Digression: Father’s Day 2018 & fizzy lemonade.

When my dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma it was the Monday after Father’s Day in 2000. He’d gone to his internist at the time (he later changed doctors), for some lower back pain, who put in a referral for an orthopedic doctor and physical therapy. But my mom had one of her “feelings,” that for the most part rational science dismisses, and they went to her osteopath who is also a general practitioner for a second opinion. Put one hand on it and said: “It’s not orthopedic.” They were sent for an x-ray and told to come back on Monday.

Back in the osteopath’s office, everyone my mum said asked: “Did you have a good weekend? Did you have a nice Father’s Day?”

For a long time, we had hosted Father’s Day cookouts in our yard inviting my dad’s side of the family, extended family and friends, but they were getting difficult to prepare for and, my mum has had a major emotional an issue with Father’s Day since her father passed in 1980. Also I’d just returned from Down Under, a two week plus one-day extra tour of Eastern Australia, trying tricks to stay awake, resent my body clock, and get back on Eastern Standard Time.  The last Father’s Day gathering held in our yard was in 2000 before we heard the diagnosis about the cloud they saw on that x-ray.

My dad’s first chemo treatment was on my mum’s July birthday. For some reason he said he wanted a fizzy lemonade that he recalled from childhood. So in the hopes of bringing this comfort to my dad – first bought Limonata from the Italian Company Pellegrino known for its sparking water. Nope it didn’t taste the way he remembered.

Many others followed. Went to Trader Joe’s and also to Cardullo’s a fancy gourmet grocer in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, US. Whenever I saw anything remotely like a sparking lemonade or citrus drink I bought it: tall bottles, bottles with fancy stoppers, all in shades pink and layers of faded sunshine yellow.

Really would have bought anything just so my dad could have the memory of the taste he longed to remember. But after a sip or so, all were just no.

Actually my dad wasn’t a bad patient, and perhaps even without the chemical treatment he still would not have been able to replace that lemonade flavor he recalled from when he was a boy. Lived another 14 years, the bulk of which he was able to have a good quality of life and travel and be with my mum. The last year was a struggle though, when the long term consequences of the chemotherapy that initially saved him – gave him pulmonary fibrosis which made it excruciatingly difficult for him to breathe, and ultimately he did not go quietly into the good night.

Mostly think it was his taste buds were fried from the chemo treatments, because before my mother locked down visitors due to his frail immune system, our younger cousins and other children via extended family came to visit. Out in the yard, they loved and drank all the “fancy lemonade.”

Whenever I see bottles of sparkling lemonade, always stop and pause — think of my dad but never buy it.


Digression: On Mother’s Day 2018, Bronte, orphans and banana cake.

Tomorrow, is Mother’s Day in the U.S.  Few blogs are posting and/or reposting the history of the holiday, which I find sort of sad — a woman originally proposed the idea to honor mothers (dedicated to her own mother), that got commercialized and then reviled by its originator.  History and time have a funny way of duly playing tricks it seems.

Sara, my great grandmother would often tell me stories when I visited my grandparents, and she still lived with them.  Blurred in my mind and later did not always gel with the versions I heard from my Grandma Lil (one of her daughters) or my mum.

Sara, my great-grandmother loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  This paperback (photo above) was not her original copy.  It is a Washington Square Press paperback with 1960 and 1961 edition dates, printed in the USA, and a cover price of 45 cents.  Have a feeling it was a drugstore rack purchase.  Was found and returned with her things after she passed.  Somehow inherited it from my Grandma Lil.  Resides in my bookcase (a former kitchen cabinet from my Grandma Lil) — taking care to keep Bronte on the other side of the shelf from Austen.

Sara fancied herself an orphan and idealized the Jane Eyre character, and can certainly understand why — my great grandmother saw herself in the character as a survivor of adversity and circumstances.

Sara was born in the United States, but her mother passed away when she was probably still a toddler.  Her father, who was a tailor, as was usually the practice, remarried to give Sara and her older brother Abraham a mother.  Her stepmother had been previously married and widowed.  Favored her own children and had a son (Saul) with my great great grandfather, the tailor.  They lived in the ghetto of what was then the West End tenements of Boston.  Sara’s father could not find work in Boston at that time, and he traveled to Connecticut to work and then returned to visit when he could to see his family.  And I’m not going to share the infamous story here — that is for another time or for a more appropriate venue.

Suffice it to say there was quite an incident, and they both legally and religiously divorced, which was extremely unusual during that time in society.  The tailor married again, giving Sara another new, step mother, although Sara did remain in contact with her half brother Saul.  Sara married Isidor quite young to start her own family, again as was the acceptable social and cultural practice.

Sara and her husband struggled, as most folks did through the Great Depression and then afterwards as well.  She was a very skilled and thrifty cook and one of her recipes for banana cake remains handwritten in my mother’s recipe card file.

Personally find this recipe difficult and unwieldy to follow — much like the twists and turns of my great grandmother’s life.  Often when I attempt banana cake it’s because we have bananas that have darkened and have started to rotten.  Think that element of progression is the secret — actually makes the cake have a certain, wonderful taste and the color is yellow with little flecks.

When baking banana cake, I use a recipe from a cookbook — a collection, contributed and gathered recipes from many women, via the genre often published to benefit local churches, synagogues, and service organizations.  My edition is a 4th edition, printed in 1981, many of the recipes date from the 1970’s or 1960’s and are no longer fashionable — they certainly aren’t vegan or gluten-free friendly.

This banana cake recipe is straightforward and easy to follow — so it’s now my go to and my mum was sort of upset when I first started to use it — swapping it out for Grandma Sara’s recipe.  Though now admits my success rate is much better, and pretty sure it’s from a nice lady who might even have loved Bronte or Jane Eyre?









Digression: Happy Spring 2018 (waiting for the 4th Nor’Easter, March 2018)

Happy Spring!
We’re getting there…
Hoping for the best with this next/upcoming storm,
per the sorry state of our seawall.
Enclosed is a poem by
William Carlos Williams
The May sun–whom 
all things imitate– 

that glues small leaves to 

the wooden trees 

shone from the sky 

through bluegauze clouds 

upon the ground. 

Under the leafy trees 

where the suburban streets 

lay crossed, 

with houses on each corner, 

tangled shadows had begun 

to join 

the roadway and the lawns. 

With excellent precision 

the tulip bed 

inside the iron fence 

upreared its gaudy 

yellow, white and red, 

rimmed round with grass, 


Digression: My own — “Six inches deep in mud” — part two — March 4, 2018.

Facing a multiple day nor’easter (a storm that rages in from that direction) is never a good thing, especially if you live on the water and don’t have a seawall.

And so: “What would Jane Austen do?”

Not sure she could really fathom this — legal issues, red tape, and facing the dangerous combination of wind and water plus rising tides via Climate Change from Boston Harbor,* coupled with what suspect was her apparent general distaste toward Americans (just casually referencing Mansfield Park), not really sure what there would be to say.

Find it difficult myself.

Our next storm is forecasted to arrive in a few days.

*Our bay is part of Boston’s inner harbor across from a Logan Airport runway.

Digression: On my own–“Six inches deep in mud,” & climate change: death by red tape.

Photo above, flood tide, Winthrop, Mass., USA., Tues. January 20, 2018.

To say I need a manicure would probably be kind.  Between work on the seawall, the floods and cleaning of debris (that floats in because we don’t have a fence any more)  plus the usual wear and tear on my hands at work — paper cuts from lots of hand-sanitzer, ink from the bates and other stamps, wrestling with toner — my hands are not in great shape.

Then again, was never a manicure kind of girl.

Don’t think would be considered presentable despite my best efforts, tonight I’m planning on more scrubbing, trimming and a layer of clear polish protector or something.

After January 4, 2018, we were out of a washer and dryer — I spent this weekend catching up on loads of laundry.  Our new machines were delivered last week, platforms built by a friend/handyman to protect us from future floods.

Tuesday, I spent cleaning up from the flood in our yard, dragging large pieces of lumber up our drive way.  The fire chief stopped taking pictures for the state disaster relief agency, and so we had a little chat.

Also on Tues., via my permitting engineers, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) a state agency, informed me I three (3) choices regarding my request for a seawall permit: 1) be denied, 2) withdraw, & 3) amend and request a variance.

My permitting engineers and I are going for option #3 but were duly told the clock will be reset as it will take from 180-360 days/one(1) year for a response, because the legal department must review the variance request.

This has been a long and painful process trying to rebuild this seawall legal, but as the photo shows — we are in a dire situation.

And it would have been nice back in June 2017, when my permitting folks reached out to DEP — if they had advised that mostly like with a pre-1984 former seawall I wasn’t going to meet the reg. requirements and would need to do the non-water compliant application and would also need the variance request.

Yes that would have been helpful.

In December 2017, I had a conference call with four (4) agencies, three (3) state and one(1) federal and they all declined my request for a site visit.  (And I have a confirmation/documentation of their denials in email by the woman from the agency that organized the call.)

This is permitting site — unseen.

During that December conference call, the DEP Waterways chief had no idea I had even filed for a new seawall permit.  Insert eye roll, heavy sigh, any combination here.

The fact is — we’re not going to be here in a year without a seawall.

So I’m reaching out for help.  Going to the mattresses if you will.

We’re also adjacent to our town’s evacuation route so if there is a major storm like a Sandy or a Katrina — this is a public safety issue as our house will be destroyed but so will the major road. Our town is a former island so there are only two (2) ways out of town and the other route historically floods as well.

My elderly, widowed, cancer survivor with many heart conditions mother would like to speak to whoever will listen — she is very afraid of our destruction.

If you know of an environmental reporter/public interest reporter that would like to do a climate change story on death by red tape?  Please let me know.