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Circles of Care - Journal entry by Victor Fidel

Victor and family in front of Heather's father's house in Sewickley, PA. L-R: Heather Floyd, Ruth "Dannie" Martin, Peter "Grandpappy" Floyd, Lucas Fidel-Floyd, and Victor Fidel.

Hi Gang,

I’ve been back for one week in New York after having spent 8 weeks in Western Pennsylvania. It has been hard for me to keep our Noon time [Circle of Care meetings on Zoom] on Saturdays in all this. In fact, I’m terrible about schedules these days, so I hope you will forgive me.

But if don’t mind listening to some reflections, here they are:

Heather, Lucas and I were in a little town about 15 miles from Pittsburgh, thanks to Heather’s dad’s hospitality. He lives there in a big Victorian home by himself. His girlfriend spends half the week with him. With so much space, he thought about us in this pandemic and invited us over. It was a gift, not just for Lucas, but also Heather and me! I thought we’d try it for a week or two… and then well… Peter let us stay longer and it was a natural hospitable thing for him and natural for us to take it; we were running ragged taking care of Lucas and having to work at the same time and going outside was a pain in many ways…

We are really grateful to Peter. He allowed Lucas to run around all corners of his half acre property nearly 2 hours from Ohio. He ran around in his barefeet though Grandpappy’s forest. He would go all the way up to the attic, which is a museum, both active and historic, of the family’s archives and things they use practically, like beds and toy, and Lucas would also go all the way down to the Bank Street porch, a hill down to the street ripe with trees and lots of green vegetation. What is now the back porch was meant to be the front as folks would go down to this street to catch the train to go into Pittsburgh, back in 1875, when the house was built. Peter, also known as Grandpappy, redesigned the house so that the other side of the street would be used as the front side by adding a garage. That side was really the mews, or where horses were kept. Back then, the internal combustion engine was a generation too early and it was real horse power that got you to town and your neighbors. There’s a great sense of history in the town, a lot of Victorian architecture is preserved.

I would get up by 7 or 7:30 am each day of those 8 weeks and go running in the neighborhood. I passed a lot of “Black Lives Matter” signs. It’s a very Euro-American town with probably 10% Brown and Black people, but they sure got in on the liberal cause. But Sewickley is diverse in its viewpoints. Just across from the town’s main bookstore that was displaying Black culture literature was also a “Trump 2020” sign on another house. It’s good to have diversity of thought. I don’t like our bubbles, whether they are liberal or conservative. I’m a son of a Sandinista, whom I never met, and I work at the largest bank by assets. Why not? Life is grey, or gray, if you prefer.

I would run to the Ohio River and skip stones in the morning. Then I’d go to a Pittsburgh local coffee shop and listen to my informational asset management work meeting, which we have every day at 8 am. The shop was open and since they had tables out in the open, you could sit there. I’d always ask for a different beverage each day, not just to keep the cute baristas on their feet but also because I wanted to take it all in as it were. I found my favorite drinks being the “Black & Gold”, which is a chocolate and caramel ice coffee; well you could have it hot if you wanted, but the summer warranted cold, and of course, I enjoyed the “refresher”, a sparkling soda, fruit enhanced drink, perfect after a 3+ mile run, or something like that.

I’d go back to the big Victorian house. Then Lucas would be up playing with Maggie, who is Dannie’s doggie. Dannie is Grandpappy’s girlfriend. She didn’t have kids, and so she has adopted these grandchildren that Heather and Sharon have provided their dad. She is their favorite. She’s a lovely sweet soul. She is present when she is with them and they know it. I remember Remy, Lucas’ cousin, cried when she was leaving for work one day. Her favorite songs are “Amazing Grace” and “Simple Gifts”, which I played for her with my guitar.

I got good on the guitar, and maybe that’s blowing my horn or pulling your strings a little too much, for what is “good”. I tell you what it is, it means feeling good about it! An instrument is a hard thing to master and in reality, if you give yourself to it, maybe it masters you instead. I’m a beginner and I’ve taught myself the little bit I know and gosh, that just feels good.

Western Pennsylvanians were great to us. They have that nice blend of being nice to greet you when you are in their neighborhood but not get in your business. OK, I’m being a generalist, I suppose, and today the “–ist” is out of control, so I gotta be careful, but that was my experience.

When we got to Sewickley back in late May, we just noticed a breath of fresh air, it was so refreshing. I mean, people weren’t panicking about this virus. It was not Armageddon for them, so they were relaxed. Granted though, they were observing their social distancing and the restaurants and indoor spaces had closed. Well, they have their space. They have 1.2 million people in Allegheny County and environs in an area that’s probably half of Massachusetts, whereas we in NYC have 8 million people in an area that is about a quarter or less of Massachusetts. You do the math. Density and the City got screwed. Kings are big suburbs and farm areas in this pandemic… if they are careful. Look at Texas (!) Crazy how things happen.

Well, my brother who is an Operating Room nurse for Winthrop Hospital in Long Island says he feels so much better about things now, but way back then in May, he tells me, Heather and I did the right thing by leaving. Yennie, my sister, who is a Physician’s Assistant who also works in a hospital, also said to me she was suffering similarly to what a war solider suffers. Our medical folk were losing their patients too many a day and my sister told me what was breaking her heart was also seeing her colleagues dying. It was a real tough time for New York.

I did feel for people who couldn’t leave. People who had less square area in their apartments than we do currently, but who also have kids and like them there are many, and my heart went out to them, at least in prayer. I am a lucky man. When Galen talked about gratitude today, I felt it. And I have a responsibility. So, well, I’ve started wearing my mask more; sounds silly doesn’t it. I hope you don’t skewer me, but if I’m running in Central Park and there is space, I’m going to take off my mask, but the point is I do take the darn mask; it’s a respectful thing. Who knows, maybe I have this Covid thing. My mother-in-law tested positive for antibodies. She may have gotten it sometime in the winter.

Lucas was tested when we went to the emergency room when he had his appendix taken out 3 months ago (!)

Hey, one thing that was shocking when I came back was that we are no longer cheering our first responders at 7 pm. Somehow I felt something was missing. That little ritual felt like a moment of organic warm community in a concrete hard city. It’s no longer here. I asked someone, why did it die? They said, when we went to Phase 1, there was no need. Who knows – maybe not, but we always need community, that’s what I realized.

Galen said today that we’ll be opening back on January 1, 2021. Quite a long time. I’ve been walking the NYC streets since I’ve been back. Some churches are open with their new guidelines. I can’t wait to go back to the church and see our new sanctuary. I can’t wait to feel that physical community. I’ll do my best to restrain my hugging impulses, unless the vaccine is ready by then and people are ready to risk it. I risk it all the time I’m alive.

Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I’ll be taking Lucas to my work’s back-up daycare and I’ll be going back to work at home. Though the office is back up, they are taking volunteers if they want to go back. Not many are signing up is what I notice. Either way, I need to get back to enjoying my home, for after all, I was gone for 2 months!

What can I say, thank you for listening. May the force be with you.



Back to COVID: Lunch on the drive home at Doolittle Station, town of Dubois (Victor, Lucas, Heather and fellow T-Rex with Big Foot)

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