Wednesday, March 30, 2022

April means renewal, doesn't it?


    That question doesn't get answered easily, given the fraught times we are in. Maybe the best we can do is hope for change. And meanwhile  hope to stay well enough to avoid total isolation on a run from something invisible.

    Still, a little walk can be uplifting in unexpected ways. Seeing unlikely signs of charm and humor posted occasionally on the front yards of private property. 'We Support Ukraine' sort of signs aren't exactly what I mean, since they read 'impersonal' without a name.  Today I unexpectedly came across the written verse of a lovely Louis Armstrong melody laboriously hand printed on a white board tacked up to a black stand near the sidewalk and was immediately cheered. I remembered the day in New York when I went with a friend to see the musician's home down an ordinary residential street in Queens, not far from a subway stop. This was before the site had become an education center, a well publicized homage to the great man who lived humbly among the gold spigots chosen for his bathroom. How simple and how real it was, and how strange so few people knew about it back then.

    Coming later from a visit to the nearest Safeway, I was still smiling. All the more reason at that moment because a policeman or security guard in the store had handed over to me quite spontaneously a single red balloon on a long red string. How can I fail to mention that I had gone to the section in the store in search of a single flower to go atop a wee pastry I had bought as a birthday present for a  young friend? Seeing no such lonesome bud, I laughed and asked if I could have a balloon - one of the bunch the man was holding, curiously enough. (My last trip to that same store I saw a much fancier balloon with a price tag of $17.95; astronomical I thought, until a local retailer who sells such notions said there was a helium storage....a statement I knew not how to refute. Possibly he was joking...)

    With that red balloon in hand, I walked home in a strong wind that made the thing twirl and whirl. A tiny brown dog coming towards me was cowed by the sight. It immediately went into a barking frenzy. And no wonder.  He/she doesn't often see a dancing balloon on a walk. A few blocks on I encountered an older couple emerging onto the sidewalk from their house. They smiled at the sight, incongruous enough, of a neighbor carrying a balloon in the middle of the day. 'The Red Balloon - the story,' the woman laughed, when I asked if perhaps she was having a birthday of her own. If so, I would have handed it over on the spot ...

    A recurring theme for the determinedly mobile is how often a person can be surprised on a street.

    A Metro ride and then short walk to a shoe store in Dupont Circle produced a timely encounter - though rare enough on its own. Two young men in bright yellow vests stood outside the store on a corner to waylay passersby and ask them to contribute to the International Rescue Committee - for Ukrainian refugees now pouring into Poland. The two were refugees themselves after a fashion. Each had come from Kabul a few years earlier to start new lives when they felt they could not advance at home. The one was a pilot in training most recently in Slovakia...

     Which reminds me to mention why I was in that particular Safeway that day. I had judged a quiet Thursday to be the perfect time for a second required shingles vaccine - the shringrix or whatever it is called to protect from insanely annoying and painful rashes caused by, of all things, leftover chicken virus in an older person's blood. I can't explain the science only the reaction I had was nothing like any vaccine I can remember ever. Easygoing at first, then slowly the swelling, redness, tenderness and soon the exhaustion. All a tiresome nuisance as I had big plans for Friday and I had to struggle to stay upright, intact. Soreness way beyond any memory. No way to predict such things, no way to deal with it except sleep and any artificial balm around. It took three days for normality = or what passes for that these days - to return.

March Madness Indeed

 Enough said. A month of ups and downs by almost any measure. Use weather as a chart. Up to 70s and down to 20s, a roller coaster drumbeat. Covid hits home everywhere with a new variant. I try to rally a first cousin into some awareness of why she should not doubt the value of the vaccine. She "doesn't trust the government" and won't say more, except that she was hospitalized at some point with the virus. The son who lives with her and her husband (husband has had a stroke of unknown origin) had forcibly removed her from the hospital on grounds she 'wasn't getting any better,' taking her home and watching over her. Presumably with more attention (i.e. the loving medicine..) than what she could get among other patients. Did she not receive the treatment drugs authorized? She doesn't know, doesn't question her son's move, when she tells me on the phone how her memory has changed. She can't find the letters to spell out the name of the small Indiana town where she lives. I decide not to go after her anti-government stand, not on the phone when she is so obviously suffering from the disease. She is cheerful, repeating much of what she has told me before about her family - she is now a great grandmother. She laughs. Humor is what we have, she says, and an occasional visit from a friend basically involves laughing.

I commend her spirit and withhold any sense of shame of blame on her behalf. She lives on 100 plus acres in country where cell phone service is rare.  She can't quite explain why. Nor does wifi work. I had been sending emails to an old address that never made the target. She keeps saying how she had 'got along' before with a massage business, the comfort of helping people be more comfortable. She is pleased with the photographs I sent her in a Christmas card - when the only reply I received was a note saying she was unable to send cards this year. She didn't mention Covid then.