Sunday, June 26th
I am on a plane sitting next to my best friend and duo partner, Diane, as we make our way to ClarinetFest®️ in Reno, Nevada. This will be our first gathering of the International Clarinet Association in almost three years thanks to Covid. We are hoping for a fun and drama-free time, but there will be stress, too, as I am currently President and Diane is President-Elect. Lots of work and responsibilities for us, but it will also be wonderful to perform together again and see so many of our clarinet friends in person after all this time. Zoom is good for many things, but it is not great for music.
This will be one of the longest times I’ve ever been away from home, as I flew to Lincoln, Nebraska, first to rehearse with Diane and our fantastic pianist and dear friend, Mark. I am grateful to make music with my friends again; it’s been too long. It felt good to laugh and talk as we worked through music new and old- to feel like a normal musician again, and I look forward to a week of BFF time with Diane.
There is another side to this, though; Dan is at home keeping things going, the Mr. MacKenzie ‘glue’ that keeps the heart of Chez Gainey beating…he is the heart of this place. I miss him anytime that I am traveling far from home, but I increasingly worry about him now that he is dealing with the frustrating early symptoms of dementia. I have had to travel so much this summer, including an insane plan to leave in a day and a half again after our conference for an international site visit for several days. I am truly grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I have been given, but right now I want nothing more than to circle the wagons around my precious husband and just be with him, to cherish each day together for as long as we are able. This is scary new territory; I feel pretty helpless right now and don’t know what to say or how to act about it. I only know to work, to keep moving forward, to try as hard as I can to make everything okay, which is actually quite funny because nothing is really in our control. Will I ever learn that?
Please don’t misunderstand; Dan is still Dan, at almost 70, still working around the house like crazy, running the AirBnB, teaching his yoga classes, taking care of the house and animals as I travel about, supporting me a thousand percent as he always does. There are worrisome signs that we both see, but right now things are mostly normal. I guess we both worry mostly for what will be. His father had Alzheimer’s and Dan will enter a UAB Alzheimer’s study. I am grateful that he is not like most men- he has always been good about seeking medical attention when needed. The neurologist he is seeing is looking at all of the possibilities; Dan’s symptoms drastically increased after his bout with Covid in 2020. Long Covid is a very real thing. And so we wonder, worry, and wait, not knowing what our future will hold.
I have learned so much and have grown a lot from my time as president of our organization; life lessons that I needed to learn, toughening up that was important for me to develop. That being said, I will be grateful to pass the leadership role to Diane as of September 1st. I’ll then be Past-President for two years before I leave the Board after a 10 year tenure of service. Diane will be a fantastic president to take us forward; it’s healthy for the organization to have new ideas and different skill sets every two years to keep things balanced and focused in the right direction. I’ll be there to support her and my colleagues on the Board, but the pressure of being in charge will be lifted from my shoulders. I can put my focus more on Dan and what needs to be done at home and work. I read somewhere that INFJ personality types like Dan and I both are tend to not like to lead or follow, but rather to try to inspire people. I like to think of it that way; at least that’s what I hope to do in some small way. Hopefully some of that inspiration comes from the joy we try to bring through the performances of the many pieces that have been written for us so far. I love the idea of our friendship living on in our music long after we are gone. Pretty beautiful.
Time jump to July 7th:
Wow, life happens so quickly. I am home from what turned out to be a very successful conference in Reno thanks to our great team and members who were excited to be together again. A conference in which I felt really good about our performance, one in which I felt confident speaking in front of large crowds (probably for one of the only times in my life…I think my mom had a hand in that), and one in which I was able to reconnect with clarinet friends and industry friends from around the world. The downside? I was also hit by a car during my morning walk (I’m okay-ish) and came home with a rousing case of Covid. It seems that even though we followed the CDC guidelines to the letter, we were surrounded by hundreds of people at the resort who might not have been vaccinated, mixed in with a highly contagious disease that doesn’t discriminate between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. No matter what, I’m still glad that we were able to meet after almost three years. Sadly, this is our new normal now and we travel understanding it may lead another bout with wretched Covid.
I’m sleeping in the guest room in the old oak bed that belonged to my grandparents and I grew up sleeping in, and in which my mother was born. This was where I recuperated from my scary first bout with Covid in 2020. To me this bed tells a story of my family and has healing powers. I’ve had too many instances happen since my mom passed to ever doubt possibility. So I’m trying to keep Dan from catching the plague from me a second time and biding my time until I’m safe to go unmasked. Way too much time on my own to think about my worries- never a good thing for me.
Through all of this, Dan has been a prince. He stays very busy, always giving his best, taking care of the house and animals- and now he has me on his to-do list for another week as I isolate. I’ve always liked to be the caregiver and it’s difficult for me to be the one being taken care of. Maybe this is the Universe sending a message that it’s time for my body to rest, time to slow down, something that I struggle with. I’m much more comfortable with the ‘go-go-go’ method…that way you don’t have to think about the tough stuff all the time, the stuff that feels jagged and painful as you endlessly turn it over in your heart and mind.
All I know right now is that I will do my best. I will find the strength inside me to deal with whatever is ahead. I have an amazing support system of dear friends who lift me up when I’m struggling. I have a home filled with love and laughter and we’ll hang onto that to sustain us through any dark times. I am so imperfect, such a flawed human being with a gazillion fears, foibles, and idiosyncrasies. I am also the daughter of Dorothy, who was daughter of Pearl, and on and on. A strong lineage of gentle-on-the-outside-tough-as-nails-on-the-inside, Southern women who found stores of courage inside themselves when it was called for. I swear I will do the same. Mom used to tell me that, “something worth having is worth working for.” Love is worth having. And keeping. And cherishing. So I will work hard to find peace in all the pieces of good that thread their way throughout my life. I will learn to come to peace with what comes our way; but right now I plan to fight like hell, not yet ready to give in. Dan deserves it, and so do I.