Tuesday, November 24, 2020

covid notes 50

with a nod to Vesper Sparrow’s notes from my mess:


Tim’s sister got married on the 7th with a few family members there, including her mother.


On the 9th, Pinky (their mother) fell and broke her hip.


Late on the 10th, she had partial replacement surgery. She is 89 years old.


After the surgery, there was lots of talk about what to do next. Pinky is not only easily bored, but also has Lewy body dementia. She wants to go home. Her husband, Danny, wants to bring her home. He believes that going to rehab will not work for her, especially given the fact that no one would be allowed to visit, because covid. He believes she should come home and hopes that the family could do everything possible to make that work.


He was told that two strong adults would need to be home at all times. (This in addition to help coming in daily.) It was unclear whether anyone thought he counts as a strong adult. He is a very young 89-year-old (thank god), but how strong?


The four siblings began discussing whether a schedule needed to be worked out, with one of them there for a full week at a time.


Tim’s older brother has been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and has started chemotherapy. It doesn’t seem like he’s a good candidate for this task.


Tim and I need to get some doctor’s appointments in before the end of the year, and if we travel, we cannot go to said appointments. Besides the fact that we should not be traveling at all.


Vermont’s governor is discouraging all travel. A week and a half ago he forbid any household intermingling. Even going on a walk with a single neighbor was forbidden. (That has been retracted, but you must wear a mask and maintain distance and be with just one neighbor.)


I don’t think we should even consider sending Tim south until January 2, after our appointments. And maybe not even then. And I’m afraid everyone will think I’m a total bitch if I stick to my guns on this.


In the last week, it’s become more clear that Pinky needs to go to rehab.


Danny finally gave in to this, reluctantly. He is very worried about her. There was only one place that would allow visitors, but she didn’t quite qualify to get in, and then that place stopped allowing visitors.


She has qualified for a different place and will be moved today or tomorrow. Word has just come in that Danny will be allowed to visit each day during certain hours if he passes covid tests. I hope that this is true. It is such good news (in what may be a slog of ultimately bad news).


Meanwhile, my (also 89-year-old) mother’s latest health assessment has revealed that she no longer qualifies for assisted living and is looking at skilled nursing care for the rest of her life.


This means that the new assisted living apartment that her things were moved into when she moved to rehab in July will never be lived in (or even seen) by her. My sister has scheduled to move the rest of her things back to the hoarder’s house on December 1.


As my mother technically has DNR status, rehab felt she should have hospice care, which Alison agreed to and hired a company. My mother doesn’t know this. She is not actively dying at this time but now will have hospice nurses.


She is suffering from some dementia (vascular, likely). When she’s lucid, she still thinks she can go home and live in That House. When Alison told her that this would not be possible, Mom threatened to take her to court. Alison calmly told her to go ahead. (We are not concerned—my mother isn’t a person who does things.)


My sister is a fucking saint who is taking care of everything (and from hundreds of miles away). I would not be able to handle any of this. I can’t even get my shit together on the goddamned health insurance. I’m like a deer in the headlights over any paperwork.


Speaking of paperwork, we paid back the thousands of dollars that the Department of Labor decided we owed them. Living the dream, we are.


The Sears guy came today to service a couple of appliances. I like this guy a lot. But I heard him coughing downstairs, and when he had finished his tasks and I went to talk with him, he had trouble keeping his loose mask up. When he left I wiped down surfaces and opened windows and let the cold, cold air cycle through for awhile.


A couple of weeks ago (a week before the latest round of restrictions), I agreed to quietly drive to New Hampshire with Alison so she could purchase a new (to her) car—also because there was a grave I’ve needed to visit for nine years in the same town.* It was an 11-hour day with the drive to and from, the hours at the dealer, the stop at the cemetery, the finding of the grave. While we were at the dealer’s, news of the Biden/Harris win broke. Alison and I were trying to figure out if we could openly celebrate safely (meaning would we be shot on sight when self-identifying as Democrats?). We sat outside to eating our prepacked lunches, and one of the employees began a conversation with us, and he was cool, and we started celebrating Biden/Harris and trash talking Trump, but his guy would get real excited and lean in to make points (dude! covid!), and sometimes pull down his mask when making points (dude!! covid!!), and sometimes need to cough and would pull down his mask to do this (dude!!! covid!!!)! We saw him sitting with his coworkers later, and everyone seemed to be trusting each other to be fine, I mean, they were all masked. Then.


So there are two scary little moments.


As for Thanksgiving, the governor is allowing people who are single (e.g., Alison) to intermingle in one other household of an immediate relative (me), so she will join me and Tim for dinner. She is a gluten-free vegan and will bring food and we will be making food, both Alison-friendly and Alison-not, and she’ll probably be here just long enough to have a leisurely dinner.


And there’s so much more. But this massive missive is all you get today. You’re welcome.


*I truly thought I had told this story in a blog post, but I can’t find it. I allude to it here and here.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

covid notes 49

I don’t really have trees in my yard, but I have leaves.


Yesterday I raked leaves. Just the ones that had piled up against the back of the house, and the ones that had piled up against the garage/barn, and the ones that had piled up against the slate patio behind the garage/barn. I left ones in the rut that some heavy machinery made over the summer, where I need to replant grass. I left them among the plants in front of our house.


I filled 6½ thirty-gallon yard-waste bags.


A couple of weeks ago, Martha texted me and Lynda asking if she could come steal leaves in our yards for her compost. So this morning I texted Martha and asked her if she wanted the 6½ bags or if I should schlep them to Paul’s.


She wanted them.


So we made a couple of trips back and forth across the street and emptied the leaves onto her raised-bed gardens. And I got to keep the bags.


A happy earth-friendly solution on this first wintery-feeling day.

covid notes 48

When Tim was laid off, he was given a (small as far as I’m concerned given that he worked there for 25 years) severance package and had a couple of weeks of vacation pay coming to him. We figured unemployment wouldn’t kick in until that ran out, so when payments began arriving a few weeks later, Tim called to point this out and was told all was well and was instructed on exactly how to fill out the weekly forms. Then, at the end of September, we received a call from someone who was investigating his claim. Apparently he had been given bad advice. The investigator led Tim to believe that payments would stop and begin again after about the same amount of time had passed. Instead, he received a legal document via certified mail billing him back for the overpayment. If he wanted to appeal, he needed to do so within 30 days of the determination date, which was 16 days before the day he received the certified notice.


In other words, we are supposed to pay back almost every penny of unemployment (including the very helpful extra $600/week that was being paid out over the summer).


Would it surprise you that I am very angry?


When we at last got a “program integrity specialist”* on the phone, she suggested that we appeal, because everyone does, which would put off a decision for months. My accountant, on the other hand, was clear that the laws are coming in/changing quickly during all this craziness, and if we don’t pay it back in full this year, we may not be able to write off the entire paid-back amount next year. He said if we can pay it now, we should.


Oh, and we have to pay back even MORE cash than they sent us, because we had taxes withheld. So that has to get paid back now too and we won’t see it til it’s written off our tax return next year. I’m so glad that the people who fucked this up are now getting a loan from us.


We are lucky that we can pay this back, but it sure as hell changes things. We are not wealthy people. (Thank god we didn’t spend all the severance.) And they are sending this huge bill to an unemployed person.


Which reminds me, you know what else is exciting? Open season for health insurance starts November 1.


We’re so screwed.


*in fairness, she was very helpful.


covid notes 47

In May—May!—Tim’s sister Amy announced that she and Tom were getting married and the wedding was set for November 7. She said she understood that given covid, it might not happen.


I have been anxious about this event since it was announced, especially as there was no guarantee that any of it could be held outside.


At first, it was going to be a full-on wedding. Eventually they changed the plan to mostly just family, with a party next year.


Tom’s mother fell and broke her leg in three places. Still no cancellation.


Tim and our neighbor were rehearsing wedding music all summer, just in case, but even getting there was going to be problematic, as neither flying nor a long trip in one car were deemed wise. So they were trying to figure out whether they could send a recording instead.


Within the last month or so, I became even more anxious about the event. The venue is not far from Washington, D.C., four days after the election. I do not want to be away from home, especially close to the nation’s capital, that weekend, no matter the outcome. I hope things won’t get dangerous, but they could.


Plus, if we went, we’d have a 2-week quarantine after, and given the declining health of my mother and Tim’s, we need to save those potential quarantines for emergencies.


Finally, last week, Tim told Amy with certainty that we could not go. She understood, she said. Certainly she’d been prepared for that decision.


And then, just a few days later, she was diagnosed with covid, and a couple of days later, so was Tom. (They feel fine.)


So now it’s going to be just the two of them and the J.P.


And a wedding next year, perhaps.


This year is a suckfest.

covid notes 46

Apparently I miss art museums.


Last week I went to the chiropractor. I was sent to wait in one treatment room while she finished treating someone in the other.


I was attracted to a piece of art on the wall. I walked over. It was a photograph, but oddly impressionistic. Beautiful. Glacial, mountainous, skyfull.


I then looked up to my left, where, against the same white wall, was a white frame. Within its borders was a white textile, quilted, rectangular, slightly askew.


An interesting choice, I thought. So different from the photograph, but not unlike some pieces I’d seen in modern art museums.


And then it occurred to me that it might not be art. I looked out a window to confirm the air conditioner pushing out behind it.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

covid notes 45

Yesterday it was my friend H’s birthday, one of the NYC friends I saw on my last-prelockdown-trip-outta-town, and as I hadn’t been in touch at all since then, and as he was turning 82, I picked up the damn phone and called, and he answered. It was great to talk with him, although times are awful, and he says many people in his neighborhood are now on the street with nowhere to go and no way to VOTE—which led to my comment that I had just picked up a couple of linoleum-block posters created by my farmer/artist/neighbor friend Laurie, the message vote while you still can, and I sent him a photo, and he wanted one, asked if he could copy it from the photo, but I had an extra and said I would mail it if I could find a tube. I found a tube and one of Laurie’s previous posters, a feminist theme, rolled them up and sent them to Washington Heights. I let him know they were coming and that I had repurposed the tube sent to me from one of my authors in England, Fred, who died a few years ago. H texted back that he and Fred had been good friends, and did I know the story of Fred and his second wife? I knew I’d heard the story, but I’d forgotten it, and wasn’t it a little risqué? Whereupon H called me to tell it. I had heard it before, but I don’t want to forget again. So here it is: Fred had been seeing two women and very much enjoyed the company of each. One day he invited them both to tea and announced that he would like to marry one of them, and, if either or both were interested, they should work out whom it would be. And so they did.

covid notes 44

On August 29, at happy hour, Tim left Martini Lounge, probably to make dinner, and I began scrolling through my Facebook feed and suddenly saw a post from Julie, announcing that she was devastated, that Dave (her husband) had died in his sleep of a heart attack. This was completely unexpected. (He would have turned 59 next week.)


Last year, on Route 153 in one of my quarterly reports, I told you the story of the whip-poor-will I got to hear, the one that always landed on Chuck’s roof. I was in town for my college reunion, but a couple of my dearest friends had been in the class ahead of me and still lived in the area, and there was one from my class who wasn’t going to reunion stuff, so I’d asked Chuck to host them all at his house, which he kindly did: Marty, Dave, and Heidi.


At the last minute, Julie didn’t come along, but Dave brought his daughter Maggie, who was awesome and funny, early 20s. He also brought me a half-pint of maple syrup produced at our college’s field station. Chuck runs the field station, and each year, Dave is one of the head honchos of the sugaring. This has been true since they were freshmen in college in 1979. Sugaring with them during college—and a few times after—is a great memory for me. (See also the ghost story from our scary stuff month. And this poem.)


There was a little laughter about coals to Newcastle when he handed a now-Vermonter some syrup, but I was thrilled.


The morning of August 29, Tim and I finished up refrigerated syrup in a glass container I wanted to keep. I cleaned it out and took it downstairs to store until I needed it again. There were some empty syrup containers on the shelf: a couple I’d saved in case I wanted to break down a gallon and give some away and the empty half-pint Dave gave me. I decided I’d go ahead and recycle most of these empties, but when I picked up Dave’s and saw the logo and thought of that night and his sweet gift, I put it back on the shelf.


Which must have been right about the time—or right after—that Julie discovered that Dave wasn’t going to wake up.


That night, I spent some time on the phone with an old college friend. He was a 9/11 first responder who has been losing fellow responders regularly for years, and more and more during this covid-19 crisis. Everyone’s lungs are shot.


We talked about the frustrations of not being able to mourn properly.


Dave deserves a big sendoff.


This is what I said about him in our original 365 project:


72/365 A Third Dave

He was the part of martychuckanddave I knew the least, despite being around him so much: the notmyboyfriend, notmybestfriend one. Now I suspect he was the most like me, but in ways that kept us slightly distant then. I almost miss him the most.


Because Cedar Waxwing is from Elgin, I should note this: Chuck was from Elgin, and after Chuck and Dave graduated, they both moved there and got jobs at American Can while they were figuring stuff out. I moved to Elgin the year after that as a volunteer for a church-related organization, so I got to hang out with them again. Dave used to give me rides on his motorcycle, which was, frankly, awesome. Julie also grew up in Elgin, and she and Dave got together while he lived there. When they got married, they moved to Pennsylvania. (Chuck and Julie and all their many siblings graduated from the same high school as Cedar Waxwing.)


Eventually, Julie got the obituary up, which I’ll quote in part here:


Most recently he worked in information technology at Penn State University. But his TRUE love was making maple syrup at J—C—’s Field Station on Raystown Lake each spring, where he took charge of the sugar shack, working with close friend and field station director Charles Y—. David was known to his friends for three things: 1. building fires, 2. making maple syrup, and 3. building fires. Fires are mentioned twice because as his friends will say, that man knew how to build a fire!


He did indeed. Should we ever have a proper sendoff, there will likely be a big bonfire involved—but it won’t be as good as one he would build himself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

covid notes 43

Greetings from Day 11 of 14 days of quarantine. After Tim returned from the Adirondacks on Sunday, and having found out that our friend Amy had had a tent visit with my mother, which is the first we’d heard it was possible, and knowing it was only going to get colder and then there would be no tent visits, and knowing we hadn’t seen my mother or his (who has dementia) and her husband since Christmas, we decided that Tim would not start his quarantine on Monday,  rather on Tuesday we would leave town for a road warrior trip and quarantine together when we got home.


Our quarantine hasn’t been 100% perfect, because we made the decision to leave town too quickly to get all the food in the house and therefore had to go to the grocery store, which technically, we aren’t supposed to do during those two weeks. We also have been exercising outside, alone or alonetogether, mostly on our bikes—this is allowed. We also go to the post office to get our mail, but we tend to go during hours when the window is closed and we are unlikely to run into anybody.


This isolating behavior has been a disappointment to our 80-year-old friend Paul, who rightly wanted to have a screened-in porch sit last weekend, one of the most beautiful of the year, before it turns cold. Luckily, he understood how upset I might be if I happened to give him covid.


If you want to read more about Vermont’s quarantine suggestions, go here.


Check out the travel map Vermont provides, which is pretty fascinating and is finally being updated on Tuesdays instead of Fridays so that people have time to cancel reservations if their destination switches from green to yellow or red. The New York county right next to us recently went yellow—that’s where my closest grocery store is. I’m still allowed to go there because getting food is essential, but of course I’m quarantining now.


As much as one would think that quarantining isn’t much different from what everyone is doing anyway, it does add another layer of inconvenience and loneliness. I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

covid notes 42

Tim left today for a three-night fishing trip in the Adirondacks with ex-coworkers who still have their jobs. It is a trip he had done at least twice before, a tradition he started. They are renting a large place, and everyone is bringing his own food, and they will be fly fishing, which is socially distant anyway. We are both nervous about it, for various reasons, but we hope it will all turn out well.


The reason I’m mentioning it is that this is the first night we’ve been apart since December 4. Between my parents’ health issues and his travel schedule, that kind of togetherness hasn’t happened in years.

covid notes 41

Since March, I have hugged two people besides Tim. One was by mistake. The other was a choice.


The first was on August 25, Tim and my 34th legal anniversary. Our dear friend Paul, now 80 years old, is the only person who annually recognizes it—our families certainly wouldn’t know when it is (we had a wedding October 11). Every year he leaves us a bottle of wine and some goody, cheese or jam or something, with a lovely note. This year, I caught him at it—I was rushing out the back door and nearly ran him over as he was leaving the gift. He had just hosted a jazz concert in his backyard for his friends and clients—that’s another story—three days before. I was so surprised and touched, I just threw my arms around him.




But it was the right thing to do.


Eleven days later, we hosted an outdoor pancake breakfast for a friend, her daughter, and her daughter’s girlfriend. The daughter and girlfriend have been living with our friend this summer as the fate of their college attendance was decided. The girlfriend’s mom and mom’s wife were moving from one part of the country to another, and she (daughter’s girlfriend) decided to take a year off and move out there with them. We had grown very fond of the girlfriend and wanted to say goodbye, so we hosted the breakfast. Tim makes incredible fluffy buttermilk pancakes.


The girlfriend was getting on a plane and leaving the next day, and when she was about to go, she opened her arms for a hug, and I went in.


It was a choice. It was great. And I may never see her again, after all.