Aging in place

Aging in place

In the middle of winter & now into spring–on snow-covered roads and icy ones and mud-ridden too–I find myself traveling to the bedsides of those who are aging in place in my part of the state; and I am astounded by their spirits and by the devotion of their caregivers, and also by the plight of adult children caring for parents, or one spouse caring for another or siblings doing the same.

I am struck when I hear that opting for Nursing Home care comes with fewer strings, financially & practically; and this reminds me of my early years at home with my babies, if only I’d chosen a daycare to raise my little ones, it could have been subsidized, but if I gave up my career to be with my children so that they too could “age in place,” I would lose my foothold in the work world and exponentially lag behind in my capacity to earn and thus become increasingly disheartened in that regard, not to mention less and less represented in the wider world.

(Think Congress.)

Unlike some of our counterparts in the developed world, we do not prioritize those who need care and those who give care–to the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the refugee, the lonely, the downtrodden, the minority, the mother, the child–namely–women–who as a result of unpaid/underpaid caregiving are among the most impoverished around the world no matter their race, educational background and marital status; and increasingly so as they age, with a wider income gap between women and men in the United States than anywhere in the Western world.

~

When my children were young, I tended to them in much the same way as I would have wanted to be tended, and I imagine the same is true for adult children caring for parents.

“We’re next, Kelly,” said one such caregiver, as she looked me in the eyes, and this is quite a sobering thought, particularly as I see parents become children, and then infants, in their offspring’s hearts.

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The Great Escape

The Great Escape

1970951_10152342628658746_1383157807_n-1“Be in a devotional relationship to your life force.”
(Shiva Rea)

On Saturday, we had one exquisite hour of hope: the sun shined and the temperatures rose above freezing for the first time in way too long of a time.

Everyone (and I mean, everyone) abandoned their snow encrusted homes on the hill and ventured forth to points east and south.

We were among those souls, stopping in town for provisions: the library, the pharmacy, the grocery store–and coming across handfuls of neighbors moving from place to place. We were like a village of ants. Not so much joyful or even relieved, as we were urgent about capturing this moment.

The clouds moved in later that afternoon, as did the rain, but before then we made our way further south, heading to a place with less snow and a larger art museum, where we came across yet another handful of neighbors who had done the same.

Then came Sunday. Frozen and cloudy and winter all over again. I checked the weather: more of the same on Monday. I re-read my daily inspiration: “Be in a devotional relationship with your body,” and I hatched a plan to do just that.

Monday came in dark and cold and heavy, but I followed through with devotion.

I headed south, alone, in my car, with my backpack and my journal.

I’d been to the Butterfly Conservatory at least once every winter before, but this time would be different. I wouldn’t just stroll through and then depart. I would stick.

I spent 3 hours on the same bench among the butterflies and the flowers and the warm moist air.

I sat. I drew. I read. I wrote. I even napped.

There was the sound of water. Of toddlers toddling. Of birds peeping.

There were scents of life unfolding.

And there was fluttering.

Constant fluttering of magic, color and wonder.

And then it was Tuesday. Today. Brilliantly sunny. Still frozen, but with temperatures climbing, promising true spring.

POSTED!

POSTED!

17591643The sight of the Legal Load Limit sign at the bottom of our road brings a leap of joy to my heart.

“POSTED!” I say, with an exhale of…

Spring!

Followed by a flip

of my stomach.

Not so easy, I remember.

Like any birth, first comes
the labor.

And like any labor, we can’t  be sure how

long,
it will last.

How hard
it will feel.

How filled with complications
it will be.

In Vermont that labor is called

MUD Season.

And it lasts longer than any labor,
so long that it really is a “season,” apart from the others
spanning weeks or crossing over into a second month.

Every year, we consider a truck.

We can’t afford one.

But it’s a necessity, we sigh.

Until it’s over.

And then, like any mother,
with a newborn in her arms,
we forget.

Spring returns, and we swoon.

 

desperate spring

desperate spring

the smell of rain
the smell
of rain
the smell of
rain

Waiting on Spring, all rights reserved, Nicki Steel, 2013
Waiting on Spring (photo:Nicki Steel, 2013, all rights reserved)

Hugs between friends last a bit longer this time of year; while caffeine and chocolate consumption climbs. It’s not winter. It’s the in between time. The waiting. The last foot of snow. The slow melt.

Those of us who can’t leave, head east to Brattleboro, where a 10 mile difference makes for grass. Like winter refugees, we soak up their signs of spring; our lives held hostage by a hill. By mud. By a home. By a family to whom we’re expected to return, and to make dinner and small talk; when what we really want to do is drive south. And never stop.

(I can’t go. I can’t go. I can’t. Right? Even if friends post beach weather just 300 miles away. )

My husband suggests that I work down in Brattleboro this week. “It’s supposed to be sixties in town,” he says. “It will only make it to about 50 up here.”

I add another piece of wood to the stove and try to settle in with a cup of tea; but my mind is as itchy and inflamed as my skin; desperate to shed winter’s wool.

I look outside and note the increasing signs–the green cap of the septic tank, the garden beds, the dry patches of dead grass–indicating land in what has been a sea of snow. Despite this welcome melting, winter continues to trump spring; white beats brown; and my glass is half-empty, and leaking.

“Why don’t we go down to Brattleboro now,” my husband says.

Though it sounds like a booby prize to the beach, I reluctantly get dressed so that he and I can walk the streets downtown, without boots, and drift into shops, and join an event at the River Garden center which sits on the Connecticut and has a glass roof that lets in lots of light.

There we find live music and hot chai and loads of desserts and fellow refugees from up the hill. I hug one too long, as if holding on; and then I dash back toward the front entrance. Toward a sudden and unexpected rain. Not rain on snow which is a sad, sad thing. But rain on earth. And rain on roads. And rain on sidewalks and rooftops–and us.

Just as the sky really lets loose, the sun bursts onto the scene–with a rainbow–stretching across the Connecticut and touching down at the foot of Mt. Wantastiquet. People flock out the back exit onto the deck to see the promise of color; because even though Brattleboro has lost its snow, it is stalled in monochrome.

One man turns toward me, beaming, noting the sweet smell.

“Don’t you love it,” I say, restraining myself from embracing him.

“I smelled it this morning too,” he continues. “Up at our place where there’s still a foot of snow.”

“Two feet,” his wife counters.

“But it smelled like rain, even without earth,” he says.

I smile. And sniff. And consider the different scents that come with rain; and wonder if it has its own.

I walk back to the front entrance and smell the sidewalks and the road. I return to the deck and smell the wood and the earth and the river. I finish back at the road and stay there awhile because it takes me to my childhood. To rain on hot tar in Virginia. Lying face down in the road so that I could soak up every ounce of that delicious, fresh scent before the sun smoked it away.

We linger past the rain, and into the evening at the River Garden, and when we finally head home, into the hills of snow, I feel freer. I decide to stay put. To be here to bear witness to my own spring’s emergence–to the return of our very first Robin; and even more beholding–to the appearance of a baseball–tribute to the life once lived–right here–where it shall return again.

Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT, April 8, 2013

The Mud Angel

The Mud Angel

mpinwheel-daffodilA few years back my family and I rented a house atop of Cow Path Forty–What a winter!  It seemed to snow more in March that year than it did all season.  We watched as the plow piles in our driveway reached alarming heights.  And then it all began to melt…

Each day was another adventure as we maneuvered our way up and down our road, dodging the deepest of ruts.   We thought a lot about cows and demolition derbies, but nothing encouraged us more than the discovery made one day at the crest of our hill: 

a large sunshine-colored pinwheel was planted smack in the middle of the tiny pond that had formed in our road.

So deep was this rut that her plastic-petaled face survived for days without being crushed.  The sight of her buoyed us through all that brown…  with the promise of SPRING!

kelly salasin