Sunday, March 29, 2020

TIME TO SLOW DOWN!

One of the things that the stay in place order as a result of the coronavirus has done for me is given me time to slow down.  Since the children are grown and I'm living alone, I almost never have to set an alarm. On Sundays I always had to get up at 5 so I would have time to practice my horn before I left for the 9:00 Mass.  On Mondays I also usually got up at 5 to practice before I went to the 9:00 daily Mass and then Bible Study. This past Monday, I slept through two alarms and didn't wake up until 8:45. I honestly don't even remember the last time I slept that late! I know many people are telling us to set a schedule to keep us from feeling lost or disorganized, but at this point, I feel free!  Most of my life has been spent at the beck and call of others: school schedules, extracurricular activities, work hours, the demands of six children and their school schedules, extracurricular activities and carpools. Even when I began homeschooling my fifth daughter, I was still locked into the  schedules of my other children and I tried to maintain a schedule for her and then my son when I began homeschooling him as well. My daughter was very self-motivated; she could sit down with her list of assignments and just power through until she was done.  Some days, however, we rolled dice to see which assignment she'd do first. My husband, who was a very linear thinker, was horrified by that approach, but I pointed out that she always got everything done, and it put more fun in the day.  
When we first began the lockdown, I often had to stop and think what day it was. For someone who never missed a Sunday Mass, except once when I was coming home from having our fourth baby, not being able to go to Mass to start the week has skewed my life quite thoroughly.  And I don't have Bible study on Monday morning or choir practice Monday night. There is no more neighborhood Bible Study on Tuesday night, and my hour of prayer on Wednesday night at church is now done at home.  I have missed one granddaughter's birthday (she sadly reminded me last night that she was really hoping for her American Girl doll, which I have given to each of my granddaughters when they turn 8). I will probably miss the next granddaughter's birthday also, and their two First Communions as well as the Confirmations of two of my grandsons are up in the air as well. Their presents are all piled up on the counter in my office waiting for the chance for us to be together again.  The only things that are still going forward, although virtually, are my Weight Watcher workshops and my horn lessons.  However, the horn lessons over Zoom or Messenger leave a great deal to be desired.  When we go into the lower registers, it sounds as if we have also gone underwater, and it is difficult to hear a lot of the warmup.  I have ordered a microphone that will plug into my computer, and it should arrive on Tuesday, and then my teacher and I will determine if it makes enough of a difference for him to order one as well. I told me daughter Mary that I will buy one for her three boys, who all take lessons, if it seems to make them less like an adventure in an aquarium.
The very fact that there are so few things on my schedule that have to be done seems to be releasing me slowly from the grip of the feeling that I am constantly rushing from one thing to another. I remember how our son, when he was only 3 years old, would sit at the little desk he had where he could color, and say, "There's lots of work to be done."  I think that has been my motto for most of my life, and as I ponder a much less structured life, I feel as if the giant boa constrictor of time is gradually releasing its coils and allowing me to breathe more deeply, to look around at spring unfolding everywhere, from the wisteria hanging its purple panicles from the top of the podocarpus tree, to the orange blossoms that are beginning to perfume the air amid a huge crop of oranges, to the deep green of the grass after an unusual amount of rain, to my four valiant tomato plants, set in the ground with the help of several of my grandchildren just before we were all placed on lockdown.  They are all growing without any help from me, other than an occasional cheering word when I am sauntering about the back yard surveying my little domain and looking forward to hearing once again the delighted shouts of children frolicking about back there.  I am determined to enjoy the restful pace of now, and I am giving some thought to how to incorporate the slower pace into my life when the world situation settles into a different rhythm.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

THE ONGOING CORONAVIRUS CHRONICLE

Last week things continued to change day by day. On Monday, I was home all day. Masses were canceled for the foreseeable future, as was Bible Study, choir practice, and Christ in Our Neighborhood. When I called the church office, they confirmed that the church would be open for private devotion until 4 PM every day, which meant that I also could not go to my Holy Hour on Wednesday nights from 7 to 8 PM. All the things that structured my days and evenings had disappeared. Since Edward had been transferred to the other hospital, I also wasn't allowed to join Maria there because the restrictions on visitors had become tighter every day.  
On Tuesday, Maria called on her way in to visit Edward in the hospital, to say that something was happening to her power steering, and could I meet her just outside of town, exchange my Suburban for her Jeep, and get the Jeep towed from my house to the car repair shop. I did this, and learned that not only had the power steering pump broken, but that her front brakes were shot, so I arranged for everything to be taken care of while she was with Edward in the hospital signing the papers for his surgery the next day and meeting with the team of surgeons responsible. I fixed her dinner and pampered her as much as I could since the day of the surgery was bound to be stressful. On Wednesday, she again climbed into the trusty Suburban and headed to the hospital for the surgery. It was supposed to be about 45 minutes, but wound up taking 5 and 1/2 hours for the pacemaker and defibrillator to be implanted in Edward. She stayed until nearly 10 because Edward took a long time to begin to come out of the anesthesia, but the surgery was successful and by the next morning Edward had already noticed a difference in how his heart was working, so we were all relieved and grateful.
With the surgery completed, Maria was no longer allowed in the hospital so she had to make do with a few calls to Edward during the day.  We cooked dinner together; I had bought pork tenderloins earlier, and she tried a different recipe on each of the two tenderloins, while I made a hearts of palm and celery salad. After the stress of the past few days, it felt like a little celebration. The Governor issued an order for people to stay home which resulted in drastic reductions in traffic and emissions.
On Friday, we ransomed the Jeep, Maria left for her home, I had a three hour Master Mind call, and then set up my own Zoom account to see if that would work for my horn lesson.  While I was able to make the connection with my horn teacher, he had just finished three lessons on Messenger with my grandsons, and asked if we could try again on Saturday.
On Saturday, after I unsuccessfully researched microphones for the computer, I was able to have my horn lesson virtually over Zoom, although sections of it sounded as if they were happening underwater. I was introduced to Door Dash and ordered calzones from one of our local pizzerias.  I ended the day reading from Louise Penny's Kingdom of the Blind since I have more time now to become engrossed in her mysteries.
And today, I experienced my first Weight Watchers online workshop, where I saw with delight our leader and many of the friends I've made in our actual meetings. It was amazing how comforting it was to see so many of the people virtually whom I've come to know actually, but this time in their homes, which added a new dimension to my perception of them. One of them had the Golden Gate Bridge behind her, and I saw that she had managed to invoke one of the backgrounds offered by Zoom, which I'd never figured out how to do.  There is always something new to learn!
I watched the Mass that Bishop Barron streamed from his chapel and was thankful that it is the virus that is keeping us from actually being able to be at Mass and receive Communion, rather than the persecution that many Catholics experience in places like the Middle East and parts of Africa, which means that they go for much longer periods than we will without the Sacraments.
In the afternoon, courtesy of Google, I was able to wish one of my granddaughters a happy birthday, and see several other of my daughters and their families.  Now I wonder if this week I will actually get to experience the joys (to an introvert) of being at home with more time to accomplish things, and particularly to pursue several of my writing projects.  
I think very often these days of a scene in John Steinbeck's The Red Pony. The grandfather has told Jody that they will go out to the barn and hunt rats the next day. Jody is excited about being included in the hunt, and he comments, "Those old rats don't know what's going to happen to them tomorrow." His grandfather replies, "And neither do we."  It always seemed a succinct summation of life, and these days it appears to be an even truer description.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

CORONAVIRUS FROM THE HOSPITAL

This week, the whole world seemed to tilt. Last week, things in my life were in an upheaval because my business partner's husband was life flighted to the hospital because of heart issues, and this week, at least in the U.S., everything seemed to shut down except hospitals.  Edward is still in the hospital with serious heart issues, and was transferred to the ICU. For the first couple of days, I stayed at the hospital with my friend and took her down to the cafeteria for lunch or coffee when Edward was resting. But on Friday the hospital went into lockdown, and while I could enter the hospital, I couldn't go into ICU any more, and my friend Maria was the only relative allowed to stay. She seemed essential to Edward's gradual improvement and she just refused to leave.  I still met her for lunch and chats in the waiting room as a way of supporting her, since she could get very little sleep in the chair they provided her.  
Today, Edward was transferred to a different hospital, where he will have a permanent pacemaker implanted that should help his heart, and he will also be away from the incoming coronavirus patients who were being transferred into the ICU of the first hospital.  
In just the few days that I was spending most of my time at the hospital, I would come home and see more things canceled. Eventually all Masses were canceled except for today, but Catholics were dispensed from the obligation to go even for today. Since I didn't want to take a chance to picking up something that could be transferred to Edward, I decided not to go to Mass but watched one that was live streamed on my computer. Everything at our parish has been canceled for the next few weeks.  Then I headed off to the hospital. I stayed until Edward was moved, then Maria and I left, stopped at the grocery story, where whole aisles were emptied, and then she finally was able to go home, where my son was taking care of her dogs and cats. I have been texting back and forth with my children and the friends who are closest to Maria and Edward, but it has been a bizarre experience and at times it seems as if the world is turning into a ghost town.  When one of my granddaughters told her mother that she wished things were back to normal, my daughter told her that this would be in the history books and for her to pay attention to everything that is going on. All my daughters are now homeschooling their children, paying even more attention to healthy practices, and drawing together in prayer, even if we can't go to Mass.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

THE BEST LAID PLANS

Two days in a row this past week, I experienced the truth of the lines of Robert Burns: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men/ Gang aft agley." On Thursday I was supposed to be working on my cards with my business partner, but the special order wood for the rest of our deck had arrived at Home Depot and we had to go inspect it.  And of course, while we were there, we were sidetracked into the plant department and emerged with four tomato plants and a huge planter full of lettuce plants.
In addition, the Suburban needed a new battery and this required a trip to the auto parts store, the purchase of a battery, asking a friend if he could come and help us exchange it, and after an hour of struggle, realizing that we'd have to go back and get another tool and by then the auto parts store was filled with people who had just gotten off work and it was a long line and an hour's wait before we could get the tool. My business partner went home without having done any work on our cards (but I was extremely grateful she had helped me with the other jobs) and I took my friend out to dinner to thank him for his help.
The next day, I thought things would return somewhat to normal, but after I had finished my horn lesson, my business partner called me from her home, which is an hour and a half away, to see if I could take her husband to the Emergency Department for some tests. I was preparing to do that, when she called back and said he had taken a turn for the worse, and she had to call 911. Once the ambulance arrived, and they started checking his heart, they said they were worried he was having a heart attack and upgraded him to a life flight, which would get him to the hospital in 8 minutes instead of 2 hours.  I was thankful that I hadn't picked him up, since we might have been out in countryside with no help if I had gotten him.  Then I waited several more hours until my business partner was able to hear how her husband was doing (she had to check in guests at their guest house and she also has three dogs she can't leave alone). He was on oxygen and an IV for his medications, but has been too tired for any visitors, so we are just keeping in contact by phone and I'm letting our family and friends know how he's doing, as well as keeping everyone updated on my son-in-law Ray, who will be seeing the oncologist on St. Patrick's Day about his chemotherapy schedule. 
Life has felt like a roller coaster since then, but I think it's slowing down a bit. However, I will not guarantee that I'm going to be able to get off until I actually step out of the car.