Ardis (Feb. 28, 1937 – Jan. 15, 2016) holding Don
I’m not even sure where to begin with this. I’m afraid it’ll come across as rambling since I still haven’t collected my thoughts nor come to terms with my feelings.
Regular readers of this blog know that Don’s mother Ardis was placed into a nursing home, court ordered by the state of Michigan. Her health had been gradually deteriorating since her battle with throat cancer back in 2009. Our pleas for her to take better care of her health and to make changes in her life fell upon death ears for years. Ardis has always been a difficult person to deal with. For our own sanity our visits with her were infrequent, me more so than Don, although Don talked to her by phone daily.
Since a Christmas Day phone call Don received from hospice we knew it was just a matter of time before he’d get the call to head north. The call came a few days after New Years Day. We packed, made arrangements for Tucker’s care, and planned to leave the following morning. Then Don received another call, perhaps the new hospice caregiver had jumped the gun and Ardis’s death was not imminent after all. We stayed packed for several days just in case but subsequent phone calls had us convinced she was doing well, even back to raising hell at the facility.
We dined with my parents Hoot & Dotty
Spotted this sign several times
Don talked to his mother’s nurse last Thursday evening and was told all was well. His mother was up and moving around on her own, and she was taking sustenance. The nurse commented that Ardis was where she had been healthwise upon her entry into the home. Don commented to me about how his mother would fool them all as the women on his mother’s side of the family had lived well into their nineties. That’s why the phone call that came late Friday morning took both of us by surprise. Ardis had passed away that morning while sitting in her chair. She died of a massive coronary. Her heart had been taxed to its limit from the strain of pneumonia on top of her COPD. While I repacked our gear and made arrangements to drop Tucker off to my mother’s care, Don gassed up the truck and notified friends at the campground so they could keep an eye on the Suite Pea. We were on the rode by 5:30 the following morning to begin the long arduous drive north.
Fishing shanties on Lake Mitchell, Cadillac, Michigan
We arrived at my mother’s home in Ellettsville, Indiana late Saturday and got Tucker settled in. Don and I decided to stay the night and start fresh in the morning for our final 8 hour push into northern Michigan. Soon after crossing the Indiana/Michigan border the driving conditions became awful and at times scary, this due to white outs caused by lake effect snow and blowing winds, plus the temperatures were in the single digits. We pressed on through it all as we had a meeting scheduled with the mortuary for early Monday morning.
Our niece Rachael has been a Godsend to Don through all of this. She has acted as Don’s liaison with both the nursing home and his mother’s guardian. She even made arrangements for us to spend the week at Harrington Inn where she works at a much reduced rate. I don’t know how we could’ve accomplished all that we did in the week we were there without her. Even the inn helped us out by lending us one of their powerful vacuum cleaners to use at Don’s mother’s house. Speaking of which, it took four days to empty out and to make presentable enough to show to a potential buyer. Believe me when I say, this was no easy feat! But the real estate gods must’ve been smiling down on Don that day because the interested party agreed to purchase it. Talk about a relief, we were so worried it would become an albatross around our necks. We celebrated the occasion by meeting my dad and stepmom for dinner in Cadillac, which was roughly an hour and a half’s drive for both them and us. The food was delicious, the service poor, but the company was just what we needed after all of this.
Our niece Rachel with Don at the Harrington Inn
Don closed on the trailer Friday morning. We loaded up the truck, said our goodbyes to Rachel, picked up Ardis’s ashes, then made our way down state. We had made arrangements to have Ardis’s cremains interred into the Pietz/Auer family plot on Saturday afternoon. Once we got checked into our hotel room, we contacted our daughter Leslie who lives in the area, to meet her and her family for dinner. Thoroughly exhausted, Don and I both were in bed by 8.
Saturday’s gathering was small, Don’s aunt and cousins from Tennessee and a few of his relatives that lived locally were in attendance. Don gave a short eulogy then led us all in reciting The Lord’s Prayer. One by one everyone took turns placing their hands upon Ardis’s urn in farewell, then Don placed her ashes into the opening and Leslie place a wreath upon her grandmothers grave. Ardis was interred in with her father, alongside her mother and her son Robert, just as she had requested. While the family met at a nearby restaurant, Don, Leslie, son-in-law Jeff, our granddaughter Ava and I met with a representative of the cemetery to select and design a marker. We eventually joined the family later.
The following morning found us on the road yet again. This time making our way back to Indiana, to my mother’s to pick up Tucker. We made the decision to stay until Tuesday just to give ourselves a break and again to gather and break bread with family in Ardis’s memory.
It is Tuesday, 11 days have passed since we began our trek northward. Don has opted to drive straight through to Summerdale without stopping. He’s spent, emotionally, mentally, and physically. He says he can’t think of anywhere else he wants to spend tonight than back in his own bed. And I am with him 100%.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….