Maureen Bridget Cavanaugh
January 7 1955 - April 4 2005
Christopher R. Plum
Friend, Husband and Widower of Maureen. The first year after Maureen died has been a difficult one for Chris. A woman he has shared his life with was gone, but not gone. It is amazing how a person can live within your mind. I do not think most people realize until they have lost a loved one whose personality is of such complexity that they overwhelm. I can see how the idea of haunting came about, for Maureen was still present in Chris' mind every day, and every hour for the first year and beyond.
Over the last year, Chris and I have been in contact by email, as well as by mail. I have sent to Chris a copy of all the photos I had of Maureen from the brief period of my relationship with her, namely from June 24, 1970 until August 1971. The last time I saw Maureen was on December 29, 1971 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which brought us full circle as that was where we first met.
As Nancy Cavanugh has noted, this Memorial Site does not come close to expressing the essence of Maureen Bridget. I don't think words can ever do that. The thoughts I have expressed about Maureen are colored by time, nostalgia, and the magic of having a very interesting first girl friend. I have been lucky to know two incredible women. One was Maureen, and the other is my wife, Candice. I actually met them on the same day. I offer this site as a public honoring to Maureen. It is from the words expressed by myself, by Maureen herself, and Chris and Nancy that I have tried to hint at the person we all knew in so different ways.
Upon this virtual page I wish to share some of the thoughts that Christopher has sent me. He knew Maureen longer than anyone.
April 4, 2006 - year one of eternity
- "For me, the anniversary day will always be the first Monday in April, I suppose. Maureen and I had spent a very nice weekend together last year, and her death on "the Monday after" is the way I will always remember it. I spent most of yesterday reading her writings and looking at pictures, and just contemplating space. Nothing as soothing as the seashore (perhaps her favorite place to relax) but we did have a thunderstorm at sunset for a bit of drama."
March 13, 2006 - the Apple Farm
"I understand how you feel about needing to redefine yourselves. We had hoped to do this in 1984 when we bought our farm in Buffalo - we agreed that was something we both really wanted to do. But it was perhaps our greatest effort yet it was not to be a success. I think that it was also the best thing we ever did, because we followed a dream that we both shared which everyone else felt was crazy. We never had to look back and say "if only we had..." Those conversations of course happened from time to time, but never very seriously, because we each knew that we had given up a lot to try to do something very special together. And we did have the farm for 15 years - the longest I have ever lived in one place in my life."
April 17, 2006 - on dirt
"The other thing is that Maureen was never shy about dirt - not just from raising puppies, but having a farm and then living in Vermont, possibly the mud capital of the world. It was actually an issue between us at times, because I really like wood floors, and would get very bent out of shape when they got covered in mud, while she would just laugh."
October 23, 2005 - on her names
"Also, my apologies for calling her Bridget – she sort of led a dual life, I think. Professionally she always used Maureen, and mostly used Bridget with family. In her later years she almost exclusively used Maureen, even with friends, but Bridget was the name I always called her, and the way she signed anything she sent me."
April 17, 2006 - about Maureen's walls
Short answer to your many questions is that I did call Barbara (finally) yesterday and will be seeing her on Friday. Clearly it was a shock to her to find out that Maureen and I had lived in the Twin Cities for 15 years but never saw her. I remember that we always looked for her house as we drove down 494 (which was every day for me at times) but it is part of the complexity of Maureen that I will probably never figure out that I could not induce her to even call or send a card. I think in many cases she completely broke her life into independent chapters, and did not want to go back and reopen past ones. I know that when I suggested that we spend some time looking at photographs of past trips and so on once it became clear that she was in fact in a terminal state, she said no. I am left doing that now, and find myself continually in the position of realizing that I need to ask her many questions, for which I must content myself to never have answers."
October 23, 2005 - on Thanksgiving and Christmas
"We did celebrate Thanksgiving – both of us felt strongly tied to agriculture and the annual cycle of the seasons, which is what Thanksgiving seems to be about. And we both really liked pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry. Christmas was always a conundrum. Some of the best ones were spent traveling, the worst were with family. We did well by ourselves, which was good and it became a day to go for long hikes; this year will be a challenge."
Oct. 23, 2005 - on the Catholic Church
"When we first lived in Vermont (picture attached) we lived right across the street from the Catholic church. There was an old priest who was very nice, and would stop to talk to our puppy when he walked by, a new (young) priest named father Peter who was very aloof (and his sermons went on way too long). One day when he was out on some sort of a walk Bridget heard him comment to the person he was with that Tyche (our first dog together, about the same size as Gretchen, but all black) was somehow irresponsible because he deprived the poor of food. She never went to church when he was scheduled to preach again!"
April 17, 2006 - on her smile
"The other thing to know is that while certain outward things and events were negative, I believe Maureen's smile was always genuine; in fact I would go one step further - I think that she was incapable of hiding her feelings in her facial expression - if she smiled or laughed that was always real. So you should feel really good about any time you made her (or anyone real, in my view) smile - that is a true contribution to the world. I think that in many ways what she liked most about me was that I understood her sense of humor and could make her laugh."
April 17, 2006 - on feelings
"I would say that Maureen probably expressed as much of herself as she felt comfortable with - she and I were well matched that way - we both held things in, which in a way allowed us to know more of what we were each thinking because it was frequently the same thing that neither of us would say."
April 19, 2006 - on repression
- "The very short answer (I am too tired to really write or think, but wanted to answer you in some manner today, not wait until my return from the cities on Sunday) is that I think Maureen had great respect for the mysteries in part because they involved people keeping secrets and never disclosing them. I think that she may have put parts of her own life into such "secret" capsules, and preferred that they stay there. I'm not sure why that was so appealing, but it fits the behavior. In keeping with the whole philosophical approach, I am sure that she would never confirm or deny this..."
June 27, 2006 - On Mice and Dogs
" We did have a number of incidents in Buffalo with mice and dog food though. The best one occurred one winter around 1992. I don't know how much you know regarding dog shows, but one of the big things that happens before every show is the bath; and then at the show there is the nervous grooming before you actually show your job. Personally I think that it is often carried to far, but it does provide a better outlet for nervous energy than say, a fistfight. At any rate, with a Newfoundland, you have a pretty serious hairdryer (they have names like "Air Force Commander"). So we were giving one of the girls a bath late Friday night in February prior to a trip to the St Paul Civic Center next morning. I turned on the dryer (which looks a lot like an Electrolux vacuum cleaner - a canister on the floor with a long hose), and instead of just blowing air at the dog, out shoots about 2 cups of dog food, that some enterprising rodent had found a "great" storage place for.
It didn't stop there, after we stopped laughing and pulled ourselves off the floor, we shook out the dryer and got the dog ready, loaded up the car, etc. Next morning we got to the Civic Center, found a place to set up for some last minute grooming, turned on the hair dryer and - guess what???? Yep, dog food blowing all over the floor. But this time, instead of our basement, we are in a big room with a few hundred other dogs, many of them hungry, most of them clean. We moved to another spot (after we got the laughing under control)."
June 16, 2006 - Smells, food and flowers
"... it is strange that I don't have particular scents associated with Maureen - I know they are there, but as she never wore perfume, it was more the 'lack of smell' of being clean somehow. On the other hand, I associate LOTS of food items with her - thinks she introduced me to (like Bridgeman's and the Lincoln Del and their associated menus) and that we discovered together (Greek, Italian, California Mexican and many years later Thai and Indonesian foods). So one of the first boxes I packed was one of the hardest - all kitchen items that have not been used in a long time, but which there is no way I can part with - a pasta maker she gave me for Christmas after our first trip to Italy in 1975; a breadmaker; a fish poacher; a juice squeezer from my grandmother (one of the "treats" I could provide that she always appreciated was fresh squeezed juice); and a food mill.
About 10 years ago Maureen got the idea to start planting lillies, and we have had them at every house since Buffalo. They very much make me think of her, and will be the first thing I plant this fall after moving to my new house.
July 7, 2006 - Half Birthdays
" You are right about the half-birthday, although we would do that tomorrow, which is also my brother's birthday. She stopped observing it early on in our relationship, although I always liked the excuse to make another chocolate cake. What this reminds me more is that either today or Saturday must be Nancy's birthday. The reason the half birthday came into being was that when Maureen was very young she didn't understand why everyone but her got to have a birthday around the same time. The half-birthday came to the rescue. So I am sending this to you and Nancy as a way as ineffectually, and belatedly, wishing Nancy a lot of Happy Birthdays.
I am also attaching a few more pictures for you - including one of me recently, so that you can see that there was no reason for Maureen to worry about me accepting her graying hair.
August 15, 2006 - Marriage Ceremony from Hell
Chris describes how their private marriage and honeymoon devolved into a trying experience thanks to some insensitive friends.
Maureen and I were married on Aug. 8, 1980, after she had passed her thesis defense, but prior to submitting the written final copy. It was beyond small - we had two "friends" as witnesses at the local justice of the peace (Judge Rice on Rice Road, if you can believe it!) The reason I put "friends" in quotation marks is that one of them was the secretary of the Classics Department who was supposed to be typing Maureen's PhD thesis. She did not do it, and we were supposed to have a week's honeymoon in Florida (where my mother and grandmother lived) after the wedding, and they were going down for a few days, too. Well, we ended up staying in Ithaca scrambling to get the thesis typed and turned in before the deadline a week later, and in time for Maureen to head off to start teaching at Middlebury (an accepted thesis was part of the deal). The "friends" went to Florida anyway and stayed with my mother who kept calling to tell us how "nice" they were! (You get part of the picture as to why we could not get family to this wedding). We got the thesis done, moved to Middlebury and Maureen went to the first classes while I headed to Florida in time to see my grandmother's funeral (she had been OK when we would have gone, and had always liked Maureen immensely - that was the real purpose of our visit).
At any rate, it was a date that was easy to remember - 8-8-80. It took a few years for our lives to settle into a smoother pattern, but it was rare that we did not spend our anniversary together, generally in the Boundary Waters or a lake cabin that friends had near Grand Rapids while we lived in Minnesota. The past few years we had started to go Maine, Tanglewood, or the Maritime provinces of Canada for it.
February 13, 2007 - Can't beat Lawyers - Join them.
Did I tell you that I think that one of the main reasons that Maureen went to law school was to protect herself from lawyers? The other was as a guard against unemployment (the rationale I tried to use).
February 14, 2007 - Dragged from California to Minnesota to Cancer
We moved from California to Minnesota in 1983 for a number of reasons, one of which was that Vivian was getting old and asked for some help with the business. Some help became more or less full time for both of us. We tried unsuccessfully to break off and get our farm going with full time work there, but for any number of reasons, that never was a go. What it meant was that we ran the business while we let Maureen's dad feel like he was fully in charge. (Her aunt had the first of a series of strokes less than a year after we came back - actually the day we bought our farm - and needed a lot of health care an home assistance arrangements, but was generally benign.) Inevitably it did not work, and we had to leave in September 1991. Later that month Maureen discovered the lump in her breast.
March 20, 2007 - Orange vs. Green
I grew up so clueless that I actually did wear orange once AT THE CAVANAUGH'S on St. Patrick's day and did not have any idea what was making everyone so upset!!
March 26, 2007 - College Romance
As one of my friends famously said to one of the dean's "as you know we're cohabiting..."
Coed rooms have been at Swarthmore in some capacity for over 30 years.
March 28, 2007 - On Children
I don't think either of us felt that we would be 'robbing the gene pool' and we both worried about providing an adequate level of support for kids, knowing that it is a serious commitment. In the end we probably wished that we had them as part of our family, but it was not like a major disappointment (except for a few times in Maureen's last year, when I think she was facing her own mortality).
While it certainly would be nice to have more continuity, I try not to look back at things I can't change.
April 21-22, 2007 - Pink Floyd
My "from another perspective" came as I drove up here Friday listening to a Pink Floyd CD (Atom Heart Mother) that Maureen and I both liked (she actually played it once on her 'classical' show) I realized that I first heard it in about 1970, which made it the equivalent of my parents listening to the Andrews Sisters when I was in college. That made me feel outdated (but I listened anyway.
At any rate, the Pink Floyd album has a tune on it called "Alan's psychedelic breakfast" complete with church bells ringing in the background and the sound of frying eggs. It is a different band than the one that recorded "Money" or "The Wall" (although it is also the same). An acquired taste - and far from the Andrews Sisters..
April 22, 2007 - Kinder less
My father is in great physical health, but he has difficulty finding and forming words, and keeping on a topic. My stepmother covers for him and ascribes statements to him that are basically impossible, but one can have some level of interaction; however he never was much interested in family, so even if his memory was as good as ever he would not have remembered. Part of the reason we did not have kids (we were too worried we would not appreciate them, and, to be honest, we were probably right).
Chris Plum - 2006
Christopher Plum PhD. Dr. Plum is the President of Carbon Trap Technologies. He received his BA with distinction in Chemistry from Swarthmore College in 1975, PhD in Physical Chemistry from Cornell University in 1979, and MBA from the University of Minnesota in 1994. He has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He was a postdoctoral fellow with James Pitts at the Southern California Air Pollution Research Center, where he co-authored five papers. He has been involved in several business turnarounds, and business process reengineering projects at a number of airline companies. He received the Northwest-KLM Global Partners Award for leading the first successful joint software development project for the partnership. Most recently he lead the project team that created the largest airline ticket database in the world, ARC Compass® and created the Analysis, Research and Development Department at the Airlines Reporting Corporation, Arlington, VA. He is currently a visiting scientist at the Energy Institute of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University.
May 24, 2007 - On drunks
As you might imagine, Maureen was never big on spending a lot of time around inebriated souls.
January 5, 2007 - On Proposing
I took Maureen to the Jeweler's exchange on 5th Avenue near 47th street - I am not sure if it is even there anymore. It was in June 1975, after we had graduated from college. While she did agree to be engaged, she didn't tell anyone, and refused to consider getting married until we had finished graduate school and had jobs. I guess that if I had taken her to Tiffany's (her expectation, a store I figured they would not even let me in to) maybe she would have been more enthusiastic. Such is how it was at times. I may have been from "the city" but clearly I was also the one with country bumpkin manners and ideas (still have those...) We probably ate at the Bagel Nosh...
January 7, 2007 - Second Birthday Observance - Chris spends a quiet day
I have spent the day (for the most part) re-reading one of Maureen's law articles, which I think I am beginning to understand now that I have been through a semester of law school.
I went back and revisited the memorial site, thanks again for that.
Februay 12, 2007 - Decisions
So I am going to head back to the drawing board, a little older and a little wiser.
The best decisions Maureen and I ever made were ones made quickly and acted upon immediately - such as when we decided to drop out of graduate school at Yale after a semester and go to Cornell, where we spent some of the happiest times of our lives. I hate being in the position of having to be nostalgic about a time so long ago! But there it is.
April 4, 2007 - Second Year of Eternity
I seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum at the moment - so I have great admiration for you on that subject. It is a quiet day, one filled with the voice of silence, I think.
June 5, 2007 - Turtlenecks forever
I never got to go to the Soudan underground mine, but I can tell you that blue turtlenecks like the one in your picture were one of the things that Maureen continued to wear her entire life - a nice thing to see.
June 9, 2007 - Maureen & Piano
The things I recall Maureen playing early on were Bach 2 part inventions, Schuman's Fantasiestuck from Carnival, Beethoven's first and fourth piano concertos. Funny that she did not play any Mozart as far as I recall, but she grew to really like his movement and went mostly cool on Beethoven (although she would listen to Richard Goode's recording of the complete sonatas which she gave me one year as a gift.
June 18, 2007 - On our corrupt medical industry that is more concerned with long term profits than cures.
As far as the medical establishment, I must unfortunately agree with all that you say. One of my greatest disappointments in the profession came when it appeared that the doctors in Maureen's last month were more concerned that her disease was not primarily caused by their area of practice - they were more interested in covering their butts than in seeing if there was anything they could do for her (and consequently left her with a sense of not having any support or options).
The attitude was underscored when I talked to my father ( a doctor) the other day. He has cataracts and the optical surgeon has said that he can remove the lens and not only get rid of the cataract, but restore his vision so he won't have to wear glasses. My stepmother is enthusiastic, but it is very clear that my father is somewhere between ambivalent and resistant. I said to him "you mean, you can't trust doctors" and his reply was "that's right." (And he belongs to the union)
June 22, 2007 On Tea
I think that the tea kettles are one of the strong links I am able to keep with Maureen. Although it took nearly a year before I was able to drink tea again (she had several cups a day, and in the last few months one of the things I could do for her that seemed to be most appreciated was cutting up slices of lemon before I left for work so she could have them in her tea - her coordination did not allow her to create a nice thin slice of lemon any more.)
August 30, 2007 - Toxic father
I understand your feelings of concern and admiration for a bright 16 year old struggling at the bottom end of a dysfunctional family. I think that Vince was taken 2 or 3 times to the confrontational type of program, spent a month in rehab for a different problem at the U of M (but also had a month to dry out) and none of it ever worked for him.
August 30, 2008 - Illness & Privacy
Maureen never wanted to talk to most people about her illnesses. That was her choice, and she respected me for abiding by that. The one time I arranged a doctor's appointment for her when she had hit dead ends, all it did was make her angry and upset. We didn't go, but only because it was for a few days after she died. I don't think the timing was related - I didn't expect that we would go in any case, but er reaction made it clear how important it is to allow the individual to manage his or her own problems whenever possible. So that is the hard thing I learned.
December 31, 2007 Christmas - Year Three
" I stayed home with the dogs on Christmas day. This year I felt the absence of Maureen more than ever before, and realized that there are just so many irreplaceable things."
December 31, 2007 on Cool
I think in a certain way Maureen had more of an edge at times than I did (probably Barbara Kaerwer's influence). I remember talking about how I would like to set a novel in the Uffizi at night and have characters from the paintings take part in the action. Her (later) response was to give me "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant (as I recall), and merely say - I don't think YOU could have ever written THAT!
January 24, 2008 - One of a kind woman
The nagging feelings about Maureen partly come from that - as I realize how good we had it together, I find it hard to feel it is worth summoning the energy to try again, and to re-word your advice, it does not seem to be a smart thing to try to turn a philistine into an art-lover.
January 28, 2008 - Bad days past
This is a tough few days for me - I couldn't figure out why I felt so lousy (you could say it was because Meg moved all her stuff out, but frankly that wasn't it - I even had to endure a lecture on the fact that she didn't grow up in a life of privilege and therefore did not have time for art! Ouch.) and I realized that it was 3 years ago today that Maureen and I drove down to North Carolina for her to get a brain scan and came back with are future inexorably altered. I doubt that I have had a good laugh since that day.
February 9, 2008 - Mr. Handyman
My last tile job was modifying the bath tub so that Maureen could continue to get in and out of it without falling in her last months. (As you can perhaps tell, I am stuck in this low ebb funk at the moment).
April 29, 2008 - Death pondering
As for her fascination with death, I think it moderated quite a bit, and was more humor related during most of the time we spent together. But it is clearly a major theme in the Horace work.
May 17, 2008 - Her return
I admit that it is part of the odd emotional state that I remain in that my logic says that if I can meet someone who knew Maureen before I was aware of her existence, shouldn't she appear on the scene as a next step? As you noted, this is pretty difficult given the box of ashes - or ground bones - on my dresser.
May 21, 2008 - Her illness
Maureen's cancer was not a glioma. In fact, part of the great irritation was that she never had a definitive diagnosis, just the knowledge that as a result of an autoimmune failure her cerebellum was being destroyed by her own body and no one had a way to slow it down, let alone stop or reverse the process.
July 27, 2008 - Courage
I don't think Maureen suffered so much as she was exhausted and then faded. I don't know where she got the courage, will and determination - I don't have it.
October 19, 2008 - Proposal
Maureen was always a bit perturbed about the indirect way I proposed to her. She was in New York with me following graduation getting ready to head to Rome for a summer program at the American Academy. I was going along figuring that I would find stuff to do while she was participating in the program. In the end, she liked my approach more and, for a variety of reasons, left the program and we toured together.
October 19, 2008 - the Ring
I took Maureen to the New York Diamond Exchange having gone the day before to check it out and pick a diamond; I wanted her to pick the setting, etc. It was clear that she would have preferred Tiffany's. For me it was (and this never much changed) an economic decision - it was summer trip money so I had that in mind…. She didn't wear the ring that much, first to keep it quiet relative to her family - although Vivian literally grabbed the ring the first time Maureen had it on in her presence, so that was that….
December 12, 2008 - Christmas decorations
I did put up a string of lights and the deer that Maureen and I bought at Target the year before she died that has a moving head…
No tree inside though. That is a bit beyond me, I'm afraid.
Update on Chris Plum
In April 2009 Chris closed down Carbon Trap Technologies. Additional investors could not be found to further the development of their green idea. Chris has moved back to Minnesota and now lives in the Minnetonka area. We wish him well back in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Ashes to ashes - breath to breath.
June 14, 2009 Medical Detail
"There was never a definitive diagnosis on Maureen, but paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration is as likely as any. The alternative is an unexplained generalized system failure. Neither option matched up with the supposed diagnostic tests, which is another reason I a have minimal confidence in the medical establishment – just because you can’t blame a disease on a cause does not mean that it isn’t there.
A non-functioning cerebellum means that you lose automatic functions like breathing, swallowing, digesting, as well as muscular strength and coordination. Maureen never had any spastic motions, just less and less function and loss of balance and strength."
February 14, 2010 Winter Wonderland
"Maureen was almost like the Russians in her love of winter
In any case, one of my favorites, that I have not scanned was taken Feb 2, 1997 on our last winter together on the farm (the next year she was in Philadelphia most of the winter) out cross country skiing.
On the other hand, we were fortunate the last year of Maureen’s like that we had very little snow in Virginia so we could get out and around to places without too much trouble."
May 10, 2010 on needing Humanity
"I had to more or less skip the evangelical call at the end of the book to organize
humanists. Maureen and I often said that we really just wanted to be
hermits, it's just that if we could have done it together (and with a few
dogs) we would have liked it more (did I just describe our farm?)."