I’d like to post a couple of items here that I created for Mum’s wake and funeral. The first is a video I made for the funeral home; it played during the wake.

I made it via Apple Photos; I have face recognition set up, and I went through the pictures it had tagged as having Mum in them. From there, I added in some slide scans, including a few taken when she was three or four years old. I chose the “Ken Burns Effect” for the transitions; it got me close out of the box, and then I viewed it, and edited the starting and ending zoom and pan for certain images to better suit them. I ended up keeping the default Ken Burns effect music; I’d been thinking I’d use “Firefly” by Over the Rhine, but found that (A), it didn’t match the movement of the slides well, and (B) it was too sad for my frame of mind right then.

The second is the eulogy I read at the funeral. I was fine while I was writing and rehearsing it beforehand, but as soon as we started wheeling the casket down the aisle, I broke down, and really couldn’t hold myself together while reading it. It contains a statement from her brother, who was unable to attend:


Mum would have loved to have seen you all here. She wasn’t morbid, but she did like funerals. 

I remember one time, she’d been to a funeral and was talking about the music she’d heard at dinnertime, and what kind of music she’d like to have for her own. 

It turned into one of those silly dinner-time conversations, and Karen wiped us all out — including Mum — with “How about ‘Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead?‘”

(She got a kick out of it, but for the record, sorry Mum, but we’re not gonna do it.)

The two things that first spring to mind when I think about my mother was her devotion to family, and her strength. 

Mum loved being surrounded by her kids and grandkids. When she went to the Cape, she always wanted to have the kids with her. 

One of Brian’s kids called her “the fun grandmother”, because she liked doing things with them. 

She liked to entertain, but it was almost always for family. Easter dinners, birthday parties, big birthday parties for the whole extended family, and of course, her Christmas Eve parties every year.

It’s appropriate that she died during the Christmas season. 

Mum loved Christmas. She loved riding around looking at the lights, the decorations, the hustle and bustle, the activity. 

She loved giving gifts. 

Every year, she would make dire predictions about how she had to cut back, and that she couldn’t believe how much she was spending on Christmas.

And every year, there was a big stack of presents. 

In hindsight, I don’t think she could help herself — she just loved gift giving, and doing for other people. Any time there was a new baby in the family, she’d send out a package for the baby.

Mum was always the disciplinarian of the family. I’m not sure she actually relished the role, but she never shirked it, and never wanted to dump any problems onto Dad. 

So she was the one who yelled at us, and Dad got to be the good guy… courtesy of Mum.

While she could be very critical of us, she didn’t have self pity. She was widowed young, but she never complained about that. And when she did talk about it, in retrospect, it was more along the lines of “I was widowed, and I had to raise five kids… but I did it.”

And while she could be critical, there was NEVER any doubt that she loved us and would support us. 

Mum liked being in the thick of things. If I was going for a ride up to Rockport, say, or the Seashore Trolley Museum or Nantasket, she’d want to tag along. 

(I never did get her to go along on the motorcycle, though). 

I need to tell you the My Dead Body story. 

Back in my Photo: Hour days, there came a point when I was the only person who could set up our new store in Medford. 

This was well before cell phones. So I couldn’t call to say I’d be late, and I ended up being later than I’d intended.

I’d taken the train in, and the owner promised to get me back to the station. Through a series of disasters, it was about 1:30 in the morning when we got back to the station. 

I was parked on a deserted road near the station, and I was walking back to the car, when I saw headlights. 

Uh-oh. Who was it? 

Was it some teenagers come to find a secluded place to mess around? Was it the police? 

No. It was Mum, with the dog in the back of the car, looking for my dead body. “Get in the car,” she snarled. 

Mum was accustomed to being the strong one.

She much preferred to help US than to have us help HER, and the last few years were galling to her. It embarrassed her to tears when I had to help her get dressed and into bed.

But if anything exemplifies her strong family feelings, it’s the fact that she (and Dad) managed to instill in all of us that family is important, and that we need to support each other. 

The one good thing about these nightmarish last four years, the ONE good thing, is the mutual support my siblings have given to her, and to me. 

People have complimented us about how we’ve taken care of her over these past four years. We had to. It’s what she taught us.

And so, while I’m impossibly sad right now, this is not a tragedy. It’s just time.

I’ve been looking at pictures of her from the past twenty years, and up until the last couple of years, she really did enjoy her life. 

She loved to laugh, and she loved being the center of her family.

Mum’s brother Kip was not able to come, and sent this message:

I’d like to share only a couple things about Darrell, though I could say a lot more and a lot slower in getting it out. 

Darrell was a special sister who was fierce about family. On two occasions she exemplified this. 

When my father remarried, she and Eddie did not hesitate in taking me under their roof so I could be more comfortable. 

Once again I needed their help. 

She and Eddie opened their doors to my family when we were displaced for months due to a fire in our house. Four adults and eight kids in that house on Ponkapoag Way. 

When she and Joanna were having kids, Eddie was working a lot of Sundays. 

So, I would go to Mass with either Joanna or Darrell and the 5, 6, 7, or 8 kids. A woman who often sat behind us eventually asked which lady I was married to and where all the kids came from. We were so close. 

I hope over time I showed that I followed her lead with my family and Darrell’s children who are a gift and for whom I’m forever grateful. 

For over 80 years you have been
more than a big sister to me; you’ve been a friend.

I love you dearly, Darrell, and I’ll miss you so much. 

Thank you all for coming, and thank you for being with us.

Mum, 1937 – 2023


My mother died this morning. She was one month past her eighty-sixth birthday.

The two things that first spring to mind when I think about my mother was her devotion to family, and her strength. Mum loved being surrounded by her kids and grandkids.

I remember once, one of her grandkids referred to her as “the fun grandmother” because she liked doing activities with them. She loved playing miniature golf with the kids. Any time she went to the Cape, at least a couple of the kids would go with her.

Family was super important to Mum. She liked to entertain, but it was always for family. Easter dinners, birthday parties, big birthday parties for the whole extended family, and of course, her Christmas Eve parties every year.

It’s appropriate that she died during the Christmas season. Mum loved Christmas. She loved riding around looking at the lights, the hustle and bustle, the activity. She loved giving gifts. Every year, she would make dire predictions about how she had to cut back, and that she couldn’t believe how much she was spending on Christmas, and every year, there was a big stack of presents. In hindsight, I don’t think she could help herself — she just loved gift giving, and doing for other people.

Vienna Teng wrote a song called “The Tower”, about one of her friends, “The one who survives by making the lives / Of others worthwhile”. Mum was the Tower. She was the one people came to for help. She was the one who provided a place to stay (and a hair cut for a job interview) when one of Dad’s brothers needed help. She was the one who took in one of my sister’s former roommates when she was doing an internship nearby. She became the family matriarch who was the center.

Mum loved spending time with her cousins Carol and Julie, and her sister Sandra. Later, she became close to her sisters-in-law, especially Diane, Dot, Anne and Phyllis. She and Dad would double date with Diane and George, and she would often get together with Dot for walks and tea, and several times a year, they would talk a trip out to western Massachusetts to see Phyllis.

Mum spent most of her life in this house, the one she grew up in, aside from a couple of years right after she married, and the last couple of years, when it became impossible for her to remain here. She much preferred to help us, than to have us help her, and the last few years were galling to her, to have us taking care of her, rather than having her take care of us. For some reason, it did not amuse her when I told her, “Payback’s a bitch, Mum”.

But if anything exemplifies her strong family feelings, it’s the fact that she (and Dad) managed to instill in all of their children that family is important, and that we need to support each other. The one good thing about these nightmarish last four years, the ONE thing, is the mutual support my siblings have given to her and to me.

Despite what she used to say (“I’m perfect, just ask me!”) Mum was not perfect. She had a sharp tongue and a quick temper, and did not suffer foolishness gladly. Patience was just something she never had. Never did, and she never developed it when she became ill. But her temper also blew over quickly, and she didn’t hold grudges. While she could be very critical, she never had self pity. No matter how angry she could get, I always felt I could come to her with my problems.

The past four years, and especially the past several months were hard on Mum. For someone who was used to being strong and in control and independent, losing the ability to walk, or rely on help for all the activities of daily life drove her to tears.

And so, while I’m impossibly sad right now, this is not a tragedy. It’s just time. I’ve been looking at pictures of her from the past twenty years, and up until the last couple of years, she really did enjoy her life. She loved to laugh, and she loved being the center of her family.

Again, Sunrise at Castle Island

Today is once again, the last day of Daylight Savings Time. Just as the days have been ending earlier, they’ve also been starting later and later. With Daylight Savings Time, sunrise was at 7:20 this morning. So, just as I did last year, I decided to head over to Castle Island to see if I could see the sunrise.

Of course, dawn begins a lot earlier than sunrise, and as I learned today, it’s often more interesting than sunrise itself.

The forecast was for clouds overnight and today, but I woke up at 3 and could see the moon overhead, so I went back to bed and dozed for a little while. When I woke again at 5, I decided to take a chance, so I crawled back into my clothes and headed out for Castle Island.

I got there in the just past six. It was quite dark out, so I did the morning’s Wordle, then decided to get out of the car and see if I’d wasted the trip. As I came around the corner of the fort, I saw it — a faint glow of pink to the east.

Gradually, the glow grew and got brighter. It became apparent that the clouds covered most of the sky, but there was a narrow clear band right at the eastern horizon. As the sun approached the horizon, it lit the bottoms of the clouds brilliantly. I could see layers and textures in the clouds. The color shifted from pink to orange as more and more green light mixed with the red. Finally, the sun rose, behind some light haze at the horizon — I never did see the actual disk of the sun — and the colors faded as the sun climbed behind the overcast.

Just as it had a year ago, a tanker came into the harbor from the east. When I first got there, you could just barely see its lights, and then, just as the sun was rising it swept down the channel, made the turn, passed right in front of me, and then into the harbor. It turned out to be the very same tanker I’d seen last year, the Iver Prosperity. When I checked, it looks like it shuttles back and forth between Boston and St. John, Canada.

I was shooting with both the Nikon and the iPhone this morning, and it struck me how disparate they are. Neither one fits the bill completely. During the early part of the dawn, the SLR was nearly useless, as I’d neglected to bring the tripod, and I couldn’t hold it still enough not to blur the images.

The images out of the iPhone more resembled what I was seeing straight out of the camera, but it also tends to flatten the scene in a kind of paradoxical way. The iPhone shoot High Dynamic Range pictures, but then it maps the range of values into the gamut of what it can display. Granted, it can display a much wider range of values, but the end effect is a less contrasty image.

The Nikon, on the other hand, especially since I’m shooting RAW, just records the light values directly to the sensor. The end result is that, especially for a scene like a sunrise, is that it is impossible to record the highest highs and the lowest lows, and the pictures look more contrasty because the shadows are darker and the light areas lighter. You can pull some of the values back in in post-processing, but they’re still more contrasty. Compare the pictures of the clouds shot with the iPhone vs the ones shot with the Nikon — the Nikon better captures the textures of the clouds, while the phone did a better job with the colors. In addition, I have a longer lens available to me on the Nikon, and I tend to use it.

The other trade off with the Nikon is that since I am shooting RAW, I have to correct every damned picture. Apple Photos does not render Nikon RAW files well by default, especially ones like these that were not shot in the noon-day sun.

Once again, I’m impressed with the quality of the pictures coming out of this new phone compared to the ones shot on my old iPhone 12 Pro. Those pictures always looked over sharpened and sometimes had artifacts; I’m not seen it to the same extent with the new phone.

One other thing I have noticed in the new phone is a level indicator when shooting. I’m not sure if it’s new, and whether it’s an iOS 17 thing, or an iPhone 15 pro thing, or whether I simply never noticed it before, but it’s very helpful — when I think to use it. I keep grid lines turned on in the Nikon’s viewfinder, but I still find, when I look at what I’ve done, a lot of crooked horizons — and they’re particularly noticeable with a visible horizon line.

I think the next time I do something like this, I’ll bring the tripod. It was annoying not being able to use the Nikon during the earliest phase of the dawn. I know it’s capable of longer exposures if held steadily enough.

Despite the fact it was quite chilly, it was a good morning. I probably shot too many pictures, but I enjoy the process of shooting, and I had fun.

Stop ‘n’ Shop’s Self Service Checkout

I went to Stop ‘n’ Shop tonight to pick up a few things. Not a full order, just enough to round out a few things I’d run out of.

I usually go through the cashier line, because things go much smoother, and it’s better for my blood pressure, but there was only cashier open, and there was a line of several people. So I figured, “this is a partial order, why don’t I use the self-service?”

What. A. F—ing. Mistake.

Going through the Stop ‘n’ Shop self service always ends up making me angry and frustrated, because it is so bloody minded brain dead. Invariably, I will have to stop and wait because I dared to do something it didn’t expect. And the attitude it gives you! Snotty to the nth degree.

Tonight, the problem was that I dared put an empty bag in the bagging area. Sacrilege, I know, right? IT’S NOT LIKE I MIGHT LIKE TO PUT THE ITEMS STRAIGHT INTO THE BAG AFTER SCANNING. I mean, which makes more sense — to put the items directly into the bag, WHICH IS WHERE I WANT THEM TO WIND UP, or to just pile them into the bagging area, and then bag them later?

For the first bag, it just sniveled at me, and then shut up while I filled it. When I put a second empty bag into place, it then locked up, told me “help is on the way” and refused to let me do anything else. Rage filled my mind, and I wanted badly to just bash that stupid thing into a million billion pieces, But then I realized I really didn’t want to pay to replace it, and forbore. Barely.

The final indignity came at the end. It wanted to know how many bags I’d be using. IF YOU’D LET ME BAG THEM AS I SCANNED THEM, I’D KNOW, YOU STUPID PIECE OF S—. As it was, I guessed four, I only really needed three, but I’d paid for four, goddammit, so I stuck the sack of potatoes in the bag.

I don’t know why they have to be so braindead. I also shop at Wegman’s (I love their yogurt and a few of their other things), and nearly always use the self-checkout there, without problems.

All I know is that if they ever decommission these machines, I’ll be among the first to volunteer for the baseball bat brigade.

Four Years

I see, looking in my Photos library, that fours ago tomorrow, I spent Saturday afternoon in the kayak, on the lower Charles River, paddling the area from Magazine Beach to just past the Lechmere Viaduct. I remember Mum and I went out to breakfast at Westbury Farms that Sunday, like we usually did.

It was the last “normal” weekend we’d have for quite some time. The next morning, she was calling for me in the bathroom, after falling into the tub. I got her out, she brushed off my inquiries, but after finding out later that morning that she’d fallen a couple of more times, we called her doctor. When we got to the doctor’s office, she immediately sent her over to the hospital in the ambulance, where we found out she’d had a stroke.

I’d noticed the day before that she’d seemed a little shaky climbing the porch steps, but she’d dismissed my concerns. Now we found out out that not only had she had a stroke, but there were signs of other, previous strokes that she either hadn’t noticed, or hadn’t mentioned before.

That fall, she had a series of strokes — she’d recover a little, then she’d have another one. She spent time in Spaulding Rehab, where one of the therapists told me she’d never seen a patient who tried so hard. I still remember seeing her walk again for the first time, and I remember her coming home again, and the first time she stepped out of the house again on her own.

Unfortunately, the strokes never stopped coming. She recovered well in 2020, to the point where she insisted on doing the dishes, because she wanted to feel like she was contributing, but had another Halloween day, and then another major one in May of 2021. That one robbed her of all of her gains of the past year, and more. It became impossible to keep her at home because she needed full time care.

The strokes also led to vascular dementia, to the point where she has next to no short term memory, and has trouble expressing thoughts. When you visit her now, you can tell she’s sad and frustrated, but she can’t verbalize what’s bothering her. They have also left her left side almost completely spastic.

In four years Mum’s gone from independent and capable, driving, running her own home and sociable, to completely disabled, dependent on assistance for all the activities of daily life, and non-communicative. When I look at her now, and look at how she once was, I want to cry.

Big Sur

Today we planned to spend the day at Big Sur. The mountains come down close to the ocean there, creating a very picturesque landscape. There were a lot of things Tom wanted to show us.

Unfortunately, as we got closer, the fog closed in. We could barely see the Bixby Bridge as we crossed the bridge. We stopped at an overlook shortly thereafter; instead of the sea, we saw a sea of fog. The sun was just starting to burn off the fog above us, and with the sun behind us, looking down into the fog I saw my first glory; the water droplets in the fog created a slight rainbow effect around my shadow.

After a quick stop at the park offices, we stopped at Pfeiffer Beach. The fog was intense as we walked along the beach.

After Pfieffer Beach, we got back on the Pacific Coast highway and continued south, towards the McWay falls. As the day went on, and we climbed higher, the sun broke through the fog. As we turned the corner, we noticed an interesting phenomenon: it was wonderfully sunny up above (and in fact, I got a nasty sunburn on my face and head), but the coastline was covered by a solid bed of white fluff. This was especially noticeable from the balcony of the restaurant we ate at. When we finally got to McWay Falls, we could see the fog wafting through the trees, and could barely see the trees.

Tomorrow morning, we clean up, pack up, and take a look at Point Lobos before we head for the airport and home.

Pacific Grove and Carmel

I spent most of today walking around two different towns, Pacific Grove and Carmel.

Brian and the guys were golfing today at Pacific Grove Golf Course, and they needed to be dropped off. So I took them down, noticing on the way there that there was a nice downtown area. After dropping them off, I drove down to the waterfront, took some pictures, and then drove back downtown, had a coffee, then took a walk through the downtown area. There were several real estate offices, a couple of banks, and a few stores. It didn’t seem super touristy. I walked down to the waterfront, saw the Lover’s Point complex, and walked back to the car.

The town seemed nice, and clean, and the a fair number of the cottages appeared to be Victorian.

I then drove back to the time share to see if Tom was up and about. He was, so we decided to head up to Carmel, hoping that the Weston Gallery would be open, as I knew it had some Ansel Adams photographs. This was not a surprise, as their website said they were only open by appointment. I’d not made an appointment as I figured if someone was coming specifically in to work for us, there would be more of an expectation we would buy. But I’d hoped they’d be open anyway.

Carmel is a very pretty town. Kind of self-consciously so. It’s a more upscale town than Pacific Grove, and caters more to tourists. Tom and I did find another gallery with a couple of Adams prints, and ended up spending a couple of hours there, before we had to pick the guys up.

The rest of the group decided they wanted to see Carmel as well, so we went back up. In hindsight, I should have gone kayaking, as they ended up doing wine-tasting and not much else.

We did try to get over to Point Lobos after Carmel, but didn’t make it in time, so hopefully tomorrow, on the way to Big Sur.

Day 5: Redwoods and Monterey

We left Santa Cruz this morning to travel down to Monterey. Along the way, we stopped in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

The redwoods were immense, as expected. One goes there, expecting them to be huge, but still, the visceral impact of these huge trees is unexpected.

We first did a short loop through the state park, the various landmarks marked out by numbers corresponding to notes in a printed guide. Then we took a longer hike through a nearby forest, ending up by an abandoned limestone quarry.

Once we were through, we headed down to Monterey. The land got flatter, and much more agricultural. We passed fields and fields of crops. We stopped in the city of Montery; while the others had lunch, I wandered around a bit, and walked down to the wharf, where again, I saw several sea lions.

After doing a brief errand, we headed to the Air BnB. It’s quite nice; it’s faux rustic. From the outside it looks like a small shack, but it’s actually a couple of stories tall with several bedrooms and bathrooms and complete facilities. We’ll be based here for the rest of the trip. After a couple of hours of downtime, we headed back out for the sunset. We’ve all noticed that sunsets here are not as reddish as back east. My theory is that the Northeast is sort of the tailpipe of North America and we’re more apt to have dust and small particulates in the air, scattering the red light, while here, the air is coming off the Pacific. Nonetheless, it was still pretty.