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.