It is a dreary fall day that feels like November already but without my former northeast reference points of snow sprinkled mountaintops already stripped of leaves. The smell here is different- the species of leaf rot is not the same. Nostalgia is an inherent aspect of the season and next week our clocks will ‘fall back’. Barely gray by 6:00 a.m., now it will be black, both early and late. The days of rising under the stars as they finished their wheel over the barn are long gone, as are mornings of feeding the animals, coming in to rouse the girls, the bustle of breakfasts, packing lunches, remembering homework projects and backpacks, dropping them off for their ride to school, Richard bidding me farewell as he drove off to work in the city or finishing his last cup of coffee as he went into his home office. Me; I’d go off to my own office after finishing the breakfast dishes, and putting in a load of laundry to run while I gave sessions, too.
Now those two grown women rise to their own days to lead their own lives. Richard is altogether gone from the world of time and seasons, leaving me to remember that the world turns without him. I lead my own life in my small hamlet of the Care Center within the larger town of over 300 Kendal residents, along with the hundred daily commuters of nurses, social workers, PT’s, OT’s, carers, and the staff, from administrators, to cooks, to laundry workers, who run this sprawling organization. My first winter without Richard is coming. The first Thanksgiving is almost here. The first Christmas will be just me and my younger daughter, Marion, together at Kendal while my older daughter, Emilia, and her husband, Zoran, will go to Texas to be with Zoran’s sister, mother and their many friends from their school days.
I let the movies in my mind play out and then I am quiet. Empty. At first it is painful and lonely. Then there is a rush of gratitude for exactly how things are. Emilia sent me the sweetest text saying she wished I lived even closer than the 40 minutes distance between her home and mine. There might have been time for a quick morning hug before she dove back into grading papers. Sitting in my chair for a while longer, I meditate in the silent moment of no season, no loss, no gain, and feel the relief of Being, shedding ownership of anything at all. I arise opened and internally still.
After breakfast, I am going to listen to a radio program with my friend down the hall. This is partly to share the pleasure of her company and partly it is an ongoing ploy to convince her cat that I am no longer her evil assailant. For a while, I helped her owner subdue the flailing paws, and opened Miss Kitty’s reluctant sore mouth in order to administer antibiotics. She doesn’t run as far away from me as last week, but is still no where near to happily accepting grooming and petting from me as she used to. We figure the more I come and just sit quietly, the more she will accept me as her non-enemy. I am fine with however long it takes. She is a survivor, this rescue cat, and her instincts have served her well. My identity as a safe lap will come again in her time.
Big news! for me is that I am moving down the hall permanently into a new room. In a few weeks they will have repainted the walls and refurbished the floor. The former occupant, who I only got to know briefly before she died, had the room painted a bright “Goldfinch” yellow orange. Since the room gets little direct sun, I actually liked it a lot. Once I spent some time time in there looking around, I instead chose “Forsythia” from the paint samples. Imagining some of the artwork I own on the walls seemed to need a little less red in the paint, though I will keep the small kitchenette the color it is. Yes, I will have a small fridge, sink, and cabinets which will help me to attend to my dietary needs going forward. The new room is much larger, has storage space under the window seat, an additional window and closet, and the bathroom is not a hospital bathroom, but also is bigger and has a vanity with drawers. It is painted a deep lavender and I will keep it that same luscious color.
When Kendal was founded 25 years ago, there was no such concept as assisted living. The wing with larger rooms designated for this new category was added around 5 years ago. The room I am currently in is a very nice for a hospital room, but without storing things at E&Z’s house, there is no way I could have brought all of my meager possessions with me. Exactly because I do not have seniority (I am now the third youngest resident at Kendal), the Powers That Be determined I should have the larger room because it will be my home for longer than other candidates. The former resident of my new room certainly had seniority once she moved from her apartment into the Care Center and was a well known musical member of the community. She sadly died about a month or so after she had moved in.
None of us can know when or where we will enter our last days, but surely this new room will be my final home. It is sobering to consider and also inspires a moment of gratitude; to have landed safely, and to be well cared for. I believe that Richard would be very pleased that his loving care baton has been passed into the right hands.