Sunday, March 22, 2009

Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington

Portland to Seattle and back stays and fun times!

Today’s blog starts with waiting in a hospital waiting room in Portland, Oregon. Nope, not me this time…my friend Viv is in having a procedure. Viv is from Alaska, long time AK resident as a matter of fact. She moved there in the 1970s with her husband Rod. Last year Rod passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Then Viv had to have 2 surgeries done in December and now January, and now another unrelated surgery. It was time to come to her side to give her laughter support.

And we do laugh! Yesterday we took a “mini” road trip to Seattle, WA. I hadn’t been able to see my adopted mom Rita for about 5 years. Plus there were several other friends we wanted to see. I lived in Seattle from 1994 through 1997, but had been going back and forth between Anchorage and Seattle for years before that. My time in Seattle gave me time to develop many great long-lasting friendships.

Viv was one of my most frequent visitors. She became as attached to my Seattle gestalt as I was/am. This trip was to be a very fast one; we only had 3 hours time in Seattle, because it’s a 6 hour round-trip from Portland to Seattle. Because of the short timeframe, I called a two few close-by friends and said we’d meet them at my Rita’s apartment.

For those of you who have not had the enjoyment of meeting these folks, I will take a minute here for introductions. I’ve already given you a few facts about Viv. But I didn’t cover what a great person she is, how she’s loved by so many of us for positive outlook, her energy, and ability to share her life and experiences. She’s also a fabulous fund-raiser.

Rita is next in line. She’s a true gem, and I call her my adopted mom, or my Seattle mom. I first met Rita and her husband Harry (now passed on) back in 1991 or ’92. I was down in Seattle on one of my quarterly trips for a Hadassah board meeting, and ended up participating in a Shabbas learning session at Rita and Harry’s apartment. It was a great time and I just really enjoyed the afternoon. That started a great relationship.

When I moved down to Seattle, I loved giving and going to Shabbat dinners and Rita and Harry were always on my guest list, and I was on theirs. Because I was single at the time, there would often be more women than men at the table. And at times Harry would be the ONLY man. I would have anywhere from 6-13 guests total. One Shabbas in particular stands out. We had a full table (13), and Harry was the only man joining us that night. About 11 pm, Rita prompted him that it was time to go home. He refused to go, because he loved hearing us gals discussing Torah and Talmud in relation to current events!

When Harry passed on, I flew down and the family honored me by allowing me to help with sitting shiva for him. So over the years Rita and I have formed a close bond. Rita is a young 87, full of wisdom, a woman who loves to kvetch at me for a variety of my exploits. I love her for the concern and love.

Lael is another friend I met in Seattle, and I actually met her before Rita. Lael was the mother-in-law of the rabbi of my favorite synagogue in the Northwest area. When I would fly down from Alaska, I would try to get to services at Congregation Beth Shalom. One time I called the rabbi and asked for a recommendation for a bed and breakfast close by, and he suggested I call Lael. She and I struck up a fast friendship and we have shared many adventures over the years. Lael is retired and rides the Seattle busses like a well-seasoned traveler so I knew she could easily find her way to Rita’s.

Our final contact was Davida who lives not too far from Lael, and works downtown. I met Davida when I was living in Seattle, just a few blocks from her. We met at the bus stop one morning and became bus-buddies and then real friends. She’s got wonderful stories of living in Woodinville (a bedroom community of Seattle) and raising chickens. Her stories about banty roosters, and chickens roosting in the trees in her yard had us laughing with tears streaming down our cheeks.
The day of our visit, Viv and I arrived 30 minutes late due to traffic, but it timed out perfectly with Lael’s and Davida’s arrival. We chattered and wandered into Rita’s apartment, stopping for a tearful reunion when Rita met us in the hallway.

Because it was lunch time we went downstairs to the little café and met up with the chef Jose, a delightful man. Rita lives in a Jewish retirement building with both independent and assisted living facilities. The place serves only kosher food, a big plus for Rita’s peace of mind.

From left to right: Rita, Viv, me, Lael & Davida

We had a great meal and Jose’s cream of mushroom soup was fabulous! I’m lactose intolerant so many times have to pass up cream soups. But he makes his recipe with soy milk instead of cow’s milk so I lapped it up gratefully! The spinach tortilla veggie wrap I ordered was huge and delicious and I took half of it back with us.

But as good as the food was, the company was the shining star. Since we have all known each other for at least 15 years we had many laughs to share and new adventures to relate. Rita sat there beaming the whole time. The time was way too short, but a great way for Viv to spend the day before serious surgery.

Shoes, I must mention shoes. On the way back, Viv insisted (though she will try to blame me) we had to stop at the Centralia outlet stores, in particular the shoe stores! Hmmm. Methinks you don’t believe that…ok, I’ll fess up…it was a mutual decision. We both are hard to fit when it comes to shoes, so when we come in close contact with a shoe store that might, even remotely, carry our size we have to stop for “15 minutes”. The outlet mall in Centralia was a perfect choice for us. Of course 15 minutes actually equaled an hour and a half! But we both came away with shoes! A real bonus!

After that fast day it was time to put Viv in the hospital for her operation. Her daughter Kylie very kindly had me stay at her apartment in downtown Portland. Kylie’s boyfriend, Brandon (aka Blue) was always there also. Once we had Viv in her pre-surgery room Brandon serenaded her with a song he had written from the perspective of her kidney that had to leave. It was so fun to watch and listen to as the doctors hung back waiting to talk to Viv before she was taken in to surgery! I’ve included a clip from that concert.

Viv’s positive attitude and love of life, along with the support of family and friends had her sailing through two operations with class and style. She was housed in the newest wing of OHSU with brand new and state of the art equipment. She did have a few nurses and doctors concerned as she would go “AWOL”, but she was only down the hall or in the next building holding court with all of her well-wishing visitors. That’s our Viv; no one can keep that woman down!

I am still trying to figure out how to load a video from my phone!

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