Feb. 23

I’m back at Cape Cod Hospital after two nights of continuous vomiting in my room at Seashore Point. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and told Moonbeam (Moonbeam is the nickname I gave my nurse at SSP) I couldn’t go through one more night of that and maybe I should return to the hospital. They agreed. I think they were glad to get rid of me! I lucked out this time and landed in Mugar 5; a larger private room with a big picture window and a lovely view of the bay in the distance.

While I was in the E.R., the NG (nasogastric) tube was put back in my nose. After one uncomfortable attempt at placing it, the nurse did a good job of easing it gently into position in my stomach. I was surprised by how much stuff came out. I was finally admitted to my room in the evening and soon discovered that my cell phone couldn’t get a signal from there but I managed to get through to my niece, Susie, as a liason to the others.

Adam, (my niece Cathy’s son) who was visiting me at Seashore Point when the arrangements were being made for my transfer, packed up some of my important things (clothes and writing supplies) that will be delivered today. I think his mother is coming up and also my nieces, Susie and Cindy.

As much as my sister Marian (God rest her more private soul) always detested my daily bowel reports, I have to share the good news: two soft BMs since being here. They’ve just taken X-rays of my stomach so who knows where we’ll go from there? The doctor from Seashore Point has called to tell me how sorry she is — nice woman. I’m still only allowed chipped ice while this tube is in my nose.

An aside: Bernie Sanders swept Nevada yesterday. Joe Biden was a distant second.


Day 2 at Mugar 517

Time for delivery of the breakfast I can’t have. Still with NG tube and allowed only a limited amount of ice chips. Boring. A different doctor came by this morning saying something about another stomach X-ray and that I should sit up and move around. Good idea but impossible without help because I have tubes everywhere not to mention the saline IV pole. Thank God for the view of the bay beyond the rooftops.

Susie and Cindy visited yesterday. Sue keeps up with my bills, thank the Lord. They told me that my friend Mark, who had just flown out to Arizona to visit his very ill sister, found out when he arrived she had already died. Since my cell phone doesn’t work, I don’t have any details but I’m feeling much sympathy for Mark. He’s been such a great friend to me. I’m grateful to have so much support from so many. My niece Cathy stopped on her way back to her job and apartment in Provincetown from her home in Bellingham. A weekly commute for her. My nephew Chris (Cathy’s brother) also called me. Avis will also be coming up soon after tending to her menagerie. They have all been so loyal.

I’m sorry to bore you with all my hospital trips, my dear readers, but I’m glad my nephew, Adam, packed my writing material because I know I have to have something to submit to the Banner this Thursday to go to press next week. It goes by so fast. Avis will come up to collect what I’ve scrawled so far and will type it up and deliver it to Mary Ann, the editor. It doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to be well again but the good news is after I returned from the 2nd X-ray, the nurse agreed to try me on slow sips of coffee, hoping it will stay down. Just as I was enjoying my much-missed coffee, up came a tray of clear liquids. I thought it had to be a mistake but it was indeed mine. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Up until then, all I’d had was those damned ice chips which I was forced to beg for. On the tray was chicken broth, hot tea, applesauce, Jell-O, and Italian ice — all things I like. Despite my desire to scoff it all down, I forced myself to eat slowly lest I throw it all up as I’d been doing at Seashore Point. It’s two hours later as I write and so far, it’s staying in place. All boring hospital stuff to you folks, right?

Maybe I should just tell you some more about Nanny and Pa (my grandmother and grandfather) and my life in their house on Chip Hill. I wrote last week about Pa and how his breathing problems were the cause of his cantankerousness. Here are a couple more stories about when Nanny brought her (then) Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother, Sarah Newcomb, to their house to live out her final days.

Grandma Newcomb, who normally had a sweet disposition, had not forgotten how much her Yankee forebearers (from Nova Scotia) had disliked the Portuguese. But as luck would have it, their daughter, Sadie (Nanny) became smitten with one and eventually married him. Manuel F. Patrick (Pa, to me) seemed to be acceptable to my great-grandma Newcomb but that was when her mind was functioning fairly well. In later years when it was slipping, long after Sadie and Pa were married, if someone dropped in to visit and happened to ask Grandma Newcomb where Sadie was, she would say:

“I don’t know. I think she went off to Glou-Ces-Ter (3 syllables pronounced) with that damned Portagee!”

Pa was leaning heavily on the table to ease his labored breathing but still within kissing distance when he angrily snapped back:

“Shut up you damned herring choker, you!” (herring choker was common slang for Yankees)

Poor Nanny, ever the referee at times like these, would tell Pa not to get mad at her mother.

“You know she ain’t in her right mind these days.” Most squabbles ended as soon as they began.

Another memory of them goes like this: Nanny’s bedroom was upstairs while Grandma Newcomb slept on a cot downstairs in the dining room and Pa, who was very sick with emphysema, slept in the other room on the same floor. I remember him calling upstairs to Nanny because her mother was, once again, setting the breakfast table for her long-dead husband Robert, thinking it was time for him to be going out fishing.

“Sadie, come down here and see what your crazy mother is doing now.”

Still their love prevailed and made good stories in the later years. I’ll always cherish these memories and will try to share as many as I can until the good Lord takes me. And now, faithful readers and friends, with fatigue catching up, I’ll turn this over to my talented and obliging niece.


Avis here again.

I’ll start by saying that although Pa was my maternal great-grandfather, I never knew him. He died in 1948, a couple months after I was born. Eventually Pa’s brother, who was called Joe, T-Joe, or Deaner, depending on who was addressing him, moved in. His mother had died and he was an emotionally fragile man who was more comfortable not living alone. He was a plumber and did much of the necessary work on Nanny’s house but that was a long time ago. I too spent a lot of my childhood in their house on Chip Hill. After Nanny died and Deaner had become incapable of caring for himself, he and my grandmother let me move into Nanny’s house. That was in February of 1981. My most vivid recollection of moving is (still) the 15 boxes of Cocoa Krispies that Deaner had stored in the pantry, which worked out well for me because I had three teenagers at the time. I still live in Nanny’s house today but the teenager and Cocoa Krispies don’t.

At this writing, although Beata’s mind is still sharp, her health has deteriorated to the point where she has opted to leave the hospital for her own home and bed where she’ll gratefully live out her final days with the help of hospice and, of course, relatives and friends. She is still hoping to be able to write what could be her farewell column, sharing her feelings about the last leg of her journey. I hope she can. On my last visit with her at the hospital, she was looking out at the harbor kind of wistfully and said, “I see a beautiful ferry going somewhere. I wish I was on it. I’m going somewhere, but it ain’t there.”

My aunt Beata is an amazing human being who has taught me a lot over the years about the joy of living which always comes down to attitude. For the most part, I’ve adopted hers; the only exception being her love of those two vodka and sodas she always relished come suppertime. Being a writer, I think of those cocktails of hers as Beata’s punctuation at the end of a day well-lived!