The night before I left Massachusetts, it stormed: crashing thunder, brilliant lightning, wind, and eventually, rain. I lay beside an open window, feeling the breeze on my face, counting seconds between thunder and lightning, calculating the distance to the storm’s epicenter as I used to when I was a child. Summer thunderstorms: a treat for a rain-starved Californian.
I came to Massachusetts to check in on my 96-year-old mother as well as to accompany my friend, B, who was clearing out the New York house of her deceased parents. When I first arrived in Massachusetts, her across-the-street neighbor remarked that Mom seemed fine but, unsurprising during COVID, was becoming reclusive. Mom no longer walked to the senior center and only went out for weekly grocery shopping. One of my goals, thus, became re-socializing Mom. Along with setting up and practicing Zoom and Google Meets videoconferencing on her laptop, we visited Mom’s neighbors. In the sunny 80-90 degree afternoons, we talked of eldercare services with P + J, of town notables with S + N, of politics and past experiences with G + J, and, after sharing corn and lobsters with S + R, we watched the birds at their backyard feeders.
In a time of pandemic isolation, we all need some shaking up. Maybe we’ll settle back to dullsville shortly, but for the immediate present, I am feeling more of a tie with Mom and her neighbors. Meanwhile, my sibs have started weekly video calls with Mom and Mom has started walking up and down her cul-de-sac street. She tells me that each time she returns home, she thinks: “I’ve done it again!”
For myself, creating nice memories was my main goal for the trip. Foremost are the shared times with Mom, watching her putter around the house where I grew up, and especially, sitting outside reading together after dinner as the heat of the day gave way to evening cool. But I have other images: myself jogging through the town soccer-fields and woods: 16 rabbits one evening, more rabbits and a doe another morning; the crimson flash of cardinals darting in and out of shrubbery; harvesting beans from the garden S plants every year in Mom’s backyard.
I learned other things: how my determined friend, B, can sort and pack up a stuffed house in nineteen days. This lesson will pay dividends in time to come. Already, I know that step 1 is to order lots of boxes. Step 2 is to be very clear in one’s intentions to let things go. Everything else involves persistence and relentlessness. The piles dwindle eventually but it helps to take breaks and find amusement along the way.
The same is true of driving cross-country which we did in another marathon 48 hour ordeal. We were tireder this time. By Utah, our 4-½ – hour shifts had diminished to 1-½ hrs. I learned to monitor myself and my driving, to stop before becoming stupid, and I enjoyed some spectacular scenery: magenta sunset near the Mississippi; orange-y pink sunset in Big Sky country with sunlight streaming through clouds onto western Wyoming bluffs; sunrise and 44-degree temperatures among granite slopes and fir trees in the Eastern Sierra.
Back in California, I have slept for most of the past week. I’m glad to have gone, glad to be back, and glad to see more people than last month, all over the country, wearing COVID protective face-masks.
Be well and stay safe.
See you tomorrow at Sarana!