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On Regrets and Conquering Mountains

My dad had very few regrets about his life. He lived full throttle and even during that last illness he joked that he was still on full throttle but full just wasn’t as fast as it once had been.

He did have a few regrets…he apologized to my mom, on her deathbed, for cheating on her and he told her he loved her, always had and always would. He told me more than once he regretted not getting to take Chris elk hunting and, although he didn’t mention it often, I think about the only other thing he really regretted at the end of his life was not getting to Alaska and climbing Denali (aka Mt McKinley). I wanted to give him plane tickets to Alaska and Caty was ready to give him room and board but it never happened. David and Terry both pointed out that he could afford the trip without our help and if he really wanted to go he would have gone. I suppose that’s true and I think he didn’t go because by the time he had time and money he didn’t have the energy, knees, or inclination to climb. I regret not insisting that he go just to see Alaska. I also hate that he never saw some of his favorite country musicians in concert. He had symphony season tickets for years and for many years he also had season tickets to the Austin and/or San Antonio Opera but he didn’t go to “regular” concerts. This month I’m doing a little something to correct both the things I regret on his behalf. Saturday we are going to George Strait’s Cowboy Rides Away Tour concert. In a few weeks Terry and I will at the base of Mt. McKinley as we stand in Denali NP. In both places I’m taking Daddy with me…in the form of a photo in my pocket. 

Revelation 3:21
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

The broad top of Mount Rainier contains three named summits. The highest is called the Columbia Crest. The second highest summit is Point Success, 14,158 ft (4,315 m), at the southern edge of the summit plateau, atop the ridge known as Success Cleaver. It has a topographic prominence of about 138 ft (42 m), so it is not considered a separate peak. The lowest of the three summits is Liberty Cap, 14,112 ft (4,301 m), at the northwestern edge, which overlooks Liberty Ridge, the Sunset Amphitheater, and the dramatic Willis Wall. Liberty Cap has a prominence of 492 ft (150 m), and so would qualify as a separate peak under most of strictly prominence-based rules. A prominence cutoff of 400 ft (122 m) is commonly used in Washington state.

Mount Rainier, the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, offers an exciting challenge to the mountaineer. Each year thousands of people successfully climb this 14,410 foot active volcano.

When I was a kid Daddy used to talk about climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington’s Cascade Mountains and Mt. McKinley in Alaska. He has never gotten to Alaska and Denali but my dad was 50 the year he climbed Mt. Rainier. Climbing Rainier calls for great planning and preparation. For over a year my dad did things here in Texas to prepare for that climb in Washington. He walked miles with a heavy backpack, he ran up and down bleachers to increase his lung endurance, he bought the correct shoes and clothing for the weather and his years of chasing elk in the mountains of Colorado assured him he understood the basics of the quest he was about to take.

David and his family were living in California back then because David was stationed out of  the San Diego Naval Base. Daddy drove out to see David and Company and then they caravaned to Mt. Rainier National Park where Daddy prepared for his climb and David, Patti, Michelle and Mike enjoyed some fishing, hiking and fun family time.While the four were playing Daddy was continuing his preparations by attending a mandatory climb school. He learned how to maneuver with a rope line, move in his ice shoes and many other things. Finally it was The Day! He set off with his group of climbers and up they went. Many, but not all, of the climbers made it to the summit. Daddy was one who did. He signed the book at the top to prove he’d done it, had his picture taken, rested  a short while and then they all headed back down. It’s a multi-day trip and David says Daddy was so tired when he got back to their camp all he did was tell him he was going to bed and then he crawled into his tent and slept for nearly a full day. He was exhausted but he’d done what he’d set out to do, climb and conquer Mt. Rainier.

This week my dad is conquering mountains again. He was put on a ventilator last week. He was in such bad shape when he went on the thing we feared we might never hear his voice again.After almost a week on the vent he has kicked the pneumonia and he is now off the ventilator. He is very weak and each day brings new challenges. Tuesday he started doing physical therapy and Wednesday was able to get into a chair and sit for a few minutes. On the vent his throat was paralyzed and he’s had to relearn to swallow. Starting slowly with ice chips and moving to sips of water has been a struggle for him as his dry mouth wanted to gulp gallons of water and his throat had to be re-trained. Thursday he was able to take 5 pills – one at a time – and not gag as they went down. These were the first pills he’s taken since being put on the ventilator. Since the only protocol for a couple of his regular medications is by mouth this was a tremendous victory.

Some mountains, like Rainier, are huge and some mountains, like swallowing pills, are small. Each requires specific planning and strength to overcome. Large or small the victory is just as sweet.

I’ll never conquer the mountains Daddy did in Colorado or in Washington State although I did conquer the one at Cottonwood Pass last year when we sprinkled his ashes. I hope I never have to conquer the mountain of re-learning to swallow. And, most of all, I hope that when I’m in my last days I have as few regrets about my life as Daddy did and that I’ve made peace with those around me I might have hurt like he did.

Repost: Sandi’s Sticky Cake

I wrote this post 2 years ago yesterday upon having the privilege to make one of my favorite people her chocolate wedding cake. Sandi is special to me. My first Payne girl cousin. The little girl who passed out rice bags at my wedding. We – like every other Payne female – share a family resemblance to our Muttie. Our mom’s were sisters. Our dads were friends.We lost them all four within 18 months of one another. She and her brother Brian are the other half of the Skilled Trades Scholarship and she didn’t even go to Arlington HS like the rest of us! Sandi had previously been married, once to a man who wasn’t as kind or loving to her as she deserves to be treated and once to a man who was  figuratively fighting demons. Raising her daughter while helping take care of her mom, my Aunt Ardie whose CADASIL was slowly robbing her of her self, Sandi went to her 20 year high school reunion a few years ago. While there she reconnected with an old friend and the rest, as they say, is history. She posted yesterday on Facebook what I thought was the sweetest status…until I saw his response.

Sandi Wrote:
Happy 2 year Anniversary to my Love, Davis Tillman He came waltzing back into my life after 20 years and fell in love with me. He opened his arms to my daughter, treats her as his own and loves her with all his heart. He met my sweet, sick Mom and saw what could be down the road for me and faced that without fear and chose to stay. He held me when my Mom passed. He held me when my Dad passed. He continues to hug me as I struggle to live in a world where my Dad does not live. He is strong. I am a lot…. A lot of baggage, a lot of attitude, a lot of expectations. But in return I have a lot passion and heart and I love this man.
Happy Anniversary Baby!
And in the midst of the Happy Anniversary replies Davis Tillman wrote:
There’s always a little treasure in baggage and you my dear are MY GEM!  I love you Babe!
I didn’t forget their anniversary, I just didn’t get that far yesterday. I am trying to make up for it today!
Happy Tears for both Sandi’s and Davis’ comments.
Happy Anniversary, you two, even if I am a day late.

Reblogging my original post from June 2, 2012:

I’ve made wedding cakes for several family members and close friends over the years. Two of the marriages ended in “till death do you part” and all but 1 of the others are still going strong…30 years, 29 years, 25 years, 20 years, etc. causing Terry to observe that marriages which start out with one of my cakes tend to stick.

On the Fuller side of my family I had several girl cousins. My “best cousin”, my Kno. 1, lived in Mesquite so I didn’t get to see her very often although we wrote letters back and forth and spent many vacation or Christmas weeks together over about an eight year time period. On the Payne side of the family I had my brothers and two boy cousins who were only 2 years apart from one another. The five of us were just less than 4 years apart in age. I also lived in a neighborhood full of boys. That male dominated upbringing is probably why I relate to males so well even as an adult. Oh, but, back then, I longed for girl cousins who lived nearby. I was beyond excited in 1970 when my cousin Sandi was born a month before my 13th birthday. I babysat her when she was tiny and she was part of my wedding party a few years later.

So glad to have been able to make Sandi’s “sticky” cake as she and her Davis start their Happily Ever After this evening.

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Missing Her Every Day But Especially Today, On Her Birthday

Game for just about anything, she was Room Mom to 3 different classes in 3 different grades for years, she hiked up mountains in Colorado and Wyoming even though she got mountain sickness, she was 3rd in her high school senior class because she didn’t want to be 1st or 2nd and, therefore, have to give a speech, she started college at 31- when her youngest child started first grade – finishing 4 years later with a near perfect GPA, she taught thousands of elementary and pre-school children, she loved liverwurst, was David Fuller’s “Call a Friend” lifeline, had an infectious laugh, a beautiful smile, she prayed both her stubborn sons into their walk with the Lord and she had a combined gentle spirit and Type A/Perfectionist determination.

Hiking to Upper Twelve Mile Lake, Colorado 1973

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Her name was Winifred Maxine but only my dad dared to call her “Winnie” from time to time, family and close friends called her Max, co-workers called her Maxine, her students called her Mz Fuller, Terry began calling her Mama Max when we first began dating and it eventually became her “grandmother name”,  David and Danny called her Mom. To me, she was, and will always be, Mama.

She made “3 in 3 years” look easy. As the mother of “3 in 4 years” I know it’s not.

This picture, of Mama, The Boys and me, was taken on the grounds of the Alamo in Summer 1962.

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 This photos is from August 1987 with her grands.

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Sometime in the early part of this century, while living in Azle to be near Muttie after my grandfather’s stroke, Mama began to have the first brushes with the dementia, TIAs and Alzheimer’s which ultimately took first her mind and then eventually her life. I first noticed her inability to do things she’d once done well on Thanksgiving Day in 2003 when I realized she, a former secretary and teacher, had forgotten how to type and that she no longer remembered how to roll out pie crust. Some of my close friends began to notice problems in mid-2006 and David joined the party in December 2007 while Terry and I were on our first cruise. We lost her a good while before she actually died. She said my name only once in her last 30 months of life but she knew exactly what she was doing when she said it. An ICU nurse asked her if she had a daughter and she said yes. The nurse then asked what her daughter’s name was and Mama replied, “Kathy”. The nurse called me to tell me because she knew I would want to know. And she was right, I did. That was in July 2010. I never heard her say my name again and I only heard her speak once or maybe twice after that particular ICU/hospital visit.

Mama would have been 77 today. I miss her but, in truth, I missed her even while she was still alive. Those last several years she wasn’t really “her”. Daddy said it best the day he told me, “Max was the most intelligent person I ever knew and it’s just a shame her mind has let her brain down.”. I loved then, and still love now, that he saw her brain and mind as two separate entities. Frankly, it made her last 3 years easier for me as I held onto his words.

I miss you, Mama, but I’m glad you are with God and that your mind that is no longer letting down your brain. Praise God I know we’ll be together again someday.

Happy Birthday, Mama.

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