Sunday, May 2, 2021

Your Aunt Pam

Rob, today you and I joined the Temple B'nai Brith 2021 annual meeting via Zoom.  We participated because Aunt Pam told me a few weeks ago that the Temple was planning to honor her, recognizing the 24 years that she has been music director at the synagogue.  It easily sticks in my mind because I was home on maternity leave with you, Alex, when she was considering this opportunity.  It had been a somewhat difficult decision for Aunt Pam to make since it was professionally intimidating and also involved commitment to Friday services, Saturday bar/bat mitzvahs and additional services with practice time (and she was already committed to Sunday morning services, choir practices etc. at Central United Methodist Church).  It also includes a gauntlet of services at the Jewish high holy days starting with Rosh Hashana eve and morning, followed not long after by Yom Kippur evening and the entire following day.  These are somber, devout and emotional services.  I remember that Rabbi Joseph helped to convince her to take the position and worked with her closely over the first year or so regarding specific service music, holiday music, Hebrew pronunciations etc.  I was in Aunt Pam's 4-person choir at Temple for a year or two, which I enjoyed.  

Today was quite interesting.  We learned how successful Temple B'nai Brith, led by Rabbi Mollow, has been at transitioning and in fact growing since COVID shut-downs began over a year ago.  It has posed significant challenges for congregations of many faiths, and required flexibility and willingness to re-think how to worship and engage meaningfully on-line.  The highlight for us was a tribute by Elly Miller and the lovely video below, produced by Becky Stitzer (aka Becky Kramer, one of Aunt Pam's first piano students).  Alex, you are one of the stars !  I quickly recognized the view behind you, as you were filmed on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre with St. Stephen's Church and its former rectory (where your GrandNana and Great Grandad Phyllis and Rev. Burke Rivers lived when I was a very young child).  The location is immediately in front of WBRE-TV, where Becky works.  You were very articulate and thoughtful.  Thank you for your willingness to be part of this special tribute to Aunt Pam, such an important person in your young lives.

Not related to today's recognition, Alex you were also wonderful in helping Aunt Pam through gall bladder surgery about a month ago.  We got her to the hospital, kept her company before & after the procedure and brought her home.  Luckily, she has recuperated quickly, feels much better and in fact was able to handle Sabatini's pizza less that a week after the procedure 😄.

Friday, April 23, 2021

"It's What's on the Inside that Counts"

That's what you said, Rob, on the way home from Pediatric Associates today.  And I agree !!  We really like their new Pittston Twp office, on the way to Walmart.  Unfortunately, we've been there too much recently to see Dr. Cross, and to see Dr. Garg (neurology) in Kingston, and to see Dr. Blaze (optometry) in West Pittston.  And you've independently seen Dr. Palmero  (chiropractic) in Pittston Twp.  Plus we have still to visit Dr. Whiting (neuro-opthalmology) in Danville in 3 weeks or so.  You are in the process of being assessed by Dr. Timchak in Kingston.  An important additional team member is your therapist Rob Tryzenski, a close friend of several years.  You've had blood work in Wilkes-Barre, an MRI back in Kingston, and numerous medications from CVS in Exeter.  Perhaps there will be a visit to the Thomas Jefferson Headache Center in Philly, assuming the office returns my call.

On the school front, we've had consultation and meetings with Jennifer Ciampi, your guidance counselor, and Dr. Pollard, your principal.  We've called SUNY and it's possible we'll be starting calls with an LCCC contact soon.  So many professionals are involved and providing reassurance.

Maybe some day it we'll remember it with a little bit of humor.  But mostly, since January this year it has been painful (physically), tiring, stressful and sprinkled with various disappointments.  We still don't really know what's going on.  Wyoming Area went to remote, virtual school in April, 2020 due to COVID 19 and stayed that way until April, 2021.  Your routine was turned upside down, school activities stopped, you've been isolated from seeing friends, classmates & teachers and had significant screen time.  You were taking 5 AP classes during senior year.  You began getting periodic headaches in December, and then it developed into one massive, chronic daily headache with light sensitivity, general fatigue and poor sleep quality in January.  Truly, you looked and I know you felt awful for a few weeks in January.  To make things harder, Dad passed away early in the month.  Although you have improved with a particular anti-depressant/nerve pain medication, not much else helps in spite of trying additional medications.  Very little schoolwork has been done since then.  We've had so many conversations together about what we can do & changes to make things better.  It was been draining for you above all, and certainly difficult for me (and Steve) as we try to navigate these medical issues, home routines, academic expectations and college decisions.  Aunt Pam and Alex are worried about you.  Honestly, we desperately want you to feel healthy and normal again, but it's not clear if & when there will be a diagnosis that makes sense, an understanding of how to address the symptoms and ability to focus without discomfort from head pain, lights and feeling tired.  

All we can do is continue to see specialists, appreciate that it has gotten better (though more slowly that we would like) and be relieved that tests to date show no underlying, significant health issues.  You have listened to many audio books and we know you're thinking your usual interesting thoughts because you are coming up with quirky stuff (like tonight you mentioned donkey brains, I still don't know why but Steve says it has something to do with the series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).  You are threatening to name a kitten (should we get one) Doyle or Royal McPoyle.  You are going to in-person Key Club meetings again.  Also, graduation is coming up.  You are certainly still interested in engineering, which I expect you will study successfully.  

So I fully believe we will figure this out, and move forward in whatever amount of time this will take.  That doesn't make it much easier right now, but that's the way it is.  We are truly grateful for all the people who are helping along the way.  I've been playing this song by your favorite Beatle recently on YouTube a lot (you have heard) - it's the perfect thing to keep us optimistic.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Our Jean-Luc, Friend to All

After Easter Jean-Luc seemed to be not feeling well for a couple days and was spending a lot of time on the game room couch, then perked up a bit last weekend.  We all paid him some extra attention and he purred for us, but then suddenly on Tuesday night his back legs weren't supporting him and he was out of breath.  It was lucky we were all home and took him to the Plains Animal Hospital where they checked him quickly after we arrived.  The news, though, was terrible since it turns out he had a blood clot.  The staff were wonderful and helped us to have time for a last visit with our boy.  Jean-Luc was 10 years old.  Such an important member of our family, who brought joy & companionship especially for Steve shortly after he moved to Cherry St, Scranton in 2010.  Jean-Luc was "chill", a portly, comfortable and calm kitty (except when being taken to Grooming Cottage for baths).  He was quite a ball of energy as a kitten, thrilled to watch birds out the window since was not allowed out into the great big world.  Steve told him many times that it's not safe out there for little kitties, and of course he listened like cats always do.  

A re-telling of the salad story is quite necessary.  JLA (Jean-Luc Albert) was half grown in the winter of 2011, when Steve had me over for dinner.  Dinner was eaten at a small round table in the "dining" room (which was a semi-storage room, including the bicycle along the outside wall).  When dinner was almost ready, Steve put a table cloth and place settings on the table.  The table cloth was draped over the edge of the table, as is traditional.  After the salad was tossed, it went on the table too.  But not for long!  Jean-Luc thought the dangly table cloth must be there for him to play with, so he reached up, snagged it and pulled everything onto the floor.  Well, as you know Steve rarely gets mad - but he was definitely mad.  Little Jean-Luc was marched upstairs where he was banished in the bathroom.  The remnants of the salad were collected & tossed out in the front yard.  For the rest of the year, when we stopped over Robby would ask where the salad was - and kept looking in the front yard for bits of lettuce.

During the move between Cherry Street and Montgomery Ave, JLA temporarily stayed at a pet hotel near Moscow.  Upon arrival here, I remember him hiding on the shelf under the kitchen sink.  Some of his favorite spots here were lying on a comfortable couch preferably next to Robby (or spending a few hours next to Rob in his bed), on other beds upstairs, on the dining room rug with his legs up in the air, on the back porch in a sun spot and most recently in a kitty bed in the office next to Steve.  For many years, Jean-Luc had lovely naps in Steve's lap, however only when Steve was in the office sitting at his computer.  He would also enjoy close by when Steve laid down on our bed for a rest.  As to annoying habits, the one I can think of is Jean-Luc licking plastic bags - which could be loud enough to wake you up.  

Jean-Luc was a water cat - he truly enjoyed playing in the water bowl.  His habit of meowing for slow drips from the bathtub faucet turned into a problem when he started scratching on our bedroom door every morning at 5 am.  So that had to stop, after which he thoroughly enjoyed lying next to the bubbler in the boys' bathroom, sticking his head under the fountain.

Jean-Luc was accepting of Tiger, and then of Rambo - he liked his kitty pals.  For a few years, we had 3 cats!  There were a number of wrestling interludes (known as a "tussle") and grooming sessions that started civilized and usually ended with a squabble.  There was no particular ownership of assigned kibble bowls.  The wonderful announcement of "Treats!!" was usually enough to produce a thunk when Jean-Luc jumped down from a bed then bunny-hopped down the stairs - in case he was not already waiting nearby for after-dinner munching.  He and his colleagues have done their duty with pest control, cornering and dispatching the occasional mouse who visited from the basement.  In the past couple years, it seems likely that Rambo did most of this dirty work.

Here are some wonderful pictures of our Jean-Luc.  

Tiger's education on the art of drippies:

Licking a bag while Christmas presents were being wrapped:
Helping Rob with his school work:

Stretched out, probably at dinner time:

One morning bright & early, resting (anywhere is fine!) after a busy night:
A peaceful grooming session:

Waking up from a snooze with Rambo:
In this favorite spot, next to Steve in the office (we recently noticed that Jean-Luc was more comfortable when his fur was shaved down):

He was truly a friend to all, sweet and charming.  We will miss Jean-Luc, our longest-tenured kitty at Montgomery Ave, Steve's best buddy and loving companion, as well as Becca's "favorite fat cat".

Monday, February 15, 2021

In My Mind I'm Goin' to Carolina

For quite a few years, I have periodically grieved for and missed your Dad, specifically as the younger man I married. Another time I will write about the early years of our relationship.  

For now as the finality of his passing settles in, I'm going to write briefly about one of his favorite things to do - going to the Outer Banks. I do have fond memories of staying especially in Hatteras in a house along a canal. Alex, you loved it there since you could walk out the door to fish. And we were close to the beach and the fishing pier that brought hours of joy for you Alex. Rob, you were quite little and enjoyed it a lot although we know you are not generally a beach aficionado. I got to rest, and Dad spent a lot of time driving us about and maintaining fishing gear, getting bait and taking fish off lines. We usually took a day trip to Ocracoke Island, involving trips on the ferry which were an adventure every time. On our journeys across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, we would stop at the visitor center, walk out to pier to see what fish were being caught and sometimes watch a container ship go over the tunnel. Maybe you remember a blueberry fight in the back seat of the car, which happened on our way home one year. It's nice to remember summer vacation (especially during mid-winter), and important for me to believe that when we meet again in heaven we will be the best versions of ourselves. Below are pictures from a trip to the Wright Brother's Memorial in Kitty Hawk in 2003, and cute pictures you both from 2006.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Welcome to Number #46

I last wrote about politics after the general election, and as it happened just before the election was called for Joe Biden.  So much has happened since then!  I learned when Dad was involved in Wyoming Boro politics for a number of years that sometimes you are in the majority, other times in the minority.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Well unfortunately, Donald Trump could not bring himself to lose gracefully.  He never conceded the election, in fact he fought in the courts on trying to challenge what all credible sources determined was a fair election and did not facilitate transition to the new administration.  And in the end, the biggest catastrophe of all, on the day of Dad's funeral (so we didn't learn of it until later in the day) while the electoral college vote was being counted in Congress he spoke to a large, angry group of his supporters who were fully prepared for violence.  These people then rioted and stormed the capitol building. After endangering our country's legislators and Vice President Pence, doing damage and a couple deaths, we acknowledge that it was extremely bad but could have been worse.  What type of people bring the makings of a gallows and then build it in any public place, let alone in our nation's capital?  Many will face criminal charges, and President Trump was impeached in the House (second time) for inciting an insurrection.

After 4 tumultuous years, I am truly grateful and relieved that the Trump presidency is over.  Here is an email that I drafted in October 2020, but never sent:  

Dear Vice President Joe Biden

This is such an anxious time for our country.  You and your wife Dr. Biden give us hope.  Every day we put our Joe Biden flag out, every night we "bring in Joe" for safekeeping here in Luzerne County.  We look forward to election day and then your inauguration, when you'll take over as President of our wonderful and struggling country.  We can't wait for a child of Scranton, my husband's home-town, and Wilmington, a short drive from where I grew up in South Philadelphia, to bring us competence, a platform to distribute more resources to those who don't have privilege and be accountable for leadership on so many issues around the world, basic common decency and genuine concern for all Americans.  Thank you for everything you have done for our country and will continue to do as you face the challenges of your presidency.  

Tonight we contributed to your campaign.  We will always be rooting for you and Jill.

Christine Rivers & Stephen Albert
West Pittston, PA

PS.  In addition to her many qualifications, Kamala Harris has a wonderful smile - like a ray of sunshine through the clouds !

The inauguration was last Wednesday.  I'm sorry we didn't go this time, but it wasn't feasible due to COVID 19 and other circumstances including Washington D.C. being an armed camp.  I already made a date with you Rob to go to the next inauguration in four years.  I truly enjoyed watching the inauguration, and my favorite part was Lady Gaga's rendition of the national anthem.  She is beautiful, her dress and pin are fabulous and what an unbelievable performer !!  I will share more about her in a future post.  Watching the video below, you will see over her left shoulder a man who looks a lot like Uncle Jason!  Regrettably, it's not - I texted Jay about it later in the day.  LOL!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Your Dad June 13, 1960 - January 2, 2021

Alex, you were the first to get the news a week ago.  TJ called to tell you that Dad had passed.  We began to get details over the next couple days, since we have not known his whereabouts for over three years (he last stopped at Montgomery Ave. in June of 2017).  We know Dad received good care, thankfully.  There are so many emotions now, I will not try to comment on them.  

We were supported by Joe Kopcza of Metcalfe-Shaver-Kopcza Funeral Home, who helped with necessary decisions and arrangements.  Here are the friends and family who came to share their condolences with you, Aunt Pam and me this past Wednesday, January 6th:

  • Keith, a former neighbor from 7th Street
  • Jesse Kugler, who said told us she is a Trans-Med driver who got to know Dad when she took him to appointments
  • Taylor Schechter
  • Becky Stitzer
  • Julie Fumanti and Jeff Polidori
  • Rev. Jen Baer
  • Jim and Laura Balint
  • Paul Konopka
  • George Krizenoskas
  • Rev. Martha Jordan
  • Aunt Julie
  • Grammie and Grandad
  • Laura Lewis Emmett

We had good weather, with just a little snow on the ground.  Our family sent lovely flower arrangements. The framed picture above was displayed for us to remember a happy day.  It's from the day of your baptism, Rob, in November 2002.  Alex, you were 5 years old.  Jesse told us that Dad continued to love you and spoke about you often.  And know that you were both meant to be here, and have important contributions to make to this world as Carroll men.  

Robert Rexford Carroll passed into eternal life on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, at Timber Ridge Heath Care Center, Wilkes-Barre, following an illness.

Bob Carroll lived most of his life in Wyoming where he was involved in various community activities.

Born June 13, 1960, in Pittston, he was the son of Robert D. and Gladys Warner Carroll, who predeceased him.

Bob attended Wyoming Presbyterian Church with his family. As a youth, he was an Eagle Scout and achieved the distinction of membership in the Order of the Arrow. Bob graduated from Wyoming Area High School in 1978, and from King's College, Wilkes-Barre, in 1983. During college, he was a counselor at Camp Lackawanna, Tunkhannock, where he formed lifelong friendships. He worked for American General Life Insurance Company for the majority of his career. Bob is a past Wyoming Borough Councilman. Over the years, he was a leader of Boy Scout Troop 366 in West Wyoming, a member of the Wyoming/West Wyoming Lions Club and a Board member of the Wyoming Cemetery Association.

In earlier years, Bob enjoyed canoeing, hiking, camping and gardening. He loved vacationing in particular to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. He was extremely interested in current events, especially politics, and was an avid collector of Lionel model trains.

Bob is survived by his sons, Alexander F. Carroll and Robert B. Carroll, West Pittston; and his sister, Pamela R. Carroll, Dallas. He is also survived by an aunt, Betty Warner; and numerous cousins.

Remember Bob for his charm, intellect and sense of humor. May he rest in peace.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Metcalfe Shaver Kopcza Funeral Home Inc., 504 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, with the Rev. Jennifer Baer of the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Dallas officiating.

Interment will be in the Wyoming Cemetery.

Friends may call from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Camp Lackawanna, Tunkhannock, PA through the Presbytery of Lackawanna office or the Camp's website.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Misericordia U Graduation (COVID style)

Well Alex, it has happened!!  The long awaited and hard-won college diploma will be in your hands shortly.  You have worked so hard, and it shows since you graduated from Misericordia "magna cum laude" as indicated in the Misericordia University commencement booklet you can see below (it arrived after commencement, probably due to a USPS mail backlog that got worse as December wore on).  It is really thrilling that you've done it !!!

Graduation was on Sunday Dec. 20th at 11 am.  You weren't too interested in a traditional graduation ceremony, so this turned out to be perfect.  You told me that all you had to do was get up half an hour early, pull a gown over your pajamas and a cap on your head (that we later learned were Taylor's from her Slippery Rock graduation) and log into Zoom.  Steve did too, it was a nice surprise for us to see you in formal graduation attire, and of course your teachers' academic regalia - makes me think of Hogwarts/Harry Potter, and also remember how I enjoyed graduation pomp & circumstance especially for my Wilkes U masters degree.  The program went about an hour, and was highlighted by thoughtful and inspiring comments from your professors in particular Dr. Carso and a bit later Dr. Stevens - who are clearly and rightfully proud of the Gov't, Law and National Security program they have built up (including their ability to match students to meaningful internships in spite of COVID challenges).  Plus it was a novelty for each student to have the opportunity to talk about what the program has meant to them.  You mentioned how you had been challenged by your class work, especially in Dr. Padot's courses.  I was excited to be part of the ceremony, a bit weepy at times and am so proud of your accomplishments.  Rob joined us in Steve's office mid-way through the proceedings.  Here are some very nice pictures, most of them from Taylor - thank you Taylor!!   So now it's on to new ventures as you begin the full-time job search process.  No matter what comes next, you have a solid foundation and have developed skills (including excellent writing and presentation skills) that will be invaluable in years to come in your career and potentially in a graduate program.  Yahoo !!!!