Monthly Archives: May 2020

Changing Perspectives

Yesterday I watched the morning sun splash over the end table next to me. All I could think about was the dirty window. I remembered our neighbor last fall, trying to help us when Jerry could no longer do outside chores. He was teaching a hired helper how to use the pressure washer with soap, succeeding only in spreading dirty streaks over windows I had recently washed. I have not washed them since.

This morning I was struck by the same sun in the same place, filling my room with light and warmth. It drifted over my left hand on the keyboard, but soon moved on to another window, dappling the curtain until finally moving away. It will greet me again in a few hours, after journeying over the top of the house, to warm the other side. I will welcome its return.

It’s all in the way you look at things, isn’t it? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. Our experiences of the coronavirus are like that. For those of us who do not live in a city or crowded suburb, we may not know a single soul who has been affected by the virus. We endure weeks of stay-at-home mandates and then we say, “I am tired of this. I need a change,” as if a disease could respond to our wishes. Others are more cautious, willing to quarantine for as long as is necessary. Time will tell how these different responses to the pandemic play out.

A person’s perspective is made up of a lifetime of personal experiences along with a particular orientation to the world. Additionally, what the person is currently enduring is a crucial influence upon their perspective.

So how is my changing perspective working its way through my life? This is not a normal life we are all living during the coronavirus. I am trying to live it while working through grief, which is also not normal. I seem to be sending myself mixed messages. There is no one else here for me to plan my schedule around. Sometimes I am glad about that and the freedom it represents. Sometimes I feel just aimless. In the same way I view the sun differently at various times, I wake up each day uncertain how I will spend it, either happily bustling around or discontented with my idleness. And why does it feel better to be busy during a pandemic? Wouldn’t this be the perfect time for reflection? The problem is, I don’t know what I need. Sometimes I stop in the middle of something and find myself staring blankly, arrested by… what? Nothing, just total distraction. I try to cut myself some slack – it is okay to be confused, it will all work out.

So now I am seeing the perspective I will try to embrace: stop trying to control everything. Stop worrying about things that will probably never happen. Be willing to live with uncertainty, ambiguity and ambivalence. Like the gift of sunlight, welcome joy whenever it peeks through, if only for an instant. Enjoy the present, because that is all we have. Listen for the spirit of God trying to speak to me. Dance, sing, even if alone, knowing how it will lift my spirits. Feel the assurance that it will not always be this way. Be open to all the possibilities that come my way, and hold fast to the promise that, “All will be well, all will be well.”

Bittersweet Mother’s Day

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to have my daughter, Stacy, come and visit me. I told her that, and she promised me she would come. Now I am lobbying for an overnight stay.

I know she is hesitating because of the coronavirus; she is afraid that she could give it to me, since I am in the “vulnerable” population, being over 60, (and over 70, but I’ll stop there). I don’t see a problem with a prolonged visit. She’s been hunkering down at her beach house, where very few people are around. She orders groceries online and sits on the deck getting tanned in the warm spring sunshine. She is about two hours away, an easy drive. I have no health conditions and have been in good health.

For my part, I’ve been careful, wearing a mask when I go out, keeping social distances, washing my hands and wiping down surfaces. I have not seen her in over two months. And, if she is going to come at all, what’s a few more hours?

She said she would “take it under consideration.”

I did some research and discovered that Mother’s Day came about through the efforts of Anna Jarvis in the early nineteenth century. After her mother’s death, she wanted to honor her, saying that a mother “is the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” It was proclaimed a national holiday by Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Later, however, Ms. Jarvis became disenchanted with the commercialization of the holiday. I guess I am used to all our holidays becoming over-commercialized, which is why I don’t share her dismay! I have always liked Mother’s Day, especially being pampered and going out to eat. And I love the fact that it occurs in spring, my favorite season.

We kids always gave our mom gifts for Mother’s Day, but they were small, like kitchen tools. After we grew up, most of us did not live near our parents, so Mom would get a card and sometimes flowers. Stacy often came to visit me for Mother’s Day, and she, my husband, Jerry, and I would go out to eat. After Stacy married Mike, she had to split her time between me and her mother-in-law for Mother’s Day.

Going out to dinner is my favorite thing to do for Mother’s Day, but this year the restaurants are still closed, except for takeout or delivery. This will be my first Mother’s Day without Jerry, adding another painful twist to my emerging new life. Last year he made me a bouquet of flowers from his garden, but now I will have to do without his presence and his caring. My heart is hurting, and no one makes me feel better like Stacy.

Stacy was my rock during Jerry’s last days. Jerry and I had to travel over two hours from home to the VA hospital in Durham. I stayed with her little family in Raleigh: Stacy, husband Mike and son Michael Paul. I had “my own” room at her home, for the times when Jerry was hospitalized, with a rocking chair, a TV and a stash of books to read, making me feel very comfortable. Early last February Jerry was admitted to the hospital for a surgical procedure. Stacy waited with me for the results, but we were disappointed with the outcome; it was not a permanent solution to his problem. He did not do well from then on. He was hoping for another surgery, but he became weaker and weaker. Stacy took time off work so she could visit every day. On February 14th his medical team – surgeons, oncologists, social worker and palliative care doctor – met with us in his room and told him it was not safe to do another surgery; his body simply could not tolerate it.  “That’s the end of me,” he said, as he agreed to hospice care. He was admitted to hospice and died several days later. Through it all, Stacy and I spelled each other so Jerry was never alone in the daytime. I don’t know how I would have managed it all without her.

Despite the stress of those days, I enjoyed spending so much time with her. We have always been close, even closer after her father died in an accident when she was a baby. She was eleven when I married Jerry, and they were alike in many ways, both extroverted and empathetic toward others. He became the father she had always wanted. Theirs was a Mutual Admiration Society, and I sometimes felt that she understood him better than I did.

 

Stacy and I check in with each other by phone every Friday, and these days we can see each other with Facebook chat, a big improvement over a simple phone call. Today it is Friday, two days before Mother’s Day. I call her and very coolly ask, “So, what is your schedule?” – not wanting to appear overeager.

“Well, I need to be back home for a Zoom meeting Monday morning, so I thought I would come Saturday and leave Sunday.”

“Yay,” I said, “You’re staying overnight!”

She laughed. “I’m staying overnight.”

My heart just got a big boost, and I cannot wait for our long-awaited, non-social-distancing hug!

Back Again

Hello to anyone who may be reading this! It has been several years since I was a regular blogger. I took a hiatus after publishing my book (still available!) and I have been dealing with a significant life change, but I am back. I will try to publish regularly. We’ll see how that works out. Thanks for reading, glad to be back!

A Gift from Jerry

My husband, Jerry, died two months ago. There it is, I said it. Why does it feel so much longer to me? It was winter then, and I felt the cold in my bones.

All the effort I’ve had to put into settling things and getting the benefits I am entitled to have left me nervous and frazzled. And sad.

It all got much harder when the coronavirus hit and everybody had to “shelter in place” at home. What that meant for me was that my daughter had to cancel her visit, and no one was going to come to give me the comfort I craved. Every day I wait for the mail, hoping something positive and encouraging will arrive, so I don’t feel so alone.

Then, scarcely five weeks after Jerry died, my younger sister, Denise, called to tell me her husband, Ed, had died, from lymphoma. I had just seen Denny and Ed. They drove down to North Carolina from New Jersey because Jerry was doing so poorly. They arrived the day he died. They spent the night and left the next day. Ed was weak and had lost a lot of weight, but he seemed stable. He felt worse almost as soon as they left, and was admitted to the hospital shortly after. I had been talking to Denny regularly after the hospitalization. Because of the coronavirus, she was unable to visit Ed in the hospital and he died alone.

I felt like my heart was breaking – how much more could I stand? I wanted to rush to her side, but she was hundreds of miles away. And I couldn’t have hugged her anyway. We cried together on the phone. How well I knew her pain.

But now it is spring, and we are awash in beautiful blossoms, serenaded with birdsong, the air suffused with sun and warmth. No pain, no heartache, no sadness was going to prevent this annual phenomenon from arriving in my life. And I am grateful. The world needed to keep spinning, I needed to believe that all would be well, even if the daily news was relentlessly pursuing dysfunction, death and doom.

A week or so ago, I walked out into the back yard, and there they were: beautiful irises, purple, yellow and white, a surprise I did not remember from last year. A gift from Jerry. I will see more of him as other plants come up. The elephant ears are just shoots now, but they will be so impressive when they fill out, in the front and back yards. There will be hollyhocks in the front, and daylilies, and hostas in several places. All summer we will have color from his roses.

Though I helped with yard work at prior homes, I have not done much gardening at this house. That seems strange to me now, since I had a career before we moved here, and now I am retired. I think it is because this is the place where I finally had time for the things I always wanted to do, primarily writing. I remember offering to help, but I told him, “You have to fit into my schedule, since I am so busy.” Alas, Jerry was too spontaneous for that, so I didn’t help much.

But now I decided to do some beautification, starting with a nasty, prickly weed I pulled off the azaleas in the front. They were just coming out, and I knew the vine would inhibit the blooming. Another day, I moved to weeding the middle garden in the back. I am also cleaning out the winter garden he planted last fall. I got some nice cabbages from it, and onions, parsley and rosemary. Everything else has gone to seed. Jerry never cared about harvesting his vegetables; he just liked to plant them. I was always the one who would bring in the bounty. I will nurture the green onions, parsley and rosemary, since they are doing so well. Perhaps I will plant some other vegetables there.

It amuses me that I even care to do the gardening, since it is not among my usual interests. How could I have changed in such a short time? Something about knowing it was now my responsibility, I guess. Or maybe I was mesmerized by all the beauty and color surrounding me.

I am coming to realize that my future life is a blank slate; I can become whatever I want, but I don’t know what that might be yet because I am still stuck at home, due to the coronavirus. But for now, I have been gardening – it is here, and I am here, with nowhere else to go! Yesterday, another surprise: amaryllis, beautiful trumpet flowers in a burnt amber color, growing in the middle garden, where most of his roses are.

Gardening gives me a renewed appreciation for Jerry, who loved to create beautiful things. I am blessed to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Each time I dig in the dirt, doing a little more to beautify our property, I will think of him, honor his memory, and smile.