It has been a year since my trek from Woodstock, N.Y. to Oberlin, OH. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of my arrival at Kendal at Oberlin. This calendar event weighs both heavily and lightly in my thoughts. It is a safe and lovely haven for docking my small boat. The burden of sailing through grief and loss, anchors the memory in my being. Sparkling new revelations were also stirred in the wake of a broken heart that shone in the water like luminescent plankton. My past was torn up, shredded, and tossed on the Ohio waters like confetti. My daughters and son-in-law were my steady pilots in the initial transition. They supported me in each their own ways, and were in my daily concerns as my daughters also acquired new lives as fatherless young women. Our family reconfigured in benign paths that we are still co-creating to our mutual benefits.
At Kendal, I have been met creatively on every front. Writing, performing, singing, dancing, meditating, and supporting others as I am supported, engages and nourishes me in ways that I have not been for many long years. Since my laminoplasty, I am now moving towards greater mobility with good help from my Physical Therapy team. After working with me twice every week for this whole year, they know me well. They truly rejoice in my slow but steady recovery.
I miss my N.Y. friends often but, I find new friendships the more I participate in any of the committees that are the internal backbone of this sprawling organization. I recently became a member of the Quiet Room committee. In my overflowing grief on the first week I arrived, I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t a non-denominational chapel or quiet room where I could retreat. The old one had been absorbed into a new wing built specifically for those residents with dementia. Six years later, a committee has been formed to address this glaring lack. It is finally “in the 2019 budget”; magic words that speak to manifesting a designated calm space for staff, residents, and grieving families coming to be with their loved one approaching death.
With six other women, it was a pleasure to arrive at a consensus, which is the Quaker way of conducting all business. We were given someone’s former office to make a practical, but comforting room. We chose a soothing paint color, and new carpeting and furniture. We await fabric swatches for our chosen seating that is neither too high, too deep, or too difficult to get into and out of for our eldering bodies. All accommodations were duly noted, and no wheelchairs were harmed in the making of this quiet movie.
I am on other committees as well, and just agreed to join a brand new one initiated by a new resident- the wildlife committee. Not everyone thinks of benign solutions concerning squirrels, rabbits, goose poop producers, and so on. There already is an Arboretum committee, as our Kendal grounds are officially an arboretum. No one needs to begin a Lorax (Dr. Seuss reference) committee to speak for the trees. I have a dawn redwood tree outside one of my windows. It is fully leafed out in its frothy delicate way. It will be here long, and very tall, after I am gone, perhaps even after this building is gone. At the moment, my imported cement frog and turtle, dubbed, “The Aquanauts” by my family and friends from N.Y., rest beneath its branches. I looked out the window the other morning and did a double take as a mourning dove folded her feathers and lay down on the turtle’s back, covering him completely. Perhaps she enjoyed the radiant heat. She was still there when I left for lunch.
This last month has been a veiled time of remembrance, grief, and gratitude. The acute pain of my losses has dulled, as it must. The waters are stilled and more placid. My senses are less vivid as the flow of life inevitably carries me along into the larger pond. I am not exactly waiting for whatever comes next. It will come whether I will it to, or not. I am endeavoring to simply be open and ready and led into the unknown by this new year of life at Kendal, my home.