More family photos

My cousin, Dick, sent me some more family photos and a copy of my GG Grandfather’s discharge paper, today.

A scanned version of the birthday photo. I recently learned that there are at least three sets of family, the Comers, the Houchinses, and the Newmans. That would mean that there are at least three sets of GG Grandparents in the photo. I believe that aside from Elizabeth (nee Ellison) and Thomas Houchins (the couple extreme left, second row) and Joseph Baker Comer and Evangeline Comer (nee Smith), it is likely that the couple who are 2nd and 3rd on the left of the first row are Anna Mariah (nee Taylor) and John Owen Newman.  Further investigation may give me the couple on the far right end of the first row.

The Birthday Party

Below are Joseph B. Comer and Evangeline with their children, circa 1899.

Comer family

First row: Sarah Comer, Joseph Baker Comer, Evangeline Comer

Second row: Dessie Comer (Dickerson), Grant Comer, George Allen Comer, Mellie Comer (Houchins)

Harry and Jessie Houchins

Above, Harry and Jessie ( Currie) Houchins, my great uncle and great aunt. Harry was brother of my grandfather.

Discharge paper

So excited…

Scroll to the bottom for an


In recent year, I have been working on my family tree.

When I grew up, I knew none of my extended family. My father left when I was three and, aside from the day he came to sign papers to allow my step-Dad to adopt me, I saw hide nor hair of him until I was 25 or so. Even after he dropped back into my life, he was very closed-mouth about his family. Aside from the odd comment such as “I don’t want to have them drag my bones back to the family plot when I am dead…” to explain why he didn’t want his sisters from knowing where he was, he remained silent about them.

I didn’t even know until he arrived back where my half-brother and sister Harry and Peggy were. He put me in touch with them and Harry and I visited him out in BC where he had moved to. No one knew where our half-sister Shari was.

My Mom was able to tell me a few things about the family, about his parents and brother (Delroy, who died in 1975). I knew the family was from somewhere in Iowa and Harry sent me some photos he found amongst Hutch’s (His real name was Basil Elwood but he, for obvious reasons, he preferred to be called Hutch. Even his children called him Hutch.) belongings after his death. Dad would be pleased to know that rather than sending his ashes back to the family plot, Harry sprinkled them near Clinton, BC which was where Hutch was sprinkled (unfortunately, not in Red Canyon where he wanted to be sprinkled but in a snow drift at the entrance because it was as close as Harry could get to the canyon in the middle of March.

After Dad died, I had moved to New York City and finally set about trying to find my relations. After sending out a whole bunch of letters (no internet to speak of at the time) I was contacted by my cousin Allan and I finally went out to meet the family there for the first time in 1996.

Sadly, my aunts Hazel and Harriet had died, Hazel in 1992 and Harriet just 6 months before I found my family.

I had tried to find Shari before I left but was so sad not to have done so. A week after I got back, I got a phone call and it was Shari!

In 1999, Shari, Harry, Peg and I all met in Sioux City and had a family reunion. Since then, both my cousin Allan and cousin Ina (named after my grandmother) both died, along with my Uncle Bud, Harriet’s husband. Aside from the copies of photos sent by my brother from our father’s things, and some photocopies of old family photos, I had nothing tangible that tied me to my family.


Comer and Houchins families, 1904 or 1905

Undated copy 1

Comer and Houchins families, 1906 or so

Ina Adair lee And Dell Roy Houchins with baby "Hutch"

Grandparents, Ina Adair Lee and Dell Roy Houchins, with my Dad

In the years since my Dad died, I have been making a concerted effort to do my family tree. Despite my knowing more about my mother’s family than my father’s, I have managed to find out more and now have a substantial family history done. On my father’s side, one branch of the family goes back to  the early kings and queens of Scotland and is linked to most of the early royal houses of Europe.  Their descendants were founding fathers and movers and shakers of Jamestown! On the other hand, the first Houchins to set foot in America did so as an indentured servant.

More recently, I have found that my Great Great Grandfather, Joseph Baker Houchins served in the American Civil War. In fact, I discovered the name of his unit and that he had received a medal from the state of West Virginia. I even found out who owns it.

Even more exciting… the owner offered to sell (at a very reasonable price) it and the records that he obtained from the National Archives including his military record and a copy of the marriage certificate for Joseph and Angeline (My GG Grandmother had to submit a copy in order to obtain her widow’s pension.). I agreed to buy it.

He sent me photos of the medal.


The medal and box


Side view showing Joseph B.'s name engraved on it

I can’t tell you how excited I am!


The medal is on its way!



Today, we went to the clinic to have my Mom’s leg looked at (infection is less and the doctor said it is looking good!). She had fallen when getting down from a chair that she had climbed on to close the curtains and scraped the front of her leg so badly I had to take her to the hospital…

While AT the clinic, we were on our way out when she said that she was “feeling a bit dizzy”. She was very pale, so I sat her down and went back into the office and alerted Dr. J and nurse/receptionist. We whisked her back into the examining room and got her lying down and Dr. J (who I DO like this doctor!) was able to test her BP, blood sugar, and listen to her heart WHILE she was actually having one of her turns. This is the first time in 4 years (at least) of these events that a medical professional has been able to see exactly what is happening AT the time she is having one of her “turns”.

Her blood pressure was 84/45 (up very minimally from 80/45 on Wednesday) just before her “turn” and up a few points again, after.

His opinion is what I have felt for a long time, that it is her blood pressure being way too low. Earlier in the week, her family doctor and the cardiologist removed 2 of 4 blood pressure medications. This doctor has told her to stop ALL her bp meds for the next few days.

She sees Dr. S tomorrow for her flu shot, so we may have a bit if a chat about this, at the same time.

Hopefully, THIS will give us a better idea about what is going on.

On another note, a friend informed me this evening my cousin in Iowa has a recurrence of his Protstate cancer and that it has spread to the bone in his leg (I didn’t know he had had a first bout of it). He was on the way to the clinic for a treatment when his leg simply “broke”. He now has pins in it and is walking with a cane.

However, I am thinking of my neighbour who died a few weeks ago. She had bone cancer and she fell and broke her leg, and cancer cells were released into her body.

My cousin is a lovely person and one of the few cousins of his generation left.  My cousin, Ina and her brother, Allen, died a year apart from each other, both suddenly. She died of a congenital heart defect that runs in our family and he died of complications from diabetes.

This cousin has been so wonderful about sharing our family history with me. He is handsome (I call him a “gentleman cowboy”, of sorts). He’s handsome and charming and one of the nicest people I know. He is also yet another person with cancer that I know and/or is related to me.

He and I have been emailing back and forth recently about some family history and he said nothing.


On Thursday, I got a call from some vehicle finance company asking for my mother. Figuring it was just one of those cold-callers for the new scam of selling useless finance and insurance for cars to people gullible enough to want something for nothing (which this is the opposite of… nothing for a lot) , I said “No thanks!” and hung up.

They called immediately back and said that, in fact, someone had put us down as a reference to finance their car loan. This “someone” is the same “someone” for whom we have (well, my mother, anyway) been getting calls from a bank (major Canadian financial institution) because they have skipped out on repaying a loan and the bank wants to know where they are.

As this “person” is the wife of my brother who is part of the reason why my mother is in the financial situation that she is in, and neither one has never taken ANY responsibility for their own part in their own life-situation; and since moving from their last address not bothered either to call my mother but once and not given us a forwarding address, I haven’t been able to give them information they don’t already know. Nor, I might point out, has either one of them bothered to ASK before putting my mother down as a reference.

AND, as my 85 year-old mother little needs being harassed by a bank that she may or may not have actually given her consent to be a reference for and certainly is not in the state of compis mentis to GIVE informed opinion on the relative financial and personal responsibility of my brother and/or his wife, I have, on behalf of my mother asked them to stop calling. They assure me they will…. and then we get another call. Next time I will tell them that they can talk to my lawyer….

So, I “cheerfully” said… “Noooo… That won’t happen…” when they woman at the other end of the line suggested my mother might give a reference.

I then emailed my sister to bitch about this.

In the midst of this email bitchfest, the phone rings.

It’s my brother.

I’m thinking. “Oh, this going to be good… He’s either calling to tell me they might be calling about a reference or he’s heard that I wouldn’t give one”.

“I need to give you a heads-up….”

“S is in the hospital…”. (“S” being his wife)

Apparently, she had her gallbladder removed almost two weeks ago and seemed to be on the mend when she started having abdominal pains, was vomiting blood, and otherwise obviously becoming less and less well. “They are running tests…” Don’t know what the problem is…” It’s serious…”

Great. Now, I feel guilty… My sister feels guilty (no love lost on either side of this triangle of siblings and sister-in-law). We just lost my lovely sister-in-law, Alice, two weeks ago to cancer. This is obviously a very serious situation.

Of course, I have no real reason to feel badly about scuttling the car loan. My brother and his wife may feel hard done by and may well write me off over this but my mother’s best interests are now my best interests. My brother doesn’t call, has not one shred of understanding that his mother has dementia and that stress from what he and my niece (my other sister’s daughter) put her through financially could well have contributed to her mental state and/or could well have killed her had I not been there to help “fix” things.

“S” gets crabby with my mother (on the rare occasion in the last two years we have seen them) for asking the same questions, is appalled by our living conditions which are messy but nothing to be “appalled ” over) but not appalled enough to ask if she can help me) and takes every opportunity to make snide comments clearly intended to point out her seeming superiority to everyone else in the family. Oddly enough, no one else in the family has lost their house because the wife has refused to make any payments towards the mortgage, or is constantly in a state of debt while taking jobs for three months and getting fired or quitting in a snit because “someone doesn’t like them”.

Somehow, the rest of us, as financially strapped as we are, manage to keep full-time jobs and don’t think that the world owes them a living.

Nor, have any of us “borrowed” money from an ageing parent even as someone is begging them  not to and that, unless they stop, that parent will be out on the street with nothing to show for a career and a home and dedication to a family… and whinged “But I’ll be out on the street” without a concern about the parent.

So, why should I feel guilty?

I don’t.  I fell badly that “S” is in hospital (we went to visit her, that evening) and hope that it all works out for her. But as far as being “felling guilty” goes. I have nothing to feel guilty about.

They are in their 40s. It is time to start acting like they are in their 40s.



I took Mom down to The Heart Institute and got her fitted with the  ambulatory blood pressure monitor this afternoon about 2:30. We went from there to the chiropractor’s and then I drove her home. I went out to Sears and bought 2 pairs of shoes for myself and then got some shopping done. I arrived home, just before 6, and went to put the groceries away and Mom started complaining about the blood pressure monitor as soon as I got in the door. “We need to take this back.”

I asked if it was uncomfortable or something and then walked into the living room to find that she had taken it off. I asked why she’d taken it off. “Because I’m done with it!”

“We have to take it back.”

I said “You aren’t supposed to take it off. It’s supposed to be left on!” We paid $100 for this test that isn’t covered by OHIP and I’m worried that we’ll have to pay another $100 to have it put on again. I am still trying to understand why she took it off. And then she says “Aren’t we supposed to take it back, today?”

I said that we are supposed to take it back Thursday that she’s supposed to wear it for two days!

“But I’ve been WEARING it for two days!”

I kept trying to tell her that she’s had it on for less than 4 hours, at this point. She’s looking at me like I’m crazy…

I told her what we did today and she’s convinced that that was 2 days ago…

I managed to get the thing put back on properly, though. Hopefully, it will STAY on for the next two days.

And every time the thing beeps before the cuff inflates, she’s asking “Is this going to go on all night?”. I explain that it only beeps for the first few hours and then before bedtime, it stops beeping and won’t beep at all before we take it off. It will take her blood pressure every half hour but it won’t beep…. It beeps again and she gets irritated and asks if it is going to go off all night long, again.

“It seems to be beeping every 2 minutes!”. It is 1/2 an hour by my count…..

Jesus and all the Saints preserve me….

Alice, pt. 2

Alice Ricketts


My lovely and beloved sister-in-law, Alice died at 6 am, today, with my brother John and her sister by her side.

Alice and Mom

Alice and Mom

True to her nature, up until the few days before she died, she was cheerful and full of loving energy. Everyone on her floor, patients and staff, were charmed by her.

My brother laughed over the fact that a couple of days ago, when the doctors and interns were making their rounds, Alice spotted the very reserved and proper young Japanese intern and waved him over “Come here, You!”, hauled him onto the bed and hugged him soundly.

The next day, he made sure to stay at the back of the crowd. That was just who she was. Loved everyone!

My niece recalled her leaving Ange’s face covered with red lipstick smudges from the kisses she gave her.

I remember her always, despite her pain and tiredness from Fibromyalgia, being ready with a smile and a hug and a kiss.

She tried to resist having her photo taken last November but I said “You decrepit old Nan wants a photo of you with her… ” so she acquiesced. I am glad she did. It is the only photo I have of her.

I am glad that she didn’t suffer the same way my dear friend Carol did at the end. I couldn’t bear it. Alice was comfortable and at ease when she went.

She will be missed.

The Big “C” strikes again….

I received a call, today, from my brother, telling me that Alice, my sister-in-law, wife of my brother in Halifax is in the palliative care unit.

She has lung cancer. They give her “a few weeks” – less if the cancer moves aggressively.

Alice and Mom

Alice and Mom last November

Alice is the sweetest woman you will ever meet. She has suffered from a number of medical problems, including asthma, environmental allergies, and Fibromyalgia. Despite her pain and chronic conditions which have limited her mobility, she has always been cheerful and warm to everyone she meets.

John and Mom

John and Mom

John and Alice met later in life, and they were “made for each other”. I have never seen two people so comfortable and caring towards each other.

John took a job up on Iqaluit and then to Chesterfield Inlet (I think it was) for a couple of years and the time they spent up there was freeing for Alice because she suffered less from her allergies.



They had to come back down to Halifax, though, but we saw Alice and John a number of times when Alice was in town for appointments with specialists. One memorable time was once when I took Mom in for an appointment for X-rays at a clinic up the road from us. I sat down in the lobby and the man sitting next to me looked familiar… It was John! Alice was having tests done at the same clinic.

We all went for lunch and had a lovely visit.

John isn’t a “blood brother” of mine but he’s the next best thing. John is my step-brother’s half-brother. In our family, that is still “family” and I love them both as much as (and in some ways more than!) some of the family closer to me.

I cannot imagine John’s feelings as he sits with his soul-mate, watching her die. For me, this is the second major loss this year to cancer, to lung cancer in fact. And it is… I am trying to count… the 5th person I know battling with cancer… No… sixth.



Yesterday, Mom had another “turn”…

I had to take my niece to get her glasses and made a short stop at work to drop off some stuff at work. While I was in the building, Mom apparently started feeling woozy and when I came out, she was just on the edge of passing out. I managed to get her feet up on the dash so the blood could get to her head.

However, as she was wearing her monitor, it SHOULD have picked up… finally… the one baffling,  recurring problem that arises. Of course, it didn’t. My niece didn’t know to push the button for a manual activation and when I came out, I was too preoccupied in making sure she didn’t pass out to press the button. It wasn’t until she was almost feeling back to normal that I remembered. I pressed the button, but not hard enough to activate it and when I realized it wasn’t recording, I did it again but by then we were already driving and I think the bumps in the road were messing up the reading.

It is so frustrating and tiring to have to be so discombobulated all the time… I am making headway in getting certain things organized and under control and I know that I will eventually be able to have things work smoothly but it is a learning process.

The last weeks have shown a fairly significant memory change in Mom. But also a sense of compliance on her part to my taking away her medications and insisting on helping her with her showering. This is good for me but something I would have had to fight with her over a few months ago.

At least, I have the advantage of being able to work at home and to be able to time-shift my day to accommodate the little hiccups in my days. It also means that I don’t have to leave her at home alone and to her own devices.

It does mean, though, that I will have to start looking for outside help… some community resources to help out, probably sooner rather than later.

I worry, though, because of my own propensity to depression and anxiety. I did manage to weather the August doldrums better than I have in the past but I can never really let my guard down. I also find my mind inevitably turning to “what happens when…” either when things get to the point when I can’t manage or when… she’s gone… I know it’s stupid to worry about these things until they happen but that’s me. I worry. That’s my job in life.

♫ Memories… ♫

Today has been (and it is only 1pm) a “bad day” for Mom’s memory.

I have been noticing in the last couple of weeks a significant change in her memory. Usually, after she has been sick, the memory is worse but it improves as the days go by. It never gets quite back where it was before she was sick but there is a marked improvement from where she would have been when she was sick.

This time, however, I have noticed some subtle changes which seem to be getting worse, not better.

Firstly, she forgot which pills she needed to take, when. Formerly, she was more or less on top of this, managing her pills more or less properly.

One day last week, she said “I can’t figure out which pills I am supposed to be taking, when.” That night when I went to pick up a prescription refill, I mentioned this to the druggist and she showed me this great pill organizer. The ones I have seen in the past are big blocks with smaller blocks with lids.


The old-style organizer

They are all the same colour and I would have a hard time figuring them all out.

Anabox Pill Planner

Anabox Pill Planner

This one, on the other hand, is a tray with different-coloured boxes, like pencil boxes. Each one is marked for the day of the week and has “Morning”, “noon”, “evening”, “night”, and “as needed”  for pills you might take once a week or for specific symptoms. You can slip the Monday one out when you have finished your pills for that day, slide it in at the back of the tray and that pushes Tuesday’s pill box forward. You can also take your Saturday and Sunday boxes with you if you were going to the cottage for the weekend and didn’t want to haul the whole thing with you… Very handy.

It was more expensive than the other one but I figured it was worth the money. I just worried how Mom would take to it… She is very proud and just doesn’t want to admit when she isn’t “on top of everything”. However, I brought it home and later that evening when she mentioned that she was confused again about her pills, I brought it out. She was quite pleased with it and was willing to give it a go, which surprised me.

For a couple of days, things went smoothly. Then on Wednesday night, after she had just taken her night time pills and headed up to bed, I walked in to say goodnight to her and found her going through her pills. I asked what she was doing and she said she was trying to figure out which ones she needed to take before bed.

I reminded her that she had already had her bedtime pills and she swore up and down she hadn’t. Finally, she realized that she had. I decided that I was going to have to take her pills and put them in a safe place in my room if she did that again. This morning, I walked in and found that she was going through her pills again and had already taken one… She couldn’t recall which one… Finally, she settled on the one she THOUGHT she took and I removed that pill from today’s tray. I also took her pills into my room.

Another thing had cropped up last night, too. Last evening, I found she had taken some sandwich meat out of the fridge earlier in the day and left it under the coffee table. I took it and said that I was going to throw it away and she said it had “only been out a short time” (to my mind 6 hours is not a “short time”). I pointed out that quite probably, it was eating something that had been out of the fridge for a “short time” that had made her sick.

Her response was “Food being “off” couldn’t make my hip hurt!”.

I said “Mom, you’ve been sick for the last three weeks!”

“No, I haven’t!”

I reminded her that she had been sick all day three weeks ago on Tuesday and hadn’t been feeling well for the last three weeks and she said “No, I wasn’t. I haven’t been sick to my stomach in months!”

I reminded her about her hospital visit, the being sick and the fact that I actually had to take my holidays to be with her because she was sick. At that point, she seemed to recall and admitted that she had been sick. I said that it could have been from eating spoiled food…

Of course, she always brings up that when she was a girl, they used to keep things in the pantry for weeks without ill-effects. This was, of course, in Scotland back in the days when they didn’t have central heating and the temperature wasn’t nearly what it is her during the summer. AND, their pantry had thick stone walls which kept it cool even in summer… AND, as I pointed out… just because you ate food stored that way in the past didn’t mean that you SHOULD eat food food stored that way, now. (Of course, too, food arrived at your house fresher than it does today…)

She is also coping with the fact that until next Friday, she has to wear an event monitor which monitors any anomalies in her heart rate, pulse… whatever. If she feels something she is supposed to press a button and it will monitor things she might not feel. So far, it has done all the monitoring. If she has felt anything she hasn’t ever pressed the button and when I as, she says she hasn’t noticed any symptoms. Some days there are only a couple of “events” and some days, like yesterday, I downloaded probably 20… To download, I have to unplug the monitor and call a 1-800 number and press a button on the monitor and “download” the information over the phone. Basically, what “downloads” is an audio recording of her heart rhythms and this is loud enough for me to hear. It is speeded up but you can make out the heart-beats and I can hear a difference between the rhythms.

Either she has heart rhythms that are faster than normal or slower than normal. I can also hear what sound like skipped beats. It will be interesting to hear what the results of this are. Perhaps they will be thinking in terms of a pace-maker. Whether, at her age and with her health, they would give her one is another matter. If it would give her an improved quality of life, it would be worth the risk. Whether she would go for it is another matter.

The one good thing today was that there was a bit of a spring in her step today that has been missing in the last few weeks. I took her out to the Experimental Farm and sat her on a bench in the sun while I went and took photos and she really enjoyed it. She still walks like a drunken sailor… just a little springier drunken sailor, today…

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