Christmas Letter 2021



2507 Briargrove Dr.
Austin, TX 78704
December, 2021

www.patandmeloakes.com

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been another very strange and distressing year, but we are filled with hope as Advent begins. We hope this finds you in good health and in good spirits. We both had milestone birthdays this year—Mel, 85, and Pat, 80. Our amazing 3 daughters surprised us with a wonderful video that they compiled with messages from many family members and friends.

          We both know we are getting older, but we are still able to enjoy activities that have been a part of our lives for many years. Mel is still in charge of organizing his tennis group and plays doubles twice a week and he and Pat walk 3 mornings a week for 30-35 minutes, usually meeting up with longtime neighborhood friends. Mel stays very busy with his various Web sites. He has done some on-line tutoring with some younger family members. Pat continues to work very hard on her Parkinson’s exercise regimen—1- 1/1/2 hours a day. She and her sisters, Nancy and Sandra—sometimes joined by brother Robert--talk almost every night for 25 minutes while Pat rides the exercise bike.

Zoom has been an important link in our lives as it was last year. With Mel hosting, we do our church book clubs via Zoom, chat with Pat’s cousins every other week, visit with our supper club group every other week, and catch up with St. Andrew’s retirees each month, etc. We listen every other Saturday to Pat’s brother Robert’s wonderful, knowledgeable presentations on MITA (Music In the Air getmita.com). Our church has been meeting on Zoom or YouTube until the first Sunday in Advent this year when we finally were able to open with a simultaneous service at the church and also on-line.Pat has been a docent for the LBJ Library for more than 20 years. This past 20 months the library has been closed, but there have been a variety of programs available on Zoom so that the docents are earning volunteer hours while we are learning. Pat is still hopeful that she will be able to go back to work with her long-time Thursday afternoon shift.

We managed to survive the great Texas Snowpocalypse in February. Photo below by good neighbor, Dave Mead. We had no power for 45 hours—it was 41 degrees in our house—below freezing outside. My African violet in the house died and we lost some plants outside. Our fireplace saved us as did Mel’s making many trips outside to get firewood that we fortunately had on hand. Our wonderful neighbors kept an eye on us.

We were very glad this year to take several trips. We were so relieved that we were able to get our vaccinations and boosters so that we felt comfortable traveling. Our first adventure was going to Iowa City for grandson Ethan Buck’s graduation from high school in early June. It was a very emotional, happy, and sometimes tearful gathering. It was quite disorienting at first to be around so many people. It had been so long since we had seen each other. Eugene’s sister, Liz, and Emily and Ethan’s cousins, Matt and Sara, were also there—such fun! Emily (21 this month) is delighted to be back at Smith as a sophomore (an English major) after the unexpected gap year due to Covid, and Ethan (19 in Feb.) is a freshman at Stanford (no major yet—is exploring options).

Shortly after we got home from Iowa, Pat’s sister Nancy arrived to help celebrate my Aunt Doris’s 100th birthday. Unfortunately, Aunt Doris (our mom’s last sibling) had fallen on the 29th of May—no broken bones, some cuts and bruises and a bump on her head--she was still with it, but she stopped eating. We were not sure she would make it to her 100th, but she did—plus 2 more days. She was so determined to make that June 17th milestone. Mardie and her son Durham arrived on the 16th, the day before her birthday. The whole staff at her nursing home was coming by all the time to encourage her. She could no longer speak, but she could respond and was still comprehending.   Nancy left to go back to Cortland the day after her birthday. Aunt Doris died on the 19th of June—she donated her body to the UT Medical School in San Antonio. We hope that her ashes will be returned to us by next summer so that we can take them to Massachusetts where they will be interred in the family plot in Fern Hill Cemetery in Hanson, MA

The next day Mel and I left with Mardie and Durham to drive to Big Bend National Park for 5 nights and 6 days. We had never been and now regret that we didn’t go sooner. We were astounded by the other-worldly scenery. We stayed in Terlingua and in Marfa and had a brief trip to the McDonald Observatory.

We were home just a few days, Sarah came, and we 3 headed off to Steamboat Springs, CO, thanks to Kate and Mike, generous tennis friends of Mel’s who offered us the opportunity to stay in their condo for 8 days. We were delighted that Joe could join us for 4 of those days. We really enjoyed exploring the area.

Beth and Emily came for a week-long visit in August which was another great treat. They visited friends, we saw the van Gogh light show, and the 4 of us enjoyed barbecue at The Salt Lick.

The last trip of the year was two weeks in San Francisco in October due, again, to the generosity of dear friends, John and Susan Richmond, who let us stay in their home while they were traveling. Their home is a long block from Golden Gate Park and we were both so delighted to take walks there almost every day—and delighted that Pat was able to do that—holding Mel’s hand and using her cane in the other hand. Mardie, Durham, Mel and Pat had a wonderful (but too short) visit with Ethan at Stanford in nearby Palo Alto one Saturday morning. In addition to seeing Mardie and Durham almost every day, brother Robert came from LA for 48 hours and cousin Teresa and her husband Charles (from Petaluma) came for lunch one day.

Beth and Eugene are empty nesters these days. We have supper with them via FaceTime each Sunday evening (but missing Emily and Ethan). We were delighted that Beth won the UI President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence. Sarah and Joe are still in Arlington, VA. Sarah is grateful that teaching this year, so far, has not been as stressful. We are looking forward to seeing them here from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve. Mardie decided to resign her position as CEO of Hello Housing and is currently considering her next step while she is also enjoying more time with her 9-year-old son, Durham.

There is so much uncertainty in our world right now. We pray for our planet, our country, and for our leaders. We wish you a merry Christmas, a joyful holiday season, and a healthy, vaccinated, and happy new year.

 

2021 Gallery

6/4/21  Finally we are together--Beth, Sarah, Pat, Mardie, and Mel--Iowa City for Ethan's graduation
6/6/21  Eugene, Beth, Emily, Ethan, Sarah, Mardie, and Joe with Mel and Pst in Iowa City for Ethan’s high school graduation<
6/4/21  Ethan and Emily in Iowa City
 Durham Deifell, First Day of School
6/25/21  Mardie, Mel, Pat, and Durham enjoying Mexican food at Hilda’s Tortillas in Fredericksburg on our way home from Marfa
6/21/21  Big Bend--Amazing longhorn by the side of the road near Terlingua
7/19/21  Pat and Mel with Sarah at the Yampa Rivers Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs
10/7/21  Pat and Mel walking in Golden Gate Park around Stow Lake