Last year this time: a row of wheelchairs outside my grandmother’s room.
Facebook has this function called “One year ago today,” which revives, dredges, or resuscitates (any of these verbs apply depending on the subject matter) a post from your past year—something that happened on that particular day. But there are some dates we don’t need reminders for.
This time last year was the time following my grandmother’s stroke. I remember very little of this week last year except the snow, my relatives here from California, and our going back and forth to the hospital and Jewish Home in shifts, so that someone from the family, someone who spoke Gujarati and loves my grandmother (Ba), would always be there to interpret, to press the call button (difficult if you have had a stroke), to smooth her hair, to give her spoonfuls of thickened water, to help her to the bathroom.
I don’t look back at this time last year with any fondness. However, I realized this week that it is also the anniversary of the time I also spent a few days of my winter break writing, at the invitation of my friend Mary Jane Curry, a professor at University of Rochester, at the Warner School of Education’s Winter Writing Camp. I met MJ through a yoga class (yoga always brings good people to my life), and we had talked before and after class for a couple of years.
At the retreat, which I just attended again this year, we (professors and grad students and me, a former professor and current writer) met in small groups to talk about our writing projects (I was working on my first book review, on Amarnath Ravva’s hybrid memoir, American Canyon). We wrote for 45 minutes on, with a 15 minute break (if you wanted to break) and then another 45 minutes on, etc. The Warner School professors organized the schedule, lunch sign up (this year, we had boxed lunches from Panera), and made sure that we kept on task.
I talked again this year with Marium, who this time last year was writing her dissertation. She finished it last year, and credited the momentum she gained and a few techniques she learned in the winter writing retreat with helping that happen. (She was also very disciplined, blocked out large amounts of time, wrote a lot, and socialized not at all, except for seeing her husband and daughter. I asked her what it took to get the diss done.)
My grandmother was released from stroke rehab at the Jewish Home in February of last year. Next week is her 93rd birthday. She is living with my parents and aunt 10 minutes away from me. I finished that book review. Not a dissertation, but managing to complete it between teaching 9th graders, planning a wedding, and time spent every day with my grandmother at the Jewish Home, was an accomplishment for me.
I had forgotten the camaraderie of writing together, of writing groups, and of yoga. I remembered that even in the midst of that stressful time, I felt happy about meeting other writers at UR and offered to lead them in some stretching and meditation breaks, which is what I had been doing with my ninth graders. Whatever grade we’re in, we can use yoga and meditation, and we can use community. We can stand to stretch. (I don’t want to count what grade I’m in now. Life Grade. Middle-Aged Grade.)
I took a long walk with R during that time last year, and was struck by the pond that had developed in front of this house–giving us the mirror image, the house under the house, the world under this world. That was the world into which we’d stumbled.
Facebook also offers you a look at “2 years ago today.” Here is a quote I posted two years ago via the website Tiny Buddha: “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” (~Eckhart Tolle). That sounds right to me.