David and I have been home for five days now, and have actually been having fun. My sister and brother-in-law came for dinner on Friday night, we climbed Mt. Garfield yesterday (which remained in a cloud for the entire time we were on the summit, but it didn’t matter, we were off in the forest with good friends, the first date we’ve been able to keep since June) and then we came back to a dinner party with close friends, eating a wonderful array of fresh vegetables from Alison’s garden. I’ve had time to take photos of the flowers around the house, and today we’re headed to an afternoon and overnight on Squam Lake, with a friend I recently reconnected with after years of not seeing each other.
David was reviewing a document from his parents’ lawyer this morning, outlining the duties of an estate executor, and he just declared, “I am done with estate duties and am declaring myself available for a vacito.” Vacito = mini-vacation. Good idea.
This is too hilarious. Apparently this was my 215th post, which brought me to a WordPress page when I hit the publish button. Suggesting ways for me to bring more traffic to my blog, there was a list of possible additional categories to use: Add a couple more to make your post easier for others to discover. Some suggestions: stress hormones, corn chips, sleep disturbance, days like today, and insomnia.
Corn chips? I’m definitely adding corn chips as a category on my blog. Now I know why I published that self-indulgent, tired-ass post — it was my path to corn chips as a blog category!
I don’t know when or how my insomnia started last night, all I know is that I was up at 1:00 a.m., taking more meds and eating corn chips and I feel undernourished in the sleep node of my brain today. What’s up with this sleep disturbance stuff? Stress, hormones, hot weather, different beds as we’ve moved between our house and David’s parents’ house in Lancaster? The night before last I slept 10 blessed hours, the night before that we were driving until 1:15 a.m. and didn’t get to sleep until about 2:30, the night before that I slept like rock, the night before that. . . Who can remember? Who even cares? Days like today I move through the hours, waiting to be able to go back to sleep. I love sleep. In fact, I’m adding sleep as a category.
David Baird Coursin, MD, loving husband of Elizabeth (Betty), father of David (Grace), Daniel Flynn (Kitty), Douglas, and Robb (deceased), father-in-law of Laura (deceased), Marti, and Laurie, and grandfather of Melia, Drew, Mackenzie, and Owen, passed away on July 22, with his family at his bedside. He was an extraordinary man, role model, and scholar.
Baird married the love of his life, Betty, while training as a pediatrician. They came to Lancaster to raise their family as Baird established the Pediatrics department and Research Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital. His lifetime passions were family and the care and development of infants and children. He performed leading research of his generation on brain development, and published countless scholarly works. He traveled worldwide to advance child welfare and consult for the WHO, UN, NIH, and leading universities.
Baird loved being near the ocean whenever possible. The family cottage in Stone Harbor, NJ, provided a rejuvenating respite. He will be missed greatly and remembered always. His extraordinary life is summarized best in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”
A private service was held in his memory.
There are two beds of roses in the court yard of the Hospice House in Lancaster. The roses are an island of color and reliably circular form in the blazing heat and sunlight outside. Inside the Hospice House it’s cool and lovely with tasteful art on the walls, a fountain in the hallway off the lobby and heavy wooden doors on the rooms. “It’s like a resort spa in New Mexico,” David said, and when I emailed that to Marsie she said, “It’s too bad that we finally get to go to a resort when we are about to go to the biggest resort there is. Live life now!”
True that, Marsie. See the roses, appreciate the roses, smell the roses, even if it is too hot to be outside and get to the scent.
We’re back in Lancaster. David’s father is failing, so after two days at home, we loaded up the car and headed south again. Walking into the house last night, I noticed the rose bush by the back porch door.
When we first arrived in Lancaster two weeks ago, there was only one blossom and one bud on the bush. Over the next week and a half, through managing to get David’s mother in a care facility, visiting David’s father at the hospital, picking up groceries, cleaning the house and taking loads of papers and magazines to the recycling center, going out in the morning to run or bike, going for a walk, I watched the bush put out more buds which opened into blossoms of loose pink petals that seemed to fall away by the next time I passed.
Last night and today the little bush is full of pink roses.
Flies dimple still lake
Shore pines drape gray granite rocks
Late sun sings summer.
Scattered rain showers moved through last night as we ate take-out Mexican food in Adrienne’s back yard on Long Island. Those dark clouds must have been riding the edge of a high pressure system, because today was clear and dry, with hot sun and cool wind.
That high pressure wasn’t inside me, though. I’ve been thinking I have nothing to say yet about what it’s like post-job, post-Coalition ED, post-high pressure busyness. But I do.
We came to Long Island yesterday to take a baby break on our way back to New Hampshire — we needed some time on the early life side of the life=death equation. This morning we went to Sagamore Hill, the estate of Theodore Roosevelt on Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island. We walked through a small forest with enormous oaks and tulip poplar trees out to a boardwalk over Eel Creek to the small beach along the harbor shore. Back on the estate grounds, we walked through the fields up to the house. By the front door was a grand old copper beech tree, planted by the Roosevelts in the late 1800’s, with a trunk like a leathery animal and a towering crown.
Once we got back to Adrienne’s house, we got to be on Emilio duty. I gave him pear and zucchini pieces to gnaw on, fed him a bottle, let him play in his crib and on the floor, and did some dinner preparation. The afternoon hummed along as if on a smooth track. At one point late in the day, Emilio was on my hip, sleepy and a bit dazed, while David lifted his hand out towards him opening and closing his fist, to see if Emilio would mimic him. Emilio lifted his arm slightly and opened his hand.
At that moment I realized I didn’t feel any pressure or any need to be anywhere else, doing any other thing. I’d gone for a beautiful morning walk on a crystal summer day and spent the afternoon taking care of a baby. “Ah yes,” I thought, “this is different.”
David and his brother Doug have a wonderful friend, Dan, who they call their “other brother.” Dan lived next door when they were all young, and spent much of his childhood in the Coursin’s home.
Dan is a true mensch. He’s been checking in on David’s parents regularly these past difficult years, and it was Dan and his wife who showed up the night of David’s father’s stroke to call 911 and make sure David’s mother was okay. Since the stroke, Dan has been visiting the hospital regularly, and has been a key player in the cleaning effort. He spent hours with me on Sunday afternoon wading through pounds of newspapers, magazines, plastic bags stuffed with folded papers and cut up tissue boxes, old cards, letters of David’s from his trip to Europe in the early 70’s, photographs, masses of Christmas cards signed and never sent, mounds of paper towel and paperclips and elastic bands. Dan has located a food pantry to take all the extra food in the house, and is coming this afternoon to box it and carry it over there. He’s helped us find a place to recycle all the paper, taken us to lunch, and stopped by every day to offer help, support, love and hugs.
And Dan has the mannest man cave I’ve ever seen. We had dinner with him on Saturday night, and he took me to see his house. A great hunting enthusiast, he has his trophies stuffed and mounted in a room his wife finally gave over to being the man cave. It’s like walking into a museum. There are deer, ducks, a large rodent that looks like a wild hog, and Dan’s greatest prize — his grand slam in turkeys, having bagged all four of the American major subspecies: Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s and Rio Grande.
Dan himself is a grand slam.
Whopper of a week
Managing lives of elders
Cleaning our own souls.