Holding Pattern

My garage is here. As you can see, it needs to be put together, but who knows when that will be. One of the construction workers is sick and they have to wait for the test results, though I have a hard time believing he has The Bob. What are the odds of one of the five people I have seen in the past two weeks being the only person in the county to have it?

Still, they can’t go by the odds, so we’re all waiting for test results.

When they were going to be here building the garage, they were also going to fix my toilet (the wax ring needs to be replaced) and while the water was turned off, they were going to fix the crumbling plaster wall behind the commode, but that probably won’t happen. They will try to get here fix the toilet, and we’ll try to figure out the safest way to do that (me, being “elderly,” staying away from them, and then disinfecting the bathroom afterward). They would wait if they could, but if the floor rots from all the moisture, they’d have to fix it, and their agenda is full enough.

On the other hand, if I don’t have a toilet, I won’t need toilet paper. (Joke.)

Like almost everyone else, I am in a holding pattern, though I have to admit, it has more to do with a wonky knee than any stay-at-home order. Luckily, the knee has healed enough so I can walk around the house without support from my hiking poles. (The poor things are still in shock from that ignoble use.)

I’m used to waiting, though, so it’s not as if living in a holding pattern is anything new.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Elderly Knee

Ten years ago when Jeff died, I was in the middle of middle age, and suddenly, according the statistics being bandied about because of this current health crisis, I am “elderly.” I’m not sure how that happened, but the truth is . . . hmmm. I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe that I am older than I think I am. Or maybe I really am old enough to be at risk.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said you know you’re old when all your injuries are a result of sleeping weird, and that sure hit home. A few days ago, I went to sleep feeling great with all parts working, and I woke with a knee so out of whack and I could barely walk. Then a wrong step a couple of nights ago made it worse. Though the knee is marginally better today, for which I am grateful, I am using my Pacerpoles as if they were canes to keep the weight off that knee as much as possible.

It makes me feel sad for those poor demoted hiking poles. As recent as eighteen months ago, they helped me to maneuver cliffside trails, trek through overgrown forest paths, descend scree-laden desert tracks.

Now the poles only serve to get me from room to room, and they don’t even do much of that. Mostly, I stay in one room. The daybed seems a bit easier to navigate with a bum knee since it has rails that I can use to pull myself up, and it’s a bit higher than my normal bed, so it puts less strain on my knee when I stand up.

Apparently, not only am I in the “stay at home or else” group, I’m also in the “stay in one room” group. Perhaps even the “stay in bed” group.

Sounds elderly to me.

Luckily, I have books so I don’t need to go anywhere even if I could. I should start my car to keep the gas circulated and the battery active, but the thought of having to uncover the vehicle and try to sidle into the seat without stress on the knee is too much for me to even contemplate.

And I have food. I had a few leftover tea cakes I’d made for the open house to celebrate my one-year anniversary of home ownership. I’ve been doing a good job of staying away from such treats, so I’d forgotten I had them. (Before my knee decided to go wonky on me, I’d given up deserts in an effort to lose weight to protect my knees, but my body seems to be more interested in protecting my weight than my knees.) I decided if I was going to die from a novel disease, I didn’t want to die with cake in my freezer. How sad would that be! So I ate it. And I made a stir fry with odds and ends in my refrigerator. As you can see, I’m doing fine on the food front.

Well, I’ve been sitting long enough. I better go rest my knee.

My poor elderly knee.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

House Proud and Proud of It

I used to be the sort of person who would clean well before company came and do a deep clean when I moved, but the rest of the time I lived in . . . not squalor, but not perfect cleanliness, either. Somewhere along the line, this struck me as wrong, and now I’ve reversed the trend.

A friend and her sister recently came to visit, and I cleaned house, but nothing extreme — mostly just dusted and dry mopped. I keep the house clean anyway, so there wasn’t much to do besides normal maintenance. Besides, I knew they would be walking around in shoes, so I saw no reason to wet mop the floors.

After they left, however, I cleaned. Really cleaned. Disinfected the bathroom, scrubbed the kitchen, washed doorknobs, dusted, dry mopped and wet mopped the floors, washed all the bedding, including the comforter I used for their bedspread. This cleaning bout wasn’t prompted by the current viral situation because obviously, if there was a problem, it had already been put into effect. It was more about reclaiming my space.

Because the garage is not built and the basement work not finished, I still have things stored in my second bedroom and my back room. And the second bedroom, which I use for an office, is generally cluttered with books and notes and various writing supplies, but otherwise, the house is guest-ready. There has never been a time since I moved here when I felt embarrassed to have drop-in visitors, though that had often been the case in my younger years.

I especially never wanted anyone to see my bedroom. Clutter was the norm and making my bed a futile gesture since I more or less lived in the bedroom. It was the most comfortable place for reading and pre-computer writing, but now it is simply that — a bedroom. A place for sleeping. (Which is why I have a daybed in my office — the life-long habit of reading in bed is strong and unbreakable.)

When did I get to be such a neatnik? I don’t know — but it pleases me to wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen and living room. It pleases me to see a lovely bedroom with the bed made and any clutter kept out of sight. (The things I might need at night, such as lip balm, flashlight, tissues or lotions, I keep in a basket to make them easily removed from the bedside table.)

I’ve never been particularly house proud (never owned a house to be house proud about), but now I am. And I’m proud of it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Celebrating My House

Today is the first anniversary of my being a house owner. The anniversary of when I first saw the house won’t be for another couple of days and will require yet another celebration. Today, though, is about the house.

I bought the house sight unseen, though I had seen photos.  I have been eminently pleased with the house itself — the spooky basement and the now defunct garage not so much, but both those disappointments are being turned into . . . whatever the opposite of disappointment is. Satisfaction, I think. It should be “appointment,” shouldn’t it? But I’ll stick with satisfaction for now.

I never wanted to own a house. It seemed too much of a responsibility. The first time I ever saw the possibilities in owning a place was when I visited my sister a few years ago. Her house is a delight, with art and artifacts and artful displays wherever I would look. But even so, I didn’t want to own, which was good since there was no way I could ever have afforded to buy a place. At least, not then. The years passed and, as luck would have it, a house showed up in my life.

When my brother first broached the subject of my buying a place, I didn’t immediately shrug it off as I normally would. I knew I needed to do something to situate myself for my old age, and since it didn’t matter where I lived, I went where the house was.

And what a joy! Not only do I love my house, I love owning it. It makes me feel good, as if I were wearing a warm cloak on a cold day.

Adding to the luck, the town that came with the house has been a good place for me, complete with a nearby library . . . and friends.

A couple of those friends brought me flowers today to help me celebrate.

They stayed for tea and cakes served on a gorgeous new plate from my sister.

There were several very long years where I thought I would never be happy again. There were other times I knew something wonderful would be in my future — since the universe is balance, I figured only something really special could offset the pain of losing Jeff and the horror of grief.

In twenty days, it will be ten years that he’s been gone, and not only did I find happiness again, I found the “something wonderful.”

And so today, I celebrate my house.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Rebar

The construction workers were here today to put the rebars in the garage foundation. I’ve heard of rebars, and I even know what they do, but I didn’t know what the difference between a bar and a rebar is, so I did a bit of research.

You probably already know, but the bar in “rebar” is a bar, as in a rod rather than as in a tavern (though in the case of a tavern, I suppose you could still re-bar, as in bar-hopping and re-bar-hopping). The “re” part in rebar is short for “reinforcing” or “reinforcement.” Aha! So a rebar is simply a reinforcing bar. That part I get. The explanation for why a rebar is necessary is what strains my brain.

The forces of compression and tension always work together within an object. The force of compression squeezes things together, while the force of tension pulls things apart. Concrete has a high compression strength, but it has weak tension. (Apparently, concrete can stand up to compression, as when a building is built on a concrete foundation, but it can’t stand up to forces of tension, which is why the walls of my old garage kept sliding apart and cracking the floor. Even though the foundation was shallow, the garage might have held up if rebars had been used in the construction. Or so I understand.)

Although I have never specifically heard of the forces of compression and tension (or if I had heard, I’ve long forgotten) and don’t really understand how they work, I am familiar with the concept of opposing universal forces. Yin and yang, which is the ultimate example of forces that work together to make a whole. The nuclear force, which keeps nucleons in the atom’s nucleus together at the same time it keeps them apart to prevent an implosion. The push and pull of orbits that keep the solar system and galaxy in order. The give and take of relationships.

It’s not really important to understand the concept of rebars as long as the workers do, and as long as the work passes inspection, which it did. So, next step — concrete!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

A Taste of Spring

In five days, I will have been a house owner for an entire year. That year sure went fast! I came here just as spring was making itself felt, and today, as if in celebration, spring decided to make a visit. Sunny skies. Gorgeous weather.

None of my bulbs (except for that one intrepid snow drop that’s still hanging around) have put in an appearance, but if, as Aristotle says, “One swallow does not a summer make,” then I’m sure it also holds true that one fine day does not a spring make. So there’s still time for them to make an appearance.

Still, bits of green are starting to peek above the dead leaves that didn’t get blown away last fall. Most of the green, I’m sure, are weeds of some sort, but until I find out for sure, I welcome the color. (And even if I do find out they are weeds, I am sure I will still welcome the color. I am a bit tired of the drab earthen tones of the winter, so new growth of any kind will be nice.)

I also found some green shoots that look as if they might be from bulbs, but I never planted them, and there weren’t any blooms in that part of the yard last year. Maybe they are a house anniversary present from Chloris, the goddess of flowers.

The gift of greenery wasn’t the only present I got today. The contractor came to frame the foundation for the garage and he brought me some farm eggs. Such lovely colors!

Whatever the coming weeks hold, I certainly enjoyed today’s taste of spring.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

An Unscheduled Life

A long-time friend wrote to tell me she’s been enjoying my posts about my new house, and spoke with awe about the success of my new life. Then she said she was going to make attendance at community events in her area more of a priority. I had to laugh at this, because I am doing the opposite — making community events less of a priority.

When I moved here, I made a concerted effort to be . . . not me. At least, not my usual semi-hermit self. I knew I had to do something to keep my concern about stagnating from becoming a reality. To that end, I said yes to every invitation, took every opportunity to attend community events, joined every group that expressed an interest in me, even played games — a couple of times at the library, most often at the senior center. (If you knew how little I like games, except perhaps the solitaire kind that keeps my mind occupied while I think, you would understand how big a concession this was.)

In the last couple of months, things have changed. Or perhaps it is I who have changed, reverting to my stay-away-from-crowds inclination. (I do best one on one. Being with two or three is acceptable, especially if the others are congenial, but more than that tends to overwhelm me.)

Although I did set out to get involved, I never actually set out to get uninvolved. It just happened. Any time someone ignored me, asked for one thing more than I was willing to give, said something that hit me the wrong way (or even the right way), it stopped me cold, breaking whatever momentum of sociability I’d built up. None of these things were important. None of these things hurt beyond the moment. None of them were things I couldn’t have easily shrugged off. But all of them, in that stopped moment, made me wonder, “What the heck am I doing?”

And so, the life I had built for myself slowly disintegrated. Well, not my life — that’s still intact, along with all the friends I’ve made — but my scheduled life is disappearing. I’ll keep up with a few things — Art Guild, the strategic planning sessions, and maybe an occasional potluck or other activity, but everything else that’s been a regularly scheduled event seems to have been wiped from my calendar.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this newly unscheduled life. Exercise more, eat better, and try to lose the weight I gained by going to all those community events, of course. Visits and excursions with friends, I hope. But beyond that, I don’t know. (I suppose it’s possible — vaguely possible — that I’ll start writing a new book.)

It seems fitting, in a way, that this change is taking place now. The first anniversary of when I bought my house is two weeks away. A lot has happened in the past year. I’m sure a lot more will happen in the coming months, though I don’t know — can’t know — what. More hermitting? More socializing? More scheduling? Walking back to functions I’ve walked away from?

Since I can’t even guess who or what I will be, how I will change, or how I will feel, I’ll just have to wait to see how the future unfolds and trust that it will be good for me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Snowdrop in the Snow

I’m certainly no snowdrop, remaining steadfast and sprightly in the snow. Instead, I brew a cup of tea and huddle over the warmth of my computer and ignore the snow. Except, of course, a moment now and again to look out the window and enjoy the whiteness of the day.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I did sweep the snow off the ramp leading to the house. I’m not expecting either a package or a visitor, but on the off chance someone would need to come to the door, I wouldn’t want the fates of irony to get into the act. (As much as I appreciate irony, having someone slipping on the wheelchair ramp and ending up in a wheelchair is one example I can live without.)

Then, even though I have a car cover, the snow still needed to be brushed off. It’s been a long time since I had to do that — the last time was a year and a half ago when I got caught in a snowstorm on a road trip. And the last time before that was . . . I don’t know. Maybe a decade or so ago. Even though I haven’t had a workable garage since I moved back to snow country, I do have a carport, but the foundation for the new garage blocks off access. Hence, snow removal.

And then, of course, I had to take a photo of that resolute little bloom in the snow.

This is Tuesday, and as usual, almost all my activities for the week were scheduled for today but, apparently, I am taking a snow day. There can be no work on the garage, a stint of volunteer work at the library was cancelled, I lost track of time and missed the third activity, and I simply don’t feel like going out into the snow and dark for a meeting tonight.

So here I am, a cup of tea at my elbow, the computer shining brightly in front of me, contemplating how not like a snowdrop I am.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Snowdrop!

At least, I think it’s a snowdrop. When I planted bulbs in the fall, I took a scattershot approach, so they are all mixed up without any indication of what is planted where.

The snowdrop was supposed to be the first to bloom, and considering that this little gem (no bigger than my thumbnail) is not just the first but the only flower so far, I figure it has to be a snowdrop. And if not, well, a snowy drop by any other name is still a lovely little blossom.

I realize it’s not much, this bloom, but every flower garden, no matter how lush, had to start with a single flower, and this is mine — the first step to what I hope will be a pretty yard.

At the moment, of course, the yard is not at all pretty. The brown grass is gouged with troughs where the garage and the carport used to be. The carport was moved close to the house and is filled with a lot of the stuff that should be (and will be) in the garage when it is built, but a few cold, snowy days put garage on hold. There are supposed to be a couple of more cold, snowy days next week, but then after that . . . well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I realize everything is a slow process, whether growing a single bloom, planting a garden, landscaping a yard, or building a garage, and it’s still early days since I haven’t been here quite a year.

In fact, exactly three weeks from today will be my first anniversary as a homeowner.

So far, so good!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

This, That, and the Other

This

Snow this morning! Although a storm had been forecast, I didn’t expect it to materialize since so far this winter, few of the storms we were supposed to get managed to find their way here. It was rather a tepid storm, maybe an inch or so that was easily swept away, but there is a possibility for a bit more snow. For now, though, it’s just spitting a few flakes at me

More snow is supposed to come this way on Friday, and I hope it does. I’ve been concerned about all the bulbs I planted. Not being much of a gardener, I had no idea what to do, considering the dry conditions, a few unseasonable days, and weather spikes. (The high on Sunday was rumored to have been 84, the low tonight will be 4. Yikes!)

I didn’t want to water, thinking that if the bulbs were still alive, the water coupled with the high temperatures might make them think it was time to start growing, and it’s way too early. At this point, I’m just hoping that a flower or two comes up this spring.

That

Yesterday I got “that” bill — the one everyone seems to get upset about. But not me! It was the first property tax bill I’d ever received, and it seemed like some sort of rite of passage. I’ve always paid property taxes in roundabout sort of way since landlords include such expenses in the rent, but yesterday’s bill came directly to me. It was fun to look at that bill, to see where my money goes. Among other things, the bill includes $.02 for abatements, whatever those are, $5.00 for the library (doesn’t seem like enough), and $11.80 for dikes. Yep, I’m all for dikes and dike maintenance — the Arkansas River is close enough to be a problem in flood years.

I’m sure by next year I’ll be complaining like everyone else, but for now, getting that bill made me feel as if I were a homeowner for real.

And the Other

I’d never heard of Shakira until all the talk on Facebook about the half-time entertainment during the Super Bowl. I found the show on YouTube and tried to watch it. I can see why some people thought the show inappropriate, and I can sort of see why others thought it empowering, but either way, it didn’t matter to me. What made me feel out of place was that I couldn’t understand more than a word or two of the songs. So I got bored and turned off my computer.

It did remind me, though, that in my search for belly dance instruction videos, I’d came across one called, “Shakira-style belly dance.” I’d passed on it at the time because I had no idea what that style of dancing was. So today, I found the video and did the routine. Well, sort of. What I managed to do didn’t look at all like what the instructor was doing, so I’m sure it bore even less resemblance to how Shakira had danced in that particular song. (And it bore no resemblance at all to what she’d done in the half-time show.)

But, for what it’s worth, today I learned a Shakira-style dance.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.