in search of a “happy” 4th of july

Friday, July 4:  This year I didn’t get to celebrate our country’s independence, or much of anything else.  No fireworks, no barbecue, no parties. Things started falling apart on Monday of this week.  While I was at work, Mike texted me that his mother had been admitted to the hospital with a bad cough.  She is very frail already, and on oxygen.  In the hospital, she weighed in at a wispy 83 pounds.  She’s also very confused, talking non-stop about things that simply don’t make any sense.

Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
Grove Avenue
Grove Avenue

On Tuesday, I got the sad news that Christine, fellow blogger of DADIRRIDREAMING, had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  Christine was a lovely and spiritual woman.  When I was stressed out after returning home to Virginia from Oman, she sent me an hour-long guided meditation, in her voice, which I listen to when I need to relax.  I’m happy to have a bit of her voice to keep with me forever.

a lone bicycle in the Fan
a lone bicycle in the Fan
Fan District
Fan District
Hanover St.
Hanover St.

On Wednesday, my daughter Sarah got a ride up from Richmond and we went to visit her Nana in the hospital.  We were afraid she didn’t have long to live. The doctors decided on Thursday to release her to go home, under the care of hospice. They say there’s nothing else they can do for her.

the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown shops
Carytown shops

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, my sister called to tell me that my dad had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  It turns out the surgery fixed the problem and he was sent home on Thursday.  I called to ask if he’d like a visitor. He sounded like he’d appreciate it.

Carytown in Richmond
Carytown in Richmond
Cupcakes
Cupcakes
All decked out for 4th of July
All decked out for 4th of July

On Thursday, after Nana was settled in at her home in a bed set up by hospice in her family room, with a view of her beloved garden, Sarah shared this video with her grandmother, hoping to cheer her up.  It’s a rendition of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song, filmed in Richmond.

All Thursday afternoon, and over the next couple of days, Nana replayed the video repeatedly. I was happy that it seemed to make her happy.  Later, I found out the reason.  She told one of the around-the-clock caregivers that her granddaughter was in the video.  I said, “Nana, no, Sarah’s not in the video, she just likes it.”  But Nana insisted that her granddaughter was in the video, and continued to watch it non-stop.  Later, I heard she told another caregiver that all three of her grandchildren were in the video.

At another time, I heard her tell a friend who phoned, in an agitated voice: “I need to go now so I can get the cushions so I can get to Richmond.” Somehow, Richmond and her grandchildren and the urgency of her getting to them are all tied up together in her mind. Sweet, but sad.

Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Vintage Clothing
Vintage Clothing

Sarah had to go back to Richmond for work, so we got on the road at 5 a.m. on the 4th and drove 2 hours to Richmond, where I went for a walk and she for a run.  I then showered and headed another hour south to visit my father.  He seems to be okay; he’s just having a little trouble getting around because of the incision.  I visited for a couple of hours, then got in the car and drove 3 hours back to northern Virginia, where I was too exhausted from the stressful week to do any kind of celebrating.

Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Portrait House
Portrait House
Street Art
Street Art
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

We spent a lot of time with family over the last week: my kids, Mike, his mom and sister, my dad and his wife.  It was a week of connecting, with the sad awareness that ties could be cut at any moment.

I had a lovely walk around Richmond on the most beautiful Fourth of July, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in Virginia. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and humid, and generally miserable in July. I realized that Richmond holds a lot of memories for our family.  I used to live here, and Mike’s first wife, who died of breast cancer, lived here.  I met Mike in Richmond.  Sarah lives here now, working and going to school at VCU.  It’s truly my favorite Virginia city.

The Fan
The Fan
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe's Inn, who passed away
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe’s Inn, who passed away
Street art at Joe's Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Street art at Joe’s Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Vespa Love
Vespa Love

When I drove home from my dad’s on Route 17, a mostly deserted highway that runs nearly parallel to the dreaded I-95, the setting sun cast a glowing light over dancing cornfields, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and changing nature of our world.

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22 thoughts on “in search of a “happy” 4th of july

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. My mother-in-law continues to deteriorate each day. She does seem to be determined to hang on, against all odds. I think when it’s my time to go, I want to just give in to it and go softly into the night.

      1. I wish it was up to us how we depart. It should be. I am sorry you have so much stress, I have done it and it’s so mentally challenging. ♥

      2. I wish it was up to us how we will die, Kathryn. I keep planning my death to be quick and easy, but who knows what’s in store for me, or any of us, in reality. I’m sure those people in the Malaysian Airline plane from Amsterdam didn’t expect their lives to end so violently and unexpectedly.

        I’m sorry you went through this too. It’s hard to watch someone waste away in front of you while you sit by helplessly.

        My mother-in-law became non-responsive on Wednesday night, and she passed away last night in her sleep. I’m emotionally drained and exhausted from the whole thing. Thanks for your kind words. xxx

      3. My warm hugs go out to you and your beautiful family Cathy. Please give my regards to your husband, from a stranger I know but I understand. ♥

  1. Phew! That was a rough one, Cathy 😦 All’s well that ends well, except for Nana, and if ‘Happy’ makes her happy, it doesn’t matter why. It makes me happy too but I won’t joke about my Alzheimers in this instance. Maybe the ending will be mercifully swift, Cathy. There are all kinds of sad ways to go.
    I love that you have that tape of Christine’s. That is amazingly special 🙂 Hugs!

    1. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, Jo, especially to watch someone who you have known in healthier times decline so dramatically. As you know from Facebook, she passed away last night. Up until the day before yesterday, she was bedridden, but she still insisted on getting up with her walker to check the oxygen tank when she felt panicked about not getting enough air. It was because her lungs were failing, but she kept wanting to blame the oxygen tank for not working and she kept pressing the reset button, turning it on and off, etc. It was horrible to watch her panic, so I was glad when she went to sleep and was unaware of what was happening to her lungs and her body. So sad. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, watching someone waste away like this. Hugs back to you, Jo. xxx

  2. I am sorry to hear of your loss. May you find comfort in your beautiful memories. I can relate to watching someone so vibrant begin to spiral downward as my FIL is doing just that right now, having been in the hospital 3 times in the past 6 months. He is quickly approaching age 95 and we know that his time to move on is drawing near. He too struggles with loss of breath as his lungs become weaker.

    1. Thanks for visiting, LuAnn, and for your kind comments. I will have many lovely memories of my mother-in-law, as I’m sure you will of your father-in-law. I hope for the best for you too, as you go through his illness and decline. We all have to die, and we don’t know what’s in store for us, but we can all just hope for minimal suffering as we go. Best to you. xxx

      1. I feel almost guilty praying that my FIL passes soon, but his quality of life has deteriorated so that each day now seems to be a struggle. It is certainly not how I would want to spend my final days and weeks.

      2. I know what you mean, LuAnn. It was really hard to see the decline of a person I have known and loved for a long time. I found myself doing the same. I wouldn’t want to spend my final days like this, with such a poor quality of life and such a mighty struggle to get through each day.

  3. Love all these neighborhood shots. Because I love to travel but can’t go everywhere, it’s fun to read blogs like this one that show me life in other parts of the country. Thanks so much for following my blog, Oh, the Places We See. What a find to run into you and see what you write about. I can tell how compassionate you are through this post, but also what a good eye you have for detail.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Rusha. I look forward to following you as I used to live for 4 1/2 years in your part of the world. You’ll bring back some wonderful memories, I’m sure. 🙂

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