Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

15 June

Goodbye Until Tuesday

by Jon Katz

New instructions: Signing Off Until Tuesday.

We were driving back from the dump this morning and I told Maria of my plan to bring my computer in for some photo work and perhaps blog tonight or tomorrow on her computer.

She flared up and wagged her finger at me. “You know what you are going to do?,” she said. “You’re going to go right into your office and post another blog post saying “goodbye,” and announce that you’re not going to write again until Tuesday.

She said I couldn’t borrow her computer and it was ridiculous to not take a couple of days off, neither of us has had a real vacation for several years. We are celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary Sunday and Monday morning and then coming home.

She had that German/Sicilian thing, it didn’t sound like a request. And I know I could use the break. In a good marriage, you know when to stand and when to run.

I sputtered for a bit, and then assessed the situation. “Okay,” I said, “you’re right. I’m going to say goodbye and I will check back in Monday night or Tuesday. Okay, that will probably be Tuesday.

So goodbye. Keep an eye on the Bishop Maginn High School Wish List. Thanks.

15 June

Tarzana’s Saturday Task

by Jon Katz

We were sitting quietly on the back porch when Maria sat up and said: “you know what I need to do? I need to dig that stone wall out, the grass is covering it over.”

In a flash, she was up, went into the barn, came back with a shovel and went to work. “This will take me 10 minutes,” she said. So I took a video. Saturdays are like this, Maria has a voracious appetite for what I call “muscle” work and she loves to be outside.

It won’t be  ten minutes, but it won’t be a half hour either.

15 June

This Weekend: Steady, Steady: Splitting Myself In Two

by Jon Katz

I woke up early today, my mind racing, I feel a bit as if I’m splitting myself in two.

This afternoon, I’m taking my computer to an Apple repair shop. I’m switching photo programs, and migrating tens of thousand of photographs from one photo management system to another, from Apple’s Aperture to Adobe’s Lightroom.

To do this, I have to leave the computer today, Saturday, until Tuesday, when I am getting special tutoring in how to manage the transition and use the new photo system.

Like many Americans, my life now – my blog, my photos,  music, our podcast, my money, contacts,  news, appointments – are tied to technology, to smartphones and computers. Unlike some, my technology does not isolate me from people, it connects me to people, living in the country, this is important. I never feel isolated or out of touch.

So letting go of my computer, and photos,  for just a couple of days, seems like a big deal to me, I feel as if I’m splitting myself in half, and worry that I will not be able master these changes, I am so familiar to the system I have.

Change is life, especially in our world, and I always choose change over fear or stasis. Change has been good to me.

The experience is being mitigated by our anniversary celebration, our one night foray into central Vermont and a beautiful old inn we’ve never stayed in before. We’re leaving at noon Sunday and coming back Monday morning. My computer will be gone until Tuesday.

I do have access to Maria’s computer, and I’ll put up a blog post or two, I imagine. But I’m not sure. I like the idea of clearing my head for a couple of days. The Bishop Maginn High School Wish List is down to one item, I feel very good and grateful about that. I sold three art class paintings over the weekend, two by Paw Lway Shee and one by Blue.

That feels good.

I’m reading one of the most fascinating biographies I can recall, The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim John Un, Anna Fifield. I’ve never read another biography anything like it. I’ll take some spiritual reading as well – Merton, Tillich, Nouwen.

I am anxious about it, I will feel a bit naked and incomplete. But I will, of course, figure it all out, and I am fortunate to have help. I’ll be blogging later today, maybe tonight. Otherwise, I’ll come up for air  Tuesday. Blessings to you. I see that I do need a rest.

14 June

Sylvie At The Crossroads. Lots Of Stamps

by Jon Katz

I went to see Sylvie again today at a  rehabilitation center 45 minutes away.

I brought her one of her favorite hats from her room – I got it a Vermont thrift shop a year ago. I could not find her address book but I did bring her several of her journals, some envelopes with paid stamps and some pens and writing paper.

She was very happy to see the hat and took her towel off.

Sylvia was tired, and a but fuzzy, I didn’t stay long.

She was happy to hear that people were going to send her cards (Alicia Busser, Room 18 A, Washington Center For Rehabilitation and Healthcare, 4573 State Route 40, Argyle, N.Y., 12809.) She was relieved she could write back.

She also surprised me by telling me she was leaving this rehab center “very soon” and was being taken to a facility in the Southern Adirondacks, it was closer to her family she said. I didn’t ask why or when.

A lot of people messaged me today, including Sue Silverstein at Bishop Maginn High School. I was upset seeing Sylvia so uncomfortable Thursday, and when I want someone to pray for something or somebody, I ask a person I know to be more experienced at it than I am. Since I’m not sure what I believe in, I prefer my prayers be sent by someone who does, they will carry more weight.

Sue Silverstein, the art teacher at Bishop Maginn High School came to mind.

Sue Silverstein teaches theology as well as art, and I asked her if she prayed regularly, and if so, could she put in a word for Sylvia. She messaged me later that she prays all the time, and her whole class was busy writing letters to Sylvie and sending them off Friday. That was a pretty strong dose of good.

I don’t know if Sylvie will still be at this same place on Monday, but I asked the staff if they would be sure to forward any cards or letters to her, wherever she was going, and they said they would.

It was very nice of Sue’s class to do this, and I know others are sending Sylvie cards as well.

I did leave Sylvie – she was very tired, she couldn’t stay awake long – with something of a heavy heart. I’m not sure if I will be seeing her again, unless she returns to the Mansion, and she seems headed in a different direction. I know nothing of her diagnosis or prognosis or treatment, I just don’t know if she will be back.

And I won’t be visiting her again.

Most of the time when residents leave the Mansion for rehab, they don’t return.  The be in the Mansion, you have to be ambulatory.

Sometimes people do come back.

I need to let it go and continue my Mansion work and my work with Bishop Maginn School and my blogging and podcasting. (Please check out the new Bishop Maginn High School Wish List, only a couple of items left – eight copies of the summer reading book, Kite Runner, and 3 Acer Chrome laptop for the school’s teachers and students. We need about 20 more laptops but we have until September. Donations for computers are tax-deductible. More microscopes will be added to the list soon.)

Sylvie is special to me and to many other people. I’ve been doing therapy work with hospice and elder care for more than a decade now with different dogs  – Lenore, Izzy and Red – I am careful not to get too close.

But some people get into your heart, we are all human.

I love Sylvie’s stories about growing up in post war Europe and traveling with her diplomat father. She talks very openly about her mental illness and the institutions she as lived in almost all of her life.

I love her  imperiousness, and her stories about her the dog lost in the mountains, his howls echoing off the snow, and of the two men she loved, both of whom are dead now. I asked her once why she didn’t want to play bingo, and she said it was because the boy she loved played bingo, and it was just too painful to do it.

I remember the night I went to the Jehovah’s Witness service to hear her sing. She loves that community, they were – are – wonderful to her.

I’m not a moper, should it come to that, I don’t look back much, I have a lot to do, and I respect life, always. I don’t deny what is life’s to decide. And this is not a eulogy, I have no idea whether I will see Sylvie again or not, or whether she will be able to get up and walk.

I still miss Connie and Joanie. I’ve learned a lot from the aides about keeping my distance and letting go, the veterans say you can’t help it, it hurts, and I’ve learned that myself. Sometimes it hurts to be a human.

Godspeed Sylvie, wherever you go. I look forward to walking into the Mansion one day and seeing you pushing your walker with Tote  Bags handing off the sides,  waiting for me with a fistful of letters with messed up addresses, claiming someone took your stamps, and with a new hat on your head. I’ll straighten the letters out for you, you admit that you have issues with zip codes.

If for some reason, we don’t meet again, may the angels ride with you always. You deserve some time in paradise.

Sylvie asked again for cards or letters (especially cards) to sent her, if she moves, they will be forwarded to her new residence. Sylvie Bussee, Washington Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, 4573 State Route 40, Argyle, N.Y., 12809.

14 June

Bud is A Happy Helldog

by Jon Katz

Bud had his rabies shots and a check-up today, Dr. F ariello says he is looking great, his heart shows no signs of heartworm or other trouble he is healthy and strong. We realized we have been inadvertently overfeeding him, so he’s about to shed a pound or two.

Otherwise, a clean bill of health. He’s come a long way. He is very good on the vet table. Beth, the tech, who loves Boston Terriers, said he looks fantastic to her.

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