Happy Anniversary, Lilo and Stitch!

ALS, Walt Disney World, Lilo and Stitch

The very first time we met Stitch, October 2006!

On this date in 2002, Lilo and Stich (Walt Disney Pictures) was released. I have loved Stitch since I saw that film. When Ben and I went to Walt Disney World and I had read that Stitch could be found at the Magic Kingdom, I was on a mission to find him. Ben was very patient!  In honor of the film and my buddy Stitch, here are some photos from our visits to Walt Disney World over the years. Ben liked taking pictures of me with Stitch because he was my good buddy and Ben got a kick out of that. I look at those photos and even though Ben was the photographer, in my mind and in my memories, he is so present in those moments and I can vividly see him laughing. I am so grateful for these memories.

Halloween with my buddy in 2010. Ben could still take photos at this point, which makes this picture especially sentimental.

I think the funniest memory I have is from our 2012 trip. Walt Disney World has many and great accessible restrooms, which made life much easier for Ben. I would get Ben situated and wait outside because he couldn’t walk to lock the door. Also, I could hear him if he needed assistance. One day, while I was waiting for Ben, Stitch walked by and I yelled hello to him. OK, yelled a lot, with much waving. Moments later, Ben called to me. As I helped him into his scooter, he couldn’t stop laughing, imitating my calling Stitch and saying that he started wondering how he was going to get himself out of the bathroom because he knew Stitch was one of my favorite friends and he thought I might abandon him! I did not! And, I’m not telling if I thought about it!

I love this little guy!

I hunted him down at the Animal Kingdom in 2007!

On our last visit in July 2014, Ben knew that one of the things I had always wanted to do was have breakfast at the Polynesian Hotel with Lilo and Stitch. I had not mentioned it because it was a long commute from our own hotel and I didn’t want to tire Ben. But, he wanted us to have that experience. I think Ben wanted to laugh at me gushing at Stitch, which, of course, I did! Stitch was his adorable self, as was Lilo. They were very attentive and considerate of Ben and his inability to get out of his seat. It was an incredible time that I will never forget, particularly wonderful because it was a brand new memory, as opposed to memories we were trying to recreate to almost try to turn back time to the days before ALS. I will never forget the magical connection that Ben and I felt when we were at Walt Disney World.

July 2014, Breakfast at the Polynesian Hotel.

Stitch gave Ben some extra love!

Happy Anniversary, Lilo and Stitch!

Father’s Day Without My Dad

My dad did not like attention on holidays like his birthday or Father’s Day. He preferred to do things for other people, and not necessarily on holidays.

For the past few years, other than feeling a little displaced and lonely without a plan to spend time with my dad, the holiday did not really bring me down. This year, however, I’m feeling very sad, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because despite his own attitude, which I tried to embrace, I do miss him on this day, and fighting my own feelings amplifies the sadness. Maybe I’m feeling the sadness more this year because after he died I was caught up with caregiving for Ben, and then with his loss, too, so I went through motions without really focusing on the event. Sometimes, it simply- or not so simply- upsets me that the people I was closest to are not here anymore.  I do believe that they are always with me, and watching over me, and that is a comfort. But, there are those times that I just want to pick up the phone, or feel a touch. My dad and I spoke several times a day. I miss that. And it still hurts, three years later.

I don’t fight the grief, but I also do not want to dwell in it. I just keep swimming. I let myself feel. I understand the grief and its unpredictability. It helps me to summon the loving and good memories because I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to have them.

I always visited with my dad on Father’s Day. I brought his favorite foods from Zabar’s, documentaries that Ben would make on DVD for him, and books because he loved to read. Usually, the books were about WW2, but sometimes they were humorous books, particularly Jewish humor. I loved his giggle as he would read me the jokes. As he became more ill, I read aloud from some books and we watched movies together. On the night he died, there was a television broadcast of “Mrs. Miniver,” one of his very favorite films, which has become one of mine, especially because of memories of watching it with Daddy. It seems to be on television every year around the anniversary of his passing. It feels like a sign that my dad is with me. I have the DVD of the movie and I watch it when I want to feel close to him, so I will watch it this evening. And then, I will probably watch “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” another movie we joked about, and “Tootsie,” because it is my favorite cheer up movie and one that also made him laugh so hard that he quoted it frequently. I guess movies are very emotional for me. I have to admit that my dad did not like animated films and he never really understood my love of the Disney films, though he did have a healthy respect for Mickey and Minnie and their friends, and he loved to watch the videos I showed him of Ben and me at Walt Disney World because he said he loved to see us so happy and to hear me laughing.

I’ve been looking through old photographs because I do take great comfort in that, despite some tears. It’s hard to find photos of my dad and me together because he was usually the one taking the photos. He loved capturing silly and sweet moments, often with our dogs. When I look at some of photos that he took, I know exactly what he was thinking, or what joke or prank he had in mind, and that, in itself, is a joy.

So hard to get him to pose seriously!

Today, I will try to remember that Daddy never wanted me to be sad. I cannot count the number of people who stopped me to tell me that I was my dad’s world. And, since he was quite a character, a lot of nurses blessed me for my patience, which always made me laugh. He would be humbled that I remember him, which is so odd to me, because he is always with me and is so much of who I am.

Camera on his shoulder, Daddy always wanted to be the photographer, not the photographed!

Thank you, Daddy, for the lessons you taught me, the laughs and sense of humor you shared, the moral compass and patriotism you instilled in me, and the unconditional love and generosity you showed me.

I love you and miss you, on Father’s Day and every day!

My dad, in one of his favorite photos, with our Miniature Schnauzer, Windy, at my Cornell graduation. Daddy liked to look serious, but he was quite the joker.

Happy Birthday, Donald Duck! And, Thank You!

Happy Birthday, Donald Duck!

Remembering Donald’s birthday prompted me to yet again revisit all of our photographs from Walt Disney World. I have been feeling a little emotional these days. I think it is the nearing of the two year anniversary that Ben went into the emergency room and everything changed. Summer also signals the anniversary of the summer spent at the hospital and the summer that Ben succumbed to the ALS. It’s never been my favorite season- I hate the heat, but now there is the added set of memories. I definitely feel a certain level of anxiety, but as Dory taught me, I just keep swimming.

I find myself poring over the photographs with a smile on my face, and yes, also some tears. Donald was always so much fun at the meet and greets. And, being a Spanish teacher, I did especially love when he was at the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.

I share these photos because photos and memories have played such an important and positive part of my dealing with the rough times of watching Ben decline as his ALS progressed, and dealing with grief. It does not mean that I don’t get upset or lament the times we will never have.  But, I also think about how lucky we were to share this love of Disney that always shed much needed pixie dust on our lives.  Donald is part of those special memories that comfort me. So, with gratitude and joy, I say Happy Birthday to Donald Duck.

New Chairs- Old and New Memories

I’ve written about changes I made to my apartment after Ben passed away. The painting and recarpeting had to be done- the ALS battle scars were so huge. There are things I’ve displayed and put on the walls that remind me of him and of us and I love to be surrounded by these things and memories. But then there was his table, the ugly table he used as a desk that even he didn’t like. I thought it would be easy to replace it, and I picked a little dining table that I was excited about. But, when I started to think about not having his table anymore, it was very emotional for me. I decided to keep it and use it for baking, because Ben would love that. To read my post about what happened to that table, and things that matter, click here.

I have been looking for dining chairs since I got the new dining table.  Imagine my delight when Ethan Allen launched its Disney line (click here to visit the site)!  I fell in love with the Mickey Mouse dining chairs and had to order them. I thought about replacing Ben’s desk chair, because the foam on the arms is completely falling apart and it is not as sturdy as it used to be. That chair holds many memories, some good and some bad.  I sit in it every day and remember how that chair functioned as Ben’s desk chair and, also, as his wheelchair, because it was narrower than a wheelchair and could get through the narrow doorway to the bedroom.  I dragged the rolling chair to and from the bedroom every day. I transferred him from that chair a few times a day. We always worried that it would collapse, and thank goodness it never did.  He sat in that chair all day.  I fed him meals, shaved him and we watched tv and had our conversations while he was in that chair. I still find myself looking at the chair and talking to Ben when I need some kind of an answer or sign from him. The thought of not having the chair here made me cry. The chair is staying. The memories, good and bad, and the smiles and tears, are part of what our life was with ALS, and it all matters.

The chairs arrived on Saturday. They are beautiful. Ben would love them. But, right now I am coexisting with them. They don’t quite belong yet. It’s like the holiday ornaments I purchased when I went to London in October (click here for more about that.) I tried to create the tree exactly as Ben and I had it, with our ornaments in precisely the places where Ben liked them because he could see them from his desk. The new ones were jarring. Now, these chairs are jarring. It’s hard to enjoy them completely without Ben. I know in my heart that he would be happy for me. But, he’s not here to enjoy them with me, so it’s kind of bittersweet.

I know that I have to create new memories in my home. I still struggle with that. I hope that my friends will visit and enjoy the chairs and meals that I will prepare. And, as we look around the apartment, I do hope that they will also feel and celebrate Ben’s presence. As I find new ways to relate to Ben, I know and take comfort in that he will always remain a part of everything I do.


I always picture Ben like this, in his chair at his desk. The chair stays!