Typically, I ring in the New Year at home in California at 9:00 pm Pacific because it’s midnight in New York and I figure it’s New Year’s in the United States, so why not start celebrating? Plus, who am I kidding? Chances are very good I’m not going to be awake at midnight my time! Those days are long past.
This year I’m actually IN New York. My birthplace, but not considered “home” since I was 7 years old. I am not a New Yorker and don’t pretend to be. Don’t ask me for museum or restaurant or show recommendations. I haven’t a clue. I’m as much of a tourist as the next chump (OK, maybe there’s a little bit of New Yorker in me).
My mother and youngest sister DO live in New York. Mom’s been in the same rent-controlled apartment for over 45 years, and my sister returned a few decades ago. The building’s owner can’t wait for them to leave (or die – more on this in a moment), so he can rip down walls, rip up floors, renovate to his heart’s content, and sell the place for oodles of dollars as a condo on the Upper West Side. “Oodles” is not an exaggeration. Right now, it’s costing him to have my mother and sister live there.
Mom is 82 and recovering from breast cancer treatment a year ago. She’s frail, hunched, mentally and emotionally overwhelmed, and physically exhausted. My 51 year-old sister is living with and dying from bulbar ALS. Bulbar ALS is ALS’s nasty step-sister that attacks speech, swallowing and breathing muscles before it attacks the limbs. I think of it as ALS in reverse. My sister can still walk and scroll through Facebook, but she cannot talk, hasn’t tasted food in months, and is now experiencing more rapidly successive episodes of choking – vomiting – aspirating – contracting bacterial pneumonia…
When people speak of maintaining a modicum of “quality of life” as life’s end approaches, I don’t think this is the scenario they have in mind.
I am here to bear witness and to help in small ways. There are no big ways to help.
So as the planet embarks on stepping into the New Year, I am standing in the here and now of this very precious moment. And then this one. And then this one. In New York.
[Featured photo above by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com]