Since mid-January, I've been away tending to my aunt and uncle whose lives in their late nineties are beginning to be...well, there's no other word for it but complicated. My aunt, with a weak heart, and blinder and deafer, needs more care; my uncle, though his sight isn't the best, either, is having trouble assimilating to the changes that such age brings to my aunt and to him, especially the infusion of extra people needed for their care. I can't blame him: some days at their apartment are like rush hour at a train station, home care, house cleaners, physical therapists, nurses in and out. I, too, would want to shoo them all out with a dust broom, no matter how well-meaning, and settle myself in to ordinary life. In some ways, organizing people to help, including myself, feels traitorous. But they're safe and cared for, and certainly loved.
I'm glad to be able to be with them at critical junctures like these, and try to keep life as comfortable for them as I can. But I live 400 miles away, and distance is also complicated. The telephone helps us keep in touch and my cousin who lives a few miles from them is also a good communicator and on-site resource, especially in emergencies. We work together, all four of us, to make peace with old age.
Coming back here the other night, I picked up life as usual, or thought I did. It's a long, boring trip, and the interstate isn't my idea of a good ride, but, as it was Sunday, traffic was fewer in number and more polite in attitude. Instead of turning on the radio, I thought new thoughts about work on the art I'd left and new work I might begin, about the garden I'll plant in spring, and I returned in good time.
In the last decade or so, I've traveled quite a bit between relatives, and my routine leaving and returning is pretty much pat: clean up my desk, do the wash, pack, close up house, stop for gas, head out; then, whatever given time later, re-pack, say goodbyes, head home, stop for gas and groceries, unpack, wash, deal with desk stuff again.
This time, though, I walked in the door, began to unpack, and stopped. Enervated, I left suitcases and bags in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, made myself a cup of tea, and collapsed in front of a movie I've seen a hundred times. Tomorrow, I thought, I'll undo everything.
The next morning, I picked up where I left off, and, feeling more purposeful, I made my usual list of things to do, wash, errands, visit to the library where I picked up a half-dozen films I hadn't seen before and two books I hadn't read, walk around the neighborhood, decent dinner. In my studio, I turned to the copper book I'm assembling and added some page embellishments, leaving them to dry. When I went to bed last night, I'd seen one film (good humored, thank goodness: Chinese Puzzle) and read one of the books (don't bother; I can't think why the author thought that was a story). Tomorrow, I told myself, will be back to normal.
This morning, though, it was as if yesterday had never happened. I woke early enough, but instead of rising, I pulled the covers up, picked an Ann Tyler book from the shelf next to me, and lost myself in it until lunchtime. I'd read it before, yes, but it couldn't have seemed more appropriate...Back When We Were Grownups.
Finally crawling out of bed, I washed and dressed, and step by step made my way downstairs. I'd wanted to get back to my copper book, to plan the journal workshop I have to give in March, and certainly write you a new post, though heaven knows I had no intention of making it this complaint...instead, I'd wanted to introduce you to an artist I found while I was away. But something happened on the way to the laptop. Half the day was done, but I was just getting started, my energy only slowly rising with me. I made tea and sat on the porch for a while...the day was sunny, the breeze cool, but the sun warmer, like that old story about whether sun or wind could make a man unbutton his coat. I relaxed into this hint of spring for a few minutes, and began to think about the next step in the day.
Phone calls from my aunt, my sister, and the care coordinator brought me back to earth. Scheduling complications still reigned, despite two weeks efforts. My poor aunt and uncle didn't have their comfort yet, and I was still halfway between here and there.
But that little while on the porch, spring showing its head, even if only for a day, was a respite not only in time but faith. Around the corner, a redbud tree had bloomed, a few crocuses showed up across the street. Even the chill wind couldn't keep them away. It's good that nature sends us these little lessons, and just in time.
Later, I'll take another walk, and undo the knots in my muscles, including that complicated tangle in my heart. If this post isn't what I really had planned to say, I will append my apologies here, and get to it before long. Tomorrow is another day.