“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 . . .