Country Road

We live where the suburban edge of a modest size metropolitan area gives away to wooded hills. It’s not exactly country and certainly not rural. But it’s enough of a feel away from urban development and horizontal sprawl where we can comfortably take a walk in the woods simply by heading down the two-lane road in front of our house and disappearing in protected land. Sometimes we head up the slope that forms the access point to what is very loosely called “a mountain” but really is just a long rise of land several hundred feet above base elevation. Other times we’ll take a more relaxed path along a wooded road dotted with houses every few hundred feet. Some of those houses date to the mid-1700s. Others represent the entire history of American design, from modest cottages and stone-foundationed farm houses to garish modern structures that devote more attention to the multi-car garage in front than to the windows or front porch. It’s an eclectic mix, one we have been perusing regularly since we launched our encounter with “extreme nesting” back in early March of this year. We have a one-mile loop around a church yard where some of the...Read more
Going Labile

Going Labile

Most people I know are on edge, their mood swings dependent upon the last news clip they’ve seen, poll read or article depicting this or that nightmarish electoral outcome. The onset of autumn hasn’t helped. Shortened daylight, cooler weather, less opportunity to engage in open skies and good long walks help expedite the early onset of SAD – seasonal affective disorder. Normally it makes its grip felt on the other side of the calendar: in the wintry doldrums of February’s cabin fever. But in this year of strange and unpredictable stressors it seems as if forced isolation and limited social engagement have exacted their toll earlier than ever. And one of the symptoms of this emotional lability is the oscillation between confidence and pessimism at the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. There’s a medical model of neuro-psychiatry that chalks up mood swings to organic dysfunction. The diagnosis is based upon a biological-chemical model, akin to the now standard understanding of manic-depression. There are a lot of prescription drugs available for doctors to apply that will temper the mood swings and return the patient to a modicum of stability, or at least slow down the Jekyll and Hyde transformations. There’s...Read more
Home Alone

Home Alone

I’m not sure I have ever properly thanked my mother for giving birth to me. But at least I finally found a way to show my appreciation. It took eight months, but we finally got her into an assisted living place she’s comfortable in and that can meet her needs. Along the way I left behind a trail of documents, scanned forms, faxes, emails and phone messages, as well as checks for legal fees and various communiques with bureaucrats at Medicaid. I was not fully aware of the emotional toll the process had been exacting on me until I got word Thursday morning from her new home that my mother had actually made the move and was settled in. The feelings I expressed, evident in my tears, were a complex mix of love, hope and relief. It did not take long for them to transform into a sense of guilt as well, for I also began to feel complicity in warehousing her. Such are the dilemmas of the elderly in our society and of our role, as both their offspring and their guardians. I have no idea how people without strong family support are supposed to negotiate the nightmare of...Read more