a week

Dad’s obituary will run in tomorrow’s newspaper. I’ve had a week now to move through a range of shock, disbelief, grief, and acceptance of his passing, Surrounded by family, Dad died peacefully in his own bed after only one day of hospice. My mother, brother, and I have been re-adjusting to the feeling of three, not four. I don’t know what day it is. The space Dad has left is a huge culmination of molecules affected. The air we walk through here now contains both his essence and his absence. The words of sympathy and admiration for this man who forged an incredible life centered on family, friends, and community have been pouring in and we are resting in the truth of just how significanty Dad touched others.

When I am here, I love to capture the beautiful view my parents enjoy from their east facing exposure to Canandaigua Lake and the hills beyond. I have shared the glorious sunrises that fill the sky with color and drama during all seasons. I love them all, but it is the winter scenes that capture the spirit of something primal that I suspect Dad felt too. There is nothing more exhilirating than stark and cold of a brilliant winter day.


Dad loved to downhill ski. He became part of a devoted group of friends who would travel to Aspen each year. After several seasons of this, he decided to initiate the rest of us, taking us to Montreal to ski in sub zero cold one winter weekend. It took. We became a family of skiers through his passion, and had years of weekends together travelling to our beloved Holimont in Ellicottville NY early on Saturday mornings to be the first on the slopes, not waiting for lunch to eat Dad’s famous egg and olive sandwiches for breakfast in the car from the large lunch basket which we all whole-heartedly contributed to packing the night before. There was always fun apres ski with friends after the last runs, and then we’d drive to Jamestown to spend the night with our Gramma Ford, arriving to the smells of her home cooking that Dad grew up with. We would be back on the slopes again first thing Sunday morning, ski all day, then make the three hour drive home, always stopping for some of his favorite Perry’s ice cream on the way. Black raspberry was his favorite. Years of family ski trips to Vermont and Colorado followed. He and Mom skied in the Alps. He became known for his signature one piece Bogner suit and white hat. And finally, retired here to the Bristol Hills west of Canandaigua Lake, he would ski daily at his beloved Bristol Mountain, just minutes away from home.

When Dad broke his leg two years ago at the age of 83, skiing, he mourned his loss of time on the slopes. He never did ski again.

A week has gone by, and the snow that was here for Dad’s spirit to merge with is gone. Rest in peace Dad.


here and there

I am back with my parents in western New York State for the week. Ben is with me this time, a holiday visit to stretch across the space between Christmas spent apart from Nana and Papa this year as they continued their current journey with convelescence. Instead of making the kuebies (one of Dad’s favorite Christmas cookies) that are typically made on Christmas Eve, I made them on New Years Day, and the tin now sits on the table here as a reminder of traditions we have shared for so many years past. It’s not that that we haven’t had a Christmas apart in our individual homes ever before. It’s just that Mom and Dad coming to us in Massachusetts these past twenty years had become a tradition of its own. This year was just different, bittersweet as Molly Ben and their father John cocooned in my country home with the snow and peace of the day.

Still, feeling the difference on Christmas Day, worried, Ben asked if his grandparents were going to die. We all did our best to reassure him that they just needed to heal from their repsective surgeries, that it would be too hard for them to travel this year. Ben is no stranger to death. He remembers his Grammy K and Great Gramma Gigi, both had come to live in our community when they needed more support, both eventually moving to nursing homes where Ben would visit and provide comfort before they passed. One of us added philosophically that as human beings, we all age, just like Grammy K and Gramma GiGi, and we all die someday, trying to put the cycle of life into perspective for Ben. We even talked about Desi, our very old cat who now lived with John and was beginning to fail. Little did we know that the process of Desi letting go would begin so soon, that she would stop eating the day after Christmas, that Ben would be witness again to the poignant process of death.

I now sit for hours in my favorite chair here in the wee hours knitting, waiting for the sun, my view out to the woods at the side of my parents house, and remember the sunrise captured here a month ago.


I took the image home and let it simmer. There is something about the contrast of red on dark with glimpses of hills and sky between a tangle of bare winter branches that had captured my attention. My new stock of hand-dyed cloth made there in the fall, in the same hills as this image, was now sitting here on my studio work table alongside piles of commerical cloth scraps. It wasn’t long before I began to experiement with contrasts here too.

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The developing blocks went up on my design board and it took only days to piece together a composition that evoked for me, the feeling of being there, watching for the sun’s playful presence. Now back here, sitting in the chair, waiting for sunrise, I travel across the space of my imagination between here and there, to my studio there, to time spent sewing it all together, knowing that my heart will be holding the essence of being here with my beloved parents at the same time.


Desi died the day after we arrived here. She was a beauty. My last image of her was in John’s lap New Year’s Day, a skeleten with fur, still emanating her beauty as John stoked her gently, back and forth, back and forth.