Jersey Daughter, Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I find myself unexpectedly in New Jersey today. Mom’s health took a turn for the worse and I hopped down here on Friday night.

As some of you know, coming and going at odd hours to New Jersey these days I have abandoned the cold and limited schedule of the ferry in favor of a car service a friend suggested. Rides with Cash provides not only thoughtful and dependable service, but Cash, a beautiful Australian Shepard who climbs in my lap for ear and tummy rubs along the way. Petting Cash, talking music with Geoff, makes the ride go quickly and calms me on my more anxious rides like Friday. (For those in the greater, NJ, NYC and Philadelphia area, you can book Jeff and Cash here.)

Cash who operates as a canine co-pilot to Jeff on rides to and from NJ.

I arrived to find mom weak and very surprised to see me – I didn’t know I was going to be a surprise, but it was nice to see how happy she was once she realized she wasn’t dreaming. She has stabilized a bit and although still very pale from a loss of blood, she is stronger and eating well.

Mornings are my favorite time spent here and I am sure they are what I will remember most fondly in the future. There’s usually a nice hour or so when we are mostly just the two of us, before I go running and her next shift of help arrives. I drink too much coffee and she has some tea maybe. In the winter it would be dark out and I would be waiting for the sun to come up before heading out for my run.

Sun coming up out my window here this morning.

We are beyond fortunate that we have folks helping out who have some deep roots with us and over this period these strong women have formed a community around mom as they come and go, working out a schedule among themselves. The group somehow magically expanded when we decided that we needed someone overnight after mom got out of the hospital over the holidays.

This enclave of extraordinary women, all from Jamaica, have become my mom’s society and despite her physical woes her keen interest in them and their lives continues to grow. Like family, some are closer than others, sisters rather than cousins. However, as we share meals, work around the house and concern for mom, they are our clan. (Mom is still trying to feed the world and so much take out food is ordered to be shared by all. However, sometimes I cook or they do. Recipes are exchanged.) Mom enjoys the occasional visits of their children and grandchildren and she seems to be a favorite among some of the youngest.

Photo of a child me with a younger Mom, carrying my brother Edward in this photo.

I get to share in this deeply feminine society during my periodic stays. Everyone is fairly interested in my professional life and invested in the success thereof as they hear me pacing around the house on the phone or on endless Zoom calls in an upstairs room, where I am perched typing now. This is its own world which I enter when I am here. The tentacles are long though and at least one among my mom’s caretakers texts me periodically with anything she thinks I should know. It was a family friend, Suzanne, who is also devoted to my mom and like a sister to me, who texted me on Friday to get down here as soon as I can. Mom had been dismissive of my change in plans earlier in the day, but Suzanne was right and I am glad I came.

The house has a new inhabit, a kitten named Stormy. For those of you who follow me on social media you saw photos of Stormy posted as we tried to find her a home after Mom rescued her recently. (Yes, despite everything Mom is still managing to rescue animals as she has her whole life.) Once trapped and brought inside Stormy has turned out to be barely out of kittenhood and has the sweetest and most winning demeanor.

Stormy is now a permanent member of the Butler clan.

Well, my Dad used to say that cats only ever come into the Butler household and none ever leave and despite a fair amount of effort on our part it seems to be holding true. Stormy has managed to become a household favorite however and even those not especially disposed to cats stop to chat with her on their way around their business of the house. Stormy is presently residing in a very large, multi-level dog cage in the living room where she can be a part of the life of the house, but not yet subjected to the rough and tumble of the other kits. Needless to say, Stormy isn’t going anywhere.

Strangely, considering she is a stray, Stormy appears to be domestic and really likes people. She enjoys being petted, ear and even tummy rubs in particular. Her fur is kitten downy and although she greets the world with a somewhat unblinking wide-eyed and concerned stare, she seems contented. She is still eating copious quantities of food and is slowly filling out. I cannot imagine what her history is – she is so used to humans and handling and, it must be said, not Stormy in the least. (She was christened as such based on the blustering winter morning she was trapped on.) For all of her placid personality and evident enjoyment of handling she does not purr. She will occasionally grab your hand if you stop petting her and she lets out the occasional silent meow or soft growl.

Having this new little critter in the house as we navigate health care issues, and a growing war in the Ukraine which blares over the television via my mother’s endless devotion to CNN, centers us a bit on something nice. We saved Stormy, but she is doing her part. She is good for us too.

The morning is now in full cry and another pot of coffee and a Saturday run is in the offing. I will probably have a little more to say about that tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Jersey Daughter, Part One

  1. I’ve read Parts 1&2 out of order, and am now thoroughly invested in what little I know of your Story. I hope your Mom is mending. Reading about the group of gentle Jamaican women caring for her just as International Women’s day passes makes me long to come lie down in her living room with Stormy, and watch as they move about the house, caring for Mom, random children in tow, in the presence of such community and familiarity…it sounds like an environment that would soothe & cure whatever ails a person…a place one could pass in peace in the company of a capable & kind community. You are both lucky to have them.
    I, too, am witnessing the saga playing out in Ukraine on CNN, feeling almost guilty to leave them in pursuit of sleep late into the night…reluctant to turn it off since THEY can’ the suffering worsens a world away from my fitful slumber.
    I envy the addition of Stormy, and sometimes wonder if I had my caregiver rescue a cat for me would I be so lucky to find such a gem. I brought our neighbor’s lonely cat indoors so often when I arrived in 2000 that they finally came to our back door one afternoon with kitty litter, a fresh box, and a bag of food! “You guys can keep Harley” they announced. “She doesn’t get along with our other cat anyway.” We had her for another cuddly 9 years, happy to be the only cat, luxuriating with us on the bed, and venturing out to the communal back yard only with our protection. She would stay on my lap in the sun or safely under my chair, then scurry back inside with me once I finished my tea. I miss her even now, 13 years after her passing!
    I hope your mom isn’t suffering too much, and will be sending healing thoughts to your loving tribe as you care for her 3,000 miles away from me in San Francisco….far away from the home I left in NYC nearly 22 years ago…which I miss even more now that Wilson has passed. I came to be with him, so I’m a stranger here now, aside from a handful of Wilson’s friends & my beloved neighbors.
    You are a good daughter, and a fine writer. I wish you well in this difficult time. I took care of Wilson for 12 years, and know what it takes to devote yourself to such a thing. I miss pouring my love into him every day….


    • Dear Lorraine,
      So nice of you to write and I’m pleased you enjoyed it.
      For an update, Mom has rallied and is stable, eating better and ruling the house from her chair once again. At some point I will write more about her impressive efforts on behalf of wildlife and even now she wields a mighty computer I say! I made the trip back (with Cash the dog in my lap once again) Tuesday morning. I return early next week though.
      Stormy is an extraordinary kitty I think, so friendly. She enters a house with several other rescues who are all becoming increasingly aware of her presence. We’ll see how that goes!
      I am pleased we are able to wrap mom in so much attention and love for however long we have. She has done so much for others and it is a wonderful gift to have this time.
      Thank you for visiting with us here.


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