Are you still there, Mama?

07 September, 2021

Dear Mom,

I can’t believe you’ve been gone for 2 years now. I think of you almost every day, for one reason or another, and I miss you terribly. I wonder what your journeys have shown you since you left, and, recently, whether you and MauMau met up. I like to think so. I’d swear, for the first year or so after we lost you, you visited us via Mau – the look she’d take on! Even with her gone now, too, I still feel you sometimes, peeking back in at me, and wonder what you must think in those moments. Sometimes I even see you. I feel a bit self conscious, since I’m not as healthy now, tho always a work in progress, and miss how you were seldom judgmental, always making me feel loved – and seen. You always really … listened. I told Jeff that I’d gone on anti-depressants around the new year, about which I had mixed feelings – shame, for needing them, and pride, for getting the help I needed. And he reacted just as I think you would’ve – assuring me that there’s no shame in that, and relieved that I was taking care of myself.

But there’s so much strife in the world, still, Mom: despite that lying grifter being voted out, his vile followers are filled with hate for anyone not cis/het/white male, and no longer feel the need to hide it. We’re very likely headed for civil war – there’s just no room for negotiation with nazis. Our common humanity is overlooked; no one actively listens to others: craven lust for power, racism, misogyny, and fear of anyone “other” abound. The pandemic, which I do have to wonder is what took you, and what I caught a few months later, has been devastating to the world’s economies, particularly to communities already under-resourced, and for everyone’s mental health. In fairness, though, it’s also freed many to work remotely, undoubtedly shifting the workforce, and home priorities, irrevocably.

After Maggie had a heart attack last October, and Sheila’s husband had gone into care, Susan rushed to Plymouth, planning to stay on an extended basis, but not permanently. I joined her with Mau in November, thinking to return in time to spend the holiday with Pop, then got stuck as the virus raged. Eventually we realized it just wasn’t good financial sense to keep the house in CA (especially in those market conditions!) and listed with a gent who invested more in the sale of the house than I’d ever seen a Realtor do – and you know how many I’ve known! (He even pronounced “Real-tor” properly – ha!) It was heartbreaking to give up our beautiful (what we thought would be) forever home, our beloved Rancho Groovy, and move away from our wonderful community, and my home state. But what with climate change, extreme heat, fires and, oh!, no longer struggling under that huge mortgage (to help kickstart our retirement plans), we have to think maybe that’s what the universe was calling us to do. Just in time!

We found a 1955 Cape Cod in Plymouth that, while huge and well appointed, had really kind of seen better days, and bought it with Sheila. We’re fixing it up with the help of a good fellow Joe grew up with. With the bakery growing, even amidst the dreadful pandemic, there was never a better time to be out here permanently. And we’re so excited to be in such a great house, complete with amazing amenities, a highly walkable, desirable location, lovely neighbors and picturesque street. Now, as the three of us age, we’ll have built-in support, with plenty of space to retreat to our respective corners when we like, and gather in common spaces when we need or want.

Cape Casita

After we sold our home, I must admit I worried you wouldn’t be able to find me any longer, so far away had we gone. Does that sound silly? Well anyhow, then one day at our new “Cape Casita” Susan and I spied the loveliest magenta flowers, looked them up and learned they were Sweet Peas, like you used to call me! I felt it was a sign that you did know where I was after all, and I was so relieved! And henceforth that lovely little front yard spot became “Patricia’s Garden”.

The climate is so different out here in New England, something I really didn’t expect – I mean, I knew about the snow, enjoyed it even, but the summer here is like being in a swamp! You’d hate the humidity even more than I do, but it does make for lush greens and blooms, and now Autumn is upon us, mercifully cooling & drying the air.

You’ll be relieved to know that with the help of a talented accountant, we were able to resolve your tax situation, so Pop’s finally settled financially, living out his retirement. He even bought a newer car, fixed up the house, and is now traveling to Florida + SC to visit friends and family – despite my fears of the pandemic and stress on his health. And, on the topic of health, Jeff beat his melanoma scare! Whew, that was a tough one for me. I hated the parallels I saw between him and our cousin Matt. I’d sooo love to go hug him in person, but I really am frightened of this new viral variant devastating so many, and don’t trust folk to get vaccinated and act right. So, into the second year of virtual quarantine, we sit.

But that’s not to say we haven’t had our closer-to-home adventures. We’ve sailed Boston Harbor and ferried to Martha’s Vineyard, hobnobbed in Newport and Providence, RI. And for S’s bday, we’ll go back to Provincetown, which we always love. We’ve been happy, too, to try several great restaurants nearby, with many more on our list. Someday, we’ll be able to travel more widely again, spend weeks on end with family and friends in CA, and finally explore more of the world together.

Sheila, Susan and I hope to be settled in our new place by Thanksgiving, as renovations have taken on a much larger scope, taking longer, than anticipated. Unsurprisingly! But we’ve all worked hard, and deserve to be in a safe, comfortable space – especially since we’ll be not only living, but working there. I’ve come to see that as rather than working from home, living at work! Speaking of, I even get to keep my same SF-based job, working remotely full time now, where next month I’ll have been employed for 5 years. My team and I enjoy such a good rapport, I truly am fortunate.

Anyhow, the house is going to be quite something when all is said and done – 3 levels, 3 primary bedroom suites, 2 huge fireplaces, solar, a new HVAC system, a brand new kitchen, beautiful grounds (well, they need some work!) a pond (which needs cleaning up, too); even pool- and ping-pong tables! And very kind, like-minded neighbors who’ve all been so welcoming. How lucky are we! We look forward to hosting gatherings there once it’s safe, and visitors from far and wide. And, just for us, finally being settled again – the past few months have upheaved us all, and we’re feeling quite discombobulated. Susan and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary recently, and had a wonderful evening, only to be told afterward we’d been exposed to someone who tested positive for the damned virus. Whoever imagined just wishing for boring normalcy!

But we really have so much to look forward to! Which I often find myself wanting to share with you, before realizing … well. Our lives have indeed gone on. We are, or will be, OK. A dear friend counseled me to celebrate your birthdays instead of mourning your passing. It’s sage advice, if easier said than done. I’m so glad we had those final weeks, and especially those precious last few hours, to say what needed saying. I’ll always treasure that, even if it doesn’t completely assuage the sting of all the time I spent being angry with you out of fear and frustration. It really doesn’t seem possible it’s been two years now.

It helps somewhat to realize that you wouldn’t have done well if we’d tried to keep you with us. Instead, we set you free. Though my heart still breaks over the pain of it all, from time to time, these past two years have softened me, and helped ease the hair trigger of my hot anger that you used to always rebuke. At 50 (yes, I can hear you laugh at that!) maybe I’ve even become a bit more patient. I sometimes wish I could go back and change some things, but then I wouldn’t have learned what I did. And you always knew, and you loved me anyhow.

Now I’ll go take a long, contemplative walk in the crisp morning air, imagining you behind the sparkling sunshine that dapples the pond. I’ll check in on Pop and Jeff, and go whip up a batch of “mom’s famous” spaghetti. What I wouldn’t give, though, for one more of your hugs, and a laugh, over a dram of Tuaca with you! I miss you so, dear Mama.


-Your Jenna Pumpkin ❤️💔


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