Be forewarned: This is a long one, text heavy and a little sad, although there is a some quilty news in the middle.
You know what they say about the best laid plans? The plan for Day 4 was the doctor's appointment that had been rescheduled to the morning and some grocery shopping on the way home. Both were accomplished and once back home the agenda was a break for lunch and a check of email and then back to the sewing.
However while I was checking email I got a text from my MIL. She was feeling very lonely since I had left two weeks ago. The reason I had taken the chance of traveling all the way to North Carolina where she lives despite the pandemic fears regarding holiday travel was that early in November her husband had passed after a three year battle with cancer (brain and prostate) and a stroke. It was a second marriage for them both and they had been happily married for 24 years.
After multiple surgeries, he had been released from a rehab center during the visit to her that I, my husband and oldest son made back in October of 2019. The rehab agency had consigned her husband just to home hospice care. My MIL had fought to continue with the occupational and physical therapy he had received while convalescing at the center. Because of her efforts, rather than just being bed ridden, he had been able to continue to enjoy limited movement around their house in a wheel chair at least partially under is own steam as she, a former senior care nurse, tended to his daily needs. In her words, had she left him to just languish in the bed or put him in a nursing home, he probably would have passed away from depression before last year ended.
However, along with the other tragedies of 2020, by late summer he began to slowly lose the ability for independent movement. My husband, I and our youngest son made plans to drive down for a return visit during my husband's last vacation for 2020, the week before Halloween. However, a few days before our planned departure, we learned that at that time, here in New York, there was still a very strict 14 day quarantine requirement for people returning from travel out of state. Neither my husband nor my son could do that as both had work obligations either immediately or within the week of our return so we had to cancel the trip. Unfortunately, three days after our planned arrival, my MIL's husband passed away. Like so many others with dying relatives during this pandemic, not only did we miss the opportunity to see him one last time, we were also unable to attend the funeral services.
The situation was made worse when two days before her husband was to be buried, both my husband and MIL received calls that my husband's youngest brother had also passed away (although not COVID related)! This was unexpected although not a total surprise. He had led a troubled life and had been estranged from the family for decades only reaching out periodically. The last time my MIL had spoken to him had been two years ago. The responsibility for arranging for cremation of his body fell to his oldest daughter here in NY and my MIL as next of kin. Needless to say all of that was complicated by the fact that the body was in Maryland so identifying the body and arranging for its cremation had to all be done long distance.
Fortunately, in addition to a few local friends and church members, my MIL had an out of town couple she was friends with who were able to come stay with her for awhile immediately after the funeral. Then she stayed with her former sister-in-law in Raleigh from the weekend before through the day after Thanksgiving. After my husband and I discussed it and with the more relaxed return quarantine requirements that had by then been issued (requiring pre- and post-return COVID testing), I booked round-trip train tickets to go to NC on the last day of November and stayed with her for two weeks which allowed me to be with her for her birthday on 12/11. My MIL is a quilter and I knew that after such a tough year, a mini quilt retreat would boost both of our spirits.
She had been planning to buy another sewing table for me to be able to comfortably sew on for the long visit. In the past, when I came down, we would be squeezed into her sewing space and I'd set up my machine on her cutting table. Instead, I purchased a Gidget table and had it delivered to her home. I knew Fanny, my trusty traveling Featherweight would fit perfectly in the table and I would be able to recess the machine since I had plans to bring a project to work on requiring space for easy Free motion quilting.
|In the box were the projects I mailed down for the trip!|
This was my little work space set up in my MIL's late husband's "Man Cave". Her sewing room adjoins this room so we could "socially distance" yet still be in close proximity while sewing together. Even better, I left it there for her to use with her small travel machine or for me when I visit again. Although I adjusted the drop for my Featherweight, it can be readjusted for other small machines too. She has a friend from NY who comes down each summer to sew with her and has a large machine. She will be able to just pop the recessed area up and lock it in place to use the table as a flat surface with her machine.
The project I had plans for quilting was the Blue and White Spiderweb quilt that had been the second project picked for my "Blue and White Holiday Decorating" plan. It was inspired by the one made by Stitched In Color and using the Accuquilt Spiderweb die and more of the scraps from the AQS BOM stash. I had made the blocks as leader/enders while working on all the other mystery, quarantine, BOM and mini projects before my trip. I did get it to a top while in NC but didn't get around to layering and quilting it as you can see in the picture below.
While there I also got a few other tops done, like "Serendipity" (a Fons & Porter Easy Quilts Magazine pattern) using some of the leftovers from the "Modern Bohemia" BOM.....
|The blocks were still in progress here but the top is now finished.|
On the right in the picture below you see a peek of my "Snow Day" project, another in my series of Edyta Sitar Laundry Basket Quilts designs. The Nine Patches in it are made from the scraps of my AQS BOM project. I got all the blocks and rows I had brought with me put together only to realize, I needed more! So that was definitely going to need more work on it when I got back home. While there, I also helped my MIL with some of her projects including finishing up her "Elvira" quilt top and pieced backing (which darn, it I don't have a picture of!) and work on her "Natalie's Quilt" project by Margaret Leuwen (on the left in the picture below).
|These were in the "Man Cave" where I was working.|
A visit to NC is the only time I would ever get there! This was true for my MIL too since she doesn't like to drive on the highway long distances (Archdale is about 2 and a half hours from her and I drove). So I made our appointment to shop (with pandemic precautions, the number of people in the store are limited to 50 at a time and visits there can be booked in hourly increments). We both had a ball! It is a big store with a good selection of fabrics.
So the trip was a good one and my MIL was sad to see me go but appreciated that I was able to take time from my family and spend it with her. Of course as time has gone by she now has to get used to being in her home alone. Additionally she has been dealing with some nagging health issues so depending on what flares up, has good days and bad.
So Day 4's sewing got aborted because when she texted I called her and we had a real long talk: about her husband, about dealing with one's grief, about what she wants her life to be now as a widow. That last one is probably the most difficult for her to navigate. It is the first time in a long while that she has to think about just herself and it is not easy for her. I told her she was entitled to be sad but not to the point of stopping living. One of the ongoing discussions while I stayed with her was that she ate because I did but if I hadn't been there she might have not eaten frequently because she was often not hungry! One thing I had done while I was there was to check to see if she had Skype on her computer which is in her sewing room. She did, so when I got back I scheduled a Skye sewing session with her which she enjoyed.
So after our talk, I suggested we do another Skype session the next day. After ringing off and talking to my husband now I wasn't ready to sew! So decided I'd save my sewing for the Day 5 Skype session. Except it didn't happen. I texted my MIL in the morning to find out what was a good time for her. She said she had errands to run so would call me when she got back. Since my husband was unexpectedly off for the day, I spent the day catching up with things with him while waiting for the call. However, she didn't call until late because she got a late start on the errands and by then was too tired to focus on sewing. We made tentative plans again for today (Day 6) and I ran errands with my DH in the morning expecting to link up with her in the afternoon. However the call I got today was that she had not slept well because of pain so had gone in to see her doctor again and was still a little out of sorts for lack of sleep.
It is real tough to lose a spouse and/or a child. While monitoring her health issues, I plan to also suggest that she might consider a grief counseling group because I think some of the "pains" have to do with dealing (or more likely, not adequately dealing) with the grief. I went through a similar thing when my mother died and once I sorted out my feelings the physical pains went away.
However, I also know that grieving takes time so I expect my DH and I will be keeping in close contact with her a lot in the coming year. When he chose his 2021 vacation weeks back in October, we had set aside two weeks in October again to return to see her. When I told her that, her response was "But that's a year away!". So we're trying to see if he can swap a vacation week with a co-worker so we can combine it with one of the weeks earlier in year that has already been chosen. We could do a one week visit IF the vaccine helps reduce the return quarantine restrictions but so far I've heard not to expect that before mid-year or Fall of next year.
So hopefully tomorrow, I will get back to my own sewing for both the last of the seven days and the start of a new year. Let's hope for us all that 2021 will be a darned sight better than 2020 was! To any who have survived to the end of this very long post, I wish you and your family a safe and Happy New Year!!