Saturday, December 27, 2008


This Christmas I blew through 100,000 frequent flyer miles to fly Emily and I home to visit our families.  We decided to split the vacation half and half to make it fair for our relatives.  On Friday after I got out of Ruby Tuesday's Emily and I drove down to Portland with Bridget who also had a flight the following day to stay overnight at a Quality Inn near the airport.  This is always a great idea as they allow you to park your car in the parking lot for an entire week for only another 15 bucks as well as allowing you a good nights sleep before an early flight.  We picked up some beers and microwave dinners for the hotel room before settling in to watch some tv.  

Emily and I completely lucked out on Saturday as we zig-zagged across the nation missing every single major storm.  We left Portland literally hours before the city received nearly two feet of snow which is unheard of in the valley.  I read that if you combined all the snow Portland has received in the past 15 years it still wouldn't equal what that storm delivered.  In Chicago we flew out of the hub just as a storm was hitting there and we arrived in Hartford/Windsor Locks just 5 hours before a Nor'Easter hit the state.  We even managed to not lose any luggage or presents along the way either.  

On Sunday Emily and I woke up at her parents in a blizzard so decided to relax there for
the day rather than risk driving her mom's Mercedes in a blizzard to see my parents.  It was the first truly relaxing day I've had in months and really enjoyed it.  On Monday we drove up early to visit my dad in the hospital before heading over to my mother's house.  He was forced to leave the Landing where he has been staying because of a minor case of pneumonia.  He looked really bad and it was hard to see him in that condition.  We had to wake him from sleep and he was pretty out of it and a bit confused.  Just two weeks ago he turned 90.  I had to have a very hard conversation with him about dying with his doctor, Dr. Hoy, who stopped in to check on him.  Basically, he is being kept alive by machines (his dialysis every other day) because he has acute kidney failure.  He doesn't seem to want to let go but he also seems miserable and lonely. I think he is very scared of death.  After visiting with him for an hour with 
Emily who is always very supportive I left the hospital in tears trying to transition myself from utter sadness to happiness for when I would see my daughter and her mom who is visiting "Nana" for Christmas as well.

Emily and I put together a rocking horse for Ellie before they arrived at Aunt Catherine's Monday night.  We had a nice dinner with my mom before we all drove to Saratoga to meet up with Ellie and Nicolette.  Emily and I visited for about an hour before we took off to grab some drinks with Emily's old roomates as well as my High School buddy Matt Jones and the guy who hooked Emily and I up, Mike Lamonto.  Everyone was stoked to see Emily and I again and it felt like everyone in the room were couples which was nice.  Emily's old roomate Cassie got engaged the night we flew into
Hartford so everyone was excited about that.  I met Matt out at a bar and we chatted for a long time to catch up.  He apparently plans to move with his wife Sarah to Arizona as far as I could tell.  We don't talk enough but it is hard with our busy schedules and lives on opposite ends of the country.
   Mike loaned me a laptop charger which I had forgotten at Emily's parents so I could put together the digital picture frame for my father the following day.  Emily and I stayed until about 2am when we decided we should get back to Queensbury.
  It sure is nice having Emily's mom's Mercedes with heated seats!  We are not used to East Coast weather anymore.  

Having Ellie, Emily, Nicolette and my mom together for a couple days was very nice.  Ellie really seemed to like Emily and Emily was great with my daughter.  It was hard to stay excited all day every day because my thoughts kept drifting to my father lying alone in hospital bed for the holidays.  Nicolette and Ellie decided to bring an inflatable mattress to "Nana's" to stay there for Tuesday night (our fake Christmas Eve for Ellie).  All day tuesday we hung out in the house and played with Ellie, reading her books and even caring her around in the garbage bucket she climbed into (it was clean).  Ellie was so cute helping us peel potatoes in her high chair and break apart cauliflower.  She loved watching Nickolodean's Noggin's channel of educational cartoons for toddlers.  She is incredibly strong and loves to climb up on everything including all of us.  Her giggles and squeels of joy were great to hear in person and she is talking all the time now and can even sing the entire Twinkle Twinkle little star at just 2 years old.
Very impressive, must get her brains from her mom.  We had a wonderful ham dinner on our fake Christmas Eve and Ellie stayed up for quite a while before finally passing out.  

Christmas morning was really fun and I think Ellie enjoyed her new rocking horse and Sprigg Toy that Emily and I got her.  At first she didn't feel like opening presents but as soon as we started to she got right into it.  I got the
 2TB external drive I needed for my research at school and Emily got a nice sweater.  I also got a "I love Ellie" shirt from Nicolette.  After opening presents and playing with Ellie for a while I set my mind to making my dad a batch of his goulash and putting together his photo frame.  He really dislikes the hospital food and is becoming weaker because of it so I thought perhaps he would feel better with his favorite (and mine) meal.  Around 1pm Emily and I had to take off to visit my father on the way out of town to her parents.  It was hard saying goodbye to Ellie not knowing when I'll see her again.  She gave me a kiss saying "I love you daddy, bye bye".  Truly heartbreaking, just like when she wouldn't let go of me last time I visited home.  

Next it was on to my next heartbreaking goodbye, that of my father in the hospital.
He seemed really happy with the goulash but less happy with the photo frame, although he still enjoyed that as well.  I turned it on and left it next to him on the bed for him to watch and told the nurses to please keep it on and lay it down next to him.  It was filled with childhood photos of himself, his family, my family, me, Emily, my daughter and all the best photos from my journeys into the mountains across the country.  Unfortunately he is in and out of sleep so much I'm not sure how much he'll enjoy it.  I wasn't prepared for how bad he was when I got home.  I visited with him for an hour while he was going through dialysis.  Once again I told him that it was ok to let go and that all of us would be fine including my mother which he always seems to be concerned about.  He kept asking about the baby which was heartbreaking
 to me because I knew he wanted to see her but I also knew his condition would scare Ellie and frankly I don't want her to have any memories of her grandfather in the condition he is in.  I chose not to take any photos of him and I together because I don't want to remember him like this either.  This is really hard to write so I'm going to stop.  I love my father with all my heart but I feel his time has come and I won't see him again.  He is headed for a nursing home next for extra care as he rarely can get out of bed anymore.  Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I've ever done because I know I probably won't see him again.  

Emily drove her mom's car through a rainstorm in the dark (which scared me a bit) to her brother Nick's place for a fantastic Filet dinner with her family.  It was great to see everyone again and they were happy to see me as well.  I especially get along with Emily's brother Chris very well because he's outdoorsy and very soft spoken and seems truly interested in the same things I like as well, plus we are around the same age.  On the way down Emily and I stopped at Boarders to pick up "Freedom of the Hills" for him which is the bible of mountaineering.  I knew he'd enjoy that.
After a great dinner prepared by Nick's wife Jen we all sat around chatting for a while and playing with Sammie the spoiled pug.  The parents soon left but us kids stayed for a while to watch "A Christmas Story" and chat.

Emily and I slept in until nearly 10am on Christmas day before coming down to open presents with her younger cousins Julia and Jess.  There were more presents underneath the tree than I've ever seen before.  Emily and I got an electric can opener, an electric whisk, some clothes and other small stuff from the stockings. The rest of the day was spent chatting and playing the Wii which all of us had a riot with, including her dad who dominated a few games.  Chris dominated tennis but I dominated all the balance games that required the balance board like Shawn White's Snowboarding.  Emily's mom even smacked her dad pretty good while playing Wii tennis later in the night.  We had a wonderful meal of roast pork that her mother cooked up and I tried to help with dishes afterwards.  

On Friday we all relaxed at the house and Chris and I helped his dad put together a new mailbox for the front yard.  It was comforting to see that Chris also didn't have mechanical skills with tools so I wasn't overly embarrassed for not having any either.
In the afternoon we all went to see Valkari at the movies which left us all pretty speechless at the end = good movie.  We then went to Red Robbin for some burgers before heading back to the house to relax for the night.  Chris decided to take off to get back to his girlfriend in Portland, ME.  In the evening Emily and I drove down to see some of her childhood friends in a nearby town.  I found myself in a room of 6-8 intoxicated females all laughing about things I didn't have a clue about but there was food out and everyone I met was really nice so I had a great time.  

On Saturday we left Hartford on an early flight that was pretty uneventful back to Oregon.  We easily hopped the hotel shuttle from the airport back to our car and made it back to Corvallis by 4pm.  It was a weird trip.  I was both very happy to see my family but but it was stressful to see my dad the way he was and it always sucks to say goodbye to my beautiful daughter.  Thankfully I know she is in wonderful hands with Nicolette.  I was happy to see that my mother is getting help cleaning up the house and seems to be in much better health then when I left her in August as well.  It was a great trip but unfortunately it was, as usual with my busy life, way too short.  Check out some cute videos below.

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