After the Storm . . .

IMG_0385“It’s like a dark cloud encroaching on a sunny day . . . that cloud hovers there and distracts us from carefree joys of summer, causes deep concern for what comes next, brings a measure of dread.”

I wrote those words two months ago, feeling like a storm was approaching, threatening to rock our world.

Sometimes storms change direction and pass us by. Sometimes they peter out.

Sometimes they hit us hard and cause damage from which it is difficult to rebuild.

My step-dad, John Malcolm Bauman, died about a month ago. He had been in an intensive care unit for about 3 weeks before he died.

He was an exceptionally fine man, which made his loss exceptionally difficult. Even the medical personnel who worked with him commented frequently on their affection for him—one ICU nurse told me, “we’ve all fallen a little in love with him.”

He was a retired newsman, had worked as the evening TV anchor in a good-sized mid-western market. He was the Voice of the Quad Cities, and what a voice it was–mellifluous, intelligent, quietly funny, and wise.

Our loss of him has shaken our world, all of us, but it has been hardest on his wife, my mother.

She has moderate dementia and he was her anchor. He did most everything for her and considered it a privilege to do so, so he said.

Now I do those things for her, at least for the time being, and doing so has changed my day-to-day life in major ways.

For the last two months, she has lived with us and much of my time has been spent learning what I need to know to help her through this transition—what medications does she take? From where do we order them? How are they administered? Where are her bank accounts? How do I gain access to them? What do we do about her belongings at the home in Florida she shared with her husband? And what do we do about the place she owns here and will no longer be able to use?

I give you all this information by way of explanation. My time has been spent on family this summer, with little flexibility. What time I have claimed for myself has been spent, not on writing, but on making things. I’ve used my limited free time to quilt and to weave, my quiet pursuits that provide the balm I’ve needed.

In some ways, the sky is clearing. My mom plans to move to a lovely assisted living facility nearby and, when she does, she and I can resume our fine mother-daughter relationship, which has been unavoidably altered by my becoming her caregiver.

In all of this, we’ve found silver linings to that dark cloud. We are lucky in many ways. She worked hard for many years and lived frugally, so money is no issue at all. She is emotionally strong and a real trouper, ready to move past her grief and forge ahead, into the next stage. When we were kids, she told us to view every challenge as an “adventure,” and she is taking her own advice.

Some day, when things are more settled, I’ll tell you about the things I’ve been making. I’ll be back to rhapsodize about the joys of ironing vintage linens, weaving cloth, finding the perfect autumn apple, enjoying making something by hand.

In the meantime, know that your writings have buoyed me. I hope you’re weathering whatever storms have blown through your lives!

And, John, I have three words for you—alors, pellucid, forsythia. You’ll know what I mean . . .

IMG_5422

John and my mom, on their wedding day.

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102 thoughts on “After the Storm . . .

  1. I am so sorry for your loss and for having to cope with grief and caregiving and upheaval all at the same time. Managing the needs of our aging parents can be remarkably draining, even if we do it with joy and love (I speak from a number of years of experience). It is important to care for yourself too and I am glad to hear that you have managed to find time to be creative – a place of peace for me.
    When you are ready to share your creations, we’ll all be here to enjoy them with you.

  2. This post is so moving, and I am so sorry for the loss your family has endured. It sounds like you are weathering the grief and transition with strength and grace. I find it remarkable how, after sustaining a heartbreaking loss, every day onward is different, even the most regular days. The thought patterns are different. The first things that pop into the mind in the morning are different. It’s nice to read where you’ve been. Wishing you lots of peace.

  3. Hi Kerry, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but happy to hear you are forging ahead. I’ll be looking forward to seeing pictures of the lovely things you’re working on.

      • Thanks for thinking of us Kerry, we have been so lucky with these storms this year. We lost another tree, which took out our neighbors fence AGAIN (this is a repeat of what happened last year in the storms…here wasn’t meant to be a fence between our properties!) but nothing came down on the house. I’ve been working on some towels for gifting, also a table runner & of course something waiting on the drawloom. Never enough time!

  4. Sorry to hear about your loss, and I so understand the role of sudden caregiver. It does suck up all the time and energy. I am glad you have been able to help your mom and still find a few minutes for some quiet crafting. And glad that you have come to a place where you and she can resume your good relationship. Caregiving sure does change the balance.

      • Sometimes one minute at a time. Got the word from the surgeon – 5 more weeks of no weight bearing. Not sure if that means 5 more weeks of living with us or not. But it has a definite end date, and that makes it different from what you are going through.

  5. Kerry, your post resonates. I am sorry for your sorrow and hope that happy memories will soon soften the hard times. May you continue to find solace in your handwork, that therapy for the soul.

  6. Hello Kerry, I, too, am sorry to hear about your loss. As readers we’re never aware of what goes on behind the scenes of a blog/a writer’s life, so I think it’s lovely – even if difficult for you – to talk about this online.
    Your after the storm picture is perfect, and I hope you’ll find the time for creating again. I’m also looking forward to hear what your search for the perfect autumn apple brings!

    • Yes, blog friendships are odd in that we know the happy times blog pals are having but not always the difficulties. I’m never sure how appropriate it is to share the difficulties so thanks for reassuring me!

  7. Kerry, I’very been thinking of you. I am so sorry for your loss. Both you and your Mom are on a new adventure now. I wish you the best.

  8. So sorry to hear about your loss, and the subsequent changes at home. It is hard work being a caregiver, however much we love our parents so I’m glad she has found somewhere nearby so your mother-daughter relationship can rebalnce itself. Don’t forget to look after yourself in all this turmoil too, make time for your crafting if that is what brings you a bit of peace.

    • It *is* hard work to be a caregiver–I had no idea! But the end is in sight–my mom will move to assisted living very soon and we can embark on the next stage. Thanks for your kind words!

  9. So very, very sorry about the terrible loss in your family. Best to you and your mother. I’ve been through such storms myself and know very well how disrupting and draining they are.

    • I’ve reminded myself, repeatedly, that most everyone has been through what we’re dealing with, and they have survived and so can I! Thanks for your warm thoughts.

      • Yes, death and loos are a part of life for everyone. But that doesn’t make it easy to deal with. Finally, one of the best expressions of sympathy I have heard is this: “To be mourned is to be loved.” And so it is.

  10. Dear Kerry, The thresholds of life often bring huge change. Life moves slower at times like these. I feel honored that you have shared this very stormy, yet sacred time. The wedding photo of your mother and John is beautiful and radiates joy. How fortunate they were to share many years of happiness. And what a gift that John took such beautiful care of her as dementia became a part of her being. Your mother is fortunate again, that you were able to take her in under your wings and care for her while you found a new home for her nearby. Whether she can share her appreciation verbally, I am sure she feels deeply grateful. Blessings to all your dear hearts.

      • ❤ Thanks Kerry, I'm glad my words touch your heart. Though I didn't see you message until today, I started blogging again just last night. Your wishful energy I'm sure brought me encouragement!

  11. Hi Kerry, So very sorry for your loss. I had wondered why we had not heard from you this summer, and now I know why. So glad you are getting your mom settled in her new home. Prayers to all of you as you deal with this new phase in her life.

  12. What a time of sadness and change for you to cope with. I’m glad you managed to find some comfort in creating beautiful things and that you will now be able to enjoy some mother/daughter time as it should be.

  13. Know my dear friend that you have my deepest sympathies on the pasting of a loved one! Life’s storm can be a bit messy ,and you are as courageous as your mama ,but if your foot steps in a puddle ,a little discouragement creeps in, know that your friends are here for that too! And those projects you are working on…. am I excited to see….YOU KNOW IT! 😄 Love the picture of your mom and John.

  14. Kerry, you have really been on my mind these last two weeks, you have my deepest sympathy! You have been doing a very hard job this summer, caring for your mom. I am glad you’ve had a little hand time to help you cope. I hope that the worst of your storm has passed now, and you are soon able to rest a bit, enjoy some very deserved quiet and walk in your lovely woods reflecting on wonderful memories of a dear man. The photo of your mom and John is just beautiful, I bet they treasured every minute of their time together. Know we are here for you, and we care for you deeply. Will love seeing what your hands have made in the quiet moments you did have this summer. Sending you big hugs.

    • Thanks, Kathy–you’ve said all the right things! We do have wonderful memories of John and of his time with my mom, and those memories are sustaining. I think the worst of the storm is, indeed, behind us . . .

  15. I am sorry for the hard times you and your family are having to go through. I wish you the best and hope each day becomes a better one than the last. My wife and I will be in your area this weekend a genealogy road trip for me and the Plattsburgh Quilt show for her. I am looking forward to seeing what you have made in future blogs.

  16. I have been thinking of you on and off over the past few weeks, missing your posts and knowing you were dealing with the illness of a loved one. Your step father sounds and looks like a radiant man – how wonderful to be a person who invokes love and leaves people a little richer for having spent some time with him! I am sure his going has left a huge void in your heart. Siddy and I spend time every week in a dementia unit here, we go and spread a little doggy happiness and joy for those residents who are able to accept it. I observe them and their carers and see what a hard job it is and very often I leave with tears in my heart. So it is a good thing that your beloved mama can have other primary carers and you can be her loving daughter again. You will be busy with all these things and travelling your path of grief and we will all be here and delighted to see you whenever you come back. Be at peace. xoxo

    • Hi, Pauline! One of the reasons I wrote the post was to get this kind of support from you and others–it makes me feel better to just know you’re there. You know just the right things to say! And I love that you and Siddy are such a good team at bringing joy to peoples’ lives. The assisted living facility my mom is moving to has a resident dog–Roxie–who wanders around wagging her tail and giving love.

  17. What a turbulent time you and your loved ones have been thorough, and you seem to have managed it with grace, dignity and some weaving. Your step-father sounds like a wonderful man, so these words from Brian Patten may have some resonance within you.

    A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
    For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
    For as long as we ourselves live,
    Holding memories in common, a man lives
    Brian Patten

  18. Kerry, My heart goes out to you and your Mom. The picture of your Mom and John is incredibly beautiful. You can see their love and care for each other. You are such a good and strong daughter, helping your Mom through an extrodinarily difficult time, for both of you. I greatly appreciate you sharing what you are going through and I hope it helps you move forward if you are ready. Sending you love and peace~
    Cathe

    • Oh, my, Cathe–it’s so good to hear from you! I’ve thought about you so often this last year and wondered about how you were doing. I hope everything is going fine in your life? Thanks for dropping in with your supportive thoughts–it means so much!

      • Last year was so difficult, both my parents passed away, Dad in December. I’m trustee of their affairs which has been a full time effort. I just sold their house of 50 years. So much heart break but life does go on and between amazing memories and so much love for my parents I move forward. It’s seem so many of us are experiencing a familiar theme. Always so good to read your posts, always so uplifting!

      • I’m really, really sorry for all you’ve been dealing with, Cathy–both parents in one year? That’s so overwhelming. I know you’re strong but still . . .

  19. John’s smile just lights up that photo. It must be terribly hard for your mother to adjust to losing him-and for you to ease her transition. My mother and her husband are both struggling with increasing dementia and physical frailty this summer, so I thoroughly understand and sympathize with what you are going through. I don’t know what pellucid meant to John, but it’s a word I’ve always loved. Best wishes to your mom and keep weaving.

    • Oh, my–you really do understand–that must be so difficult and sad, to have both you mom and her husband struggling at the same time. Pellucid is just a perfect word, isn’t it? The lake here isn’t pellucid very often but, when it is, there’s no other word that captures how it looks . . .

  20. I am so very sorry to learn of your loss….my thoughts and prayers are for you and yours at this difficult time. I think of you and your husband often and have been hoping all was well during your online absence. May peace be with all of you!

    • Thank you so much, Karen! It feels strange to post such personal information but I know I worry about my blog pals who post frequently, when they go missing all of a sudden . . .

  21. Kerry, what a beautiful post. Loss and love shining through in equal measure. I am so sorry for your loss, and inspired by your family’s strength, individually and collectively. Take good care x

  22. I have been sending you good vibes since your previous post, understanding that something dark was afoot. Thank you for letting us know what it was and also for giving us sense that you and your mother are getting on top of the turmoil and have realistic hopes of calmer days ahead. You are an amazingly beautiful writer as well as crafter. I have to thank WordPress for my knowing you.

    • I agree. And it is definitely a blessing that your mother “worked hard for many years and lived frugally, so money is no issue at all.” I hope she finds a new sense of home and community during this new “adventure” in her life… and that you are able to re-find your own sense of balance after such an intense summer.

      • Thanks, Will. My mom keeps talking about how “lucky” she is to be able to move to this nice community and I remind her it’s not just luck but the mindful way she has dealt with money all her life. She’s really quite eager to move (which is a blessing for me!) and will do so in the near future.

    • That’s so kind of you, Caroline-everything you’ve said here means a lot to me! We are definitely getting on top of things and my mom will be moving into the assisted living community in the next few days–another transition, but one that I think will be a step toward a nice life for her.

  23. Dear Kerry, I am so sorry for you and your warm hearted family. Your world so upside down whilst coping with grief, that’s when you need your family and friends most!!! I have been through this with both my parents and I really want to give you one piece of advise: ask for help when you need it!!! I am sure you do, but sometimes life can be so overwhelming that one forgets there people around you that can and will help you and your loved ones. My thoughts and love for you, xo Johanna

    • Hi, Johanna–I’ve missed you so thanks for dropping in, with your warm words! In fact, I am generally very bad at asking for help so it’s a very good and timely reminder! I hope your life is full and happy these days.

  24. so very sorry to hear of your and your Mom’s loss.be sure to ask friends and family to help and give you strength in this difficult time, you can’t do it all yourself. Thinking of you and sending love. Jean

    • Thanks, Jean. My sister has been here this week and we are in the process of moving my mom’s things into her new place–I’ve thought a LOT about the help I’ve received and how I could never have done it alone!

  25. I wondered about your silence, but since I “quit” blogging awhile ago, I assumed that you had quietly chosen to withdraw. I am so sorry to hear the reason. Our parents have been gone for awhile, mine for a long while, but I do remember the stresses of illness and making sure they were taken care of. Our parents did not have financial difficulties either, which is a relief. Glad to hear that you and your mother will have separate spaces and can be independent again. My mother was very important to me and it sounds like you feel the same about your mother.
    Take care~

    • Hi Deb–it felt kind of odd to write about my personal issues but I wanted to explain the silence. My mom will be moving very soon so we can get used to the new normal–and that’ll be a relief. I never commented on the fact that you were in North Hero–SO close to us! Glad you got to see some of our beautiful region!

  26. I’m sorry for your profound loss, Kerrie. What a gift to your mom and your extended family to have him join the fold. What an interesting man! It’s amazing being in the presence of someone that lights up a room. Clearly he was kind, bright, interesting and creative. I’m happy he found your mom. Best of luck with the assisted living transition. I went through the same with my mom many years ago, and though the transition was hard, she was happy and settled within a short amount of time. This is a beautiful piece of writing and such a tribute to John. xo

    • Thanks, Alys–your kind words are always just right. John was amazing. It was worrisome to have my mom meet a new man–what if we didn’t like him? What if he didn’t like us?! But it was all a perfect match and we adored him, which made it that much harder to lose him. The transition to assisted living is currently underway–my mother’s attitude is very positive and the place is lovely so I am hopeful . . .

  27. Prayers to you and yours. I am so very sorry about the loss of your loved one, John, and the challenges your Mom is going through. I’m glad that a new home and new adventures are on the horizon for her. I applaud John for his dedication to your Mom and to you for taking such good care of her now. Dementia is one of those things that all aging individuals fear so I know that she appreciates all the efforts you are making on her behalf. Take care of yourself, and we’ll all be here when you are ready to come back and tell us all about what you’ve been doing. 🙂

    • Hi, Judy–thanks for these warm words. It all *has* been a challenge and we’ve all managed pretty darn well, I think. It’s been so nice to get back in touch with you and so many other thoughtful blog pals!

  28. You’ve been through tough times which aren’t entirely over yet. Thank you for this lovely, and loving post. I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately.knowing that you were having difficult times connected with your family – look after yourself.

    • You know all about difficult times with family and about dealing with grief, Margaret. We’re doing quite well at this point. The transition for my mom’s move to assisted living is underway and I think her outlook and attitude are amazing. Fingers crossed . . .

  29. Oh, my dear girl. I’m so sad for your loss. Yours, and your family’s and especially your mother’s right now. Your step-dad sounds like a lovely guy. From my family to yours, dear Kerry, big, warm, Canadian hugs, and affection.

  30. Kerry, my deepest sympathy to you and your mother on the loss of your stepfather. He sounds like an incredible person. You have written a beautiful tribute to him here.
    Much love to you and your family,
    Lavinia.

  31. Understandable absence. I find our generation tends to retreat to doing, rather than posting life’s demands. I recently spent a long weekend sitting with my father (who no longer has an internal clock, but asks to go the store at 1 a.m. to buy bread with a coupon…) to let my mother sleep for a few nights. I had vision of writing all sorts of posts or catching up on this or that reading. I found most of the time was spend just being in place and cooking meals. – Oscar

    • Oh, you do understand what it’s like! You’re living it, too. I felt very strange, doing the post about my personal life but I felt like, if I didn’t, I might never blog again.

      • I see a generational phenomenon in social media. We (middle-age folks) tend to write in a measured manner about our personal lives, especially challenging times. The younger folks put diaries out to the world. When I first started blogging, and reading other people’s blogs, I felt as if I had climbed through a window into a teenage girl’s (sexists attitude, I know) to read her private diary. Social boundaries are certainly different (though breaking up with a boyfriend through a blog post is not a good idea in my mind). For my self, I tend to talk-around personal issues with what I write on larger social topics (hint, Dept. of Alternative Facts is expressing my philosophy on national governance while I’m not talking about how these ideas apply to living with certain neighbors…) -Oscar

  32. Kerry, I’m sorry for the loss of your stepdad and for the void the death of such a good and loving man created in your family. Now every member has to find his/her footing again after being knocked off-kilter. It sounds like you and your mom are finding your way through the grief and the changes. I’m glad you’ve still been able to find some crafting time, and that it’s given you comfort and refuge through the difficult days.
    Hugs to you, Lisa

    • You’ve said it just right–were re-negotiaing everything! And every day it gets easier so I have good hope for the future, even though that void will always be there.

  33. While I never reached out as I should have, I’ve wondered about your absence, Kerry.
    You are not only experiencing the loss of a loved one, you are experiencine the loss, even if temporarily, of life as you knew it. Sending strength and caring thoughts

    • Thanks, Laurie. Life as I knew it changed, for sure. We are heading back to a more settled schedule–I will appreciate free time more than I ever have before!

  34. I’m very sorry for your loss. These times are hard times and they help us to grow as a human being. My dad died already in 1990 and yet he is in my mind. Every spring we take summer flowers to his tomb and drive 300km / 186mi to do that. Same happens in autumn, when we take winter flowers to his tomb. Memories stay.

    All the best You and Yours.

  35. Well, here’s Gallivanta-come-lately to your lovely post with its many heart-felt comments. As I read through it seemed a measure of calm was returning to your world (which I am guessing John would have wished for you all), and it may even be that your mother is already settled in her new home by now. Every day is an adventure, every challenge is an adventure; your mother is right. Sometimes, we wish the challenges would leave us alone (I did not need the leaking toilet this morning!) but with love and support (and blog friends) we get through. Please tell your Mom I am wishing her well. She’s making an incredible transition. And needless to say, I wish you well for the same reason. Aroha nui.

    • You must’ve gotten your problem with WP sorted out–it’s so good to have you back! Thank you for all you wrote here and the support. My mother is, indeed, in her new home and it’s kind of hard, I think. She’s had a *lot* to adjust to in the last few months and I wish I could do more to help in this most recent transition. Still, she’s a trouper . . .

      • Ah yes, WordPress and Akismet did something which made my problems go away. Such a relief.
        Parents hate to see their children suffering, children hate to see their parents suffering. Sometimes we can alleviate the suffering/trouble but usually we have to be content to just walk, or hobble, alongside. 🙂

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