decorate it this evening. The holidays will still be hard, but we can do our best to make them festive. We have to find our joy wherever we can, even if we have to create it.

Part of this epiphany is due to an activity in which Steve took part on Saturday morning. He joined other members of the South End Rowing Club for the "Ho Ho Ho Row." About 15 rowers dressed as Santa or one of his elves, loaded toys into their rowboats and went from Aquatic park to Pier 39 to deliver the toys to the waiting San Francisco Fire Fighter for the Toys for tots programs. I was the unofficial photographer of the event. I stayed on dry land and took pictures as they shoved off, from the end of Pier 39 and when they arrived.

They call this the barge. That is mostly women in that boat.

Steve and my brother in law Vince. (Steve's in the Santa suit)

Steve and Vince Escape from Alcatraz

Fire fighters taking bags of toys.
(lots more photos at

It was such a fun event and such a great cause. Maggie would have loved it. It put Christmas in my heart and I'm going to do my best to keep it there.

And just because I know you are singing it, here's We Need a Little Christmas from Auntie Mame

And Happy Birthday to Joni tomorrow!!

Friday, November 28, 2014


Thanksgiving has come and gone.

We had a quiet day, just six of us here. Tim, Eddie and Grace and Steve's dad were here. It was a bit melancholy, for sure. We missed Maggie and shed a few tears as we talked about this past year. But we all know how much we have to be thankful for and tried to concentrate on that. We have each other, we have memories of Maggie and we have the support of so many people, including you who are reading this.

Obviously, we have so much more than that, as well. We have food and shelter and all the creature comforts we need. We have more extended family than anyone and we live in a beautiful place and are participating members of our community.We are thankful for all of that.

Still, it's hard this year to focus on how we have when we all think so much about what we lost. That tiny young woman was so filled with energy and joy that it is impossible to fill the hole she left. She was whatever is the opposite of a Black Hole. She didn't swallow energy, she exuded it. She was the sunshine.

I did grab a decoration to put on the table. I showed it to the boys and said, "this is something Maggie supposedly made at school, but we all know she didn't really make it." (There was absolutely no way she could have placed the decorations in the right places.) She would have been more of a consultant.

 Tim and Eddie then went into a description of Maggie  working on this project  that had me laughing very hard !

Teacher or aide: Should we use red? yes or no?
Maggie: No! ahahhaha (throws back her head)
Should we use orange? yes or no?
NO! ahahahhahahah (throws back her head)
 Should I put it here? yes or no?
NO! hahahhahah    I want my music please. I don't like  TV. I don't like TV.

We were all laughing at her imagined antics and then got quiet and kind of smiled at each other sadly. She was missed.

But we were thankful we had her, thankful for her huge personality and thankful we could laugh about her, even for a few minutes.

Hope your day had some laughter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Area of Refuge

I had a dream the other night that Maggie and I had evacuated to an "area of refuge" and were awaiting assistance, but no one was coming. The dream was a little scary as we were all alone and I wondered if anyone would be there for us.

 There are lots of possible read ins to this, but I know for a fact that it stemmed from the scavenger hunt at the new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital which is all but complete and will open February 1. The scavenger hunt was part of an all day training for staff and contractors (like me) who work at the hospital. People need to know where things are and we were charged with finding several places, including the area of refuge. It is a place where people who cannot get down the stairs wait for help. You and I would call it the stairwell, but building codes require these places be labeled as a specific "area of refuge" .

The dream stayed with me all day yesterday and I felt a little unsettled, and very alone and helpless. I worked at the current hospital and felt Maggie's presence all day long. That doesn't usually happen to me, but it was strong yesterday. It wasn't just my imagination either.

As I was headed home a car pulled up along side me. The woman inside was smiling, but I didn't recognize her. She asked, "Aren't you Maggie's mom?'  She was a therapist who worked with Maggie for a short time when she started high school.  The therapist moved away, and I lost track of her. It was kind of her to bother pulling over to offer condolences.

When I arrived back in my neighborhood, I went to the little market from which I always buy my Thanksgiving turkey. I just wanted to confirm my name was on the list. While in there I saw a neighborhood woman whose name I don't know. She is sort of the queen of the dog people in the 'hood. She's very nice and had offered assistance with Maggie in the past.  I figured I should tell her about Maggie. She was shocked and kind as always. I told her I had seen her in the past months but didn't say anything because I couldn't talk about it. She completely understood. But when she compared my experience  to the loss of her first dog, I quickly ended the conversation. Not rudely, mind you, but ended it nonetheless. I do realize some dog people equate their pets with children and though no harm is intended, it is a rather insulting comparison.. I have both. In fact I've lost both this year. It's not the same,

Finally home, I gathered the mail and went upstairs. I listened to two messages as I plopped my things down. One message was from a mom of another disabled young man. She offered her condolences about Maggie and gave the other reason for her call. Then I opened the mail to read a card from a law school friend who had just learned about Maggie and offered her sincerest sympathy. It was very kind.I stared at the message machine and the card in my hand, not quite believing all of this was happening on a day when I had felt Maggie with me so strongly.

Amazingly, all four of these encounters happened in the span of about 45 minutes; and they all happened nine months and nine days after we lost Maggie.  Even after all this time, there are people bothering to offer their condolences and tell me how cool  Maggie was.  Taken collectively they made me realize that the dream didn't need to bother me, I'm not alone at all. There are plenty of people ready to assist. My area of refuge is anywhere I go and in the people who knew Maggie.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What do you do with a general....

There have been so many changes in our life since and because we lost Maggie. Our once bustling house is quiet. There are no nurses coming and going, no supplies taking up half the garage, no fighting for coverage or services or anything. I was just on the back deck and noticed the barbecue in the lift, which is where we keep in now that we don't need the lift two or more times a day.

Steve and I were so programmed to wait for the nurse to arrive at night that we automatically stayed up until she would have arrived; it took us months to just go to bed when we wanted. Getting up in the morning is also completely different. There is no crazy morning ritual because I don't have to hurry down to meet the bus with the talker programmed and everything done. There isn't a drawer full of tubes and the bottles and bottles of medications are gone. 

Those are just things, though. The hardest part of all is missing Maggie. She was the nerve center of everything. She was the queen  and she knew it. We were her loyal subjects, we were her army. We were happy to do her bidding and fight her battles. Without the queen, the subjects are a bit lost, the troops disbanded, and the generals a bit at sea, especially me 

My role was clear when Maggie was here.  I was the general, so used to taking charge and getting things done. I led the troops which included her nurses, teachers, therapists and people on the street. Now I have no troops and no queen and I don't know who I am. 

Maggie has two brothers, but they are all grown up and certainly do not need their mother running their lives. Steve was a co general --three stars to my four, really -- so he doesn't need any bossing around. (Though I'm not above trying from time to time).

Now I am charged with figuring out how to live in a world that doesn't need what I have to offer, and doesn't offer what I need most. I suppose when you get right down to it, it's nothing more than a dramatic case of empty nest, so I will find my way.

Until that is figured out, I just find myself singing this song from "White Christmas" over and over


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Jury is out

I touched on this a couple of weeks ago, but I just found it again in a pile of papers, so you are getting another dose.

Maggie received a jury summons a couple of weeks ago. She is supposed to report on Monday November 24 unless she has a legitimate reason to be excused. She does. One of the few legitimate excuses is if the prospective juror is deceased. One simply checks a box and one is excused.

Now I know my reaction may be extreme because of my situation, but I find this appalling. Obviously the City and County of San Francisco summons the deceased for jury duty often enough that has modified its summons form to make that an acceptable excuse. That is bizarre. Maybe it's time to rethink this.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to cross check a list of prospective jurors against a list of death certificates issued in the City?  Once it was set up, it would take no time at all, it would be an automatic check. Of course they wouldn't get everyone, but you would get a lot of people. The City and County could save the paper, the postage and a lot of heartache/angst for the family members of the deceased; it could do right by its citizens.

Part of me just wanted to toss the summons in the garbage.  I mean what are they going to do?  I wasn't summoned, I have no reason to do the City's job for them.  But then I realized if I didn't send it back in, the notices will keep coming every year or so forever, which is likely what happens to many, including those without a family living at the same address. That means I would get annoyed/hurt/angry every time I received one.  It's worth the trouble and the stamp to stop that.

 But it really better stop.

Maggie was summoned two years ago, and I found it rather charming. (Maggie World: Juror #5, what say you). The court had no reason to know Maggie could not serve as a juror. So I told them. I submitted medical information that she was severely and permanently disabled and had actually been conserved by the San Francisco Superior Court, the very same department that issues the summons, One would think her name would have been taken off the rolls at that time. Hence, I have my doubts that sending this back with notification that she is deceased will do any good at all

Could it possibly be that no one in City Hall actually reads anything?

Check a box  ___ Yes   ___No