Sep 24, 2017

Loosing Josephine

This week I am starting writing Saturday already. Because Sunday will be our last day together.

I got to know Tuesday. It had been up for consideration for a while. Now it was decided. I was prepared. But not ready. I cried in despair all day. Josephine is leaving.

I didn’t really know Josephine when she started working here November four years ago. We had met of course, as her dad is my next door neighbor and my beloved Alida her likewise beloved grandmother. At that time Josephine had just turned 22, a single mother of 1-year old Dancy.

On Josephine’s first day as a home care personal she jumped right up in my bed and that’s how our life together started. I would say we are best friends as well as mother and daughter but without the complications of a mother and daughter relationship. And I have had the privilege watching Josephine develop and grow in to an amazing young woman and had the joy of being close to her little daughter changing from a toddler to a capable and mature 5-year old. 

My home care company Civil Care has the best intentions of providing their clients a sustainable situation with only a few people taking care of you. But to a large degree this is a job for people in transition. Mostly young women and men figuring out what they want to do in life and then moving on. So over the close to five years since I became someone in need of help of the most basic things a lot of people have passed through my life.

In this fragile, variable and exposed situation Josephine has been a constant. We have seen each other most every day for four years. She has had only every other Friday off and not until this summer even taken a vacation.

Josephine has been the one helping me out of bed in the mornings. The one wiping my feet and legs after the shower. The one putting lotion on my skin. The one dressing me, panties, jeans, socks. The one making me breakfast every morning. She has also been the one cleaning my house and doing my laundry. Helping me change the seasons in my home (yes, this is something Swedes do) and decorate for Christmas. And she has roasted my special granola for me.

Above all Josephine has wiped my tears. And I hers. She has listened to my heart and I  have listened to hers. She has shared my laughter and I have laughed with her. She has been annoyed and pissed at me and I at her. At her hello in the morning when she puts the key in my door I can tell what mood she is in. And she can tell mine from my hello back.

Josephine and I share everything with each other. And that’s a lot. You would think a 60-something disabled woman who spends her life on a couch and a 20-something single (for real) mom always tied up, wouldn’t have that eventful lives, but I tell you, we have. I could write a book. Because we are not talking blog material.

Both Josephine and I are very emotional. We are not equipped with filters. Highly Sensitive Persons. Therefore we share a profound understanding for each other. Me telling Josephine something difficult she might become nauseous. The other way around, I sometimes have to lye down feeling light headed. Yeah, it can be intense.

I think my relationship with Josephine has been the healthiest relationship in my life though. We have sure had our fights but always come out on the other side in a mutual understanding for each other. We never ever put up a facade, we are always real, we can be exactly who we are at any given moment and that’s a relaxed closeness very rare to find. Our friendship is safe. Our loyalty to each other was once tested in the most dramatic way but even that we got through. Managing that kind of stress I can not see what could ever break us.

I can’t comprehend my time with Josephine now is over. It’s not possible to grasp. I can’t wrap my head around it. Will we loose contact? No, we won’t. But seeing each other every day, sometimes twice a day, gives a connection quality you don’t get any other way. The continuity provides a presence where you can be at rest. You can dig in to what’s happening in life right when it occurs. And what there isn’t time for today you can talk about tomorrow. Because there is no limitations of tomorrows. It’s a presence you only have in a family, if it’s a good family. And I would say Josephine and I have been family to each other. Josephine is the one closest to me. She is my person.

Now it’s time for Josephine to move on though. She has a family in her own generation now and will start studying full time. And it’s the right thing to do. But it will be a great loss for me. Loosing Josephine is the biggest change for me since my ex husband moved on with his life.

I can’t believe it won’t be possible for the two of us to curl up in bed or on my couch whenever one of us need to. I can’t believe Dancy won’t be running between my house and Grandpa’s, happy and safe, while her mom is doing the weekend cleaning. I can’t believe I won’t have access to Josephine’s swift hands doing all those little things for me I can’t attend to myself. 

I am incredibly grateful for the years we had and everything we have been through together. And I am sure our friendship will last my lifetime, just as mine and Josephine’s grandmother Alida’s have. But I don’t know how I can do this without her. Josephine is irreplaceable. And I dread the mornings when I acute shivering in nameless fear have to be brave with people who don’t know me by heart.

She has just served me her last supper. And we ended the way we started.

Waking up this morning the first tears did wet my cheek. I felt like I was heading for a funeral. Only sadness and pain in sight. And I decided to treat the day that way.

Josephine wiped my legs and feet after the shower one last time. Put my jeans and socks on. One last time sitting on the floor at my bedside. We held hands and agreed on crying as much as we needed. And enjoy the good moments. Just as a funeral.

My friend did her last Sunday cleaning of my house. And we decked the house for fall. Put the yellow window dressing up in the kitchen. Changed blankets and pillows from blue and white to brown, orange and yellow in my great room. Dressed my bedroom in latte, a color I brought here from Seattle. And treated my bed with the new linen I bought to make fall a little brighter.

We have had a good day. Making the house fall-cozy together one more time gave us a  the closure we needed. We made the day a lovely funeral.

And before Josephine put the dinner tray on my lap we said our goodbye. She curled up with me on my couch and we held each other and cried. Thanking each other for everything we have been for one another these past four years. Agreeing on our friendship being very special.

Josephine leaving the house without saying “see you tomorrow” is incomprehensible to both of us. I know she won’t be here tomorrow morning, I get that. But the fact that she won’t be here any morning… I will miss her like hell. My home and my life will be unbearably quite without her.

Sep 17, 2017

Marianne's bracelet

Yesterday I received a very special gift. It made me grateful, moved and nearly speechless.

Marianne was my sister’s mother in law. She was a lovely woman. We spent many Christmas Eve’s together and she and her husband Rutger became good friends with my parents when their son married my sister.

Marianne was intelligent. Vital. She was curious, interested and well updated in the goings on of the world. She listened to your opinion careful about not laying hers upon you. She was reflective. A conversation with Marianne was a pleasure.

Marianne seemed to enjoy sitting in a room contemplating what happened around her. With a smile watching her grandchildren grow up and her great grandchildren play. Everything about her was soft and mild.

Often Marianne and I lay on the couches in my sister’s home. We both had aching backs, that we shared. We discussed our situations but agreed on there was so many other topics being more interesting, let’s not waist time on this.

Although Marianne’s body was bent in a 90° angle she had a mental stature making you hardly notice. I saw here as the 5,8 foot (176 cm) she probably once was, if not more. Remarkable.

Marianne and Rutger had both been fragile for many many years, and at Christmas Rutger passed away. I was so happy to meet Marianne again at Easter. She had travelled all the way from Gothenburg to Umeå by herself, an extraordinary  accomplishment.

We had the chance to talk at length about her life companion of 60 years, the grief and the adjustment to going on by herself. I gratefully cherished our conversation and kept it in my heart.

In July she followed her husband. It was time. They were both 90 years old.

Yesterday my sister brought me a bracelet. She herself is a gold person and I am a silver. And this was a sliver bracelet. It was a rigid link, the style I am attracted to, which my sister knows very well. It was beautiful and at the same time cool. Timeless.

The bracelet had been Marianne’s and my sister asked me, would I like it? She told me it had been a piece of jewelry she wore a lot, like an every day bracelet if I remember it correctly.

I was stunned. I loved the bracelet. The sturdy link was perfect. But knowing it had been a dear piece on Marianne’s arm was nearly too much. How could I carry it? How could I carry on her grace and stature? 

I accepted the gift with grate gratitude and some tears. And I will wear it. I have been given the gift to wear a piece of Marianne. Maybe it will transfer a glimpse of her strength, if I am able to receive it. 

I will never gain or reach her humility and wisdom though. Marianne’s presence in a room was like a warm gently burning corner fireplace. 

Sep 10, 2017

My one super power/an apartment for Joanna and Xander

So, if I can make parking spots show up and rains to stop, what more can my super power do? That’s the question ending my post two weeks ago. Now I know!

Remember Joanna and Xander, the young couple who were sweet hearts in their early teens and reunited 1,5 years ago? A love saga worthy a movie.

This spring Joanna and her little daughter moved in with Xander and his two daughters. They are all the same age and have become siblings. So far so good. But a family of five in a one bedroom apartment, that’s not a walk in the park. So to find something bigger has been crucial.

Which is not an easy task in Umeå. Again, Umeå and Seattle share a lot of the same problems, only on different scales. One is housing. Too many people in need of somewhere to live. Prices rising. Millennials having to leave the city to find something affordable.

The City of Umeå has a large pool of apartments, the City owned company Bostaden is the biggest agent on the rental market in Umeå. It takes years and years though to get one of those apartments. It’s actually common that parents put their young kids in the Bostaden line to give them a chance for their own home when it’s time to leave the nest. Actually a bit like American parents start saving for college for their children at an early age.

Joanna signed up for the Bostaden apartment line five years ago. That’s about the time it takes to be offered anything at all. And of course the offers start at studios and one bedrooms and not in the most popular neighborhoods. So the more years you have in line, the more you have to choose from.

On Monday Joanna was a bit desperate about her family’s housing situation. They all got at each other’s nerves as there is simply no way to get a quiet spot in an apartment that small. The same day she got an offer from Bostaden! A three bedroom in the neighborhood they want to be! Wow! The only thing was, there were six in line before her. So the likelihood she would be the winner was at a minimum.

I could feel Joanna’s despair. Then it struck me! And I said to her: you know what. I will visualize that apartment for you! Like when finding parking on a busy and impossible street I will visualize every one in line before you just vanishing! What I didn’t know though was I only had that day to do the job, Monday evening was the deadline for decision.

Tuesday morning it was a very cheery Joanna opening my front door: Maria, Maria, I can’t believe it’s true, I got the apartment!!!

What?! Yes, it was true. The six in line before her had all declined the offer and the apartment was her’s!!!

October 1 Joanna, Xander and their three little daughters will move in to an apartment big enough for them in the neighborhood of their preference. They have had a look at it already and they just loved everything about it. It’s like a dream, Joanna says.

Now this was fun! Today a heavy rain is poring down here, combined with gusty winds, it’s really bad. I think we are sympathizing with Florida. But just in time for my little breakfast walk it stopped for a while. As I trust it to!

Sep 3, 2017

The lost summer 2017

I was looking for my sun glasses this morning and couldn’t find them at the only place I keep them. Trying to recapitulate when I last wore them I realized it was exactly a month ago, at my little friend Dancy’s 5-year birthday party. And I found them in the bag where I keep the pillows I need when sitting on chairs not agreeing with my back. I had brought them to Dancy’s grandpa, my next door neighbor, where the party was.

We were so lucky that day, because the weather was unexpectedly nice. The sun was out all afternoon and I was wearing a summer dress. Although with leggings. The temperature wasn’t that high after all.

It was actually the one day this summer for a summer dress. Weather wise this summer has been really crappy. Crappy crappy crappy. And it’s not just a subjective negative opinion from my side. It’s facts.

The general Swedish summer on latitude 64° holds basic temperatures at 57°-68°F (14-20°C). Alternately rain and shine. Overcast and sun glimpses. Usually we have one good high pressure giving us temperatures around 73°F (23°C) for about a week. And if we are  really lucky there might be two of them. In that case we are happy, that’s a good summer! And a normal summer I can ride my Le Baron convertible top down five days.

Nowadays I remember my summers by the people taking care of me. 2013 was the summer with Peter, a pretty normal summer. 2014, my summer with Audrey was historic. Warm winds from Africa found there way up here and after a record cold June, July and August were crazy hot, around 86°F (30°C) for weeks and weeks. I stopped counting the top down days, the only relief from the heat for Audrey and me that summer was the Le Baron!

Josephine and I shared summer 2015, a rainy and cold summer when the joke was: do you remember summer 2015, it was a Friday. Which was true, there was one Friday at 77°F (25°C).

2016 was my summer with Goran. It was a really nice one. A lot of every other day rain and shine, but the temperatures nice and two high pressures, one early on and one late July. Many top down days, more than average!

I can also tell you 2011 was really warm. This I know because the Le Baron gearbox crashed during the first hot week already in May, and I had to drive my winter Subaru through heat wave after heat wave all summer. 2012 was bad. One warm day early June and four late August. I remember this as it was the summer I built my carport. And I escaped to Seattle for five perfect September weeks.

We need summers which are summers in northern Sweden. We need the sun and we need the warmth. As we are struggling through the cold dark for the rest of the year. Long months in the wait.

For my part I am dependent on a good summer for my well being. Warmth and sun is the only medicine that can give my body a chance to relax, be more movable and thereby gain some strength. Although not even that is to trust, it’s still a hope.

So what about summer 2017? In one word, bad. Cold, a lot of rain, and not one single high pressure coming our way! 12 measly days spread out over three months at around 70°F (20°C). I, who take every opportunity to be in the sun, have only been seated in my sun chair 6 times this summer! And I know some of those I needed a blanket to cover me when the sun did hide behind a cloud. 

It wasn’t until Mohammed started working here late July that we drove the Le Baron. And a couple of times we could push the top down button, but only when driving slow in the city. And to be honest it wasn’t really warm enough. But yet…

They say climate change on my spot of the world will bring colder and wetter summers. But also that this summer was just bad luck. Hard facts though is that summer 2017 when it comes to high temperatures was the poorest since 1862!!!