From the time I was very young, I have loved trees. When I was growing up, our house was in the woods, so I spent a lot of time playing and daydreaming among the trees – white and yellow birches, sugar and striped maples, hemlocks and spruce. Our grammar school had a naturalist who visited every week and I remember compiling a book of different trees with pressings of their leaves.
Today, I enjoy the trees in our yard. We have two maples, two cherries, and an oak. We used to have an ash tree but it was killed by the emerald ash borer and had to be cut down. I’m pleased to say that we did add a new tree last year, a dogwood which we chose because it is the flower for the birth month of our daughter E. (We already have an heirloom rose which is the birth flower of daughter T.)
T also loves trees and all plants so much that she has a master’s degree in conservation biology of plants. I don’t think that love of trees is genetic, but I’m very proud of her advocacy and caretaking for our environment here in the Northeast US. ***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “tree.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/12/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-11-2021/
Growing up in rural New England in the ’60s, I often heard people use old-timey phrases for surprise or delight, so when Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was “golly gee” or a similar expression, my mind immediately went to “holy mackerel” which I grew up hearing and which my parents continued to use throughout their blessedly long lives.
Part of the reason that “holy mackerel” was the first place my mind went was because my niece and nephew from NYC latched onto the phrase that their grandparents used and took it as a theme for gifts and general good times. Yes, you can find or have made a mug or T-shirt that says just about anything, including “holy mackerel!”
I’ve been thinking about Nana and Paco a lot this week. Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the US and it was our first major holiday without Paco – and without any family member in that generation. It’s nice to reflect on the good times and laughter and things that would make one or the other of them say “Holy mackerel!” with a little glint of the eye.
One thing I could use more of in my life is camaraderie.
At first, I was thinking that it was another victim of the pandemic, making it difficult for people to gather safely, but, in truth, the trends started earlier than that.
Personally, one of the losses of camaraderie for me was losing my long-time regular choral gig. For decades, University Chorus met every semester, but, when our long-time director retired, the group became an auxiliary group which only met in semesters where the student groups needed additional singers to perform with an orchestra. Even though choral groups at the University are back performing in person again, we have heard nothing about the continued existence of University Chorus in any form, so I think we are probably permanently disbanded at this point. I miss the camaraderie of being with my fellow members, some of whom I have sung with for decades. I am taking steps to heal this gap a bit with a plan to join a community choral group in the spring that will have some familiar faces from University Chorus days.
In a larger context, it seems that our sense of camaraderie is diminished lately in the US. Some people have chosen to be less neighborly unless you happen to agree with them politically. It really puts a chill on camaraderie when a neighbor flies a flag with an assault weapon on it and another cursing at our current president.
The pandemic did, though, make a sense of camaraderie more difficult to maintain. While I am grateful that video conferencing made some poetry workshopping and readings possible, it’s difficult to feel as supported over video as it is in person. Perhaps that is because I am not a digital native and the technology can be frustrating for me to work with.
As a few more things are possible to be done in person, I’m hoping to re-establish more of a sense of camaraderie in my life. I have extra appreciation on those occasions when I do get to see people in person and am trying to schedule more of those occasions.
How about you? Do you feel you have enough camaraderie in your life?
When I read Linda’s prompt yesterday, the first thing I thought about was fingers. And poetry, which is probably a good sign as I am trying mightily to get back to thinking more about poetry.
I am working on editing a poem in which fingers play a prominent role.
I have an older (unpublished) poem about how I still have a pianist’s mentality about my hands, even though I can no longer play.
And, of course, I am using my fingers now to write this. I know that there are lots of tools now that are talk to text, but I feel very oddly about talking to machines. Perhaps I will get over that one day, but, for now, I’ll let my fingers do the talking. ***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to write about a body part. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/10/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-october-23-2021/
is something I have been saying to myself off and on for years.
The truth is that most of my adult life has been spent as a caregiver, some of it in very challenging situations dealing with long-term illnesses.
Not the kind of life that lends itself to following a daily schedule. If you ever think you know what is happening on a given day, chances are the phone will ring in the morning and you will be off dealing with some need that has arisen.
Let me be clear that none of this is a complaint. Rather it’s just a statement of fact – and evidence that I was privileged enough to be able to choose a life of unpaid caregiving instead of needing to take paid work and cramming in the caregiving around my employer’s schedule.
The day after Paco’s death, the hospice social worker said to me that now I could figure out what I wanted to do. We had first met during my mother’s illness, so she had some idea of what my life has been like over at least the last few years, if not decades.
While it’s true that I have spouse B and daughter T at home, we are able to collaborate on taking care of the house and each other, so the years of intensive caregiving are probably over for a while, as long as we all remain reasonably healthy.
So, I’m starting to piece together how I want to spend my time in the coming months. Admittedly, right now I am necessarily busy with settling Paco’s estate and final bills and insurance claims and such, which takes a lot more time and energy than you might think if you have never had to do this for a loved one.
I’m trying to keep from jumping back into everything I have put on hold in the past because I think there is a danger of over-committing and exhaustion. I do know that I want to spend more time with writing, so, perhaps, finally regularly posting here again.
I also need to return to spending serious amounts of time with my poetry. During the recent Boiler House Poets Collective residency, I was able to re-connect with my full-length manuscript that revolves around that area and my family’s connections with it. I am going to do a review of it with the Grapevine Group, my local poetry circle, later this month and then do revisions and look for submissions opportunities. I also need to look for more opportunities for my chapbook, as the rejections have been rolling in over these last months so it is only out at a few places at the moment.
I am considering auditioning for a local chorus, although that might not be until after the holidays. I expect that, for the first time in many years, we may travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I am staying in the loop but not spending a ton of time on environmental and political issues. I still send letters and do public comment on social justice and environmental causes and send emails to my elected representatives but I am trying not to spend hours every day on it, as I did for years during the height of the anti-fracking fight in New York. I admire the energy and commitment of today’s younger activists and support their efforts as best I can.
Church volunteering is still on hold. Eventually, the book study I facilitate may return but only if we can meet safely indoors unmasked. We aren’t there yet.
So, can I do this? Can I re-organize my life and have it stick?
After having announced Paco’s death on One-Liner Wednesday this week, I had thought I wouldn’t post again until I had time and mental space to put together a proper tribute post or, perhaps, a post about last days and good-byes.
Then, the SoCS prompt arrived and it was puzzle and I knew I needed to post for it.
Until these last few months when he was too ill, Paco worked puzzles as part of the routine of his day. He still got the daily newspaper in print and did their wordsearch, which had the added twist that the remaining letters could be unscrambled to solve a question that was posted with the puzzle. Paco also had wordsearch books that he would work on. Wordsearches seemed like an unlikely type of puzzle for Paco to enjoy because he was dyslexic, something that he did not discover until his youngest granddaughter was diagnosed as a child with an inherited form of dyslexia. This led to a number of fundraisers organized by first Paco’s grandson and later his aforementioned granddaughter to raise money for Learning Ally, which helps people with visual impairment or print disabilities to access written language. These fundraisers came to be known as the Paco Project in his honor.
Another word puzzle that was part of Paco’s day was watching Wheel of Fortune in the evening. It came on right after the national news. My older sister would often call him at the time and they would watch part of the show together, even though they were hundreds of miles away from each other.
Paco’s other puzzle passion was jigsaws. When he was in his apartment in independent living, there was a card table in the corner of the living room with a puzzle on it for him, Nana, and visitors to work on whenever the mood struck them. For many years, he made 500 piece puzzles, with the occasional 750 piece thrown in. However, over his last couple of years as some dementia developed, he cut back to 300 piece puzzles. He worked on those until he fell in June and never recovered his ability to be up and about and clear enough mentally for puzzles.
At some point, after we get through this initial period of busy-ness with paperwork and bureaucracy following a death, we will find a home for the several shopping bags’ worth of Paco’s jigsaw puzzles that we brought home with us. I expect we will keep a few special ones as mementoes for ourselves and donate the rest for others, who we hope will enjoy them as much as he did.
Linda chose “where” as a prompt for this September 11th, assuming, perhaps correctly, that most posts would be about where we were when we found out about the 9/11 attacks in the US twenty years ago.
In Broome County NY where I live, besides the twenty year retrospectives of the 9/11 attacks, we are having the ten year retrospective of a record high flooding event on the Susquehanna River. The ground was still saturated from hurricane Irene when the remnants of tropical storm Lee dumped about ten inches of rain.
Where my house is is near a flood wall for a creek that runs into the Susquehanna. The creek came up fast with the river flooding a bit later as it collected all the run-off from the creeks as well as what was running off the hills and being dumped by storm drains.
The power was shut off in our neighborhood as the houses closer to the river started to flood. If we didn’t have a generator, our basement would have flooded when our sump pump lost electricity. One of my Memories on Facebook helpfully reminded me that two blocks from us houses had basements totally full of water and two blocks in the other direction the road was washed out and a gas main was broken. Three blocks away there was standing surface water. A big intersection of Main Street and the Parkway was underwater, too.
Most of our neighborhood had been evacuated the night the flooding began, but our little section was only under evacuation order for a few hours on the third day of the flood. We later discovered that the reason was that they were afraid of the flood wall being overtopped. Even though the creek itself had begun to recede, the flooding of the river had backed water up into the creekbed so that the water was within a foot of the top of the wall. (Just to clarify, this is an earthen/stone flood wall, not a concrete one.)
We have been lucky not to have had another severe flood like that one in the last ten years. The prior record-setting flood had been in 2006 and I fully expected we would have had another horrible flood by now.
Unfortunately, I know it is just a matter of time. Looking around the US, we have catastrophic fires in the West and flooding aftermath in Louisiana and the South, in Tennessee, and across a swath of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. There are fires in Siberia, floods in Germany and other areas in Europe, killer heat waves, and on and on. While the events themselves are natural, they have been made worse by human-caused climate change.
We have so much work to do to try to stabilize the climate and protect human, animal, plant, and marine life. And we are far behind in our efforts.
I’m upset because scientists and activists have been warning about this for decades. I myself have tried to amplify the message about climate change. It seems that people are finally listening but the amount of change of policy and behavior now will have to be huge to make a dent. Our family has tried hard to reduce our carbon footprint and to advocate for change but the world needs those in power to finally step up and lead. Governments and businesses need to put people and planet over profits. The money won’t be worth much if the planet becomes uninhabitable. **** This less-than-cheery post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday series. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/09/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-11-2021/
I don’t often wear jewelry other than my wedding ring and watch, but in the summer I sometimes wear pins to keep my V-neck dresses from getting too low.
Most of my pins are old and came to me through family. I wear a blue and gold flower one that my dad gave to my mom back at the time of their wedding in 1954.
I recently wore one that is even older. It was my maternal grandmother’s and is a cameo, a sea scene in white over an orange background.
I guess this is the point where I would take photos to add to this post, but I’m not home. I’m with Paco (my 96-year-old father) in his room at the nursing home. He is continuing to decline and a hospice referral went in yesterday. The admission process will probably take awhile given that this is a holiday weekend in the US. I’ll try to post updates going forward but my track record is not great. Everything is too unpredictable.
The latest wrinkle is that, just as we had worked through the latest set of medical complications with Paco and thought we could arrange another visit with the UK branch of the family before they return to London next week, there were not one but two breakthrough COVID cases discovered in the nursing home staff and the unit is closed to visitors, probably for two weeks.
Because Paco is considered a compassionate care case, we still have limited visitation, but visits need PPE, including N95 masks, and are restricted to no more than two people for about an hour per visit.
Not conducive to visits with a one-year-old and a four-year-old.
We were blessed with an outdoor visit last week and have some pictures to prove it.
That will have to do because I have no control over the situation.
Just hoping that Paco will be able to stay medically stable while we get through this period. He is fully vaccinated, of course, and everyone will be tested multiple times during the lockdown. Fortunately, he was not in close contact with the staff members who tested positive and who were doing the right thing by being fully vaccinated but the delta variant is even more formidable than the original form of the virus.
While I did manage one post in line with my new mode, a complication has arisen with Paco’s health. I’ve had very little sleep and no real idea of what today will bring.
This is where I would usually say something like “stay tuned” but I have no idea if it will be a few hours or a few days or longer before I have an opportunity to post again – about Paco or anything else.
I’ll be heading over to the nursing home as soon as we get to a reasonable hour – unless the phone rings before a reasonable hour arrives…