a momentous visit

While my blogging has been haphazard for months due to my father’s declining health, I wanted to share a post about the recent visit of our daughter E, her spouse L, and their daughters, four-year-old ABC and one-year-old JG. As people who check in here at TJCM periodically may recall, they live in London UK and the pandemic left us unable to visit each other. This meant that when they arrived in the US, it was our first chance to meet JG in person.

All the adults are fully vaccinated, but the children are too young to qualify. While our area of upstate New York is not a COVID hot zone, the transmission rate is still high enough due to the delta variant that we were very cautious about taking the girls to indoor public spaces. While I had scaled back my expectations for the visit a lot, I hadn’t scaled them back quite as much as I should have. For example, I had hoped to see a few more friends than we were able to. Unfortunately, Paco, my 96-year-old father, had more health challenges appear and his unit at the nursing home had to go into lockdown due to a couple of COVID cases among vaccinated staff.

In a way, though, it was nice to have them in our home, doing normal, everyday things like we had when E and ABC lived with us for over two years while waiting for E’s spousal visa to be accomplished.

B, with an assist from ABC, got to bake yummy treats for breakfast.

Everyone enjoyed watching the birds at the birdfeeders. ABC especially liked the tufted titmouse and goldfinches, while others were partial to the cardinals.

We enjoyed watching other wildlife, too. ABC even spotted some deer near the back fence. We also spent a lot of time watching the bunnies eating various leaves and flowers in the lawn.

You probably can’t see the bunny, but – trust me – it’s there.

One thing that they don’t have at home in London is rocking chairs. JG especially loved the one that was her size!

JG was an early walker so we missed her being a babe-in-arms, but Auntie T did get a taste of what that phase was like when JG got so tired she actually fell asleep in her arms.

L took the girls on walks. Here is ABC at the 1 mile – or is it 1 smile? – mark on the Rail Trail. Our area, like many others in the US, has re-purposed places where there used to be railroad tracks into recreational trails.

We also got to visit the parks and carousels. Broome County has six vintage carousels and it was very nostalgic to revisit them with ABC and introduce them to JG. ABC made friends everywhere she went.

L and ABC enjoyed rides in the carousel chariot
JG loves being on the swings!
JG also enjoys being on the move!

We got to enjoy a lot of playtime with the girls. ABC, at four, has a great imagination and enjoys making elaborate scenarios. She is also quite operatic! Besides singing songs that she knows, often from Frozen I and II, she likes to make up songs while she is playing. With both her parents being accomplished singers and instrumentalists, she appears to come by music naturally. She is learning to play the piano, so we got to experience her lessons with her daddy.

ABC is also a beginning reader, so sometimes she would read to us and other times we would read to her. It was an honor to be chosen as the final bedtime story reader. Of course, she also requested a bedtime song before going to sleep.

The most important event of the trip, though, was the one visit we were able to make with Paco in the outdoor courtyard of the nursing home. ABC was being her charming self, singing and dancing and clapping for Paco.

The most precious photo is this one of the four generations.

Paco’s health has declined so much in the weeks since we had this visit that he has now been admitted to hospice care. I will be forever grateful that Paco had the opportunity to meet his second great-granddaughter who won’t remember that day and to see his first granddaughter E and first great-granddaughter ABC who certainly will.

SoCS: again with the complications

My life is beyond my control.

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.

So, we’ll just keep on doing everything we can.

Even when it’s not ever enough.

I guess “enough” is not a valid concept here.

Even when the best we can do is not close to the best we had hoped for.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to begin a post with My. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/08/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-28-2021/

an update and a plan

I have been posting less than usual over the last couple of months as we have been dealing with health difficulties with my father, known here as Paco. He had a couple of falls in June, resulting in some cracked bones, which have been healing well while he has been in a rehab program. Unfortunately, he also suffers from dementia, which has worsened, and from a number of other health conditions, which are not unexpected in a 96-year-old but which have necessitated remaining in a nursing home rather than being able to move back to the assisted living floor where he lived previously.

It has taken a lot of time with in-person visiting and inordinate amounts of time dealing with paperwork and red tape. My sisters have been coming into town to help, but I am still not finding time to write as much as I would like.

On Monday, I’m happy to report that the UK contingent of our family – our daughter E, her spouse L, and their two children 4-year-old ABC and just turned 1-year-old JG – arrived from London for a two week visit. It is our first opportunity to meet JG in person. She is adjusting to our actually being flesh-and-blood people rather than images on a screen. It’s amazing that she is able to deal with being a different place with different people after being in lockdown so much of her life, especially when you consider it took two large airports, a plane, and the longest car ride of her life to get here. Also, five hours worth of jetlag. It’s also amazing how much ABC remembers from when she lived with us, given that this is her first time back here since she moved to the UK in October 2019.

Because of the delta variant’s prevalence, we haven’t ventured much from the house over these last days and probably won’t be taking the children to many indoor spaces, given that they are too young to have been vaccinated. We do plan a visit to Paco later this week. When the weather is better, we will also be able to go to the parks and take rides on the carousels for which Broome County is known.

My younger sister is here visiting and helping with Paco and my older sister and her spouse will arrive next week for a few days. My plan is to carve out a bit of time for some posts which will update topics about which I frequently post; I’m hoping to be brief, which is always a challenge for me!

Let’s see if I manage to follow through with this plan…

back in Northampton

In my second year at Smith College, a new voice teacher arrived on campus. Her name was Karen and my dear roommate Mary became one of her first students. Through Mary and her friendship with Karen that continued over the decades since we graduated, I felt a personal connection with Karen and had had a chance to reconnect with her a few times over the years when I was back in Northampton.

On March 23rd, a retirement recital was being held in her honor. Mary, who now lives in Colorado, had been planning for months to attend and marshaled me and two of our classmates, both sopranos who studied in the department with other teachers, to join her for the concert weekend.

The recital was given by one of Karen’s more recent students, Victoria Fraser ’10. It was a lovely mix of compositions, including a rarely-heard Buxtehude psalm setting. I was especially touched by “i carry your heart”, a setting of the e.e. cummings poem by Smith professor John Duke (1899-1984).  I have sung a choral arrangement of the piece and loved hearing Victoria’s sensitive interpretation of Duke’s original art song setting. It also reminded me of a board book of the poem, illustrated by Matti Rose McDonough, which daughter E bought for granddaughter ABC, which brings me to tears every time I look at it.

The only thing that could have improved the concert would have been the opportunity to hear Karen sing. I have many fond memories of hearing her expressive soprano voice when I was a student. She went on to sing in many recitals and concerts over the years, including singing premieres of works by Smith faculty composers Donald Wheelock and Ronald Perera, who was the Elsie Irwin Sweeney professor at Smith, an honor which Karen now holds.

The post-recital reception was fun! Many of Karen’s colleagues, most now emeriti, gave little speeches about her and told stories about her with warmth and humor. It was nice to see some of the faculty members with whom I had studied. At the same time, it was sobering to realize how much smaller the music department is now, both in number of faculty and number of students involved. It reinforced the discussions we alumnae had had three weeks earlier when we had gathered to sing Brahms Requiem to bolster the current Smith choral ensembles.

The next day, our class of ’82 quartet spent most of the afternoon visiting with Karen in her office. It was enlightening to hear about how things have changed over the years on campus and within the department. We told Karen what has been going on in our lives and listened to her plans for her retirement. We are happy to know that she will be staying in the area, so that when we return to campus we will still be able to connect with her, now without the time constraints of teaching, committees, and all the other obligations that come with being a professor.

The rest of the time, we four talked and ate and talked and shopped and talked and ate ice cream from Herrell’s. I admit that I also snuck in a solo run to Herrell’s, so I enjoyed not one, but two, samplers on Saturday!

After Palm Sunday services on Sunday morning and the scrumptious brunch buffet at Wiggins Tavern, I had to say good-bye to head for home. I am hoping there will be more mini-reunions in the future. We realized that we can arrange a weekend together even without a special event, so I hope that we will get together again later in the year when Mary comes east to visit her family in New England.

Fourth blogoversary!

WordPress has helpfully informed me that today is my fourth blogoversary.

Sorry that I won’t be hosting a big blog party, but my in-person commitments are too heavy right now for the organizing and tending involved in a digital event.

I am not entirely sure what I expected four years ago when I started Top of JC’s Mind at the encouragement of some friends, but 918 posts later, I’m glad that I stuck with it, however haphazardly.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my 909 followers and over 10,000 other visitors over these four years. I so appreciate your support and encouragement as life has taken so many twists and turns that I had not anticipated.

…which reminds me that I really need to update my About page one of these days…

I especially appreciate my stalwart regular readers who have continued to visit despite my now months-long lack of reciprocation in blog visits and comments.

Baby ABC is waking from a nap and I am on Nana duty, so I’ll end here.

Thank you all so much and stay tuned!

Joanne

Visits and baptism

On Sunday, July 16, we celebrated ABC’s baptism.

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.
baptism dress six

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.
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.
ABC in her baptism dress

 

SoCS: What’s Next?

Given how things have been going lately – well, honestly, for years now – it is tempting fate to say I have any clue of what’s happening next.

A few things are relatively safe to say.

As in, today we will pick up my sister and niece at the bus station and meet up with Nana and Paco and my other sister and her husband for dinner. The four of them will be visiting for the weekend, which is a treat because we three sisters are only together a couple of times a year.

Early in the morning on Wednesday, daughter T will be heading to the airport to fly to Honolulu to visit daughter E and her spouse L for three weeks. August is turning into sister-togetherness month!

Other things that I think are coming up next are a bit murkier.

On August 17, we think Nana will be have a procedure as part of the continuing saga of the errant CPR/fainting spell.  While we hope it will go forward, it’s been delayed and re-scheduled once already, so fingers crossed. Results from this test will help us move on to what’s next for her treatment.

As for me, part of what’s next is working on my poetry collection. I did a revision of a poem this morning. Yay, me! If my desktop computer and printer co-operate – not a given at this point – I hope to print hard copies of poems to better arrange and re-arrange and re-arrange the poems. I may have pages to represent poems that I plan to write but that aren’t yet written. Then, I can look for holes so that I know how many more poems I need to write.

Meanwhile, I will continue to workshop poems in the collection. Eventually, I’ll have to make a stab at a table of contents and probably a forward and some notes here and there.

And maybe put a call out for some readers…

Oh, and try to have it finished before the Boiler House Poets reunion at MASS MoCA which starts September 30.

Are you laughing yet?

I have my work cut out for me, but, as always, what’s next is not totally in my control.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is to base the post on a word that contains “ex”. Come join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2016/08/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-616/

SoCS badge 2015

 

a note of thanks

I am somewhat shocked to discover that I have reached 750 followers, including just over 600 from WordPress alone.

I am immensely grateful to all followers, readers, and commenters who are visiting Top of JC’s Mind these days as I continue my less-than-ideal blogging practice.

When Grandma died unexpectedly in March, I knew there would be some disruption in my usual routine of posting and visiting/commenting on other blogs, but I couldn’t know at the time how draining the aftermath of that loss would be or how many other losses, changes, and complications would ensue.

The current state of affairs in the world hasn’t helped.

I have struggled to get back to posting on a somewhat regular basis. I am doing almost no reading and commenting still, which feels odd. It isn’t that I can’t come up with the time; it’s more that I can’t muster the brainpower and concentration.

I thank you for your patience and understanding. I have given up projecting when I may be back to visiting you all and re-engaging.

Some of you have assured me that it is okay to take my time, to do what I need to do, that everything will work out eventually.

Please continue to save a little room for me in a corner of WordPress.

Someday, I’ll be dropping back in.

 

Our Christmas Eve and Day

Two blogger friends, Tric of My Thoughts on a Page and Jay Dee of I Read Encyclopedias for Fun, have done recent posts about their (and others’) and their countries’ experiences of Christmas. Tric is from Ireland and Jay Dee is from Canada but has lived in Japan for a number of years. They each asked for comments about their readers’ Christmas experiences, so this post is doing triple duty – for my own readers and to put in the comments for Tric and Jay Dee.

This Christmas, my husband B and I are very happy to have our older daughter E and her husband L visiting from Honolulu and our younger daughter T home on break from grad school in Syracuse, New York, about a 90 minute drive from here.

With most of the holiday tasks under control, we started Christmas Eve day with a trip to a morning showing of the new Star Wars movie, a second time for each of us, although a first time seeing it together. In the afternoon, we did some chores, finished up the gift-wrapping, and rested or took naps to be ready for a late night.

At 5 PM, we were happy to be able to livestream a radio broadcast of Holidays at Hendricks, from Syracuse University. Although T is in grad school at SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry, she is eligible for music activities at Syracuse University which is directly adjacent to the ESF campus. This year, she is singing with the Hendricks Chapel Choir, so it was extra-special to hear her choir sing on this program.

After dinner, B and I made date nut and cranberry breads for Christmas breakfast and listened to E and T sing Christmas carols, accompanied by L on the piano. So beautiful! I managed not to cry, but barely.

About 11:00, B headed to bed and E, T, L, and I headed to Holy Family for midnight Mass. The church which we attended when the girls were young and in which we all served in music ministry is closed, but we were happy to attend Holy Family where our former music director and good friend landed, along with the music library and handbells from our old parish. T sang and rang handbells at Holy Family before she headed off to grad school. There are enough people we know there that it felt like a homecoming.

There was a half hour prelude by the Genesis (adult) choir, handbell choir, and guest trumpeter, followed by midnight Mass. Father Clarence’s homily brought together the Scripture and our current world, as good homilies do. He reminded the congregation that the Holy Family fled to Egypt for safety as refugees do. He asked what would have happened if Egypt had closed its borders and sent them back. He did not have to mention Syria to get the point across. He also spoke about our need to seek peace, even in the face of violence in the world, by referring to a French man who lost his wife in last month’s Paris attacks but refuses to be bitter.

After a short night’s sleep, most of the household was up at 6:00 to start on Christmas dinner, the gentlemen taking the lead. L was making bread and B made the lasagna, using the recipe from my mother. We started making lasagna for Christmas Day back when my daughters and I used to be involved in music ministry for a Christmas morning children’s mass. We would assemble the lasagna the day before to bake after we got home from church to eat Christmas dinner at noon. Now we continue that tradition.

Between kitchen tasks, we ate breakfast and opened stockings and gifts. E and L went for a walk in the way-warmer-than-it-should-be December weather. A bit before noon, Nana, Paco, and Grandma arrived. Everyone enjoyed dinner, followed by Christmas cookies, fruitcake, and fudge. There was another round of presents. E and L made presents for the grandparents. E made a counted cross-stitch of a row of girls – Japanese for Grandma and Hawaiian for Nana and Paco. L made a paról for each home, including ours. A paról is Filipino star-shaped Christmas ornament, traditionally a bamboo lantern, although these were made from paper. L made them for us in honor of his parents’ home country, where they grew up before immigrating to the UK as young adults.

We had a lovely visit, which was followed by some more family visits facilitated by technology. E and L visited with his family in London by skype. December 25th is also L’s father’s birthday, so there was an extra reason to call. Only  being five time zones away instead of ten as they are in Honolulu was a help. B and I talked by phone with B’s brother. We didn’t talk to my sisters, but they will be arriving in town tomorrow for the continuation of our Christmas celebration.

We played Apples to Apples this evening and have been watching some television while I write this post. I don’t know if our Christmas is a typical US one or not, but it is special for us, especially because we were able to have both daughters here, something that becomes rarer as they get older and head out on their own. I hope other people have had lovely days filled with family, food, and love.

Monster Meet and Greet Mash

It’s time for a meet and greet at yadadarcyyada! Pop over and leave your link and find other great blogs to visit!

yadadarcyyada

1halloween84I was working
on my blog,
late one night
When my eyes
beheld
an eerie sight
For my post
from its slab,
began to rise
And suddenly
to my surprise
It did the mash,
it did the Monster Meet and Greet Mash!
A monster blogger mash, it was a graveyard smash!
It did the mash, it caught on in a flash…
It did the mash, it did the monster blog mash!
The zombies and bloggers were having fun,
The blog party had just begun…
The scene was rockin’, we were digging the shares,
Some were commenting, well, those who dared
So add your link and des-
crypt-ion, girls and guys,
Then suddenly to your surprise…
You can mash, you can monster blogger mash!

1halloween86

While I often say the best part of blogging is ‘meeting’ other bloggers, readers, etc., it’s been too long since we hung together, so welcome to…

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