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.
In my region, it is strawberry season. While strawberries from far away are available in supermarkets year-round, we almost never buy them, preferring to wait for the short but sweet local strawberry season.
When the wild strawberries in our lawn begin to ripen, it is time to head to the farmstands for quarts of flavorful, ripe berries. (It used to be time to head to the pick-your-own farms in the area but lack of time and an aging body have put an end to spending some early morning hours picking berries and avoiding slugs.)
In the early part of the season, I always make a fresh strawberry pie, using a recipe that my mom, known as Nana here at TJCM, made. It originated in a leaflet from the farm that we used to visit with her during childhood to pick strawberries. My copy was written out in Nana’s elegant cursive on a recipe card among those that she gifted to me when B and I married. We shared this year’s fresh strawberry pie topped with whipped cream with her and the family over at Mercy House, the hospice residence where Nana is now living.
As the season progresses and the berries need to be used more quickly, I move on to recipes that involve cooked berries. Last week, I made one of my favorites, strawberry rhubarb pie. I tried something different this time, using pastry cut-outs instead of a full top crust, hoping that the filling in the extra-deep pie plate would cook through without soaking the crust.
It worked! Again, the family gathered at Mercy House to enjoy pie with Nana and Paco.
Strawberry season is always a blessing, but this year even more so. Making more sweet memories is a precious gift.
The next day, ABC and her mom, our daughter E, left London, where they had spent eleven weeks visiting dad/spouse L, his parents, sister, and extended family, to return to our home in upstate New York.
The following day was daughter T’s birthday which we celebrated at one of our favorite local restaurants. ABC charmed the staff and other patrons as we celebrated both birthdays.
ABC managed not to have a problem with the five hours’ worth of jet lag, although the trip was much more taxing on E.
We are settling back into being a household of five. T and B had taken charge of childproofing prior to ABC’s arrival and we have managed to avoid any major catastrophes so far.
One of the things that happened while E and ABC were in the UK was the move of my mom, known here as Nana, to Mercy House, a nearby hospice residence. Everyone loves ABC’s visits as she toddles down the hallways and around the common area and in and out of Nana’s room. She brings smiles to everyone and has made some new friends.
One of her new friends is a resident. He is only twelve years old. His presence here reminds all of us to treasure each day that we are given, that youth is not a guarantee of good health, and that the presence of family and friends and care of staff and volunteers can bring peace even in the most difficult circumstances.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “favourite word.” Note how I am honoring (honouring?) Linda’s Canadian spelling, even though my US spellcheck is unhappy.
I first thought that I wouldn’t write a post because I don’t have a favourite word. In fact, I never even thought about the concept.
Then, it came to me that I should choose love. Love is the central organizing principle of my life. I will spare you all the philosophical and theological explanations I could give. It’s late and, seriously, no one wants to read pages of stream of consciousness on love from my tired brain.
I will say that one of the things I appreciate about the word love is that it is both a noun and a verb. I find it especially important to show love in action, to be loving.
What I don’t do as much as some people is say the word love. Among family and friends, our love for one another is so evident that we don’t feel that we need to say “I love you” all the time. I know some people find that odd, but it works for us.
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.
Today is my parents’ (Nana and Paco here at TJCM) sixty-fourth wedding anniversary.
And it is snowing, which is a bit odd for us here in the Northeast US on April 19th.
My parents married on this date for two reasons. It was Easter Monday during a time when Catholic weddings were prohibited during Lent. (While not currently prohibited, they are still discouraged.) It was also Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts where they lived, so it was a day off work for my dad and many other workers. They thought that they would always have their anniversary off work, which they did until the Monday holiday bill was created, moving holidays from their actual dates to a nearby Monday. (Patriots’ Day commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord which began the Revolutionary War.)
Today’s celebration will be quiet.
[Three days pass.]
I started this post on the 19th. The plan was for me to spend most of the day at home until late afternoon when we would pick up dinner to bring to Nana and Paco. I was hoping to get this post out and do some other catching up and errands, but Paco wasn’t feeling well, so I went up to Nana and Paco’s apartment mid-morning to assess the situation and call the doctor’s office.
Later in the morning, Nana’s hospice volunteer visitor arrived. She brought a pink gerbera daisy with two blossoms as an anniversary gift from her and a gift bag from hospice with a bottle of sparkling apple juice, two glasses, a rose made of cloth, and an angel figurine. It was so sweet of her to visit and lift Nana’s spirits; we were sorry that Paco was napping and not well enough to be with her when she opened their gifts.
When I hadn’t heard back from the doctor by early afternoon, I called again and they decided to fit him into the afternoon schedule. I took him to the office, fortunately nearby to their senior living community, leaving Nana under the care of her aide. The doctor made some medication changes and Nana and Paco both got afternoon naps.
My husband B and daughter T arrived at about five with food from a favorite local Italian restaurant. We set up their tray tables side by side on the couch with lasagna for Paco and bucatini for Nana. Nana and Paco got to enjoy their 64th anniversary dinner, topped off with sharing carrot cake for dessert.
They got to hold hands.
They reminisced about their honeymoon in New York City, seeing Bob Hope and the Rockettes at an 8 AM show.
And we had the privilege of being there.
I am grateful that they had this anniversary together, one more precious moment in their long life together. The precariousness of the day underscored that the much-discussed “quality time” is a gift that appears in our lives, sometimes planned and created, but more often appearing at an unexpected time or in an unforeseen way. A cuddle from a toddler who is usually too busy to stop her activity. An important discussion with a teenager during a routine car ride. A walk in the woods when troubles temporarily recede and clarity and peace return.
While it is common for people to choose resolutions for the new year, it’s not something that I usually do.
I don’t find January first to be an especially salient day, coming, as it does, during a very busy and high stress time of the year.
If I do feel the need to make a change in my life, I prefer to just jump in and work on whatever-it-may-be at that moment.
Sometimes that works out, but often it doesn’t. So much of life is beyond personal control that my resolution would have to be extremely important not to let it be displaced by the needs of others.
I can hear the wheels turning with the old mantras of “you need to put yourself first” and “put on your oxygen mask before assisting other passengers” and the like.
But that doesn’t ring true to who I am. I usually think of others first.
That isn’t to say that I am neglectful of myself. In order to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” you can’t be mean or dismissive of yourself.
I can, however, set priorities and I usually choose to help others over doing solo endeavors. That means that things I might like to do get set aside. Sometimes, I get back to them. Sometimes, I don’t.