November

November

Like much of the northeast, here in Ohio, November has waltzed in on unusually warm weather. I am not complaining, mind you. I enjoy the still warm caress of the sun even as most of the trees are bare, inspiring two haikus.

Starlings          11/1/22

Starlings alighted

Like black leaves on bare branches

Murmuring migrants

Cloudy

Thick clouds break apart

Blue sky and sun always there

I am looking up

And of course, as we move towards election day in the U.S., things are not necessarily looking up. During an online prayer gathering that I sat in on this morning, I felt keenly how much of a group phenomenon our intense political divide has become. We humans have such an animal need to be part of a herd. The group that most reflects fear, the need to blame, and resulting hatred and rigidity draws in millions. The group who wishes to preserve a democratic vision, an educated adherence to reality, to benign cause and effect supporting our diverse population, draws in millions. I am not exempt. Freedom to choose which herd to cling to comes with the possibility of not getting what I deem is best, even if I think we might be headed over a cliff.

Fall is always poignant as the flora and fauna respond to the waning sunlight hours in our part of the world. The cycles of physical change and the inevitable losses are apparent all around us. Loss is tangible and inescapable. On that note, I highly recommend this CD just released by Kim Rosen and Jamie Sieber. Titled, Feast of Losses, Kim embodies famous poems addressing grief and gratitude exquisitely interwoven with music created by Jamie and friends. It is an hour of deep heart opening nourishment. *

This poem came to me as I sat by one of Kendal’s many ponds.

Willow’s Way                              10/21/22                                    Judi Bachrach

Prevailing breezes from the east

collide with billowing gusts from the west

conflicting fronts halt

the slow glide of fallen leaves

across the pond

amassing by the bank

Crisp new recruits

arriving every moment

form a ragged line amid

countermanding currents

caught in the middle

quivering detachments on alert

On shore a thousand

willow thin branches

still dressed in dry green leaves

lift up hallelujah

bow down reverent whirlwind

resilient tendrils alive in sympathy

with those that fall

Trunk unmoved

anchored in the ground of being

our roots seek truth

renewed deep within

stark bare branches against the sky

* To purchase a Feast of Losses as a CD or Download, go to

https://jamisieber.com/feast-of-losses

October

10/7/22  

Yesterday was probably one of the last warm and sunny days of fall. I stopped by a pond that once more held about 20 geese. They had found other waters over the summer after most of them had likely been born and raised here. Occasionally four of the largest peeled off two by two while the rest of the grown goslings stayed together. They all floated quietly, and I closed my eyes to float along with them. One stood up and flapped its wings setting off a round of honking, but they soon settled down again.

What a gentle time. Perhaps they are resting up for a long migration or perhaps they will overwinter right here. That is often the case, in these climate-changing days. They have no mate to locate and bond with, no nests to build, no territories to defend or goslings to tend. They just paddle and eat and float as the leaves around them are busy turning colors. I have seen squadrons of their species overhead night and day, one flock in V formation tucked in behind another. Ornithologists think they follow a combination of topography, magnetic fields, the sun and the stars to make their journeys. How amazing as they call down to us from the sky.

The nights have not yet been cold enough to bring on dramatic arboreal colors, though the burning bushes (euonymus alatus) are striking in appearance already. Dried yellow leaves from a few trees crackle beneath the wheels of my electric scooter. Otherwise, I am entranced by the subtle gold-hazed tapestries woven every day, soon to be cut and fall off from the plant looms that hold leaves and fading flowers. I found a black walnut tree on the Kendal property I hadn’t known about before. I couldn’t resist seeing a BOO! face in this one.

On Halloween in the assisted living area where I live, we will receive our booster COVID shots. I am thinking of a simple costume where I can still roll up my sleeve. I used to have so many bits of this and that to design one, but I shed all of them when I moved to Ohio. I will surely think of something for the occasion. Perhaps a fabricated corona crown would be in bad taste?

I am storing memories from my outdoor rides because the paved walkways where snow is shoveled regularly, can’t be cleared clean enough for my scooter wheels. My little electric engine isn’t up to any challenges against slippery conditions. I avoid crossing the grass or pebbled areas for that reason. Fortunately, the machine is light enough that other people moved me out of two such sticky situations in the past. Available to me is an enclosed garden courtyard that is kept well clear for accessing fresh air, and we are all aware the turtles in the small ornamental pond no longer greedily come up onto the rocks to be hand fed. They are getting ready to hibernate in the mud. I will also be turning inwards for the season.

September Joy

September Joy

I love the fall season. As a September baby, I remember planning birthday parties for both warm and sunny outdoor or chilly and rainy indoor activities. Around the fall equinox, it could go either way.

The cricket outside my window, trilling short police whistle blasts on a branch of the dawn redwood tree, summons no response on colder nights. Then last night, warm again, it received many return calls and the katydids in the woods beyond had no pause in their “Katy did, Katy didn’t “conversations.

This morning I wrote another haiku.

Arising thunder

Lightning flashes, rain falling

Close my small window

Rejoicing in berries, I have spied, white, red, purple, green and golden orange ones hanging on bushes and vines. Pine trees drop scaly cones, the cattails have turned into soft fluff, and the fallen mallow flowers have burst open their dark brown star pods. Plants leave us in so many diverse ways with their future regeneration assured. How and what will I leave when I go?

A hallway neighbor just turned one hundred and two today. Chronologically, I am the baby in this assisted living area though my neighbor is more physically mobile than I am. We all carry on with what we have as best we can.

Large swathes of the world mourn particular people, the state of politics, and the ongoing decimation of our planet. Within, I look for the root of all joy and delight in blueberries on my oatmeal, the first sip of hot Earl Grey tea, the song of Happy Birthday resonating from the dining area, the smell of petrichor in the newly wet soil, and the ability to share thoughts and words with you. If joy was not alive in the core of my being, how would I recognize joy in my quotidian life, given how much dire news is delivered to us every day?

Cultivating joy is not driven by my self-will. Curiosity, and an intention to focus on any small happiness that appears, helps to shift chronic pain to the background. These little reflections of pleasure emanate from a greater bliss within. I am learning to live through storms and birthdays with greater equanimity. I keep an LED tea light switched on all day, every day, on my bureau to remind myself that the light of joy is always burning.

August

buttonbush in bloom

End of Summer Insects

By day cicadas

By night crickets and katydids

Where did summer go?

Cattails

Thicket of cattails

A breeze rustles them to song

Green, brown, gone to seed…

I have been adding to my pages of haikus whenever they strike me. At last, the nights are just chilly enough to hint at the coming fall. Early morning bird songs are already greatly diminished, and insects fill in the chorus. Flowers are luxuriating and lawnmowers growl whenever rain clouds disappear.

Where did my summer go? Well, it isn’t gone yet, and I am getting outside on my scooter to enjoy what is left of it. July was me in my room, recovering from a fractured sacrum, so the ability to sit up long enough for 30 minutes on my scooter is a real joy. Fresh air and my daily vitamin D are inhaled with the smell of ponds and woods that I pass by on the paved paths around Kendal. Having grown up in, and then Richard and I building our house in the forests of the Catskills, I am nostalgic for the smell of northeast trees. It smells different here in Ohio, and I miss lying on the ground feeling tree roots entwining beneath me and walking on my own two feet next to a mountain stream.

There is a covered walkway here, a wooden bridge that connects the perimeter road around Kendal to a pathway that leads into the main building. It cuts through a patch of woods before it crosses a swampy vernal pond surrounded by buttonbushes. (see photo above) I often pause my scooter and sit on the bridge within the shaded leafy woodsy area that lies beyond the side rail fencing. I turn off my electric motor and breathe. Sometimes there is surprise- the forest floor hops away as a tiny bunny, a fawn lies in its mottled nest, a woodpecker drills above my head. Or I hear the call of “Birdie, birdie, birdie.”

Convocation of Cardinals   8/1/22

Three male cardinals

Pecking on the forest floor

Know the pope is ill?

I move on towards another larger pond and the stress of our world softens in the wide expanse of sky and water. Allowing my peripheral vision to encompass the big picture reminds me that healing is possible, probable, when given the chance.

This is also the month of my 52nd wedding anniversary. Hard to remember being 18 years old and entering into marriage. What it meant then, what it means now- I am still learning from all the years of materializing partnership, parenting, and beyond into the growth as the widow I now am. Gratitude for it all.

“April, c0me she will”…

“April, come she will…”

Simon and Garfunkel’s song comes to mind as do so many others (I used to sing madrigals and well remember John Dowland’s “April is in my mistress’ face… but in her heart a cruel December). This invigorating seasonal change for those of us who live in a temperate zone is always a thrill. I have often said that we tend to think of spring as two or three days of perfection. The sky is blue, the sun is warm but not too hot, gentle breezes are waltzing with the daffodils, the multi-colored tulips, and fragrant lilacs while the season unfolds within a palette of myriad shades of green. Of course, spring also means snowstorms, icy roads, buds frozen never to bloom until next year, and endless dreary rainy days when even the dogs are quick to do their business and just want to stay inside.

We hold ideals of spring up to the reality of the unpredictable nature of the lions/lambs of March and the rain/snow showers of April. As with all ideals, we prefer the gentler kinder version compared to a prolonged seesaw of temperatures producing crocuses and astonishing wind gusts of tiny blizzards. (On the other hand, yesterday we were graced by a sudden rainbow.) We need to keep all manner of outdoor clothing accessories close to hand in our overstuffed closets and entryways to suit all weather whimsy. Now if you are living in a temperate zone of the southern hemisphere, you are well into the beginning of winter. Your shorts and sandals are sleeping, and you are anticipating the delights of the cold weather activities that we here in northeast Ohio have gratefully left behind.

Ideals and reality become sharply illuminated whenever there is a crisis to draw our attention to the current level of threat to our beloved preferred values. Our fearful attention is being drawn every day by headlines and news reports that are revealing massive changes in our world right down to significant ripple effects affecting our daily lives. We are forced to pay attention to these dramatic events. Helpless, horrified, outraged, giving what we can, paying attention to as much information as we can safely ingest without self-harm, filtering truth from fearful speculation- we each are struggling to find hope in hearts already broken open by our personal lives and now, more and more visibly, by our collective lives.

Life includes all of the above, every single day of spring and winter, gentle and disastrous. It is seasoned by human ignorance, by we who are both so resilient and creative, as well as so very cruel and destructive. What personal ideals of yours have been tarnished or trampled these last few years? What was a final straw? Was it the pandemic, the shooting in your neighborhood grocery store, school, or concert, the virulent wildfires and tornados, the evidence of rabid hatred and denial that keeps uncovering how broken our most basic systems are? It is not hard to find multiple wrongs and defilements of my wistful illusions about the well-being of my state, my country, and my world.

I summon my ideal spring day from past memories but trust that this year, there will be at least a few new ones to add to and refresh the imagery I love. When it arrives, I will recognize it and abandon myself to its delight as best I can. How grateful I am that I do not have absolute dominion over the weather. The desire for control is dictated by fear. There is such rampant fear abroad in our world that autocrats everywhere are offering their rigid exclusive controls as the only salvation from chaos. I choose not to feed my or anybody else’s fear but rather acknowledge that spring will or will not arrive whenever or however it chooses. I choose to embrace all of life’s adventures as best I can. We are asked to trust that we have what is needed to meet each new day, in each new season, no matter our inherent preferences.

I wrote this song over thirty years ago but could only remember the chorus and the first verse. I recently wrote two verses to complete it anew. (It is rather breathy because my posture is very poor lately.)

New Leaves by Judi Bachrach

1) New leaves are growing everywhere

    Down on the ground up in the air

    I know, it’s for us to share.

Wrapped up tight against the sun

They will unfold them everyone

Until their growing is done.

Chorus:

Higher than the year before

Greener, grander, more and more

Changing ’til the very end

Then falling to return again.

2) Palest yellow, deepest green

   Every color in between

   April is painting summer’s dream.

Leaves of every shape and size

From the mud up to the skies

The earth is inviting us to rise.

Chorus:

3) Spreading roots beneath the ground

   Tendrils sprouting all around

   Wherever the light can be found.

Over ruins, over walls

On mountaintops, by waterfalls,

We grow towards the light, as it calls.

Chorus:

Seasons

In northeast Ohio, the days are lengthening, the ground is warming and birds are returning. The nights are still chilly and a cloudy day sets us back into warm jackets, but spring is springing forward a little bit more every day. There is comfort in this cycle. No spring is ever the same, and more often than not these days, there is even less certainty about the weather patterns and timing we have been accustomed to. The perfect spring day is a mirage that lies within dark, wet, muddy days, snow filled tulips, and then a miraculous day inviting outdoor games and picnics with the scent of flower and tree buds unfurling above and below.

I sat outside in the enclosed courtyard garden and melted with the snow as it watered the green leaves poking up from all the bulbs planted last year. When no one joined me there, I could take of my face mask and breathe the unencumbered freedom of fresh air. I live in a section of Kendal where we are still under nursing home mandates and are restricted to to stay masked inside our hallways and the courtyard. I am now allowed a one half hour visit with my daughter in another building in a room divided with a plexiglass wall between us, masked and throughly sanitized before and after the visit. Today my daughter arrived after a day of teaching on campus at the college which is a few minutes away.

We felt we covered a lot of ground talking together, free ranging our adult topics while Max is at his nanny share. On Saturday, he is allowed to come unmasked as a first thing in the morning visitor but is not supposed to touch everything in the bare room on his side of the clear wall. It is an experiment given that they have a forty-five minute drive to and from home just to see me. I have lined up a lot of songs to sing, some paper and markers to make stick figure illustrations to show him as I sing, and we’ll see how he does. I will plan to go stay with her family again when her semester is over. Other residents on the larger campus will have shorter quarantines after their away from Kendal visits, taking a Covid test, etc. but the two week safety zone is still a requirement for me. All worth waiting for as spring evolves around me.

A silly song I wrote for Max given his four favorite things to vocalize this week:

Max’s Song at 15 months

Max wants to fly like an airplane

He wants to fly up so high

Higher than bees

the birds up in the trees

Higher than clouds in the sky

Vroom vroom vroom

Max wants to play with a lion

And maybe a tiger or two

The big cats will roar

And Max will roar more

They’ll all take a nap when they’re through

Roar roar roar (snore snore snore)

Max wants to play with a doggie

The doggie will chase his red ball

She’ll bark and she’ll bark

All over the park

But she’ll always come back when Max calls

Bark bark bark

Max wants to swim with the fishes

He’ll sit in the water and play

The fish go *smack smack

And he’ll go smack smack

Say bye-bye at the end of the day

(*Fish sounds) smack smack smack

And this from pondering in the courtyard:

As Long as we Both Shall Live

March 1, 2021   

The sun and I lean in for a closer embrace

in this part of me

ice is melting

beneath my clothing

small green shoots are tickling upwards

birdsong layers my soundscape

warmth spreads

deepening

reaching even the hearts

of those suffering blindness

the loss of Love’s evanescence

Into the dark and frightened child

the starving greedy needs

of those in power

and those with none

the violent and violated

those who harm

and those in harmony

with my disappearing landscapes

all those who dwell there

pillaged and stuffed with waste

my clogged veins and arteries

muffling the heartbeat of Love

Still, we lean towards one another

the sun and I

this beneficent cycle

as we have done for millennium 

the dead make room for the living

the living make room for the dead

seasons of silence, seasons of song

as long as I live

for as long as we both shall live

we are inherent rhythms of Love

Judi Bachrach

Chocolate Mint

Diary 6/24/20

Today would have been Richard’s seventieth birthday. He was a year and half older than me so it already felt strange to have been the same age as he was when he died. Next fall I will turn sixty-nine, the same age my mother was when she died twenty-seven years ago. Chronological markers fixing time seem less and less meaningful as I age. Given that years lived indicate a multitude of experiences, the numbers seem less relevant as a measurement of time passing.

I must admit, numbers always seemed very fluid and slippery to me. When I was around six years old, I remember that the numbers one through twenty had distinct cartoon like characteristics. They were either masculine or feminine, had color coded costumes and a wide range of personalities. They did not like to be restricted in school. Richard, on the other hand, loved the specificity of numbers and his memory for dates tied to life experience was remarkable. Therapy clients meeting him casually on the street some ten years after they terminated their work with him, would be astonished when he asked after their ill aunt who had featured largely in their lives back then.

Richard could tell you the date that he bought that particular claw hammer, how much it cost, and which dog was sitting in his truck on that sunny day in spring as he drove it home. He was fascinated by the ages of his friends and family and celebrities that spanned his life. He was my calendar by which I could spark my memories to line up in the proper order. I apologize in advance to my children that I will not be leaving behind an accurate linear chronicle of our lives together. I can no longer tell them, “Ask Papa.”

But this date today holds a particular swirl of loving nostalgia remembering our thirteen years of celebration before children and then the following years with their own special contributions. Early on, I remember discovering his love of all desserts with chocolate chip mint flavoring. I made him just such a cake in a lamb mold belonging to my sister-in-law. He was so delighted, and I knew I had scored a hit with this boyfriend of mine in our first year together.

Today, my daughters and I will toast him with our own chocolate mint desserts shared in cyberspace. I am still in room quarantine for two more days at Kendal having spent a delicious twelve days with my older daughter and her family two weeks ago in nearby Lakewood. I have limited access to goodies right now but happen to have an organic chocolate mint cream candy leftover from a Christmas party. Together the three of us will share the sweetness of our beloved husband/father.

A Room for the End of Days

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.

River Stones

10/8/18

River Stones

I was more affected by the UN collective announcement of our dire climate change situation than I would have thought. There is so much ongoing information on the topic that I suffer, as many do, from information overload. But this one is harder to put in the same box on the same shelf, labeled “I know, but am helpless to do anything about it!” It is so unpleasant to experience helplessness on such a large scale when I already experience it moment to moment in my own small daily life.

To paraphrase the childhood educator, Joseph Chilton Pearce, “The intelligence of a species can be determined by the way it serves to promote the continuation of its own species.” By that measure, we humans seem to be scoring very low marks. We have always gone for domination of resources for our own particular tribe over the welfare of the larger whole. Thus it has ever been. Civilizations rise and fall, continually rebuilding over the ashes of the one that went before. Stars explode as supernovas providing new available materials for new planets to form within their own galaxies. This all may be true, but NIMBY, or NIMcountry, or NIMplanet!

We live in ‘interesting times’ as the Chinese curse goes. And in my lifetime I do not think there will soon arise a global response to the problems we face. May I be utterly wrong for the sake of a potential grandchild and all current and future generations. May leadership emerge to inspire a change of lifestyle that can turn this huge ship around to sustainable living for all who inhabit this great planet Earth.

Meanwhile how do I handle my personal helplessness? I was helpless to save my husband from dying, to save my own body from continuing diminished function, or my own country from electing the face of the frightened helpless among us, looking to blame their disenfranchisement on the “others’ in every guise. Another quote from JCP is, operate within a new form of science that asks not just what is possible, but what is appropriate—appropriate to the well-being of self and Earth. Such a question does not originate in the mental realm but the spiritual, and is felt bodily, once our senses and heart are attuned. So the central part of our being that simply must be allowed to function and be attended is the heart.” 
― Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Heart-Mind Matrix: How the Heart Can Teach the Mind New Ways to Think

That is what I endeavor to explore every day in every circumstance. It is what I bring to Kendal with me, and I am grateful that like-hearted fellow explorers are asking to join my new meditation/contemplation groups. It is a sharing that I have to offer, and it is also a way for me to anchor my own heartful explorations in the company of my fellow residents. I look at how I have so far organized my weekly life here. Caring for my body through PT sessions, craniosacral massages, PT pool exercises, sleep and diet, group classes to hone my creative skills in writing prose and poetry, and singing with others. In addition there is regular socializing with those who are in various stages of dementia, decline, or are mentally present, enjoying community events and other’s creative offerings.

These activities I have committed to are indicators of what I use to harness my devotion to navigating the world with an open heart. My week is dotted with heart opening reminders, Wake up! Pay attention! Now and Now and Now!

River Stones

by Judi Bachrach 10/3/18

I stepped into this unknown river.

He is not here to hold my hand.

 

I had not even been to Ohio before.

How deep did these waters flow?

 

How swift was the current?

Is there another side?

 

Hesitant and dripping wet

from ceaseless inner storms,

I searched along the bank while I stood shaking.

 

Here the riverbed widened out and I saw the stones.

Choosing which way was best for me,

a path was revealed, stone by stone.

 

New hands reached out for mine

Steadying, supporting, also wading through the unknown.

 

Nobody knows how long

but we do not travel alone.

Come to the Kabaret

Diary 8/31/18

A friend suggested that I write a sit-com based on my adventures with the seniors who live here with me. There is certainly a perfect set up for an ever evolving series. I live in the Care Center section of our continuing care retirement facility, meaning there are many nurses and ‘care partners’ around who attend to feeding people, making beds and assisting nurses, and interns who set up daily activities, or make sure people get their walkers and head in the right direction for their rooms. They are some terrific characters all by themselves. Dealing with a panorama of elderly humans that are perfectly rational one day, and shouting, “I don’t live here, take me home!” the next, invariably brings out their own issues, no matter how much training they have.

Watching people around me includes observing the sobering decline of dementia in action. The aggressive demise of their minds is painful and poignant to watch. A sit-com episode might include the following exchange when I first arrived here three months ago. This white haired shaky woman half-falling sideways out of her wheelchair, greeted me at the lunch table. We did the “Hello, where are you from?” exchange and then I timidly inquired, “ I am here because I have MS. May I ask why you are here?” Thoughtfully chewing the same mouthful for many minutes, she replied, “Well, I am here because I get much better radio reception in my room than I did when I lived in a cottage.”

“Ah, of course.” Now that I know her better, I found out that she was in charge of a huge public library music research department and that she listens to non-stop opera and other music on said radio. Obviously she has a lot of compromising physical issues, but that was not what had significance for her. Sadly, she has now been put under Hospice care though she can still be rather sharp. She has subsequently shared childhood stories with me which were far from peaches and cream. Her life gives a glimpse into why she retreated early on inside of her once masterful musical mind.

Then there are the folks who live independently in cottages surrounding this large campus, and those who live in apartments attached at the opposite end of the facility from the Care Center. When people are recovering from back, knee, or other surgeries or a bad fall, or more seriously, a stroke, then they live among us in the CC briefly, waiting to be released back to their home. For the most part they have a hard time accepting their current fate and see their time here as an unfortunate episode which will quickly pass.Then they can get on with their real lives. Their emphatic denial of the aging process is also fodder for that tragic/comic edge. This one was a well-known chemistry professor, another one an Ob-Gyn, or an editor or an economist.

Others are more philosophical and freely embrace this temporary compromise as an inevitable chapter in their journey. Husbands or wives come to join them in our Care Center dining area. I see everything from pushy unaccepting spouses, “Eat this, not like that, pick up your hand, no, your other hand, use your napkin, etc.” which is silly and also hard to watch. Others are openly shaken and sad to be living alone in their homes without their partners. Wives say, “It is hard to watch the weeds grow, walk the dog, or face financial conundrums without my husband to take care of it.” Many husbands generally look lost and uncomfortable, and seem relieved when the meal is over and they can finally take charge of getting the rollator or pushing their wives back to the room in their wheelchair.

As I become more active in the community, my life is interlacing with more of the Independent Living folks. I signed up to participate in a variety show, another event to celebrate Kendal’s 25th year founding anniversary. It has since been labeled the Kendal Kabaret because a well-known former set designer resident created a splashy Cabaret style flat with a sparkly gold curtain for our entry onto the stage. To bring our disparate offerings (barbershop septet, recorder ensemble, a number of songs including a gospel written by yours truly, a Can-Can line?!, piano/violin duets, etc.) into some semblance of cohesion, a very capable women in charge bought styrofoam top hats, feather boas, feather hair clips and ribbons to create a semi-costumed Kabaret look.

To watch us all, like any gathering of performers, claim this or that boa/hat/feather combination, worry about mics, music stands, lighting, how we would physically manage to get on and off the stage at the right times (also me, again), was a delight. We do and do not take ourselves seriously to entertain our fellow residents. We seniors sure know how to have fun. This will make a great finale for the end of season one. Due to the numbers of aging Baby Boomers, it might well make it past the pilot season.*

  • I am also dedicating my song to my dear friend David Moskowitz whose birthday falls on the day of the show.  He very likely will not live to see that day, but I am singing “Love What a Short Word” to him, wherever he will be.