I apologize for the length of this blog post! As we often do we have had our ups and downs this week in the Weisblat household. I’ve done snippets of writing here and there, and each time things went up or down I’ve had to add a bit to the “Pulling Taffy” chronicle. I’m afraid the narrative hasn’t ended up entirely smooth–but then life isn’t entirely smooth, either.
In general, the high spots of my time with Taffy this week have outweighed the low ones although they haven’t canceled them out entirely.
Last Wednesday—shortly after I wrote my post here about my mother’s sunny temperament and general feeling of being home, in fact—she took a turn for the worse.
Being attuned (finally!) to the signs, I took only a few hours to figure out that her symptoms indicated yet another urinary-tract infection. She was back on antibiotics by midday on Thursday.
She continued to go downhill, however. She barely moved her feet for much of Friday. Indeed, she spent at least half an hour on the floor that morning. She had decided to sit down there for a rest, and it took quite a bit of persuasion and muscle (sometimes I literally pull Taffy) to get her onto a chair.
Luckily, music, friends, and antibiotics eventually perked her up. On Saturday and Sunday she was back in stride.
The turning point came Friday night. We had talked all week about going to the first concert in Mohawk Trail Concerts’ summer season. We are lucky enough to be able to find chamber music ten minutes away from us, and Taffy has enjoyed the concerts since their beginning in 1970.
I was torn as the time to leave for the Charlemont Federated Church (home to MTC) approached Friday evening. On one hand, I knew that if we didn’t go to the concert, Taffy wouldn’t consciously miss it. And I didn’t want to cross the line between stimulation and torture by dragging her to an event that would tire her out more than it would benefit her.
On the other hand, I knew that she loved music and these concerts in particular. And, let’s face it, I was in the mood for a little chamber music myself!
So I worked hard to get her to the concert. We were actually a little late arriving because it took me so very long to transfer her from our couch to the wheelchair and thence to the car. I whisked the wheelchair into the church sanctuary just as co-artistic director Ruth Black was announcing the program.
An amazing thing happened when the concert started, however. In about ten minutes’ time my mother moved from weak and listless to energetic and alert.
The music cut through her brain and went straight to her heart.
Of course, it’s possible that the antibiotics chose that moment to kick in. Nevertheless, I credit much of her transformation to the power of that music. She stayed up until 10:30 that night and awoke refreshed the next morning, humming away.
On Saturday our neighbors at Singing Brook Farm here in Hawley organized their annual picnic by the Dam, a wonderful structure they fill every year so that the brave among us can enjoy an icy swim. As we nibbled we caught up with friends and neighbors—and watched Will Cosby and company put in the gate that traps water in the Dam.
In church on Sunday Taffy heard me sing all-American songs. More importantly, she was greeted by all and sundry with smiles and hugs. And our friend Susan brought baby Joshua to sit next to Taffy’s wheelchair. My mother was mesmerized by the almost-one-year-old child; the two happily (and, luckily, QUIETLY) played through the service.
Sunday afternoon my cousins David and Mardi stopped by with their teenage children. My mother couldn’t exactly identify any of the Smith clan (she took to calling young Brandon “Boy,” which reminded me of nothing so much as Tarzan), but she clearly had a wonderful time visiting with them and enjoyed being taken out to dinner. “I don’t know who those people are, but I really like them,” she told me as they headed home to Connecticut.
By Monday the happy but busy weekend had tired Taffy out. When I let her take too long a morning nap to recover she ended up without enough food and drink in her system. It was all I could do to get her to sip a bit of energy drink from time to time.
Eventually the drink plus a little food revived her. We went down to the Dam. Taffy sat in her straw hat drinking in the sunshine and the greenery. I managed a foray into the frigid water to pay my respects to the mountain laurel on the far side of the Dam.
As I wheeled my mother to the car I remarked that our dog Truffle, who had retrieved her tennis ball from the water several times, seemed very happy.
“This is heaven for her,” said Taffy. “For us, too. We will come here every day.”
It was a lovely thought. Unfortunately, as my mother tried to get back into the house (we’re working on a ramp, but for the moment we are stuck with a couple of unavoidable steps) she collapsed in a little heap. My neighbor Alice and her friend Jody managed to help me get Taffy into the house, feed her another very small snack, and settle her down for a nap.
She revived a bit later, but the weekend as a whole made me appreciate her increasing fragility even as it made me appreciate our friends, relatives, and neighbors.
I can’t really regret packing so much activity into a few days. Taffy adored her holiday weekend. I do think we’ll need to cut back a bit, however, since clearly fun has its price. As Taffy used to say in her more lucid days, “everything in moderation” is the key to happiness and health.
The ups and downs of our recent saga–and the role music has played in my mother’s happier moments–remind me of one of the songs I sang in church Sunday morning, the Quaker tune “How Can I Keep from Singing.”
The song doesn’t minimize life’s pains, but it does encourage the listener (and the singer) to keep on embracing the joys of life and music.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?