Sunday, August 30, 2009


'Just had one of those quirky "signs and wonders" experiences that will likely increase in the coming weeks. Years ago, Bruce became a fan of the music of my long-time folk- and shape-note-singing friends, the nationally known Vermont singer/songwriters MaryAlice & Peter Amidon. So for the past hour, I've been playing some of his favorites from "I'll Never Forget" on itunes here at Vermont Respite House hospice in Williston. I was about to give you all the link to their site, and in doing so, I see they've just published a book and in 2006 a CD called "Angels Hovering Round: Songs for Hospice and Healing." Just the thing for here and now. Perhaps some of their and their sons' music will speak to you too.

Josh Springer and I visited earlier today (a slightly livelier time of day), but I came back to see whether I could help Bruce have an 8 p.m. snack of chicken noodle soup, fruit, jello and juice. Progress. The great night nurse, Dan and I wrangled a pill into submission. I suppose that's more info. than y'all want to know -- fact is, the medical team is getting a little more creative with medications, switching as many as possible to liquid and tomorrow will talk about making some med. changes to keep Bruce comfortable.

We were all glad to see a cardinal with full plumage at the feeder today along with chickadees and ugly sparrows. The arrival of a squirrel to the feeder, certainly got a rise out of Bruce, as we discussed the possibilty of, er, shooting him from this side of the window. We were kidding! But, oh, oh, right after that, wafting our way was the strong smell of skunk!

Today Bruce heard emails and phone messages from Russy Rankin, Joan Korb, Kelly "Fox" Baran, Elizabeth Lee, Amanda Pullman and Mary Jansen. Appreciation.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Check out the photos sent yesterday from John Anderson of Arizona. I've attached them to the blog post of 9 August titled, Bruce Parfitt's Research is Still Informing Taxononomy
This week we also read and listened to messages from: Linda Reeves, Chuck Wade the Senior, Jean Denver, John Bellows, Denise Lange, Deb, Amanda Pullman, Art Gilman and Helen Jeude.
Thanks all.

Bruce had a good day today. He was hungry. And I read the August selection from Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac," which nicely paralleled Bruce's love of the "painting" done by the Lamoille River at his Mooseberry Camp. ~CDorschner

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Hedges of goldenrod line the roadsides and skirt the woods -- they're huge this year. A convention of starlings rose in the cool blue sky, then settled on a long wire leading to this Respite House. The air turned chilly last night. It felt like the first day of autumn here in northern Vermont.

Bruce's windows are open most of the day bringing in the scent of some tall mint. Its white flowers reach right up to the two feeders. We can't believe our eyes when a bald male cardinal arrives at dusk (too embarrassed to feed in broad daylight). I say he's a cross between cardinal and vulture. I've parked Bruce's red Honda CRV within sight of this window. A rabbit sat at the edge of the garden below his window while I filled one of the feeders with fresh thistle seed.

Today we have the 1970 edition of "The Notebook" from Oshkosh High School. When Bruce wakes up I promise to tease him about how geeky he looks in his senior photo. Yesterday I found a little polaroid of him -- maybe pre-teen. His black plastic glasses and a plaid shirt are a little too much against the faux mortared stone wall!

Things have been quiet the past two days. More sleeping. Less eating. More oxy-drugs. When Josh and I were here last night, though, he polished off a decent supper of homemade quiche, fruit salad, jello -- there's always room or that -- and drinks. Folks here are such good care givers -- they even brought him a blanket patterned with log cabins, spruce, moose and cardinals (only these appear to have a crest and full feathers!) ~CDorschner

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


...of garden flowers (This week it's 'Limelight' hydrangea and pendulous fuchsia).

What a difference a day makes! Actually, the difference is Bruce's long awaited move, this morning from the hospital to the extraordinary atmosphere and caring kindness of Vermont Respite House in Williston, Vermont. (And it doesn't hurt a bit that Bruce set eyes on Josh Springer for the first time since spring.)

Before his arrival early this morning, I decorated his home-away-from-Mooseberry-Camp with fresh flowers, his favorite Eliot Porter poster, family photos, a crayon drawing Bruce did in 1963, an Algonquin Park moose crossing sign, the famous "Danger Bruce's Room" placard and photos of Leopold's Cabin, Horicon Marsh and Leopold's woods. Josh brought two original Parfitt paintings.

'Looks like home.


The Spruce man perked up at the action outside his window -- a bald cardinal(!), American goldfinches and various sparrows. There was a tussle and Josh scared a Cooper's hawk from under the feeder. ('Evidently looking for a snack!).

There was plenty of snacking on the room-side of the window too. Bruce tested the home cooking -- quiche, deviled egg, fruit salad for lunch -- somehow that beat out the Ensure. We talked, told stories on each other and laughed.

When Steve Mease stopped in to see Bruce in his new digs at about 6 p.m. He was sound asleep. We had wore him out, surely.

Bruce received a card and letter from Lisette Boss of California.

Tomorrow, he'll see this photo sent by Glen Susmilch of Vail, Colorado. I know, I know, all of you who did not know Bruce in 1974, when this photo was taken on New Year's Eve -- I hear you whistling (whit wheeoo!) Same mustache? He was a "looker." And check out the PLAID sport jacket. This was a dress-up event at 210 Jackson in Oshkosh b'gosh. Thanks Glen! ~CDorschner

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Changing plans

During my travels across the country the past few weeks I've had some time to think.

Bruce and I planned my upcoming trip to Mooseberry camp in Johnson around late May with the hopes of going canoeing, working on some of the many (zillions) of small projects that I always helped him with or, (our ambitions always ran high), even trying to get him out to the Atlantic coast again to have lobster (which we had been happily able to do over Christmas break, 2008 while we birded the New Hampshire and Massachusetts coasts).

Unfortunately we may not be able to do many of those things on this visit. However, I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing "The Bruce" again Monday the 24 or Tuesday the 25th. Hopefully we can get into one of our lively discussions on any number of topics and have a few good laughs and share stories of my travels to Glacier National Park and my research with "my brother from another mother" as I sometimes used to joke with him.

I still plan on checking a few things off the lists that he always had for me whenever I visited. He always had things that he wanted me to do that he was unable to do and we always sat down at dinner each night crossing the days accomplishments off. Hopefully I'll install the vanity in his basement bathroom that he purchased in March when I visited on my spring break. I will also see his neighbor, Maggie Miller whom I've known since I first visited Mooseberry camp in 2004 with Erin Harris.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hospital Days

The heat continued in the nineties the past week and weekend and as we prepared for Mandy to fly back to Michigan, we thought hard about how Bruce would get the best care he could get and try to get comfortable. He had signed on for the Vermont Respite House in my home town.

For the past near month, he was visited regularly by the team of Olin & Steiner mentioned earlier. He hauled off to physical therapy three times a week. He was quite strongly refusing Lamoille County Home Hospice Care which was the transition group before he was ready to move into the Respite House. Pain drugs were on the increase along with a fair-size suite of other meds.

But by Tuesday, Bruce wasn't eating and drinking; sleeping much more. 'Long arduous story short: that night Mandy and I kept in close touch until, during and after she called the EMTs take him to the hospital -- we feared he was dehydrated and not keeping up on his meds. It turned out he also had quite a fever -- hard to diagnose in the 90-degree heat.

A good decision.

His hometown hospital transferred him in the night to the major hospital near my hometown. I insisted that Mandy spend her last night in Vermont at my house. The tables had turned. We were able to take good care of Mandy as she had done for 15 days for Bruce. She enjoyed a full night's sleep, breakfast, time to pack, the company of Romany and the return of Asa from Minnesota's Boundary Waters. Mandy and Romany flew in separate directions the same day. Mandy said good-bye to Bruce at the hospital.

Spouse Steve and I returned to the hospital later that day to be with Bruce in this new setting. He's more comfortable. His days are easier. I'm keeping the nurses on their toes while he is the more charming of the two of us. Mandy, if you're reading this -- a nurse today said, "he's always so pleasant!"

Today Bruce's medical team segued from the care listed in his advance directive to less invasive procedures and an understanding that they will not intervene. This prepares him for hospice where we hope to arrive early next week. He missed his Saturday admission there due to the hospital stay. His good nurse, Kris, who got to know him from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. today, said she feels confident he'll have a stable weekend and she looks forward to seeing him again Saturday.

Bruce put together a lap-sized puzzle today with great aplomb. We noodled around crocheting some long string. We looked at drawings he did in 2001. He likes the bright white bouquet of garden flowers: hydrangea, loosestrife, Queen Anne's lace ad hosta leaves. He jokes with the nurses. He laughed when I brought in a sign that Steve originally hung in Williston. It reads, "Danger: Bruce's Room."

I'm writing this from the hospital. Time to go home. The post time below isn't accurate. It's nearly 11 p.m. ~CDorschner

p.s. My car is still in East Johnson. It was the transmission that blew (the same day as my phone completely conked out). When I go into restaurants the silverware in front of me sticks together magnetized. Romany's watch stopped when she sat across from me at lunch, my office computer windows go "Wa wa" in and out when I touch the mouse, I got in the elevator at work; the door closed and it sat there (I quickly got out!) You get the picture.....

Girls' Night Out

I see we have some new readers! I'm glad. Welcome. I hope I haven't disappointed by not posting in the past five days. So here's a little catch-up.

Last Sunday, 16 August, we hatched a plan to go to the season finale (and 70th performance of the season) of the extraordinary Circus Smirkus, kid-performed show in Greensboro, Vermont.

And since it was at the end of a dirt road in the boonies near Bruce's home town of Johnson, we intended to stop by and then take Mandy with us for a dearly needed break from the grueling task of nonstop caregiving.

With us was family friend Romany Redman of Spokane, Washington, a Middlebury College student just three days away from flying to Finland and then taking the train to Siberia for a year-long study abroad -- way abroad. Steve Mease agreed to tend to Bruce and mow the acreage! So with me, CD, it was just the three of us.

I'll add here that, for a preamble, Amanda and I and Bruce spent two and a half hours prior with Bruce's lawyer who made a house call. Did I mention the sweltering heat?

Then the ladies went to the circus. We laughed. We cried. We applauded. We each ate a hot dog. Gasp! Did I mention the sweltering heat in the tent?

I know many families who have sent their kids to this astounding circus camp. And for perhaps a half dozen of these acrobat/juggler/clowns it was their very last performance. Pictured above is Marc and Sarah Tischler whose son Jacob was taking his final bow. Their car was packed to take Jacob to Carnegie Mellon University. Funny man Ben Bond would be off to MIT the following week. And a flamboyant young performer told me he was going to circus college in Montreal. Awwwwww. So sweet.

It was a night to remember always. ~CDorschner

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Parfitt Patchwork

Amanda mentioned the quilt (and two pillow shams) that arrived. Breathtaking. Beautiful wool, much of it from the famous Johnson Woolen Mill in town (makers of classic buffalo plaids and other traditional wools).

I first learned about it when Bruce's mom, Joan Parfitt of Oshkosh, Wisconsin called for his street address to ship it. I also talked to Joan's friend and fellow quilter, Cindy Thompson, who promises to share this blog with computerless Joan. Many of you know that Joan would be here helping take care of Bruce, if she weren't undergoing chemotherapy herself. She has already won many battles with cancer.

I grabbed a photo of Bruce and the new quilt in his living room. What a beauty. The quilt, I mean! ~CDorschner

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mandy and Bruce

Hello Everyone!

So I've been here helping out Bruce and becoming introduced to Vermont now for the past week and a half, and it has been quite the experience. Bruce has done his best to show me as much as he can, while maximizing his energy. We've gone moose hunting (not with a gun of course,) driven up to Smuggler's Notch, went up Mt. Mansfield, and visited the town of Stowe. We stopped off in the town of Jericho and went to Elmore State Park. In the mornings I've also been hiking along parts of the Long Trail, which actually I think is the most beautiful (from Johnson, going north.) The Long Trail actually extends through the entirety of Vermont, and I've fallen in love with it. I can absolutely see why wonderful people come to Vermont to live, as it
has completely won me over as well.

As for Bruce, he's handling everything with his characteristic tenacity. He continues to go to PT three times a week, and just got set up with a new doctor, Julie Olin, and her sidekick Nurse Practitioner Liesl Steiner. These two are "a gift," as Maggie Miller has put it. And they are. They're doing a great job of working with Bruce to figure his difficult way through these woods that none of us have had to navigate.

On a side note, yesterday a surprise arrived for Bruce: a beautiful quilt that that Bruce's mother, Joan, had been working on for 5 YEARS! She and several other women spent countless hours on this thing. Amazing!

Which brings us to today, when Cheryl Dorschner's car died in the middle of downtown Johnson on her way to visit. The tow company wanted to charge her $200 to come from Williston to retrieve her vehicle. Could life get any easier? But she made it here! Thank goodness! We missed her! So after an evening of a lots of laughs, Cheryl was rescued by her wonderful husband Steve. I guess we'll be seeing her again soon, since her car is trapped in Johnson (harharhar.)

That's all for now I guess. Hope everyone is having a good night!

~Mandy Sheehy

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bruce Parfitt's Research is Still Informing Taxonomy

John Ander-son, state botan-ist for the Bureau of Land Manage-ment headquartered in Phoenix Arizona, reported in June that it was discovered that a potentilla collected by Bruce is a new species -- Potentilla demotica. Formerly thought to be P. subviscos.

Bruce collected the specimen in 1979 in the northern Hualapai Mountains of Arizona when he worked as a field biologist for the Bureau

of Land Management -- helicoptered in to remote areas, hiking the rough terrain to collect, identify and preserve rare species.

That work still provides the foundation for research and identification today. The new species name was published by Barbara Ertter in the Journal of Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

In late July, col-league John Daniels took these photos of Potentilla demotica (above) and its setting -- the Hualapai Mountians where Bruce and Mary Butterwick collected the speciman. It appears from the terrain that Bruce was quite a hiker!

Bruce Checks In

'Talked to Bruce and Amanda today. After a busy day trying to drive up Mount Mansfield and visit the amazing Cady's Falls Nursery, but getting slowed by Stowe, Vermont tourist traffic, the duo went home to rest.

When at the end of the day, Bruce's back pain kicked in stronger than usual, they called his oncological nurse and he tried some extra meds. Bruce decided to visit the hospital in Morrisville. Amanda drove and checked him in. They regulated his pain via IV, stabilized his condition and sent him home to rest.

He slept nearly 12 hours and is doing fine this morning, having a leisurely lunch and discussing paint colors for his kitchen, front hall and guest room. A visit to Ace Hardware store's paint department may highlight this cloudy Sunday.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Blitz Kåfer Flies In

Amanda "Blitz Käefer" Sheehy flew to Burlington, Vermont on Tuesday, 4 August -- at night, of course.

During her first day in Vermont, she got acquainted with the lay of the land in Williston, running three miles, eating raspberries off the brambles, gathering eggs, herbs and
Swiss Chard for lunch and later figuring out how to ignore the hand controls and the co-pilot in order to drive Bruce's red Honda.

The duo headed for Johnson late on Wednesday, returned to Burlington for a medical appointment and lakeside lunch (Lake Champlain, that is,) on Thursday and are back in Johnson, scouting moose and threatening to visit Lake Elmore on Friday.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The incredible,indomitable, adept paddler (just back from the inner regions of Algonquin Park, Ontario and next week off to the famed wild Boundary Waters of Minnesota) -- Asa Mease -- was Bruce Parfitt's personal guide and canoe guru, so the Brooce could once again ride his gorgeous green Merrimac in Vermont waters.
(Asa took Bruce and his mom, Joan Parfitt, on a short trip last year.)

Asa was at the stern of Bruce's canoe on Lake Iroquois, for a few hours(!) the afternoon of Tuesday, 4 August.

While the destination is barely 2 1/2 miles from the Dorschner's red brick farmhouse. The duo and their driver spent about two hours scouting other ponds. Nix the Google map. It led them astray but onto many back roads in the towns of Essex and Colchester. And ultimately, they found one other accessible pond and one inaccessible.

Iroquois allows motor boats and water skiers, but they were no match for the mighty Mease. Neither was a firm head wind. The 15-year-old boatsman steered the craft into many coves, around islands and along shores for wildlife viewing.
All bird photos here were taken by Bruce.
Seen: four great blue heron, two painted turtles, kingfisher, downy woodpecker, two ovenbirds, one dead catfish and tons of milfoil and underwater schmutz.

A long day for the Brooce. He slept that night. ~C. Dorschner


From 28 July through 5 August, Bruce "vacationed" in Williston, Vermont where the Dorschner Mease family tried to "fatten him up" and keep an eye on his four-hour med. routine. Thanks to all the phone callers -- Glen Susmilch, Russy Rankin, Joan Parfitt, Josh Springer, Amanda Sheehy and others! Also it was fun that neighbor Marianne Riordan strolled over to catch up on news since Bruce attended a party at their place a way back, not just one party, either.

Friday, 31 August was a series of three appointments in Morrisville, VT (or by phone), alas, with a nurse who called herself "Dr. Cheri" (No Joke! I do not mean me either!) screwing up royally, one stop created four stops including backtracking -- it all made for a grueling day.

However, one highlight was a stop at an original, family-owned "drive-in snack shop" that had EVERYTHING on the menu from poutine to fried zucchini, from bison burgers to maple creemees (out-of-staters -- that's soft-serve ice cream). Bruce ordered fried clams, sweet potato fries and a chocolate malt. Not bad for starters, eh?

The other treat was seeing Bruce's neighbor down the road (literally) Bob "Bovine" Boivin, a native Johnsonite and retired plumber, who happened to be standing outside his front door. Bruce and Bob chatted it up for 20 minutes maybe more. 'Definitely should've taken a photo, as Bob has an impressive beard. BTW, Bob knew all about the ambulance arriving at Bruce's the eve of 23 July -- 'heard it on the scanner! 'Probably everybody did! Gasp. ~C. Dorschner
Treacherous falls and whirlpools just downstream from Bruce's "camp" on the Lamoille.


Arden Par-fitt, of some-where in Wis-con-sin, Sun Prairie perhaps, made plans months ago to visit his brother. Waiting and negotiating as he did, he got a completely different visit than he expected.

Arden arrived in Burlington, Vermont, Saturday, 25 July, to visit his elder brother in the hospital, the result of a seizure on Thursday, 23 July.

Happily, Bruce was released from the hospital that day into a sunny afternoon that included trips to Burlington's finest: The Skinny Pancake, Lake Champlain waterfront, Kinney Drugs on Susie Wilson Road and home to Johnson.

Arden left five days later.

No Starting at the Beginning

As a writer, it's tempting to write a "beginning" to this story. Luckily for me, you can't pre-date blogs -- that is -- write "earlier chapters" and insert them where they "belong."

So I need to start where we are now.

In July.

However, I do hope that Steve Mease, official event photographer, will create a collage of Bruce images from the year previous to this July. He has some great shots of Bruce's 2008-2009 Easter, Christmas, possibly birthday and possibly events such as his attending Fourth of July celebration, graduations and his famous phamous photos of Garrison Keillor taken at the concert he attended last summer.

Enough of the year gone by -- although you're all welcome to send photos and such.
~C. Dorschner