February 12th, 2010 - Sharyn Skeeter
I know now from historic records that this Friday, the 12th, was a cold day in Connecticut. I probably didn’t notice it then, because low-30s and partial sun, with a little snow on the ground was quite normal. I do know that I was distracted by the juggling act that was my life during that winter.
Friday was my day off from teaching English at a local community college. This weekend, I had only one or two stacks of student papers on my desk. I’d put off reading them until Sunday afternoon, because every Friday I had to buy supplies, soft food, and maybe a few T-shirts to take to my 90-year-old mother’s apartment. Her caregiver depended on that.
My mother was still beautiful with her steel gray and white hair in two braids, her firm tan skin, and her smile of gratitude when she’d see me. But I was in denial about her condition. I hoped that the prescription I brought to her for dementia would miraculously make her normal again. I’d try to ignore the repetitions in her stories and how she’d forget names of close relatives. After a few hours of listening and making her comfortable resting in her bed or watching TV in the living room, I left, fighting back tears as I took the 20-minute drive home.
There, my now late husband, a professor, was at his desktop typing a research paper on business and the environment. He worked feverishly to finish as much as he could because his latest health issue was heart related. We never knew which one of his several illnesses would be the last. But he took a break to talk about how happy we were that our son would graduate from college in June and how we liked his girlfriend.
By then, the late afternoon sun streaked across my dusty midcentury furniture. I closed the living room curtains so I wouldn’t see it. The weight of my version of the “sandwich” generation was getting to me, made even the thought of dusting too much. So, I went to my study where I was surrounded by books, my refuge.
I still had on my desk the program I got when I was a friend’s guest at last fall’s National Book Awards. It reminded me that I needed to write, was compelled to write—not with the goal of awards, but for the joy of creating. All over my desk, I had scattered notes on a novel and poems I wanted to write. I scribbled a few observations and thoughts from the day, looked them over, and filed them. I knew that those notes would work their way into future books.
But I couldn’t write them this Friday. It was dinner time. It was my sous-chef job to chop and prep the veggies, and, while my husband cooked the stir fry, I walked the dog in the backyard. As a “city girl,” I sometimes longed for sidewalks and complained about living in suburban woods. But this evening, breathing in the crisp New England winter air, walking on the earth, and being surrounded by swaying trees was just what I needed. Yes, in those moments, I felt open, renewed, and grateful for the experience of this day.
Sharyn Skeeter’s debut novel is Dancing with Langston (Green Writers Press). She was fiction/poetry/book review editor at Essence and editor in chief at Black Elegance magazine. She’s taught at universities and community colleges, and participated in panel discussions and readings in India and Singapore. Sharyn Skeeter has published magazine articles and poetry. She lives in Seattle where she’s on the board of trustees at ACT Theatre.
Sharyn encourages you to learn more about the Sierra Club Foundation. They work with individual and institutional donors to maximize financial support for strategic campaigns, provide flexible funding for innovation, help build capacity in the environmental movement, and create partnerships with a broad spectrum of allied organizations. Visit sierraclubfoundation.org.