Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year and Hail!

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Today was the perfect "four seasons in one day" in Cuenca, complete with bean-sized hail. After two days of rain, the warm sunshine, blue skies and white fluffy clouds were a welcome relief. We had brunch with friends at the Coffee Tree and then did some shopping before Mark had to teach his afternoon English class.

As we walked to Supermaxi in the Vergel Shopping Center, I watched as the ominous dark clouds started to form. When the weather heats up quickly in the early afternoon and the clouds form into a dark blue mass on the horizon, you know there's going to be some "fireworks."

We finished up our shopping--waiting for the chocolate croissants to get out of the bakery oven--and caught a taxi back home. As I stepped inside our apartment, the sky let loose. I made a mad dash for the balcony to retrieve Mocha just as the hail started to pelt the windows. The combination of lightening, thunder and hail made Mocha run for cover under the bed while I tried to sweep the hail out the door.

I have to say this is the largest size hail I've seen in Cuenca. I even saved a few chunks in the freezer to serve  as a reminder of just how quickly the weather can change in "paradise." Unfortunately, when we have a whopper of a storm like we had today, there's always a "little" flooding that comes along with it. Our master bedroom is  right off the balcony, so we always keep extra towels in the closet to keep the water on the right track. After the watery mess was cleaned up, Mocha came out of hiding and I let him lick up the rest of the hail drops!

An hour later when Mark returned from teaching, the entire episode was history and Leap Year in Cuenca jumped into the history books.

Until next time...hasta luego!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Back Home!

I've been on a sabbatical from writing and it was time well spent.

Dad Pombo passed away on Sunday, February 12th -- just hours before my plane arrived. Mark had flown out to San Francisco a week ahead of me to spend time with his dad during his final days, which was such a blessing. When I arrived last Sunday, no words were needed. Mark handed me a single red rose at the airport and I knew. Mom and Dad Pombo are now "home" together!

I remember the first time I stepped through the door to meet Mark's huge Sicilian family! I was overwhelmed with the loud talking, waving of hands, and Sicilian gesturing. I thought they were all mad at each other, so I retreated to one of the bedrooms and sobbed. One by one, each of the family members came in and asked me what was wrong. How could I tell them it was them? Dad Pombo made it all better by entering the room with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile. "Don't worry," he said with a chuckle, "you'll get used to it!" He kissed me on the cheek and welcomed me into the family! Two years later, Mark and I were married.

It's a strange feeling to know that we will never be able to go back home again, but the memories we have made there will always be with us. 

Many of you who have lost a parent (or both) have sent  us such comforting words and a wealth of wisdom. I've tried to respond to each e-mail personally, but I'm sure I've missed some so please know that your thoughts were so helpful during such a difficult time. 

In many ways, retiring overseas was like a "mini-death," in that we have already put in order our final days (living trust, advanced care directive, and the distribution of our belongings). I'm always amazed--shocked really--how many folks in their 80's who haven't done this. Since we came to Cuenca with four suitcases, our earthly belongings have already been taken care of. The only thing that is important to us is photo albums which our boys have access to in Pennsylvania. Our insurance agent (and friend) in the States will take care of all the monetary assets and in the event of our simultaneous deaths, we have someone designated here in Ecuador to carry out our desires. 

In the midst of our grief, we enjoyed some quality time with our kids who flew out for the funeral. We spent a day at the Mavericks near Half Moon Bay, just 20 minutes from Mark's home. It was one of Dad Pombo's favorite places and I can see why. When it's high tide the surfers are out and at low tide (when we visited), the tide pools are a perfect opportunity to explore marine life. 

Returning back home will never be the same, but it's the memories that will sustain us!

Until next time...hasta luego,

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sometimes There are No Words

Mark left for San Francisco this week to be with his Dad. The decision has been made to bring him home with hospice. The doctors say it could be two days, two weeks or two months, but we're praying that Dad Pombo will be able to spend some quality time with his son in the days that remain.

I'm not sure why, but I'm already grieving. I got up this morning, ready to go to Spanish Class, got to the door and turned around and came home (and cried some more). I think it's always harder on the person left behind than the one that goes. There are so many fine details to attend to and thankfully Mark has two sisters and a brother to help fill in the missing pieces.

Oddly enough it all started when Dad was with his bowling team (he's 85) and fell, broke his hip and then a series of continuous medical conditions ensued, including: pneumonia (MRSA), kidney failure and three heart attacks. So much for bowling!

Mark's mom passed away at 70 years of age and it seems like yesterday, but it's been 15 years and now Dad. In so many ways I'm closer to my father-in-law than I am with my real dad. Dad Pombo made sure he sent me a birthday every year with the words "you're my favorite daughter-in-law" for the past 36 years. Even after Mom died he kept up the tradition of birthday cards to the kids, the grandkids and the great grandkids. He never missed a beat in that regard.

But I feel thankful that he lived the last 15 years doing the things he loved: traveling, spending time with family and keeping up with his bowling league! We have fond memories that will sustain us through these dark days. In the updated version of  Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered  I'm adding a section that will be useful for "such a time as this."  As little as we like to talk about death, it's probably the only thing we can count on and we need to get the paperwork done (Advanced Care Directive). Whether you're here in Ecuador or in the States, you have to let your caregivers know how you want to live out your last days.

Most of us baby boomers are dealing with our parent's failing health and now is the time to talk and be proactive because we just never know. Our bout with Dad started with a bowling ball (something he loved to do), and ended with a life we will always remember.

Sometimes, there are no words for such a time as this!

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