anniversary reflections

Earlier this month, I wrote about June birthdays and mentioned B and my 38th wedding anniversary while writing for Stream of Consciousness Saturday here.

Our celebration of our anniversary was different this year. We usually try to go away for a couple of days, usually to a small inn in an historic, picturesque location where there are nice places to stroll and good restaurants.

This year, B did get to take most of the day off from his now-working-from-home job. We did go out briefly for a couple of socially distanced errands and an afternoon visit to the walk-up window at a favorite local ice cream shop, but we made dinner at home with T and had a quiet evening in. All of which seemed right for this somber time.

Thirty-eight years is a respectable amount of time for a marriage and gives me hope that, if we can keep life-threatening disease at bay, we will be able to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, as we were able to do with our own parents.

Perhaps because we are hearing so much about people changing the date or plans for their weddings, I find myself thinking about B and my wedding, the changes in plan that it entailed, and how it was perceived.

Because B and I were planning to marry shortly after I graduated from Smith College, my mother and I did most of the planning the summer before my senior year. Those were still the days where the tradition of the bride and her family doing most of the wedding arrangements (and paying the costs) was still observed, especially when the bride was young and not established in a career. I chose to be married at Helen Hills Hills chapel on the Smith campus. I had been involved in the life of the chapel throughout my years at Smth, as an organist, choir member, and accompanist and was close to Sister Judith, the Catholic chaplain. The reception would be at the Alumnae House, a short walk down Elm Street from the chapel.

There was no resident priest on campus, so an associate from one of the Northampton parishes presided at mass on Saturdays. I asked him to preside at our wedding ceremony and he agreed. In January, he was re-assigned to a nearby city and decided that he would not come to the wedding. A young priest who was assigned to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was filling in at Smith for the spring semester became the default priest for our wedding.

This turned out to be very problematic.

He didn’t know me – that I had been serving as a Catholic church musician for over seven years, that I took my faith seriously, and that I had also studied the history of Christianity in the United States and around the world. He also didn’t trust me, which was hurtful. When I met with him to do the questionnaire that is required, he made me swear on a bible to tell him the truth, as though I was going to lie to a priest.

In May, during the reading period before my last-ever final exams, the priest and I were taking a walk on the Smith campus to finalize some of the details. Because B is not Catholic, we were having a ceremony, not a mass, which should have made things more flexible. The priest, however, would not allow any changes in wording, would not allow Sister Judith to read the gospel or offer a reflection, which should have been allowed outside a mass. As we were finishing the walk, he said to me that he thought I would be more comfortable being married in a non-Catholic ceremony.

I was devastated. It was six weeks before the wedding and I didn’t have a member of clergy to preside. I went to the chapel offices in tears. Sister Judith wasn’t there, but Rev. John, the ecumenical Protestant chaplain was. He immediately offered to preside and gave me some different prayer books to look through to find a new ceremony to follow. We had to file dispensations of place and form so that the Catholic church would recognize the marriage and the priest would still read the vows, although they would be from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. The best outcome was that Sister Judith delivered a beautiful reflection.

People often say that their wedding days are perfect and they wouldn’t change a thing, but there are some things I would change if I could. I would have made a recording of the ceremony because Sister Judith spoke without notes, so I have only memories and not a record of what she said. I also would have ignored the advice of the wedding gown shop and not worn heels and a headpiece that stood up on my head. Because B is about ten inches (25cm) taller than I, they were trying to make me look taller, which seemed silly at the time and even sillier now. Most of all, I would change the trauma and drama of the clericalism that led to my not having a Catholic wedding, the clericalism that still infects the church and causes so much damage.

Our wedding and reception were designed to be an adult affair, so we didn’t invite children. This wasn’t unusual at the time, but didn’t set well with a family member who wanted their grandchildren to be invited. I’m still sorry that those young cousins had a very boring day.

Some of the adults were bored and upset, too, although I, thankfully, was not aware of it at the time. The Alumnae House could serve wine but not liquor, which upset some people who somehow thought they were owed an open bar. We also did not have dancing; neither B nor I enjoy dancing and Alumnae House is not set up for it. After dinner and our delicious spice cake with buttercream icing, a break from the super-sweet white cake with white frosting that was traditional at the time, B and I went from table to table, visiting with our guests. Strangely, after we talked to people at a table, most left, so that, by the time, I changed to leave for our honeymoon, only immediate family and a few close friends were left to wave good-bye.

I don’t regret our reception choices, which reflected our personal style and preferences. I was sad that some guests gave my mother grief, although I didn’t realize that was happening at the time; it was very rude. I was also sad that people were putting their expectations over our true-to-ourselves choices.

My biggest take-away in looking back on the not-entirely-perfect wedding day that B and I had 38 years ago and in hearing so many stories of couples re-defining their own weddings due to the pandemic is that, while weddings are important days in our lives, they are just one day in a marriage. The accumulation of those days, each presenting joys and challenges, is what is most important.

Love is always most important.

SoCS: fail

Ummmmm…..

Hhhhmmmmmm….

Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “Coffee, tea, or me?” or some other flirty phrase.

And I’ve got nothing….

On the flirtiness scale, I’m right down around zero.

This could be because B and I were high school sweethearts and just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, so I never learned to flirt.

It’s hard for me to even go on about the coffee or tea part, because I never learned how to drink adult beverages, which is just as well because my body doesn’t do well with acidic things.

So, I guess, this time around, I’m an SoCS fail.
*****

Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
 https://www.quaintrevival.com/

a year ago today

Today is the first anniversary of my mom’s death. She was known as Nana here at TJCM and she appears in many posts from the past years.

Her death followed a long period of decline from congestive heart failure. In some ways, it seems that I lost her much longer ago because, as her illness progressed, she was not the same mom, the confidante with whom I spoke nearly every day of my life. She also wasn’t able to keep up her active social life in the senior community where she and Paco had lived since its opening ten years ago. She had a special gift for conversation, for listening attentively, and remembering each person’s stories. She also kept up with current events, so our conversations were often wide-ranging.

With so much changed in the world these last few months, I’ve often felt thankful that it was last year rather than this that we were dealing with Nana’s final months. Nana spent her last months in the skilled nursing unit of their senior community. Paco and I were able to visit as often as we wanted and my sisters came into town frequently for a few days at a time. Because our adult daughters E and T and our granddaughter ABC were in residence with us, they were able to visit often, too. This is one of my favorite four generations photos – Nana, me, E, and ABC at Thanksgiving in November, 2018.

Thanksgiving four generations

This spring, though, the skilled unit has been in full lockdown for weeks due to COVID-19. Visitors are only allowed when there is imminent danger of death. As difficult as the last few months of Nana’s life were, it would have been so much more difficult if we had not been able to be there to talk when she was awake, help with her meals, put in calls for staff when needed, and just be present. My heart goes out to all those who are residents of long-term care facilities and to their families as they continue to contend with being separated at this critical time.

I’m also grateful that Nana did not have to experience the permanent move of E and ABC to the UK. Being able to see her only great-grandchild regularly was a joy and it would have been so hard for her to lose that in-person connection. Nana was also spared the worry when the London contingent of the family were ill with probable COVID-19.

It’s hard to say if a year is a long time or a short time in these circumstances. Mourning follows its own path and this year has submerged us in a sea of societal grief and loss, as well. I only hope that I am able to be a testament to Nana’s love and care for her family and friends in these troubled times.

bad timing

The United States government authorized direct cash payments to adults in order to help people face the challenges of the pandemic economic impacts.

The implementation has been dicey, though.

Most of the payments were based on 2018 or 2019 income tax returns and were made by direct deposit, if banking information was on file with the Internal Revenue Service, or by check.

Unfortunately, the IRS didn’t cross-reference with the Social Security system, which meant that some payments were issued to people who were deceased. That is what happened with my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, who received a payment by direct deposit last month, even though Nana’s date of death was on file at Social Security.

Many others were similarly affected and, at first, it seemed that surviving spouses would be allowed to keep the full payment as had happened in a similar economic stimulus program a number of years ago.

However, a few days ago, the government issued instructions that required people to mail them a check for any payment sent on behalf of someone who had died.

I am not arguing against the principle of payments to only those who are living, but I wish that the program had been implemented with accuracy. It’s been painful dealing with the hassles and uncertainty of the situation.

I couldn’t make myself write the check and required note to the IRS on Mother’s Day, my first without my mom. I did put it in the mail today. Later this week will be Nana’s birthday and the following week the first anniversary of her death. I didn’t need another reminder of her absence from the government in the midst of it.

I feel badly for those whose loss is more recent, who may need the money to help pay funeral bills or to support surviving family. I would hope in those instances that the government would not demand that the money be returned, but I doubt that the current administration will act with compassion and competence.

It’s sad.

Is it Easter yet?

In my religious tradition, Easter is about joy and light and hope.

Easter this year does not feel like that.

I was trying to get ready for Easter by viewing this series for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. They were beautiful videos and being able to watch them alone was helpful. I spent decades involved with church music and/or liturgy planning, so I have many wonderful memories of those liturgies. They are very emotional for me. Even if we had been able to celebrate at our church, though, I probably would have chosen not to attend because I would have been at risk for crying through them. At this time last year, we were in the last few weeks of my mother’s life, so this is another in the long line of “first times” we have been dealing with over these last months. In some ways, it felt appropriate to be commemorating at this time alone.

Easter Day itself was complicated by some upsetting things that happened with family and friends beyond our household. It is difficult to want to help but not be able to do anything, or even to go to see them. Instead of Easter joy, there was a lot of sadness. pain, and uncertainty. One bright spot was watching Mass recorded at our diocesan cathedral. I decided to watch because our bishop is relatively new and I hadn’t heard him preach yet. I  appreciated how pastoral he is: Pope Francis has been appointing bishops who have more pastoral experience rather than just those who have worked their way up through the bureaucracy. It was also nice to hear the cathedral’s pipe organ, two great soloists, and trumpet. I especially appreciated the soprano singing the Mozart “Alleluia” that daughter E had sung for her college auditions.

This Easter Monday has been spent trying to work through some of the complications that arose yesterday. In the back of my mind, I am also thinking of my parents, who were married on an April Easter Monday, though that year Easter Monday was not the thirteenth.

It was 66 years ago and the first time that they won’t be celebrating together.

calendars

I have forced myself to undertake one of my least favorite change-of-year tasks – transferring dates onto the new calendar.

Yes, I still prefer paper calendars. I carry a small one for noting appointments when I am out and about and keep a monthly one near the phone in the dining room. (Yes, I also still prefer to use my landline; only people who may need to reach me at any time have my cell number.)

I need to fill in appointments that are scheduled in 2020 on both the pocketbook calendar and the large calendar. This is tedious, but not especially challenging. What is more poignant for me is filling in birthdays and anniversaries, some of which include the applicable number of years.

Generally, age doesn’t bother me. I’m proud that B and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary this year. Maybe, we will be blessed to reach a 65th anniversary, as my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, did.

Which leads to the poignancy of writing dates on the calendar…

As family members pass away, I make commemoration notes for birthdays and anniversaries on my calendar. This year is the first time that Nana’s birthday and Nana and Paco’s anniversary will be memorials rather than celebrations.

I think that Nana fought hard for a last chance to celebrate Paco’s birthday in March, their 65th anniversary in April, and her 87th birthday in May. She died a few days after her birthday. One of the last things that I helped her eat was a fruit tart that I got as a birthday treat for her from her favorite supermarket bakery.

Changing her dates from celebrations to memorials is just one more small expression of loss, added to so many others.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Learn more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/02/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-2nd-2020/

SoCS: Cookie Monster

When her daddy was here in August, ABC started doing crafts with him – or, at least, she was crafting-adjacent.

One of the things they made was Cookie Monster’s head, made from a white paper plate painted blue with big eyes and mouth made of construction paper and glued on.

It’s pretty adorable!

Before he went back to London, E, L, and ABC went on a trip to Sesame Place. There, ABC got to see the characters perform, as well as go on rides and to the water park. She loved it! It was nice for them to get to go on a little family vacation, something that will get much easier once E’s visa comes and they finally get together permanently in the UK.

We will have to figure out what to pack for ABC for London. I think one thing that will get to go with her will be the (incredibly soft) Cookie Monster that they brought home as a souvenir from Sesame Place. It is a special edition for the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street this year. Of course, there will be Sesame Street in the UK, too, but Cookie Monster will be a wonderful reminder of her US home where Sesame Street began.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about the first blue object we see when we sit down to write. Join us! You can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/09/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-14-19/

new pennies

Yesterday, my groceries came to some dollars and 51 cents.

(Wow, that sounds like the start of the most boring blog post ever.)

I was very happy, though, because my change included four, shiny 2019 pennies!

(Which also sounds pretty odd…)

For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, I gave them a heart-shaped box, personalized with their names and wedding date. Inside, I placed a penny from each year that they were married, starting with 1954. Every year, for their anniversary, I add the penny for that year.

It used to be easy to find them, but, with fewer people using cash, it has taken longer to find the new year’s coins. Recently, I’ve had my older sister who lives near the Washington DC mint look for me or my college roommate who lives near the Denver mint.

This year, Nana and Paco’s 65th anniversary arrived without a new penny.

That is why I was so pleased to finally find one.

Today, I added it to their box. I told Paco that I had placed it there. I haven’t had a chance to tell Nana. She was having a day where she wasn’t alert enough for conversation, even though I was in her room in skilled nursing for hours.

Maybe, I will be able to tell her tomorrow…

SoCS: contribution

I wanted to make a contribution to Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week, but I had another post that I needed to write.

And, yes, I am shamelessly using this post to promote this post from yesterday about my parents’ 65th anniversary and the follow-on post I just finished minutes ago.

So, yes, a sneaky SoCS contribution from me this week…
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “rib” or a word with “rib” in it. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/04/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-20-19/

65 – continued

Yesterday, I wrote about my parents’ 65th anniversary.

This morning when I arrived at Nana’s room a little earlier than usual, she was still in her nightgown.

It was the one from her honeymoon to New York City.

When she had wanted to change to short-sleeve nightgowns, I had found this pastel one folded up in her drawer, so I pulled it out and Paco brought it over to her. When I was there next, Nana told me she was afraid it wouldn’t fit because it was from her honeymoon! Apparently, she had not worn it much and had kept it in her dresser, because it looked almost like new. I showed her that it was the same size as another nightgown she was wearing, but it has hung in her closet for weeks without her using it.

I am not sure how it came to be that she wore it last night, sixty-five years after her wedding night, but the poignancy of it took my breath away.

I hope that she was comforted by it last night and slept well, wrapped in remembrance.