Archive for the 'family history' Category

One Traveler

amywink February 3rd, 2017

My last words to my mother were “I love you and remember we know how to do hard things.” 6 hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, I was sitting in the Cardiac ICU waiting room, searching for the right words that would allow the doctors to let go of her heart and end their attempts to resuscitate her.

I had spent the time between the hospital phone call at 11:30 pm –when the nurse told me my mother had lost her pulse and had received CPR and her heartbeat had returned–and the moment of decision alone but not isolated, texting my dearest friends as the moments crawled by.

When I had first arrived back at the hospital, blurred by my interrupted sleep, unable to focus clearly except on each moment as it happened, the weekend cardiologist had come in to explain what had happened in what seemed clear terms but my mind was slow, grappling back into wakeful consciousness. Something larger was happening. I had felt it at home when I got ready for bed, like the brush of a light breeze, the slight scent not yet identifiable. Something is ending, I had thought. Something is ending.

My mother had her heart attack in February 21, 2016. She had been experiencing shortness of breath, chalked up to asthma, and episodes of “panic” at night for a long time, during which she felt she suddenly couldn’t breathe. She had a complete cardiac assessment just 4 years earlier when she told me about her chest pains after a shower. The chemical stress test showed nothing and we were under considerable stress because of my father’s Parkinson’s disease so that seemed a likely culprit. Her kidney failure kept everyone distracted and so did her bi-polar disorder: Stress, anxiety, “panic attacks”, asthma, acid indigestion.

All distractions from the actual problem: blocked arteries and a failing heart.

Actual symptoms of a larger problem with her heart.

When we arrived at the hospital, the cardiologist put the pieces together. The next morning, an angiogram revealed the extent of the problem. She was put on a heart pump to prepare for quadruple bypass surgery when she was strong enough. My brother and I spent traded the hours in the hospital, him driving from Houston every day. Friends came to be with me when they could. I was never lonely.

It was a lesson in living in the moment. No plans could be made except in the vaguest way because we were not sure of what we might be facing. Too many “if’s” existed, too many paths diverged from that decision point and like Robert Frost knew, in the moment of looking in both directions, each way “leads on to way.” Though my brother and I talked about what we might do, we didn’t know what we would be doing.

The only thing clear was she might live. She might die.

I could not be “one traveler and travel both.”

My mother died.

In the very early hours of March 7th.

She had survived the surgery and had just been moved out of ICU into “Acute Care” where her heart and lungs suddenly stopped working. The care team resuscitated her and called me out of an exhausted sleep to the hospital. I saw the cardiologist who seemed to think her heart was strong enough. We’d have to wait to see. Hours passed. Friends kept texting. I was not lonely.

When the another doctor arrived to sit and tell me “things were dire.” I asked him what were the words I needed to say to allow them to stop working on her. Was it “no heroic measures”? He thought that was as start and yet clearly, not the right words.

There is lightening in the right words, as Mark Twain knew.

“I love you and I know how to do hard things.”

I slowed myself to think and breathe.

May she be happy.
May she be well.
May she be free from suffering.

May she be free from suffering.

I turned to the doctor, “Let her go.”

Plant Something, Grow Something

amywink April 17th, 2013


Last year, I placed a daring and expensive order with White Flower Farm for 3 different varieties of “black” Bearded Irises in an effort to memorialize my black cat Fox and my black dog, Lady, in the garden. It was a risky move because they were not rated for this zone, Zone 8/9. And yet, I have plenty of bearded Irises in the yard and had no reason I could understand that the black ones should be any different. I took the risk, ignored the invalidated warranty, and ordered 6 iris tubers: 2 “Hello, Darkness”, 2 “Before the Storm”, and 2 “Study in Black.” I planted them in the fall and caged them because Lily proved that she was Not A Gardening Dog as I planted them and I didn’t want them to go racing around the yard in her mouth. I watched the leaves come up and grow all winter and this month, the buds appeared on “Hello, Darkness”–buds that were indeed a very inky black!!


Now the plants are in full bloom and the gorgeous darkest purple bloom is gracing the garden, along with the Victoria Falls bearded irises I planted to remember my blue-eyed cat, Victoria.


Also in bloom this time of year, the antique Maggie rose, in honor of my wirehaired Dachshund Maggie:

The Kronprincess Viktoria rose for Victoria (a well remembered cat)dsc_1335.JPG

The Blithe Spirit rose, for my last dog Tristan: dsc_1265.JPG

And the St. Joseph’s Lilies (or amaryllis) transplanted from my grandfather’s garden.

All reminders, even in the face of grief, to plant something, to grow something and to remember beauty.

Legacies: Update

amywink December 22nd, 2009

Here we go. We don’t know who the paint is, but that is my Dad:


And the more famous Bob and Shorty make appearances with my Dad and uncle:



amywink December 20th, 2009

After looking at the photos I posted previously, I have to retract the descriptions in the earlier post. We think that the photo I *thought* was my grandmother is actually a family friend. And we think that the photos I thought were of my Dad are actually of his cousin Freddie. But my Dad does remember those horses, Shorty and Bob, and they did belong to my great-grandfather, Edwin Henry Wink.

But here’s a definite photo of my grandmother on horseback:


And for sheer entertainment, this is a shot of my grandfather yucking it up with a friend:



amywink December 15th, 2009

“There are things we inherit that remind us of the giver’s presence in our consciousness, tangible legacies that finance an education, decorate a wall, or furnish a room—the desk to which we gesture and say, “This belonged to . . . ” and remember our own belonging. Then there are those legacies which are passed on intangibly, without physical artifact to prove the connection. Some of these legacies arrive quickly; when my grandmother died, I suddenly inherited her desire for baskets just as I did the walnut Governor Winthrop desk she had, in turn, inherited from my great-great aunt. Other legacies wait, maturing like some forgotten bond to spring with unexpected fortune at the time they are most needed. It was in this way I discovered my grandfather had bestowed me with gardening, an uncontrollable urge for flowers that necessitated leaving desk and computer for dirt, shovels, seed, and flowers.” Amy L. Wink, “The Loveliness She Made” 2005 (available here, just scroll down to the 2005 papers)

While I wrote this about gardening, I have found that those “other legacies” are continuing to mature and present themselves in new ways. Another legacy surfaced when a friend and I worked on a presentation about collecting family history in photographs, called City Ancestor/Country Ancestor. Her heritage from New York and Chicago counterbalanced mine from rural Texas. Her photos showed stylish young women on city streets and posed in portrait studios, mine showed women with the flocks of hens, men with horses, cattle and dogs. My portion of the presentation included a poem entitled “A Desire for Chickens” inspired by photographs I kept finding of my ancestors with their flocks of chickens and a poem entitled “Extended Family” about the number of animals connected to my family history.

Now, of course, what’s rising out of the photographic record of my family history is the hereditary relationship with horses. Though it may have taken a while, I could not escape what looks to be a genetic predisposition for horses.

Here is a photo of my grandmother, sometime in the 1930’s, on a hunting trip with my grandfather, probably near Devil’s River at Del Rio, Texas.


Here is my grandfather, probably about the same time.


My father remembers these two horses, Shorty and Bob, at his Grandfather Wink’s place in Wall, Texas, in the early 40’s.

Dad and Bob:


Dad and Shorty:

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