Big Tiny News

I have never written about my year in review before, I think because I always seem invested in what keeps unfolding right in front of me. I’ll initiate writing about this year and see where it leads me.

It has been a very hard year for most of us. As safe and healthy and boostered as Kendal is, there are breakthrough COVID cases occurring and we have staff shortages, food supply issues, rising costs, and unexpected crisis to address just like everywhere else. We are becoming more resourceful, thrifty, and engaged in novel ways. New residents arrive and deal with the reality of Kendal today as opposed to the more open and dynamic Kendal they remembered from pre-pandemic times. Still, no one has yet died because of COVID, though some have passed with COVID as a co-morbid condition. We all do come here to live well and then to die, with the support and care of those who are employed by Kendal. Every single person has gone above and beyond their original job descriptions, including the residents. It is inspiring and it has been challenging and occasionally daunting to keep rising to the occasion.

We move on, and I have to say we seem to be a quieter community. There is less visible bustling activity though we strive to keep functioning, advising, entertaining, and engaging ourselves in new venues. We interact more online and also with some hybrid committee meetings. Gradually we congregate in person, masking carefully, with people holding microphones for us rather than passing them around as we sing or come to share an event. When a positive diagnosis is declared among residents or staff in the more restrictive Care Center where I live, we don’t shut down completely anymore. We cannot keep preventing visitations from friends and family and ask only that people show a negative test result before they come inside our living spaces. So far, this system is working.

As I wrote in my last blog, my personal health issues have meant that I am once again adapting to my own changes. I try to take on each day with open assessments gauging how much I can safely do. Perhaps I am once more stabilizing a little and the last few days I have tolerated being busier with fewer repercussions. Holiday greetings are given and received, and I am able to meet more friends face to face. When I ventured outdoors on my electric scooter in the unusually warm December weather, I heard lawn mowers at work and delighted in the fresh cut grass perfume.

I have saved the biggest tiny news for last. I have a new grandson, Sebastian, born on 12/8/21. He is healthy and gorgeous, and tiny and vulnerable and has completely reorganized his new household as newborns do. His two-year-old brother Max initially responded in Hallmark moments of gentle interactions, curiosity, and with his one-and-two-word vocabulary, began to process actually seeing the baby brother that everybody had been talking about for so long. “Mama home. Hosible.  Doctor. Tummy. Empty. Baby brudder. Sebastian.” Then he sucked his thumb and thought about things for a minute. He reached over and touched his brother lying across his mother’s lap and his own legs. “Eyes. Nose. Mouth. Arm.” He gently pointed to and touched all the parts and thought about things some more. And life went on as he climbed off the couch and ran around to play.

Mild jealousy is slowly creeping in after six days of sharing his home. Max is by nature a thoughtful child but- he is also two years old when conquering the world and identifying it all as his, is exactly the right developmental behavior. As all siblings know, time will lead them on a journey of rivlary and love and sharing their childhood experiences together with their parents. I am delighted to be able to watch their paths unfurl for as long as I am around to watch them grow up together. I can’t wait to see who Sebastian is in his own right. He was born with startling platinum blond hair- a great thatch of it. It will likely darken over time, maybe replaced with darker hair altogether, or maybe he will retain this glowing angelic mop. I am not posting pictures to respect the family’s privacy, but this grandmother says he is truly adorable.

Meanwhile I am a happy grandmother and so proud of my daughter and son-in-law as they navigate the realities of an infant and a toddler and jobs and childcare in the midst of the turbulent world that we all share. I am stretching my heart open and holding the sobering crisis of our country and planet at the same time. I endeavor to witness, breathe, stay present, and live as fully as I can without despair or feeding fear and dread into the world my grandsons are inheriting. Life goes on and I get off the couch and go play even as a big, tiny, viral unknowable has taken up permanent residence in my world.

Light Therapy

Diary 1/20/20 Light Therapy

Over the weekend we finally experienced wintry weather. We didn’t have a lot of snow and the few inches we had were immediately drenched with rain. But overnight the temperature dropped hard and fast, and what snow is left remains frozen. It felt like this matched my inner weather for the last few weeks which has been still, with a quiet blank, white slate. After the busyness of the holidays and the excitement of my grandbaby arriving safely into the world, I felt very quiet. I am still very much in a physical healing mode with days when I feel more active and mobile and days when I am reading a lot lying down with my very weak and tired back. I am certainly in much less pain and in that sense I feel the surgery was quite successful. How my nervous system will ultimately respond in furthering communication with neuronal firing to my muscles is very much a work in progress. I still have a few weeks to go before the surgeon’s declaration of my post-operative muscular healing is official. The nervous system is on its own schedule altogether.

I am currently trying LED red light therapy, which is known to penetrate deep into the cells, affecting the mitochondria which I think of as little engines for cellular activity. There is chemical interaction involved but I am not that informed to be more specific. In less than a week of ten-minute sessions two-three times a day, I believe I see a glimpse of something new- a steadier accrual of both sensation and strength in my low back and into my legs. It is early days yet, so I remain open and observant. I shine the light directly on the affected areas of my first operation in my neck and in my lumbar region. Yes, I am “shining light into dark places”.

I have also taken to shining it on my face and I have to say, given the lack of sunshine in general in northwest Ohio, it feels like I am immediately relaxing on a beach somewhere. I do not think I am someone affected by SAD (a lack of full spectrum light that causes depression in some folks) but that jolt of green after images behind my closed eyelids as the red light bathes me, has been a lovely experience that makes me happy every time. Today I was inspired to walk outside on cleared asphalt paths to stand in the last 20 minutes of light from the actual setting sun in a nearly clear sky. That in itself is something I have not been inspired to do in a long time. It was a balmy 27 degrees and the fresh crisp air was delicious.

I have also been aware of holding the unfettered joy of loving 7-week-old (today!) Max, and the grief of an ever-unraveling political scene in our country and around the world. I sense the need to open my heart wider and wider to embrace it all. My small life, my sense of loss for the planet’s woes, and the fear-generated violence and greed as we further disconnect from cause and effect on the worldwide stage, makes me feel very vulnerable. Staying open-hearted is the only way I know to keep shining the light of all spectrums into dark places.

Joyful Inspirations

Diary 12/9/19

Today is my grandson Max’s one-week birthday. Already he has accomplished so much; he is learning how to take in nourishment and to digest, survive the (so far) extreme displeasure of being gently bathed, to experience the undifferentiated onslaught of smell, taste, hearing, sound and touch, with only the foggiest of visual input. At 8-12 inches away, babies can only see in black, white and grays to being with. They may come to recognize their caregiver’s faces from that distance as early as two weeks. By two months, their eyes muscles can hold a steady focus. By three to four months they can begin to discern colors on small objects. Max’s eyes are wide open from time to time, but it is hard for me to imagine what it is he is actually perceiving.

I remember the weight of holding my babies very well, but I cannot actually remember them ever being this tiny and light. The wisp of a fingernail, the slightest dimple of a finger knuckle, and the cupid bow of tiny lips are amazing to behold. It is no wonder I cannot remember this stage accurately. Babies change so much, so fast, and new mothers are as overwhelmed in their own way as their small charges the first month or so. I do remember well the piercing cry of infant distress- mothers are directly targeted by that particular wailing. I have on occasion heard that same cry from an adult therapy client during a session when they tapped into their previously unconscious early mother losses. That sound goes directly to the heart and demands immediate action on the baby’s behalf. Not all babes are as lucky as my grandchild in having a warm and safe nurturing environment for their entrance into this world.

I watch my daughter and son-in-law surrender to the full-on care, delight, and exhaustion of their son’s presence and I am glad to be the grandmother. I empathize and resonate with their adventure and am happy (need) to receive daily picture by picture updates (how did distant grandparents handle life before cyber communication?). I am also clear it is their life and am so glad to see their active network of other young parents and friends they have to support them. What a gift it is to love and participate in my new role.

While I write, I am listening to sacred music of medieval Spain. I discovered this site when I was still going through rehab and was so touched by the rhythmic joyful expressions of love of the Divine Maria. I was plugged into my earphones so as not to disturb my neighbors and felt that much more inspired to move through my post-operative pain and get moving. I highly recommend a listen if you’d like to hear a superb professional young choral performance with wonderful genuine medieval instrumental accompaniment. For all the darkness we associate with the Spanish Church of this period, here is a counterpoint of vibrant celebration. I love some of the pieces so much that I keep thinking I will directly swipe one of the melodies and rhythms to create a songful celebration of my own. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery…” Oscar Wilde

May we all find our own joyful inspirations in this turbulent period of our country and our world.

Grandma Judi

Diary 12/5/19

I am a grandmother to Max Atlas Stojakovic (Stow-yahk-oh-vitch), all 7.4 lbs. and 19 inches of him as of 10:11 on 12/2/19. Since he has developed chipmunk nursing cheeks, he may weigh more already. He is, of course, perfect, and he is truly a cute one, grandmother prejudice aside. It was a normal first birth in terms of length and hard work, but my daughter was a super athlete, as birthing moms are, and her husband a loving, stalwart, and supportive partner all through the long night and into the next morning. They just spent their first night in their own home as a family and my heart is full of what all grandparents say is that particular quality of love as your children become parents of the next generation. It is an everyday miracle.

I am grateful that my surgery occurred when it did so that I could get to the birthing center and walk into my daughter and son-in-law’s room to hold my grandbaby 7 hours after his birth. I was given a ride there by friends at Kendal who made it happen to support this momentous event in my life. I have joined the club of grandparents who were happy to help. I am so delighted to be a new member, and to rejoice at every step of this new family’s adventure.

Some of my new Kendal friends have never married nor wanted to, traveling the world, working hard in one profession or another, some have recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, some are skyping with their great grandchildren- I am content with how my path unfurled before me as I took each step. I have been on the lookout for sorrow that Richard is not here to witness his grandson. The man he was would have been thrilled to love another male child in his family. Truthfully, he is here, ubiquitous in the steady warmth of his love, like the ever-present sun, even behind the gray winter clouds of Ohio. His presence is not only in his DNA, but simply here. I am sure I may know pangs of recognition and loss as Max becomes his own person without his grandfather. But for now, I experience that all is just as it should be.

I wish you much love and light inspired by this new star in my firmament to shine for you now and throughout the New Year.

Having and Losing

Diary 6/13/19

I have exciting news! I am now a grandmother-to-be. My daughter and son-in-law’s baby boy will be born around December 20th. It is a time of awe and urgent patience. Waiting is not the right label for this state of hope. Time will invisibly unfold its wings, cell by cell, revealing a human child when the stars, the hormones, and my professor daughter’s semester is over on December 12th. If the little feller bides his time, she will somehow get all of her grading done before his arrival. She can only plan so much in advance, tailoring her syllabuses accordingly.

I am gaining a new role to play, one which I have long desired. My eyes have been misting over beautiful baby clothes in catalogues for the last twenty years. The entry of a new family member into our midst is as astonishing to me as it is to every family. The continuity of emerging generations is becoming more palpable as I age. I know of my recent ancestors and a smattering about more distant ones, but living with three generations is something to experience. Plenty of my friends here at Kendal are great-grandparents. My own grandmother got to hold both of my daughters before she died. Photographs are faded proof.

Did you know? Because a female fetus is born with all the eggs she will ever have in her small ovaries, when I carried my daughter, she already held the egg which is now becoming her son. So he was potentially there inside of me as well. This biological connection helps to underscore the powerful thread of family bonding, partially constructed of mothers and daughters and eggs. Of course fathers have their own paternal bonds, DNA and otherwise, and I am so grateful this child is born in the time of equal co-parenting.

Which leads me to the losing that is happening simultaneously with the having of such wonderful news. Richard so looked forward to being a grandfather. He always operated within long arcs of time. He anticipated sharing his loves and passions with the next generation on our sixty acres of land. He wanted to share his love of the earth with gardening, animals, and farming. His love of skiing, hiking, and riding, and his love of the arts would have been communicated in his wanting to discover and support whatever his grandson would come to love. As a therapist, Richard was steeped in the wonder of connecting early childhood development through the adult stories people told of their lives. It was a miracle of love to him; unraveling the wounds of the past to better heal the pain carried forward into the present. To share in the earliest journeys of evolving personhood with a grandson would have been a great blessing.

Since my son-in-law also lost his father in childhood, this child will not have a living blood relative grandfather. I will not have a partner to share this new role with. My daughter and I both feel a tinge of sorrow concurrent with our joy. The early factors of my grandson’s life are already being written. The state of our country and our threatened world is part of his story. I can only imagine what his generation will face and what his contribution will be. What will be called forth from all the new members of society as humanity faces our dire legacies?

The upcoming dates of Father’s Day and Richard’s birthday heighten our nostalgia in this month. Already my unborn grandchild heralds the unity of having and losing, joy and sorrow, and the reality of Love. A new being to love is coming soon to a screen very near and dear to me.