I think about writing my Gather the Women blog every day, and yet each day passes without a blog. But why? My last blog was on October 10th. Yes, I’ve been sick. Yes, I could write myself a note excusing myself. Illness and insomnia have had a way of superseding all else, but there are millions of chronically ill people who “buck up” and get on with it and that’s what I’m going to do. This morning, I woke up thinking about Helene and my blog.
Yesterday was the 2016 Juneau Public Market in Centennial Hall, the biggest venue in town. It was full of shoppers wandering through the long rows of booths that displayed a dizzying array of stuff. After months of semi-isolation, I felt part of the community again as friend after friend greeted me with a hug and a “How are you doing, Barb?” My voice said I was fine, and I knew I was through the “Social Grief” because I meant it.
Women artisans of all ages were everywhere with beautiful jewelry, scarves, clothes, socks, journals, and more. I picked up an adorable black (yes, black) onesy with a breaching whale on the front for our granddaughter Edie, and a bright blue adult-size sweatshirt with a breaching whale for myself. My backpack was soon as full of gifts as a miniature Santa’s sleigh.
The Juneau Arts and Culture Center across the parking lot from Centennial Hall held the spillover booths. That’s where I met Helene, a petite 93 year old woman from Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, who is now living upstairs in the house next door to us with her son Sam and his wife Jennifer. She looks out at the Tongass National Forest, officially the earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, towering snow-covered mountains, our neighborhood, and Douglas Island across the Gastineau Channel. It’s still part of the Pacific Ocean, but she cannot see the ocean she’s known most of her life. Sam moved his mother to Juneau because he was afraid she’d fall on her stairs and hurt herself. Ironically, I think she is in more pain now and it comes straight from her heart.
Sam and Jennifer wanted to look at all the booths in the JACC so they found a chair for Helene next to me. She told me she watched my husband Doug paint our fence, and she enjoys seeing our cat Molly and their cat Leo hanging out together in our back yard.
I was happy to meet her, but quickly found out that she’s miserable here. She desperately misses her friends, her Book Club, and her home. Carmel is an exquisite jewel of a city in California Wine Country. The Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel was built in 1797. Father Junipero Serra, who founded the first nine Spanish missions, is buried in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s also famous for its world class golf courses. When I told her we are originally from sunny Vista, California, and have lived in Juneau since 1989, Helene turned and looked right at me and asked with not a little shock in her voice, “Why are you here?”
During the night, I thought about my blog and Helene kept coming to mind. I could see that the enormous television on the 2nd floor was still on in the wee hours of the morning. The back of her head and her silver hair just barely showed. When she looks out that picture window, she sees the mountains across the Channel.
I’m going to invite her to come over for a cup of coffee.
Gather the Women celebrates connections between women from everywhere. Yesterday was a celebration of women’s creativity and a psychic nudge for me to “buck up”. Yes, I miss being active in GTW. Yes, I miss singing in the Juneau Pride Chorus. I have a choice and I am going to focus on the overarching good: I am loved by my family and my friends. I love where I live. I can think. I can write. I can vote. I can sing along to my favorite music. And, yes, I want to acknowledge Facebook, which keeps me connected to Gather the Women, my family, and my friends from all over regardless of any aches or pains!