Uncle Pat & Aunt Bobbie
This weekend my family traveled to lower NY to pay our respects to my Uncle Patrick. Pat was married to my dad’s sister Bobbie (also my godmother) for over 50 years. When I was being treated for scleroderma as a youngster, my dad and I stayed with them once a month because my pediatric rheumatologist was located in nearby White Plains. When we visited, they always prepared spaghetti and meatballs with salad and Italian bread for dinner. During that time, they had three big dogs whom I loved: Thumper, Rocky, and Willy. Pat battled Parkinson’s late in life, and at the start of the pandemic succumbed to the disease. In addition to Bobbie, he leaves behind two daughters and and a son, five grandchildren, his brothers Paul and James, two brothers-in-law, five nieces and nephews, five grand-nieces and nephews, and many others. He was a NYC cop and firefighter, and early in life served as part of the US Naval Reserves.
On Saturday morning, we attended a funeral service in his honor. We then had a family lunch at Four Brothers in Mahopac, and paid our respects at his gravesite in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne. Many fond memories were shared of Pat, from childhood antics with his siblings, to driving his Corvette with Bobbie before they were married, to taking the grandkids on fishing trips and car rides with his ever present cigar, and taking his father-in-law, brother-in-law, and others out on various walks into the woods up in Shushan, NY (occasionally ending in him leaving them to bravely find their own way back to the family home).
Many of us hadn't seen each other in decades, so we took a group photo together before departing.
The night before Pat's service, my parents and I stayed at The Abbey Inn in Peekskill. This site has historical significance in the Dunscombe family. My great grand-aunt Margaret was a nun (Sister Mary Michael) and spent much of her life at the St. Mary’s Convent, which is set at the top of a Fort Hill overlooking the Hudson River and Bear Mountain. My dad traveled to the convent to meet her as a little boy in the 1950s. The community has since relocated, and the former site of the convent has been acquired and converted to a hotel. It was very meaningful to stay there and walk the same halls as one of my ancestors.
From my dad:
When I was very young, perhaps three or four, our family drove up to the Peekskill, New York area to visit my Grandaunt Margaret. Margaret was the sister of my Dad’s father Cecil, and was an Episcopal nun at St. Mary’s Convent whose religious name was Sister Mary Michael. At this time Margaret would have been about seventy-two years old. I remember being somewhat frightened of her because she wore the full black and white habit including head gear that looked like it had wings. I still have a nice little note she wrote to me some years later recalling the visit which included a picnic. Margaret died in 1973 at age eighty-seven after a remarkable life that included time as a missionary in the Philippines and some time as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. She also wrote and illustrated an unpublished novel based in the Philippines which I have the manuscript for.
The "Cornerstone Room" (former sanctuary)
Dusk on the grounds
The Highlands Ballroom (former convent chapel) and inn details
My grandfathers – both of whom grew up during the Great Depression – never paid for services they could do themselves for free (for better or worse). That continues to be a big theme in the Misura/Dunscombe family. I didn't have a professional cut my hair until fifth grade and have almost exclusively cut my own hair since high school (not recommended for people who prefer precision, but it does the job). For that matter, I've also never had my hair, makeup, nails, etc done professionally and our wedding will be no exception. Again, these are all things I can do myself ahead of time for free.
Since you can't exactly photograph your own wedding day though, we would like to hire a photographer for that. I am aware that (1) a good photographer can cost thousands of dollars and (2) I am leaving a good paying job to go back to school for the next two years, so wherever we can cut costs elsewhere counts! I've also never been in a photoshoot before but I do know how to use a camera and have photographed a number of weddings [for free]. So when thinking about any photography needed in the time leading up to us getting married, taking photos myself was an immediate "marriage" of two motivations: 'save money' and 'low-stakes practice'.
We installed my camera on a tripod, used bluetooth to make my phone a remote shutter release, and set up a timer. We took them at Round Top in my hometown, a public park that overlooks the valley and the Susquehanna River. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at Round Top hiking trails, having picnics with my family, and training during the cross country season – five years ago, Chris and I even had a pasta dinner there on the eve of my second marathon – so it felt like the perfect familiar spot. It was uncomfortably hot, sunny, and humid, but hopefully that doesn't come across in the photos.
I put some of our favorites here. And included some outtakes below.... :)
Last week we visited both my parents and got to see my Aunt Mary who was visiting from Florida.
It was a pretty busy visit. Chris drove to his brother's house in lower NY Thursday night, while I went further west to my parents' house. Chris was partially returning his brother's car – which had ended up with us in a roundabout way – but more importantly meeting our new niece! We spent Friday at our respective destinations, and my dad and I celebrated my mom's birthday, and then Saturday morning I drove down to join Chris and spend the day with baby CJ. She is very sweet (not even a month old!) and was sleepy most of the day, even as we walked around town. She perked up about an hour or so before we hit the road. It was very fun to meet a new member of the family. We also spent some quality time with their dog Banksy, who is quite the character. He and CJ share a birthday, exactly one year apart!
On Sunday, we were back upstate and went to Ithaca to walk along Taughannock Falls, which I hadn't visited in probably 15 years. It was definitely the first time I'd been with a digital SLR camera so there was the usual procedure where everyone walked along at their usual pace while I hung back eagerly getting the lighting right on various rocks and water features.
On Monday we capped off the trip with a DIY engagement photoshoot, but I'll share that in another post.
We went to Endicott for Thanksgiving, though we took every precaution possible. We got PCR testing done ahead of time through my work and got our results ~30 hours later. We wore masks when we first arrived and the results hadn't come in yet. I've been avoiding going out in public at all the last couple months, and Chris wears his mask, social distances, and brings his lunch to work - even if he's working in an empty house. We didn't stop anywhere on the way.
It was nice to have a Thanksgiving together, since I haven't seen my parents since December last year and Chris has never spent a holiday in my hometown. It was just the four of us, so it was very quiet. We went for a few walks, enjoyed my parents' excellent cooking, and went up to Round Top and down to Grippen Park, two public parks down the street, to enjoy new lookout areas and a hiking trail. Chris wasn't feeling great the whole time, which has been our major ongoing struggle since he got sick in May. We just wish we knew for sure whether it was covid, given the too early/too late timing of his two tests in May/June and the low-sensitivity antibody test that he got almost two months later, which the doctor didn't think would catch anything. We can't wait until the vaccine is released.
We got our tests done late in the evening when no one was around, so I ducked into the office to use the scanner and capture some of the latest drawings. I'm now in a pretty sad part of the chapter and am finding it both cathartic and really hard to draw some of these scenes without becoming very depressed. I've been taking more days off between drawing sessions, partially to not get overwhelmed, and also because my day job is very high-intensity lately and I have little energy at the end of the day.
Last weekend I spent most of my time working on a commission, this week I worked over 50 hours at my day job, and this weekend was managing a lot of holiday preparations (including illustrating and printing my holiday greeting cards) so I haven't done any comic drawing at all. I find this usually happens around the holidays though.
Next week is my last week of work, and I'm using my remaining vacation days to take a load off after a really rough year. With cases rising, Chris and I again have Covid tests scheduled proactively given rising cases, but we decided not to go anywhere for the rest of the year. It'll be a little sad, but better safe than sorry. It will be nice to have a two-week retreat to work on the comic as well.
Growing up my brother and I were always close (despite the usual sibling spats) and we did a lot of the same activities, had overlapping friend groups, and liked a lot of the same things. We're only a year and a half apart. It's been crazy over the last year to see him step into parenthood with my sister-in-law and take on a totally new role as a loving, energetic, and thoughtful dad. It's hard to describe what it feels like to see that happen from the sibling perspective but it's been one of the most fulfilling/life-affirming experiences I've ever had. He has been such an inspiring big brother and can't wait to see my niece continue to learn and grow with them as her parents. She is so lucky.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Mansfield, MA.