Posted in Cooperstown

No Crying in Baseball

A few days before everything shut down, we went to dinner at the Doubleday Cafe to remember my father on his birthday.  It had been his favorite restaurant.

My son’s girlfriend works with a tourism group in Cooperstown. She told us that night, “They said if the Dreams Park closes, it will kill Cooperstown.” The Dreams Park hosts over 100 Little League teams every week over the summer for tournaments and a Cooperstown experience.

Two days after our dinner, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced they were closing until further notice due to the pandemic.

The next week, Governor Cuomo put the state on “pause.” All non-essential businesses closed.

A week later, the Dreams Park announced that they were closing for the summer of 2020.

Last week the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the Induction Ceremony for Derek Jeter would be postponed until 2021.

On the day before the announcement, USA Today ran this headline:

Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony expected to be postponed, as Cooperstown weeps

Without downplaying the economic hardship — and it IS a HUGE economic hardship on the community — can I show you what Cooperstown is REALLY doing? It isn’t weeping.

1. Cooperstown is working. More than baseball, the backbone of this community is medicine. Bassett Medical Center is a teaching hospital that has received national recognition for its care to rural communities. What started in a fieldstone building in Cooperstown is now the Bassett Healthcare Network: six hospitals and a large number of smaller clinics covering eight counties. The people at Bassett worked hard to prepare for this pandemic and have worked hard throughout.

2. Cooperstown is showing appreciation. Signs like this one started showing up in yards around the village.

The flip side thanks our first responders.

And people haven’t stopped there. People have made their own signs. They leave their front porch lights on during the night as a thank-you to all the essential workers who haven’t “paused” but have been working harder than ever.

3. Cooperstown is maintaining a sense of humor. Andrew Solomon in his book about depression said, “A sense of humor is the best indicator that you will recover.” I know this isn’t depression, but a sense of humor has a way of steadying the boat in any storm.

The other evening I was feeling a little grumpy and irritable. Mary asked about going for a walk and I reluctantly agreed to “just a short one.”

Two blocks in and we were at Lakefront Park where I saw this:

I burst out laughing. “Let’s go see if James Fenimore Cooper is wearing one, too,” I said, and we raced to Cooper Park.

There he was, wearing a mask and holding a bottle of hand sanitizer on his lap.

“Let’s go check The Sandlot Kid,” Mary said, and we hurried up Main Street to Doubleday parking lot.

He, too, was protected — as was the WWI Doughboy statue:
My short walk turned out to be longer than intended, but my spirits were so much lighter having seen Cooperstown lean into the new face mask mandate.

4. Cooperstown is mourning. I first noticed the flag at half-staff at the empty high school one cold rainy morning when I dropped off school work for my daughter.

The flag on Main Street is at half-staff as well. Cooperstown recognizes the deep sadness and loss that people are experiencing.

While Cooperstown itself has not suffered many deaths from coronavirus (4 according to the Johns Hopkins map today 5/6/2020), the entire population of Cooperstown has been lost at least twelve times over in the state. The number of deaths in the country couldn’t fit into Yankee Stadium. It’s a sobering thought. I think that’s why it was a unanimous decision at the Hall of Fame to postpone the induction ceremony this year. In addition to all the safety concerns, Derek Jeter played for the New York Yankees. His fans have lost family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends to this terrible pandemic. It’s no time for celebration. Today we mourn. Next year we will celebrate.

5. Cooperstown is pulling together. “Support local business!” is the rallying cry. I know I’m not alone. As a family we have chosen to spend our stimulus check at local businesses. We “dine out” — aka take-out — from local restaurants once a week. The waiting area at the restaurant we ordered from last night was hopping — spread out, of course, but hopping.

At Easter, I called the local chocolatier and arranged to purchase homemade fudge from her for our Easter baskets. It was a luxury, I know, but if my buying fudge can help one woman stay in business until business-as-usual returns, I’ll buy fudge.

Some businesses have signs in their windows offering video-shopping. Other businesses have simply chosen not to reopen this summer.

It’s going to be a tough year.

But I’m confident we’ll get through.

The other signs that have sprung up around town are these:

Cooperstown will pull together for them, too. Whether it’s a graduation parade in cars down Main Street or some other way to honor and recognize them, we’ll do it.

Safely, of course.

***

All these closures, cancellations, and postponements won’t kill Cooperstown.

In the wake of the Great Depression, the idea for a baseball museum in Cooperstown was born. At the time no one could imagine where that would take this little village.

It makes me curious as to what could be around the next corner.

 

Posted in dementia, family, Travel

While I Was Away

I can still see the woman’s face as she said the words to me.

She started off saying, “It’s such a good thing you’re doing — keeping your father home.” But then she stopped smiling and looked me in the eye, “You can’t do this forever, you know. There’s going to come a point when you have to place him somewhere that can take care of him.”

My dander rose a little when she said that. I thought, That day will never come.

It nearly came last night.

Ten days ago I took a trip with two of my children. Something changed with my father in the week that I was away. He started fearing certain doorways and needing certain doors to be closed. He started refusing to go down hallways in the house where he has lived for 50 years.

“You don’t understand, Sally,” he’ll say to me, gripping my arm and pulling me close to hear his words. “You don’t want to go there.” He’s emphatic. His words have an urgency evidenced by his tight grip as he says them.

When I tell him that I don’t understand, he says, “How can I explain this to you?” After a long pause during which he’s unable to come up with an explanation, he’ll simply say, “Please don’t open that door.”

Last night he turned off the baseball game and headed to the dining room, announcing that he was going to bed.

“Where are you going to sleep?” I asked.

“Here,” he said, and he pointed to his heart.

“Will you walk with me to your bedroom?” I asked, slipping my arm under his to support and guide him at the same time.

He planted his feet. “You don’t understand.”

After a bit of coaxing, loud arguing, pleading, and everything else I could think of, Bud and I, one on either side of him, forced him to take the steps he clearly didn’t want to take. Once he saw his room and his bed, he was fine (more or less). For a few minutes, though, it was ugly.

I lay in bed afterwards feeling discouraged and thinking, What would Penelope Lumley do?

Penelope Lumley is the plucky governess in The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place series (by Maryrose Wood). The motto for the school she attended, The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, was, “No hopeless case is truly without hope.”

I pictured the woman saying, “You can’t do this forever,” and I pictured the fictional Penelope Lumley reminding me that “No hopeless case is truly without hope.”

There has to be a solution.

In Norway (that’s where I went on my trip) we saw a house set up high overlooking a fjord.

Our guide told us that it has no road access. The old farmhouse had fallen into disrepair until a couple bought it and turned it into successful guest accommodations. Visitors arrive by boat at the base. They climb ladders and hike steep trails with switchbacks to reach Stigen Gard. It takes over an hour to make the ascent.

Some would have said the rundown farmhouse was hopeless, but no hopeless case is truly without hope.

The view at the bottom was beautiful.

I’m sure the view at the top is even better.

I just have to figure out how to do it.

Posted in family

Pursuing Dreams

I remember when Sam learned that he had arthritis.

He had been struggling with shoulder pain and gone for treatment for tendonitis, a common problem for swimmers. He couldn’t lift his arms over his head and the physical therapist commented that he was like an old man.

Fortunately, someone recognized that Sam had a bigger issue than tendonitis — a “more global problem” is how they put it.

After running a bunch of tests, they gave him the life sentence — psoriatic arthritis.

“What am I going to do?” he asked. “I won’t be able to do the things I love.”

By that he meant climbing, paddling, skiing and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Sam was tempted to throw in the towel.

His rheumatologist looked him in the eye and said, “It doesn’t mean that at all.” He encouraged Sam to pursue his dreams.

And Sam did.

That was ten years ago.

The first time we went to British Columbia, I knew Sam would thrive there.self-in-bc

img_0553Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to make it his home.

And found a lovely Canadian woman to marry.

When Sam was home at Christmas, he mentioned going to “physio” — that’s Canadian for physical therapy. He works at a canoe and kayak store, and has recently been having trouble lifting boats over his head.

Instead of giving up, he’s working (again) at strengthening those shoulders.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is the poster boy for psoriatic arthritis.

I think Sam should be — his story is more inspiring.

To me, anyway.

But I may be biased.