On Saturday. May 30, my grandson received his bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University (CSU) in a virtual graduation ceremony. For him it was a great achievement and represented long hours of preparation and work. His degree is in computer science with a minor in mathematics.
May 30, many of us will remember, was the date on which Memorial Day used to be celebrated. I remember some of my parents’ generation called it Decoration Day. That day families went to the cemetery to decorate the graves of the war dead.
For my parent’s generation, the war dead were near and numerous, not theoretical. World Wars I and II in some way touched every family and Memorial Day was somber, not the beginning of summer as it is now.
Graduations used to come in June, and took place before large happy crowds of people. This virtual graduation event was certainly the first of its kind for the university.
A Virtual Graduation
My husband and I sat in front of the zoom screen on my computer and listened to remarks by the president of the university, the mayor, the lieutenant governor of Ohio, and several previous CSU graduates. I was able to locate my grandson’s major department on the computer screen.
The names of all computer science graduates marched across the screen individually, with appropriate graduation day background music. When my grandson’s name arrived, we saw a video of him, in cap and gown, looking very happy. He smiled and thanked his parents and grandparents for help and support.
We have attended many graduations, and this was the first one where we heard every speaker and actually saw the face of the graduate. It reminded me of my daughter’s graduation from a small college outside Richmond, VA. Then we sat in folding chairs on a field on a very hot day, quite far from an outdoor stage. Nearby, a level railroad crossing bisected the town.
Amtrak kept its schedule that day. Fairly frequently, a train came through the town at a slow speed, blowing its whistle all the way. We barely heard any of the speeches, but we did see our daughter at a distance.
My grandson is now a graduate and I’m grateful for the computer and zoom. We were able to join the family electronically that evening to congratulate him.
Another Graduation Day: Me and Lymphoma
My grandson is not the only member of our family to face some final test results this early summer. On Thursday, I am scheduled for a mammogram. Two years ago a mammogram led to a diagnosis of an aggressive type of lymphoma for which I was treated over six months and for which I have undergone numerous lab tests and PET scans.
While I’m of the age that I may have avoided a mammogram two years ago, for some reason I didn’t. My radiologist found something funky on the picture and that led to biopsies, CAT scans and further lab tests and scans. After three months the doctors came up with the lymphoma diagnosis.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to the mammogram, nor am I looking forward to a PET scan now scheduled for July. The PET scan is sort of a graduation day for me. If they find nothing, I will be considered cured with no further tests or medical procedures.
For me, none of this will be virtual. The tests will be done according to normal procedures and the results will either be good or bad.
Graduation, Old People and Old Jokes
As the grandmother of a college graduate, I am an old person. Here is a story about old people:
“Six retired Floridians were playing poker in the condo clubhouse when Meyerwitz loses $500 on a single hand and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen partner, the other five continue playing standing up. Finkelstein looks around and asks, “So, who’s gonna tell his wife?”
They draw straws. Goldberg picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don’t make a bad situation worse.
“Discreet? I’m the most discreet person you’ll ever meet. Discretion is my middle name. Leave it to me.”
Goldberg proceeds to the Meyerwitz apartment and knocks on the door. The wife answers and asks what he wants.
Goldberg declares, “Your husband just lost $500 and is afraid to come home.”
“Tell him to drop dead,” says the wife!
“I’ll go tell him,” says Goldberg.
Mother’s Day in a lock-down requiring social distancing was bound to be different than the norm, but for me it actually wasn’t. As in most years, I received phone calls and promises of future calls and maybe a future zoom meeting.
My children and grandchildren are busy people. I know they are stuck in their houses and they continue with school and music lessons. In time for Mother’s Day, I received a video of two granddaughters playing piano. The video showed them individually and I could see their hands hit the keys. They were socially distanced from everyone when the video was made. Nobody heard me, but I applauded loudly for each of them, just like a grandmother should.
I received delivered gifts: a box of candy and a bottle of dessert wine from my daughter and her family; a box of candy and flowers from my son and his family. I did not have direct contact with the delivery man, just as in previous years, but this time I practiced social distancing.
Since Mother’s Day was still “locked down”, the florist called to say he’d be delayed. The good flowers weren’t yet available. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I thanked him for the call and the information. The flowers arrived two days later and were worth the wait. Here is a picture (including the box of candy):
Mother’s Day Roses and Lilies
The roses opened to about six inches in diameter, and a week later, the lilies were still open and wonderful to look at. But they didn’t compare to my outdoor Russian iris:
Russian Iris: No Social Distancing
Social Distancing: the New Normal?
We’ve had a warm and wet May and the birds and flowers are loving it. They have no thoughts of masks and barriers and social distancing. Whenever I go out on the porch there is a jumble of tweets and loud sounds from a mass of small birds. I’m sure many of them are a lot closer to me than six feet.
We have been advised by the local authorities and some local businesses that we should get ready to go back to work, shop and live in the world again. This will be different from before, if everyone takes these rules seriously. For a haircut, there will be no shampoo; I will have to arrive with my hair already shampooed. There will be no children or pets allowed in the place. I will have to wash my hands before being issued into wherever the hairdresser will be located.
Social Distancing and Health Care
The Cleveland Clinic sent me their directive on their “new normal.” They are ready to resume in person healthcare services, but they encourage patients to use “virtual” visits. The notice states that with a virtual visit the patient can see a provider right away, or schedule an appointment for routine care using the smartphone.
I’ve already had one virtual appointment with my doctor and it was hardly a medical exam. There were no tests, and because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my camera, the doctor could only speak to me. He saw nothing. We both agreed to schedule a regular in-person visit in September. Likewise, my dentist will see me in October. Maybe over the years I’ve been overdoing it with annual doctor’s visits and semi-annual dentist visits. Routine care doesn’t have to be constant care.
As with my hairdresser, the Cleveland Clinic will not permit patients to bring anyone with them for an appointment. On the other hand, children, elderly patients, those with special needs and those having surgery requiring an overnight stay may bring a guest. That probably accounts for a large percentage of the non-routine procedures done at the clinic. The notice states that the clinic is among the safest places in healthcare.
A few years ago, after I was released from a hospital stay, I was taken by a nurse to the entrance of the hospital in a wheel chair. As I got out of the wheel chair, the nurse said to me, “Take care, and don’t come back.” We both knew that hospitals are unsafe places.
Do the masks protect everyone? People now own them and wear them, but if you can’t see someone’s face, how can you trust him or her?
Insecure? It’s Happened Before.
I remember a Woody Allen story. Feeling insecure, Woody moved to an apartment building in the city because it employed a doorman for protection. On his second night, when he returned to the building, Woody was mugged by the doorman.
Let me end this with a Henny Youngman story about doctors:
A guy says to a doctor, “I’m having trouble with my love life.”
The doctor says, “Take off twenty pounds and run ten miles a day for two weeks.” Two weeks later, the guy calls the doctor, “Doctor, I took off twenty pounds and I’ve been running ten miles a day.”
“How’s your love life now?”
“I don’t know. I’m 140 miles away!”
Washington’s Shadow was featured in a review in Chesapeake Style Magazine, April 2020 edition, written by Ann Skelton:
Barbara McLennan’s latest historical fiction, Washington’s Shadow, is set thirty years after the long winter at Valley Forge in 1778. In this story three generations of Powell children, gather to mourn the death of Leven Powel, the family patriarch and a devoted supporter of George Washington. Leven’s adult children learn details of Leven’s revolutionary war activities through documents found in a locked chest. Their sister Jane, trained as a teacher, agrees to write a biography of Leven culled from the documents. The family also learns that Washington rewarded his soldiers in the form of warrants to land in the sparsely settled state of Ohio.
The value of those deeds has given rise to a scam by an unscrupulous corporation, one that does not blanch at the use of violence to swindle warrants from unsuspecting veterans. Leven Powell had passed his warrants to his eldest son Billy who is unaware of their value and of the danger he faces from the land-grab company. Alas, brother Billy is in imminent danger.
Part II: Indian Country and Winchester. The story gains momentum in this section as the family determines to find Billy and warn him of danger. The cast of characters widens, and action accelerates as the Lenape Indian, George Morgan White Eyes, Billy’s siblings, and four of the teen-age grandchildren mobilize to find and protect Billy. Gun-toting teens along with a mule, a dog and the necessary ammunition set out on a short cut through dense Virginia woods to warn their uncle Billy of the danger he faces. The fast-paced section replete with mishaps, challenges, as well as mild quarrels among the teen aged adventurers also features an unlikely hero in the form of a huge black bear, a bear that can discern the good-guys from evildoers. Readers will not be disappointed with the drama in the woods which includes an armed battle with local militia.
Part III, Middleburg and Alexandria
This final section brings the characters back together in an effective wrap-up to the action. The main characters discuss not only the adventure that ended in success for Billy and the Powell family but the principles espoused by Washington that also motivated this revolutionary family. The characters’ lives are neatly tied up as they reconnect after all the smoke and excitement of the conflict has settled.
Though McLennan imagines gun-toting teenagers and heroic wildlife, she does not take liberties with history. We hear about the Lenape Indians; we learn that even after the Revolution is over and the English departed, not all Americans supported a strong central government. We see political turmoil surrounding Jefferson’s battle to win an electoral college victory; as well as President Jefferson’s political maneuvers against Aaron Burr and Burr’s subsequent trial and acquittal.
Through it all George Washington’s long shadow is cast on later generations even to our own. His belief in truth, justice and equality for all still casts a long shadow into this generation.
Spring has come to Virginia. The state still is closed down and we venture out only for groceries, about once a week. But spring has arrived: we have birds, flowers, warm sun and corona-virus lock-down.
We live in a marina where the docks, moorings and supporting structures have been under construction for about a year. Staying outside, for example, on my porch, is an ear-bending experience. We have views of massive cranes and hear the sounds of giant generators. But the corona-virus lock-down has made staying at home more than a construction experience.
We have become much more vigilant about the immediate surroundings, and not just the construction. This year we really saw the coming of spring, and the birds and flowers have been stunning.
This year we see and hear the birds. Not that we could have ignored them. Over eighty varieties of birds have been counted by birdwatchers in my neighborhood. I really don’t know much about them, but this year one of our bird houses has been occupied by bluebirds.
They are amazing neighbors. They sing to us almost constantly, and they seem to chirp to us personally. Every time we go out on the porch and say something, we are greeted by a loud song from some little bird. I’ve never seen the little loudmouth. The song is two notes repeated four or five times, but in a rhythm that sounds very much like conversation. We’ve gotten used to whistling back or talking to the bird. In the evening we say good night. It reminds me of having a two year old, a small living thing that talks all the time.
While I’ve never seen our talking companion, I’ve taken my camera to the water’s edge. This year brought some unusual sights. For example, for the first time I’ve gotten a shot of what I think is a young eagle, perched on a pole near my house. He’s quite young, but has those white head feathers and an imperial beak:
It’s spring, so I imagine that the birds I see are all young. They chirp loudly and seem very happy. The eagle looked lost, not sure of what to do now that he was atop a tall pole. He stayed there for quite a while. I’m sure he can fly, but maybe he has no nest to go back to. Eagles fly very high and coast like kites in the air. This one is bigger than a baby, but not fully grown. He’s like a teenager sent out into the world, not sure of what’s next.
I also took a picture of a heron. We see lots of herons near my house. They come to fish, and are striking when they dive looking for their next meal. Here is the heron:
You can see the heron is also young and thin. He has a beautiful takeoff and a graceful flight. He hovers like a helicopter over the houses before landing near the water.
In addition to birds, we’ve had to confront the spring flower situation. Since we’re stuck in the house, we have no annual flowers. I usually plant some pots of petunias and geraniums. I also normally prepare a few tomato plants in pots. Now I have to be content with the plants that carried over from last year.
We’ve had a very wet spring and seem to get rain every other day, but the weather has turned warm with temperatures mostly in the 70’s. I haven’t fed or watered anything. We still have three pots of pansies from last fall, and they are spectacular. About five mums never went away, and one seems ready to blossom (mums in May?). I also have a window box full of some light purple petunias.
We had a profusion of daffodils and crocus, and now a rainbow of irises and peonies, all from previous years. Here is a picture of some cut flowers, a peony and a few irises:
Peony and Irises
Coronavirus and Jokes
I’m sure we will survive this pandemic and remember the lock-down as a little overkill. But, like the birds and flowers returning from last year (or never leaving), old jokes are also making a comeback. Here are some I received last week:
“A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationary.
If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.”
I hope all are staying safe and healthy.
The coronavirus epidemic, coming in March, has coincided with the beginning of spring and my birthday. Certainly a memorable birthday, celebrated with a carryout dinner.
My husband and I have behaved according to the rules. We stay at home, away as much as possible from people and interesting places. Every where I look, I’m told that’s what people like me and my husband are supposed to do. After all, we are the “vulnerable.” I’ve spent a year being treated for lymphoma and my platelet count will never be normal again. My husband has a bad back and is nearly diabetic.
But I don’t feel vulnerable. Every few days I venture out, at the correct time–7:00 am to the grocery store, late afternoon for a walk. I’ve been to the post office where tapes show people where to stand so they can be six feet apart. I’ve thought about golf which for some reason isn’t closed. I could take my putter to the golf practice range near us, but that would require a walk. My knee and shoulder object to too much exercise, so I haven’t yet tried that.
I’ve had my fill of video games, bad television, and silly puzzles. I’ve watched the Coronavirus Task Force about every other day, and I’m impressed with the doctors. I worry about my son, who is a doctor, and call him every other day. He says his hospital in Ohio expects to be swamped in a few weeks, but so far they are able to handle new cases.
What to do? Spring has arrived! My daffodils, including some mysterious yellow crocus that have spread from my front yard to the woods across the street, are in full blossom. I cut a few every morning, while listening to the little birds chirping their hearts out. We’ve already seen chickadees, woodpeckers, gold finches, cardinals, mocking birds, and blue birds. I’ve also spotted a few eagles and ospreys. The little birds, tweeting very loudly, finish the feeder off every other day. Here is a picture of our feeder:
The birds have inspired me, because they make me think of poetry. How about a little poetry, to go with the new coronavirus? :
“There was an old lady from Williamsburg
Who fell into her TV
She stood next to Dr. Birx,
Wondering where the President might be.
Sure enough, he entered and said,
“Welcome to the Task Force!”
She replied, “I’m glad I’m not dead!”
He said, “Isn’t this Worse?”
What could be worse than falling into the television set and becoming a flashing image? Maybe I’ll need to add some more to this.
Since this is spring, I’m happy to announce a discount on all of my ebooks. From now till the end of June all of my historical novels will be available in the ebook version at a 35 per cent discount. Order them from ipgbook.com and use the code BMSpring2020.
I hope all who get this are safe and healthy. Stay well and follow the guidelines.
I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. For me, in the health department, the past year has been a challenge.
In July 2018 I began a series of treatments for an aggressive case of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The regime of six treatments took me to November 2018. Since then, I’ve undergone PET scans every six months to see if the doctors have really killed the disease. Two weeks ago I had the second post-treatment scan, and doctors were pleased with the results. They said I was healthy. The scan showed no lymphoma.
The year was hard for me. While I suppose I was healthy, I was tired and had to cut back on golf and tennis. On the other hand, I continued to write. We took a short holiday in Florida in February, but I finished my latest historical novel, Washington’s Shadow. I also went to Denver where I received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from American Sentinel University, in recognition of my writing.
Now I begin the new year with optimism, still tired but feeling healthier. I’ve started going to the gym every week. I am ready for something new- a new book?- or a little more golf and tennis? It feels good to look forward without anxiety.
Thanks to all for kind wishes.