Thomas R. Aylward: A Reflection One Year Later

This Thursday is the first anniversary of my father’s death. He died on March 26, 2015; he had malignant brain cancer.

In the year after his death, doing anything I liked to do–and liked blogging about–seemed like an alien concept or even a luxury; I was busy helping my mother run the family bakery in Sonoita (Monika’s Home Bakery), help her sell her house and sell the bakery, help her move to Tucson and buy a house, and finally, help her through a December 2014 motor vehicle accident in which she broke her ankle and 5 ribs, a tough trauma to overcome at age 73.

My dad had a seizure several months before he died, which is how he was diagnosed. The first MRI was just a dot in his brain; the second, just 4 weeks later, looked like a hazy donut-shaped cloud with fuzzy clusters.  He had surgery and then a day later had a seizure from which he never regained consciousness. My mom and 4 of my 5 siblings were at the hospice the day he died, but my dad managed to slip away in the one rare moment when no one was paying attention, while my brother John had this Joao Gilberto song playing on his laptop. My dad as many of you know loved to play guitar and played a few Bossa Nova tunes.

Here’s a photo of him with me and my mom at the bakery just a few weeks before he died; I think we all look exhausted, which would be accurate:

thomas aylward blog photo

When thinking about his symptoms I’m reminded of Rainer Ptacek, my favorite musician in Tucson when I was 17 but musically precocious enough to appreciate his music and old-enough appearing to get into bars; his sound was quite sophisticated and magical sleepy Tucson in the early 80s. He had seizures and brain cancer too, but he was much younger when he died. You can listen here for a sense of his music, an inspiring sound during difficult times. I guess I have a new and unfortunate knowledge of brain cancer now. I have lots of old Rainer flyers for his shows back in the day and I know they could be used to make a really cool art quilt somehow.

My mom and I are headed out to Organ Pipe National Monument to camp out and have some peaceful time in the desert to reflect on the year gone by. My mom can walk again, and drive. It’s been a long year. It’s going to be good to get back into art-making. Photos of our trip to be posted. I look forward to sharing them with you all.


Recently, I posted about moving cases of home canning into my parent’s new bakery. Here are all the jars of jam, pickles, chutneys and sauces:

Yes, that is a shortwave radio. And don’t be fooled by some of the empty shelves, because on the full shelves the jars are stacked high and deep. Here’s my mom, hard at work; the dining room is taking shape and soon the bakery will be open soon:

Today my brother and I spent some time attaching price tags to all the jam. There are lots of jars, hence lots of hand-written price tags:

Here’s my brother Eric with my mom in the kitchen:

The new cappuccino machine arrived last Friday; my dad whipped up a couple really nice lattes for me while I was pricing:

And the patio is looking fantastic; doesn’t this look like a lovely place to have lunch? If you look through the gate to the faux, decorative hand-powered water pump in the background…..that’s the small residential house behind the bakery.

I’m looking forward to my first cheese danish, that’s for sure.

Moving Jam

Yesterday I borrowed a large Chevy pick up from an obliging work colleague and went to Sonoita to help my parents move 30 cases of jam:

Each case was about 50#;there were about 50 jars in each. My deltoids still hurt.  All the preserves are from the Grasslands Bakery, which closed last year when my folks sold the commercial building; bu tthey sold the building, not all the jam inside of it. Once the bakery was closed we moved all the jam to the extra bedroom at my parent’s home….where it’s been waiting, apparently, for a chance to sit on a store shelf again. Which is about to happen, because while the Grasslands may be forever closed, the very new Monika’s Home Bakery is about to open:

Above is the view of the small dining area in the new bakery; here, I’m looking down the hall from the kitchen door. Below, the view along the other side of the hall, where all the shelves are built and ready for a ton and a half of home canning:

Here are my folks in the kitchen:

And this is another view of the kitchen and the mixer and oven:

What’s very cool about my parents’ new bakery is the small residential home built on the rear part of the property, behind the actual bakery:

Right now, the plan is for the house to be used as a self-catering B&B or holiday rental; how convenient that a B&B should be located behind a….bakery! This is what the inside looks like:

What’s really lovely is the view from the back patio, which faces north; cool in summer, but guaranteed frosty in the winter; at that time of year–and at 5000 feet–the high desert has a real chill in the air: