On the one hand, I’m worn out by feeling that I can’t make long term plans and that I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. There have been so many years of uncertainty both on a personal and a community/national/global level that I would welcome a sense of stability.
On the other hand, it would be terrifying and/or depressing to know that things are going to go badly and that there would be no way to ameliorate or avert them.
So, I guess I will remain in my state of unknowing, making plans, then modifying or dropping them when the next unexpected thing occurs.
There is an old song “What a Difference a Day Makes” but today I’m thinking about what a difference a year makes.
Two years ago this spring, my mom, known here as Nana, was living in the skilled nursing section of the senior community where she and my father, Paco, had lived for ten years. She was under hospice care as she was nearing the end of her battle with heart failure. My father and I visited every day for hours with frequent visits from my daughters and granddaughter ABC, who were living with us at the time. My out-of-town sisters were able to come to visit often, too.
Nana passed away in May 2019, a few days after her 87th birthday. We were able to hold her funeral in her parish church with a visiting hour before with friends coming to comfort us. There was also a gathering at her and Paco’s senior community.
Last spring, we were all in COVID lockdown. Visiting nursing homes was totally shut down with very limited exceptions for end-of-life situations. I often thought of what that would have looked like for us, if Nana had been facing death in spring 2020 rather than 2019. We would have lost those last few weeks with her, which were painful but also filled with precious moments. We were able to bring her flowers, including her beloved lilies-of-the-valley which blossom in May, just in time for Mother’s Day and her birthday. One of the last things she was able to eat was a little fruit tart I had brought for her birthday. I helped her by cutting it and fed her as she had me when I was a baby…
In 2020, we would likely not have been allowed to visit until the very end when she was unconscious. The church was totally closed, so there would have been no funeral, not even for family.
It was hard last spring, too, because we could no longer visit Paco every day in his apartment. Although visits to independent living apartments were not totally forbidden, they were supposed to be limited, with some masked outdoor visits preferred over anything indoors. My sisters had planned to visit for Paco’s 95th birthday in March but that had to be postponed. Little did we realize at the time that that postponement would turn into cancellation.
That brings us to this spring, which is just getting underway here with some of the early bulbs flowering and the first trees starting to bud. Paco is now living in assisted living which is part of the health care center. While visiting and gathering there are still limited, my younger sister and I were able to visit him for half an hour in his apartment on his birthday and he was able to share a large birthday cake we provided with the other residents and staff on his unit later in the day. Later this month, my elder sister will be able to visit in person for the first time since last summer. She lives out-of-state so hasn’t been able to travel to New York without prohibitively lengthy quarantine, but now, with vaccines available and changes in state policy, she will finally be able to see Paco again.
We have no idea, though, if or when daughter E and granddaughter ABC will be able to visit. They moved permanently to the UK in fall 2019, joining son-in-law L in London. They have since been joined by granddaughter JG, who recently had her first tooth break through.
Spouse B, daughter T, and I would love to think that this spring we could jet off to London to meet JG in person for the first time, but it isn’t possible. Maybe this summer? It depends on conditions with the pandemic and travel restrictions.
Will we get to hold her while she is still a baby or will she be an on-the-move toddler by that time?
Will Paco ever get to meet her in person? For the UK family branch to visit the US is much more complicated and we have no idea when that will be feasible. We also, sadly, don’t know how things will go with Paco’s cognitive decline. While sometimes he remembers names of family members, sometimes he forgets them.
Sometimes, he forgets that he has great-grandchildren at all.
In 2019, I knew that spring 2020 would be very different because my mother would not be there. I could not have imagined how different 2020 would turn out to be.
“After what might” have been a night on retreat, I am instead sitting on an upholstered chair next to our still-fragrant Christmas tree with my new Christmas-present laptop on my lap.
I had hoped to be on a 24-hour retreat at a nearby spiritual center. The theme was to have been finding some optimism for the new year.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people sign up to go ahead with the program.
Part of the reason signups were low was probably the weather. Yesterday, the weather was rainy with a high in the 60s F. (16 C). Overnight, the temperature plummeted to well below freezing. There is an inch or two of snow (5 cm), mostly likely with a coating of ice underneath with more snow expected.
I know it is safer for all of us to be at home, but I still wish the retreat had not been cancelled.
Once upon a time, I think I got a year-end summary from WordPress that compared how many people visited the site to various buildings or transportation modes, like trains. You could share it to your blog.
I assumed that WordPress sent us an email with a link to our personal information, although I didn’t remember. I have been on the lookout, though.
I finally searched for my 2015 summary and realized that I had the info well before now. I started searching and found out that, unfortunately, WordPress is not sending out year-end summaries for 2016.
As a (less fancy and engaging) substitute, I am taking a (rare) look at my stats page to share a bit.
In 2016, Top of JC’s Mind had 226 posts, which garnered 7,507 views from 3,578 visitors from 62 countries. (Or thereabouts, given that people who read my blog via email don’t show up in my stats.) The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada were the top three countries.
My poem “Crowning Glory” appeared as part of Silver Birch Press’s “My Mane Memories” series.
I did keep up my participation with the Binghamton Poetry Project and published in both the Spring and Fall anthologies.
Binghamton Poetry Project also brought me an unexpected and wonderful opportunity to write and present a poem at the annual Heart of the Arts award ceremony. This blog post contains the poem, as well as links to a video of my reading and the story of how the poem came about.
I was thrilled to return to North Adams and MASS MoCA for a reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets. It was fantastic to be back and to have a chance to work on my collection under development. There is a series of blog posts on the residency beginning on September 30th.
There are two exciting developments that bring the Boiler House Poets out to a wider audience. The first is the publication of Verse Osmosis, an anthology that grew out of an exercise from our first residency in November 2015 in conjunction with Tupelo Press. The second is a new collaborative videopoem that Marilyn McCabe produced which we recorded in and about our beloved Boiler House. It is currently entered in a contest, but when the link becomes publicly available, I will return to this post to do an update.
Given my track record with making plans, I know better than to make any firm commitments for 2017. The three things that I will dare to state here are that I will continue to work on my collection under development, I will attend the Boiler House reunion residency this fall, and I will continue to stay active with my local poetry groups, Binghamton Poetry Project, Bunn Hill Poets, and Sappho’s Circle, to which I owe a debt of gratitude. I have learned so much from you all and admire your work and generosity in helping me become the poet I am today and the poet I am becoming in the future.
Update 2/22/17: The Boiler House Poets’ videopoem is once again available to the public. You can find it here: https://vimeo.com/187387583
Today, my mother-in-law, known here as Grandma, would have turned 85.
Instead of buying flowers or her favorite truffles from a local sweets shop and making plans for her birthday dinner, we are faced with the six-month anniversary of her death and the beginning of a new season without her.
We have already been through the first Easter and Mother’s Day without her.
On August 15th, we didn’t buy flowers in remembrance of her and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary.
In the months ahead, there will be the first Thanksgiving without her and the first Christmas and the first Valentine’s Day.
We won’t be bringing her flowers on March 17th to celebrate Evacuation Day, an inside family joke that originated with Grandpa’s years as an elementary school principal.
A few days later will be the first anniversary of her death.