Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. We were able to bring Nana from the skilled nursing unit over to the dining room in the Village Center for Thanksgiving dinner, which was delicious.
For years, Nana had been the unofficial goodwill ambassador of the retirement community. She used to make the rounds of the tables after dinner, visiting with everyone and catching up on them and their families. After she went into hospice care in early summer 2017, she wasn’t able to be out and about. Now that she has been decertified by hospice and has done some rehab, she was strong enough to come over for an hour using a wheelchair outfitted with portable oxygen.
A number of people stopped by the table to say hello. There was lots of good food, conversation, and warmth, all of which counteracted the blustery day outside.
Last year at this time, I hadn’t thought it possible that we would have the privilege of another Thanksgiving with Nana and Paco. I am so grateful that we had this day together.
On May 4th, my mom, known here at TJCM as Nana, moved to Mercy House, a residence for people under the care of our local hospice. She had been under the care of hospice since last summer, staying with Paco in their independent living apartment with the help of family and aides, first for overnight and later during the day as well. As her symptoms from congestive heart failure worsened and she became weaker, the care needed to keep her safe and comfortable was outstripping what home aides are legally allowed to provide, so, when space became available at Mercy House, we chose to make the move.
Of course, there has been an adjustment period with new caregivers and routines and food, but things are settling in now. The staff all share a calling and commitment to this work, as do the many, many volunteers who make Mercy House such a peaceful, loving place.
My younger sister was here for the first week, helping Nana to settle in and staying overnight with Paco at the apartment. As it happened, on the one week mark at Mercy House, granddaughter S finished her semester at college and came to visit. She used her dorm room decorating skills to hang pictures for Nana and my sister, her husband, and S had an early Mother’s Day/Nana’s birthday lunch brought in from a favorite restaurant.
This second week, someone from my house has been staying overnight and we are developing a rhythm to our days. Nana and Paco each do their early morning routine in their places of residence and then, mid-morning, we bring Paco to Mercy House for the day. Like hospice, Mercy House’s mission reaches beyond care of the individual to care of the family, so the volunteers and staff help Paco, too. There is always food available in the common room and Nana and Paco eat supper together at the dining room table, which is special after so many months of eating on a tray table in the apartment living room.
At the moment, Nana is the only resident who is able to be that mobile, so Nana and Paco usually have the dining table to themselves, but it also means that we were able to have two dinners this week that my spouse B, daughter T, and I shared, too. On Monday, we brought Swedish meatballs, made with the recipe that Nana used which had come to her from her Swedish landlady 55 years ago, for a belated Mother’s Day dinner. Last night, we brought in Italian food and an apple-blackberry pie that B had baked to celebrate Nana’s 86th birthday. The volunteers had decorated the table with a centerpiece, special napkins, and a birthday hat for Nana!
Next week, my older sister will arrive for a week. We are all grateful to have so much love and support surrounding us.
Thank you also, dear readers, for the thoughts and prayers that you have been sending and for your patience with my increasingly haphazard postings. I truly appreciate your visits and comments here.
This year, I offloaded a lot of my traditional December duties to concentrate on writing tasks. The first order of business was to finish a chapbook draft for a contest at QuillsEdge Press. I have now submitted it and am pondering submitting it to a second contest, which closes on January 15. I’d just need to write an acknowledgement page to get it ready.
The next task was to send out a Christmas letter on behalf of my parents. For years, my mom faithfully sent out cards to friends and relatives, but this will be the second Christmas that she hasn’t been up to doing it and I wanted to make sure that the people on her list know their situation. We enclosed a photo of Nana and Paco with granddaughters E and T and six-month-old great-granddaughter ABC. E helped out by addressing the envelopes.
With all of my parents’ letters safely mailed, I turned to my own card list. I composed an enclosure letter and battled with my printer to get enough copies ready. We decided to put in two photos, the one that we used for my parents’ list and a second favorite photo of ABC taken when she was four months old and visiting her father and family in London. With my stacks of photos, letters, cards, Christmas seals and stamps on hand, I spent hours signing and addressing over the weekend and today and just brought the last batch to the mailbox for 5 PM pickup.
I am happy to have our greetings sent on their way, knowing that we will be connecting with relatives that we aren’t able to see often and friends from various phases of our lives, many with whom we only correspond at the holidays. 2017 has been such a roller coaster that I especially wanted to make sure to share the story.
And now, I am finally writing this blog post! I’m hoping to get a few more in before the end of the year, although the next week will be very busy. Son-in-law L arrives on Wednesday and the tree still isn’t decorated, other than lights and treetop angel. There will be more shopping and baking to do, although the bulk of it may be done by the other adults in the house.
The most important thing this year is spending time with family and friends. The holiday correspondence was part of that effort. The in-person part already began with a lasagna dinner at Nana and Paco’s apartment with my sisters and their families and early-Christmas gift exchange. More to come about ABC’s first Christmas, which she won’t remember but the rest of us will…
I did a walking meditation in the John Cage/Merce Cunningham Bridge with its current sound installation, In Harmonicity, the Tonal Walkway, by Julianne Swartz. For the second time this week, the art has brought me back to my first semester of music theory at Smith, as the installation is a form of musique concrète. The 13:40 minute loop is composed entirely of recorded human voices. This work inspired Marilyn McCabe, the Boiler House poet who conceived and produced our collaborative videopoem last year, to envision a sound project this year. We each recorded a short segment based on a single word for her today. Stay tuned for the final product when it is available.
And now, introducing the completed video/soundscape!
Marilyn asked each of us to choose a single word that represented our reunion week. I chose the word “flow.” We each recorded our chosen word for Marilyn in several ways, including saying the word slowly, three times in quick succession, and sung. Marilyn then spent many hours with her computer, cutting up words, overlaying them, mixing sounds, and constructing the soundscape. I can’t pretend to know how she did it, but some of the techniques would have been similar to those used in the Julianne Swartz piece that inspired the endeavor.
Then, Marilyn assembled the video element. Most of the photos are from the Boiler House. I especially love the parts of the video that involve layering of the images, such as the dancing silhouette and the photo of the eight of us taken this year looking out from where some of the Boiler House windows used to be.
I love Marilyn’s creativity and inventiveness, which is always expanding my sense of what is possible. You should all do yourselves a favor and click on the links above the video to see more of Marilyn’s work with videopoems. You can also visit and follow Marilyn here on WordPress at O Write: Marilynonaroll’s blog.
We were blessed to have L’s mom visiting from the UK. I will call her Lola here, which is Tagalog for grandmother. She was here for a week and a half, during which we gave her as much cuddle time with ABC as possible. When all the necessary documents go through and E and ABC join L in the UK, they will be living with Lola and Lolo (grandfather), so the visit was the beginning of what will be years of cuddling and babysitting.
We were also excited to have daughter T home for a long weekend. Besides meeting her niece for the first time, T also became her baptismal sponsor. T’s own godmother served as a witness by proxy for L’s sister, who will be ABC’s British godmother.
Sorry for all the initials…
The baptism took place after Mass with the deacon, himself a grandfather several times over, presiding. ABC wore the same dress that Nana had bought sixty years ago for my older sister’s baptism, which was also worn by me, my younger sister, and both of my daughters. Here is a picture of all those who have worn this little dress.
Paco was able to come down to church for the baptism, but Nana wasn’t well enough to join us. After the baptism, we convened at Nana and Paco’s apartment for a feast of Filipino food that L and Lola had prepared. Brent and I made pies for dessert. Everything was delicious!
We were very grateful that Lola got to meet Nana and Paco. It felt like they had known each other much longer than a few hours! I love this photo of Nana and Lola.
ABC is blessed to have many people praying for her. There was even a physical reminder of the support of E and L’s parish in Honolulu, where they were married and served in music ministry. The blanket Ada is napping on in this photo was made by a choir member there.