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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

Return of the Native

This past year I have been the most unreliable blogger in the world. Things became too personal in the aftermath of the Graves’ Disease in January 2012 and I had a hard time bringing myself to write about any of it. Once you start censoring what you want to write, you smother the creative process.

But if you’ve been reading my blog from last year, you already know all this, and I don’t want to go on and on and on about it anymore! I’m feeling better than I have in years, and now that I’ve learned to be assertive about my time and energy, life is pretty damn good. If you haven’t been following, scroll back and see the (very) few posts I made on it all.

So, what else have I been up to since the last blog posting, you wonder? I attended Jay Lake's birthday bash, 'Jaycon' this Saturday past, and fully expected to have been forgotten after my long absence. To my delight I had not been written off at all, and I had a lovely afternoon catching up with everyone. Yes, there were one or two who did not seem to recognize me, but I can hardly expect them to after being MIA for so long. The party was great fun, if a little bittersweet, knowing what’s been happening with Jay’s health. I met his new sweetie, Lisa, whom I feel I already know although we’d never met before. She is just lovely, inside and out, and I’m really glad they found each other.

This return-to-blog is really just an opportunity to fill you in on what’s been going on this past year, so the next entry I can start afresh. I’ll go backwards from today with the highlights….

In April I went on vacation to Brisbane, Australia to visit Terry, an old friend from where I grew up in Belfast. That’s worthy of its own story, so I’ll leave that to another day. It'll probably be titled: 'The Day I Poked a Kangaroo' or something equally silly. :-)

Whilst there, back at home my 16 year old half-Siamese cat, Grilka, stopped eating. I wasn’t aware she was that ill or I’d never have gone. I’d been in Australia 4 or 5 days when I learned the vet had found cancer riddled throughout Grilka’s body – an aggressive one that would have her dead in a matter of days. I dropped everything and flew back to Oregon. It took me 32 hours and 4 planes to get there, but I made it just in time. She was in a truly dreadful state. Glossing over the details, because tears are already welling up, and my heart HURTS, a very sweet and overdue pregnant woman who does home euthanasia, came to the house, and Grilka passed away in my arms on my bed.

Uh, oh. Too late. Tears are already streaming down my cheeks. This is still too new and sharp a pain to share much just now. But I had about 10 minutes of her while she was lucid, and perhaps there were moments when she heard what I was saying to her, and at least I had those. She knew I’d come back. And I knew I hadn't let her down at the end, although I can't describe the guilt I feel at having left in the first place.

Prior to the Australian trip was the annual St. Patrick’s Day party in March. This one eclipsed them all as far as body count. We had over 120 people attend, and William F. Nolan, author extraordinaire did me the honor of being the guest of honor for the second time. I think I’d like him to be the GOH indefinitely! The video of the party is in production and should be posted fairly soon. The only thing missing was my brother, Steve Blythe, who had been so wonderful to come out the year before. He joked it was just for the party, but he’d come because I was so ill after the radioactive treatment. My brothers are wonderful!

My New Year’s Eve was one of the best I’ve had. First I saw it in at 7ish in the morning on Skype with Terry, the Northern Irish friend living in Australia. Then at 4PM I saw it in again with Dad in Northern Ireland. And that night I ended up seeing it in with Grilka. We curled up together on the sofa, with only the Christmas lights on, and watched ‘Aristocats’ together. She astonished me by actually watching the movie. I have photos and video of her paying rapt attention to the television, and at one point running up to sit in front of the screen. That’s what young kittens usually do. I know elderly cats go through a kitten phase when they’re about to decline, but I didn’t put it together. I’m just so very glad we had the time together that night.

Across the street was a different story altogether. A girlfriend of mine used to live there with her husband and son, but then they divorced and she moved to an apartment close by so their son could see and stay with both of them. Well, apparently the ex-husband was going through a very bad time. He had Hashimoto’s, incidentally, which wreaks havoc with your hormones and emotions, and the signs were there that he may have been accelerating into Graves’ Disease. At that phase one is a complete and utter basket case. But no one knows for sure why he finally snapped. He drove up to a popular waterfall attraction in the Columbia River Gorge, and apparently committed suicide. It’s thought he threw himself into the water, but no body has yet been discovered. The only evidence that he was there at all was his locked car in the parking lot, and a text he’d sent just before disappearing.

The whole neighborhood reeled in shock when we learned of this a few days later. I tried to remember what I was doing at 7:40PM, the time he sent that last text. I’d been tucking into a pizza (gluten free) with my friend and neighbor, Carrie and her daughter, Jessie. We talked over a couple of glasses of wine while Jessie watched the DVD I’d given her for Christmas. We are all still disturbed that someone in such close vicinity to us was going through such hell, and none of us even suspected.

Christmas was one of the best for me, since childhood. I hosted dinner for the first time, and managed to seat 16 of us at a series of card tables disguised under festive tablecloths. I used all my mother’s recipes, from stuffing to plum pudding with silver charms hidden inside! The house was filled with laughter and children brought that unbridled excitement only they can to the occasion. That video is already up on my Facebook page.

Neil and I spent Thanksgiving with my best friend, Scott Simmons’ family and his lovely Mom. It’s great to be part of a 'real American family' at that time. Scott loves to cook, so the dinner was exceptional, as usual. Even the candied yams, which he managed to burn twice, bless him! Frantic rushing out to the local store ensued, and new yams and marshmallows appeared. The third time pretty much had all waiting by the oven, staring with manic intensity. Success at last and we sat down for a feast!

In October my eldest brother, Ian, flew out from Northern Ireland for a couple of weeks. I was recovered enough to be able to drive him out and about. We crammed a lot in: Multnomah Falls, Mount St. Helen’s, Chinese Gardens, parties, live entertainment, and a haunted house to name a few. I have never heard Ian laugh and laugh like that at the haunted house! He really loved it. My neighbors have a fabulous annual Halloween party, and we went in costume to that and had a great time. Ian went as a vampire and looked very distinguished. I went as a leopard, and later when I saw the photos of myself, I thought I looked like a sleazy hooker a bit past her sell-by date!

Every Friday at lunchtime we had to pull up a live feed on the computer, of Ulster Rugby team playing a match! He loves his rugby, does Ian. I so enjoyed spending one on one time with him. He’s six years older than me, so since we were children I haven’t really had a chance to get to know him as an adult. Steve is only four years older than me, so we had time to know each other growing up. I love my brothers, both of them!

In September I took a short trip down to Los Angeles to meet up with Northern Irish Terry, on his way through LA to Australia. Qantas has a direct 14 hour flight from LAX to Brisbane. Considering I did it 4 times within a few days, it’s not all that bad at all. (But that’s for yet another blog!)

L.A. was my first trip since the horrendous journey to Miami a few months earlier, (see blog entries in June 2012) so I felt very anxious that I wouldn’t have enough energy to enjoy myself. It was certainly a bit under par, but I paced myself and had a great time. Particularly on my favorite Disneyland ride, Space Mountain. Or should I call it Giggle and Scream Mountain? I sound like a maniac when I’m on it. (Okay, more of a maniac.)

It was so much fun to talk to someone from the same background as I am. The years fell away as we remembered long past times, and shared with each other what it’s like to be an immigrant, both in the States and in Australia.

Southern California agrees with me; I’ve often fancied living there but it’s not practical right now. This trip was the turning point in my recovery. My appetite came back with a vengeance, and I started enjoying my food again for the first time in months. The downside to that is I’ll have to watch my weight so I don’t put on what I lost!

So, that’s about it in a (large) nutshell. Details will be fleshed out as they come to mind in future blogs.

I’d like to take this opportunity (if you’ve made it to the end of this litany) to thank you for your support throughout this past difficult year. I can’t put into words how much the notes, jokes and emails you’ve shared with me meant, making me laugh and encouraging me to hang in there. Which I did. And here I am. :-)


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