Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kind and Generous

We laid Gary to rest on Monday.

I was standing in Burger King, in my dress blouse, hair done, yoga pants, sneakers without socks, and big black winter jacket. Geoff had woken up early, as is his wont, was restless and annoying bumping around the hotel room. This hotel has no gym or pool, sadly, so he was like a caged animal. I figured it would be a good idea to get up, get ready, and go grab breakfast for Doug and Jess, sleeping behind.

We ordered breakfast sandwiches, things like croissants with eggs and sausage, and an "Eggnormous Burrito," of all things. The hash browns were dropped into the deep fryer, so I knew they'd be fresh and delicious for us.

Burger King was empty, and after I placed our order, I stood there waiting. Natalie Merchant's voice came over the speakers, and she was singing the Thank You song, "Kind and Generous."

I'd always been a big 10,000 Maniacs fan, in my younger days, R.E.M. and Indigo Girls and their ilk filled my heart with poetry.

I never liked this song.

I found it repetitive, pointless. It wasn't to anyone that I could detect, it wasn't about anyone or any one event. It started with "la la" which always drove me nuts. Get to the words, not the la la part.

But I stood there and began to listen to her. I began to think about all the Thank Yous I gave Gary, and many that I never had the chance to deliver.

And for the first time ever, at the end of the song when she sings "Thank you, thank you" over and over again, it stopped sounding to me like a pointless waste of time and lazy songwriting.

It sounded like "I can never thank you enough."  Never, ever enough. No matter how many times it is sung, to the point of fading out or the next song beginning, there would never be enough thank yous delivered.

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, for your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you
I want to thank you for your generosity
The love and the honesty that you gave me
I want to thank you show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you
I want to... Thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you....

The pastor delivered his sermon, and then he opened the floor to people to come up and share their thoughts and feelings. Danny, one of the fellow elders in the church, came up and shared his peace. Michael Q Neely (the Q stands for Quality Keyboardist... inside joke) spoke at length on his friendship with Gary, and how he wasn't attached to the church or God, until he kind of started "dabbling" with this experience, and Gary was there to be his friend. Not be anything more, but to just be his friend.

I knew Doug and Diane both were not going to get up and share. Doug told me that I could, and should, and that his dad would appreciate it. Gary told me on more than one occasion that "Christine, you just got a way about you..."

Wanting to honor that, I got up to speak.

My nephew Craig (Diane and J's son) came to join me. I asked him if he wanted to speak, but he did not. He wanted to just stand with me. Perfectly cool. I'm down with that.

I told everyone that the first time I came out to visit the family, probably in 1987 or so, Gary insisted on taking me around town. I sat in the front seat and Doug was in back. Gary tootled us around town, and he pointed out things and places to me.

He took us to the river to show me the mighty Ohio. There was a coal barge making its way along, pushed by a tug boat. He talked to me about its destination, and the comings and goings of boats up the river. Where the Beaver would meet up, and the locks that were over in another location that he wanted to show me.

Doug was in the back seat cringing. He groaned to his dad that "she knows all this stuff already, she's from Long Island..." I had a big smile on my face, because I knew Gary was showing me this stuff because it was such a part of their life, and their heritage, and their town... even if there were ten thousand sailboats on the river, it still would have been his to share and show. I felt honored, not insulted or upset.

He was being a dad. Such a dad moment. And Doug, well he grew into those dad moments himself for sure. I see a lot of Gary in him.

Another story that I related was when we went to see his mother "Middie" in her nursing home one day when I was waiting for Jess to finish her finals so I could bring her home. Middie told me about this nurse... she had a tattoo! on her NECK! and she got her hair all cut short so everyone could see it! Imagine that!

Right in front of the nurse, who waved politely to me. I asked if she'd turn about and show me her razor short haircut in back, and the tattoo.

It was very nice.

Gary, like Doug before, was rolling his eyes and groaning about his mom. I said to her "Hey Middie, where's your tattoo?"

"My tattoo?" she asked, confused.

"Yeah, I bet you have a wicked awesome tattoo. Show it to me!"

Middie at first was confused and then started laughing and said "oh my! You think I have a tattoo!" and she laughed, hysterically. She told the man at the table next to us that I asked where her tattoo was. He kind of nodded. Gary was holding his head in his hands.

"You don't have one? C'mon, I'll spring you outta this joint and we'll go get you inked up. How 'bout it?"

She laughed maniacally. It was delightful. Gary was cringing, but I could see this smile.

When we left the nursing home I asked him if he wanted to go get tatted up. And he laughed.

A little while later, he sent me a tear-out from a coloring book of a little girl with flowers and bunnies, and he'd written "Death Before Dishonor" on her arm.

That shit was funny.

Finally, I told them the story of Burger King, Natalie Merchant, and the line " You know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it..."

I thanked him for all the kindness and love he had shown me, for welcoming me to his family. For laughing with me, and for times he cried with me like when I lost the baby between Jess and Geoff back in 1994, when I was quite broken and distraught. I thanked him for making me his "outlaw" which is so much cooler than an "in-law" and I told him there were no thanks that I could give that would equal the amount of thanks I have.

We sang "I'll Fly Away," which always breaks my heart. And there were military honors with guns and a full flag folding and presentation to his mom.

We didn't go to the cemetery, Diane did because she felt it was very important to do so when you commit a body to the ground, that it should be attended by Family. I considered going, but thought it more of a love to take her son, my nephew, Craig, with me to the restaurant. Bonnie didn't want people going to the cemetery, because it was cold, and not good for the 90 and 80 year olds who would have to be standing out there in the cold and wind.

All told, I liked Bonnie's choice, but recognize the importance of Diane's choice.

I'm still numb from this. I have not cried yet - I've kind of kept it together with a dose of "this didn't just happen." I'm not sure why I'm not a quivering mess, a lumpy wet pile in the corner. But it will hit me. It will break my heart. It will come at me like a rogue wave, unexpected and out of the blue. It will happen.

I won't be ready, but I'll accept it.

And will shed the tears and say "Thank you," as many times as I can.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Over and Out

I love this picture.

Gary sent it to us in a Christmas card a couple years ago. It's been hanging on our fridge since. Made the move, and was one of the things I set up first.

We got a Christmas card this year from "the White House." In Gary's hand, the message on the inside is from the President. It welcomes us to town, tells us not to bother dropping by because they are rarely ever home, and says to keep our dog out of his lawn. Hysterical.

Before the card arrived, he called Doug and warned him that the card was from him, and it was a joke. He didn't need to tell us that, we would have gotten it. For sure. But the fact he felt the need to warn us is kind of hysterical.

We have boxes of post cards that he sent the children over the years from their travels. They are usually animal related. And Gary would talk about the weird and/or amazing things they were seeing on their trips. I saved all of these post cards.

Gary had a great sense of humor.

Gary passed away on Wednesday at 5pm, on the nose. Like, quitting time on the nose. Doug thought it completely appropriate. He was military punctual (Unless something was slowing him down, like his companion for the moment - i.e. my mother in law). By his side, was his wife of nearly 53 years. I only know when their anniversary is because when we were scheduling Geoff's Eagle Court of Honor, she begged me not to pick April 21st. But we didn't have another day. So we did. And they came. His daughter and her daughter were there. And his son, my husband.

In a lot of ways, this whole event was Wayne all over again. But it was also very different.

I have to say that my thoughts on my friend Marcia, Wayne's wife, carry through to my mother in law. Bonnie... wow. She held such grace, and such poise. The surgeon put everything on the table, including surgery, but he said he'd do whatever Bonnie told him to do.

She told him that if there was no chance Gary would come back as Gary, would need round the clock care, would never speak or walk again, that he would not want that. She said he'd also be mad that he was occupying a bed in the ICU if someone else could come in and be saved, someone with hope. When he has no hope, he would say (if he could) it's time to go.

I reread this post I wrote about Marcia in 2014, so many of the things that I said about Marcia, I could say about Bonnie. Like this:
She knew her husband, knew his wishes, knew exactly the person he was. And she abided by that so beautifully.  
And again I echo, if I'm ever in that position, may I have just an ounce of that grace.

That's all I have to say right now. There isn't much more I can.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Weekend At Chrissie's

Doug and Geoff are on their way to the Pittsburgh area to see the fam. I'm staying here with the dog, so Geoff can get a little trip out and have some fun. We thought it was a good idea for them to go and spend some time.

This is the first time since Doug left to move down here at the beginning of September that I'm actually alone. I miss them both already. But I'm looking around here, and I have a lot to do that will keep me out of trouble for a couple days.

First, my husband hates the vacuum. He hates the way it sounds, the way it smells in the air after you're done doing the deed. I think he was a small domesticated animal in a past life. A dog probably. So I tend to try and vacuum when I know he's going to be gone for hours, and, when I can open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in, thus removing the post-vac stank.

Second is the fact there is still a box of glass Christmas ornaments on my dining table. They need wrapped and put away. Awesome. I'll do that next.

Then, find a home for the crock pot. There isn't enough space in our kitchen. It doesn't fit on the shelf of the small table I have. It is just sitting around and I have to move it any time I want to do something. It will probably end up on the shelf in the basement. I already keep the wok and giant roast pan down there.

But first, I'm running to the market to get me some mimosa makings!


I started writing that on Saturday morning. 

None of those thing happened.

Well, I did vacuum. But that's when everything stopped. Doug called, our car broke down on the interstate just south of the Pennsylvania line, they could see it. 90 minutes from our house, about 2 hours from Pittsburgh.

I went and rescued them.

Normally I'd say, "get a rental car or something and figure things out." But there was nothing anywhere near them. And they needed to make it the rest of the way to Pittsburgh. I couldn't really mention, and still shouldn't, why they were going.

My wonderful, lovely, amazing father in law had a stroke on Saturday morning. The boys were en route to be by his side and be there for Doug's mom and sister, and whole family. To be part of whole family. I couldn't really mention their reason for going. My mother in law doesn't like it when I "announce" things on the internet and then other people approach her about it. That's what happened when I "announced" we were moving on Facebook, and my husband had not yet told her (I thought he had).


I figured, this is all going to work out fine, and he'll need rehab or something, and I'll come see him soon.

Well, he's not going to need rehab. He's not going to rebound for this. It is much worse than anyone expected. And we're waiting for him to pass away.

Weekend at Chrissie's turned into weekend in a hotel, and by a hospital bed.

I can't write more about this right now. There are vignettes and images that I want to share. There are things I want to say. But I can't in respect to my mother in law who doesn't like it when people talk about stuff like this on the internet.

Suffice to say, this is a blow to the family, one I didn't see coming really. I kind of thought it would one of my parents first. But here we are.

Hearken back to the post about "How did we get here," and that's kind of where I am again.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Great Falls and the Great Discovery

On Saturday morning, we set out on a scenic drive, which didn't go as well as we wanted.

Since we arrived here, starting out with the six weeks that I was sick, followed by the holidays and probably one of the coldest winters they've seen in these parts, we haven't gotten out much.

I think that's why I'm not feeling like I "like" it here. I haven't seen here. I haven't experienced here. I ride the metro to work. I listen to my podcast of choice. I work. I ride the metro home. We watch TV (note: "Turn: Washington's Spies" was a great series!)

 And it isn't like we've just sat here in our little rambler doing nothing.

  • We've gone for a couple walks of note. 
  • We went to the Jefferson Memorial on one of the days I didn't feel like dying, back in October. 
  • We went to the Brookville Beer Farm on another one of those days.  
  • We went to a farmer's market in Takoma Park, and found a nice brewery selling Crowlers, so we bought a few of those and have been talking about trekking up to see them. 
  • We bought cheese at that farmer's market too. 
  • We went to a silent movie screening at Halloween time and met the piano player who wrote the scores to the movies. That was cool. 
  • We found a local pub to watch football in, and eat Old Bay Wings from. 
  • We went to see R and M and the baby up in Baltimore, I need some more baby time.
  • Jess and I went to the Natural History Museum, and I finally rode the metro past my office for the first time.

But we haven't done the Doug and Chris things we've all grown to love. The go out and drive and see and explore and take shit tons of pictures and meet locals and just kind of sink in happily.

Hopefully spring will bring all of that.  And with the good weather, yesterday was supposed to be one of those days.

Doug wanted to go to the Great Falls Park on the Potomac. He put the address into the GPS and it turns out that location was a lie.

We ended up at a Quonset hut and Model Basin owned by the Navy, on the Maryland side of things. I told him the internet said we needed to go back to the highway, and go to Virginia. Doug said that he saw a sign that pointed northwest, on the Maryland side, and he was going to follow the advice of said sign. We bickered a bit - I asked him to change his course, but no. Hmmm. Doug saw a sign, saying something was that-a-way, and signs don't lie, like the GPS did.

Well, we found an entry way and welcome center on the Maryland side of things. Alright then. Doug wins that argument, so even though the National Parks Service doesn't tell us to go this way, it's a way to go. We'll take it. We happily began to cruise down the road.

Turns out, it was us, and 50 million other people. It was kind of ridiculous.

Truly, yesterday was one of the first nice days in a while. So I can't blame all the other savages for heading out for fun in the 50 plus degree weather.

Doug planned the trip, the route, the destination.... and we didn't anticipate this.

People were parking their cars along the road about a mile behind where we were - I presume there is some way in through the woods.

But on the map it looks like a pretty long trek in.

Our low coolant light came on while we were in the line to get into the park, of course it did. Doug decided it would be a good idea to turn around, and head out of there, lest something bad happen. We visited a town called Potomac, MD, got some coolant, caught some Pokemon, and Doug was starting to get grumpy at the not awesomeness of our day. But he had an alternate plan. Let's just keep driving up the river, and see where it takes us.

We took a small side-trip down to one of the roads to the river to the Seneca Aqueduct, and took a brief walk about there.

Learning about the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal system that was in place and the tow-paths where horses would drag ships up and down, and into lock channels. It was pretty cool.

The place was not crowded at all, a lot of cyclists riding the path, which stretches for miles and miles along the river. It looked like a pretty sweet ride, and possibly a good put-in if you had a kayak.

He'd read about a place called Smoketown Brewing Station, in Brunswick, MD. I plugged it into the GPS and it said it was a 50 minute drive on the scenic backroads up MD 28. Which is what Doug wanted. So we did that.

Continuing on to our earthly reward of beer and dinner, we followed signs for the scenic by-way, keeping a west by northwest orientation up the river. We'd hoped that there would be actual river views, that we'd ride along the river at some places but that wasn't to be. Everything was mansions and farms. Horses and mansions. Farms and silos. Mansions and silos. No view down to the left into that river basin. Just the awareness that it was down in there.

We got to Brunswick and found the brewery easily. They didn't have a great deal of food offerings, so we had snack, and enjoyed two beers each.

 Geoff decided to go right off the bat with an IPA that had a lot of IBUs, and then he sampled my Brown and Doug's Rye, noting the giant difference between the flavors. Even though it is a light colored beer, it packed a punch in the mouth taste that he noticed, and liked.

Doug and I both commented that we've had some decent craft brews since coming to the area, but this place outdid them all. Nothing weak or watery, nothing just pretentious for being ... pretentious. It was all so good. We'll be back!

We took a little walk around Brunswick, down to the Potomac, got some brochures for kayaking and rafting, and discussed how this town probably looks a lot different in July than on a day in January.

We talked about John Brown and Harper's Ferry, WVA, which was only about 7 miles away, realizing how very close we were to the place where three states meet, the Tripoint as it were.  There is so much history right around us, literally within a 10 mile to 20 mile radius, without ever entering Washington DC proper.

The interstate was the best way home for us, as it was incredibly dark and poorly marked and lit on some of the backroads. We noted that we were super close to Frederick, and that's another town that we wanted to visit.

We had two growlers filled at the brewery, and settled in to watch our Netflix choices. Geoff bought himself a Crowler of Oatmeal Stout, since he's house sitting for the neighbor, and he went over there to hang with the dog and watch his own TV choices. 

Closest thing so far to a day that was "us." In fact, screw that. It was a day that was totally us. It sometimes happens that we start with a plan, the plan goes pear shaped with a car that just might overheat, or some shit might happen, we don't end up where we planned to be but hell if we don't end up where it works out great for us. And that's how I felt about yesterday. 

Three Drink Geoff

When last I wrote, we were on our way to Doug's office party for some shenanigans. Six hours of open bar shenanigans, as it were. Luckily for me, I have developed a little social anxiety as of late, and so drinking to the point of stupid drunk in front of people I don't even know or am meeting for the first time is not an option.

I had glasses of white wine with a blueberry seltzer mixed in, so the entire night I felt hydrated and barely impacted. Doug's co-workers are fun, delightful, I had a great time meeting them.  It was a fun party. And we were not the most dressed up for "Casino Royale" night (his boss and the wife were straight out of a Bond movie) but we were also not the least dressed up. All told, staying at a very beautiful hotel, and it all costing us about 50 bucks, I'd say it was a success.

We drove home on Sunday, which was Geoff's birthday. The "big" one. The 21.

Doug opened the refrigerator when we got home so we could make lunch, and he noticed a 4-pack of Guinness Stout cans in the fridge, with one missing. He called to the boy. "Geoff? Did you go to the liquor store first thing this morning and buy beer?"

Geoff stood there and grinned.

"Well, I found out the liquor store doesn't open until 10." he replied.

"What time did you go?"

"Um. 9."

"So you got up at 9am and went to buy your very first booze. Interesting. Good choice though." I had to give it to him - he didn't go get an 18 pack of Natty Ice or Coors Light or PBR. Went and chose a quality beer.  We have modeled (I hope?) good behavior.

He had two more of them over the course of the day (I stole number 4). I showed him how to pour it so the cascade kind of works - not quite as right as when Guinness is pulled off draft by an expert bar tender - but they've made the experience close to it. We talked about Nitro beers, and the noise that cracking this can open makes vs. the noise any other beer will make.

Geoff had spent the better part of two weeks actually researching where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner. If we were at home*, he would have chosen some of the obvious spots -- the Tap or The Grill Next Door in Haverhill, Amesbury's Ale House. Places he's been dozens of times over his pre-legal life, but has not had the opportunity to enjoy their plentiful quality craft beer on draft.

He selected Indian Food, not a craft brewery with a food menu. They didn't have any special or amazing beers to go with the experience, but we did talk a lot about filtered vs. unfiltered; craft breweries vs. beers that used to be craft breweries that are now owned by one of the two giant beer manufacturers on earth and still like to try and convince people they are craft.

The food was outstanding, and Geoff's interest in the food and beer, and the discussion we all shared were probably the most notably wonderful things I've experienced with him since moving here.

For Doug's birthday two weeks later, we went to a place in DC called Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.

Initially, he had selected a Belgian Beer and mussels bar, but the downstairs was not open on Tuesday nights. He had his heart set on the downstairs location, so he called an audible and picked this other place.

They had some really nice breweries represented in their craft list, which wasn't big, but I have to say they made some great choices.

Geoff had three beers, and I limited myself to two, because I began to realize that I would probably have to be the one do drive us home.

Doug was celebrating with oysters, and craft beer and was in an exceptionally great mood. The two of them commandeered the discussion, talking about oyster flavors and harvest locations, why Rhode Island tastes different than Virginia; and  about beer IBU and ABV and styles and flavors.

It was a pleasure to sit and listen.

Jesus, they've really connected on something. Young Geoff begins his journey into the knowledge of the magic ingredients: Water, Yeast, Grain and Hops, and all that that implies.

On the way home, three drink Geoff talked to his grandmother (Doug's mom) while I drove and tried not to crash the car from laughing. He was chatty and entertaining. He was sassy and full of questions for her about a recent trip taken to France and Germany.

"We should have given him beer earlier, I think." I said to Doug, as we listened to him say more sentences to his grandmother than I think he's said in five years.

Alcohol is a very good social lubricant when managed correctly. Four drink Geoff would be a little out of control, and five drink Geoff. Well. I think of comedian Mike Birbiglia in this case:

Two Drink Mike enjoys dancing and knows a magic trick. Whereas, No Drink Mike enjoys biographies, and has serious opinions on wildlife. And Five Drink Mike...dances with wildlife...

Three drink Geoff, that's perfect level drinking Geoff. I hope to keep him that way. We talked long and hard about how to drink, not to drink to excess, drink for the taste. If you want to sample 5 beers off a menu, get a flight instead of five pints.

I think he gets it. At least, he is enthusiastic over it. Yesterday's conversation was all about different hops, and the differences between a Cascade and a Czech Saaz. Noble vs. ... I don't even know the term but "not" noble?

Who knows, maybe we've created a hobby brewer. Maybe he and Doug will small batch brew together, the way Doug used to small batch brew when he was in his mid-20s. Jess used to help him fill the bottles and put the caps on. It was lovely parenting.

Maybe we've come full circle over a 24 year journey.

Also, here is a picture of Doug, with Dessert, for his 50th birthday. 
I told the girl it was his birthday, and he was very thankful that they did not sing to him. 
Happy Birthday sweetie!

* I keep referring to "home" meaning the Merrimack Valley, Newburyport, North of Boston, Boston. Not sure when I'll switch to calling Maryland "home."

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Ending 2017, Beginning 2018

Christmas came and went. New Years came and went. And here we are the night before my son turns 21.  Long time readers, all three of you, can think back to when I started the blog in 2001, and realize this has been an ongoing journey of weirdness and wonder. And that's okay.  Each year I say I'll write a little more, that's my new year's resolution. But I never stick with it. Instead, I think I'll resolve to just be honest with myself. It's far easier that way.

We didn't do anything interesting or spectacular for the holidays. Doug does not get any vacation time  until end of March, his 6 month anniversary with the new company. Actually, I don't know if he is given vacation time off the bat, or starts to earn that vacation time. There is a distinction... so I should find that out. He'd like to go on vacation or something at that point. So would I.

Right now if he takes time off, he does so with no pay. He took one day off so far, to go to my Aunt's funeral in New York. He didn't get the day after Thanksgiving off, and didn't take it unpaid,  but if he had we would have gone to Pennsylvania to his uncle's big open house where all the family for generations comes to gather. This was the last year it'll happen there, since the house and the land/farm are being sold. So we missed out on that.

Jess flew down to be with us for Christmas, and we had a wonderful visit. She had just picked up her new used car, she was getting it inspected the day she went home. So much adulting.

The weather here in the DC area was very cold around Christmas but right now 20 degrees sounds delightful, as it was 6 this morning when I got up. 4 when I came home from the train last night.

Jess and I were both very disinclined to go out and do anything, and Doug didn't want to do the things I wanted to do, like go visit the Waredaca brewery and hospitality barn. He thought it was too far to go. So we pretty much sat around and did nothing. We hosted his aunt and cousin, who live over in Reston VA, and had a great dinner and nice fellowship with them.

New Year's Eve was pretty much the same. Incredibly cold, neither of us wanted to go out or do anything. Geoff was dog sitting for the neighbor so he was over there for the night. We got snacks and beer and some tropical stuff to mix with something in the cabinets, so we could imagine it being warm and wonderful. He and I settled into Netflix and Snore mode.

I was reading my Facebook feed, and noted that my friend Noah (former intern at our Boston office) was stranded in the Baltimore Airport due to his flight being canceled. He was hoping for a rescue in the form of a hotel paid for by the airlines but there was no progress on that front. I figured he was going to be stuck there and hating it, and I'm only 30 minutes away...

So Doug and went out and rescued him. A more thankful soul you've probably never known.

It was delightful to have him, and know that his fate otherwise was either a sketchy motel someplace or a night on the carpet in the corner. We had snacks and drank Dark & Stormys and didn't even notice that the midnight hour had come and was 10 minutes past us.

At 1am he noted that the airline had told him they'd call when they had a hotel for him, and here we were without a phonecall, text, or any other communication from them. We laughed and headed to bed.

It was a lovely time. And a nice way to end and begin a year. For a landmark date, in a new place, with too cold weather to go have a good time someplace, it was kind, and it was weird, and it was kind of weird. But this was a good thing to do, and I wouldn't trade it for a night out on the town.

Speaking of big night on the town...

Tonight is my husband's office holiday party. They always hold it after the new year since everyone is always too busy before the holidays (and it is super expensive to do something) so here we are, tonight tonight tonight.

The great news is he likes his job, a lot.  He likes his boss a lot. He likes what he's doing and likes his coworkers. It's a real blessing. He was kind of, shall we say, miserable in the last place of employment for a lot of reasons. None of which are my story to tell really. But it is nice to have a very happy Doug in my life.

They take parties seriously at this company, he says. The holiday party usually has door prizes for best dress up for the theme. Last year was the Great Gatsby, the year before was a night on the Nile.  And one of the door prizes was a 60 inch flat screen TV.

This year is Casino Royale, at a big beautiful hotel in Baltimore, complete with table games and roulette and all kinds of mock-gambling shenanigans.

 Doug thought about renting a tux and being "Fat James Bond" but he is sticking with a suit, and got a cool tie with poker hands of cards on them. Campy, and totally "dad" style. I like it.

He told me I needed to dress up too, not just wear slacks and a blouse with a pretty scarf (my idea of dressing for a party)... Now, I have a hard enough time putting on decent clothes. Nothing I own fits me, and I hate going to buy new clothes because I hate everything.

I pulled out the dress I wore to Aaron's wedding rather than buy something new. Thankful that I didn't drop it off at one of the many Savers runs I made before leaving Massachusetts. I figured what would I use this for again? Well here ya go.  My "work wife" found a lot of really nice things for me to wear online...  but I just figured this would be easier and I knew the dress fit me. Then, she and I started buying accessories.

I bought two different clutch purses in case I hated the first one, which was a good idea since one still hasn't shown up.... Picked up two pairs of shoes, in case I hated one pair (and I did). RCJ found me a beautiful wedding shawl, fake fur but feels like rabbit. Super Score. She found a really cute silver leaf headband that would have made me look like Legolas' fat elven aunt. Unfortunately, it was sold out. So I got hair pins that are shaped like the suits in cards and will put 2 on either side of my head.

With his tie, and my hairpins, it screams Vegas, baby.

Doubtful we'll win any door prizes for our get-ups, but we'll at least look snooty snifter style. Kind of bummed that it isn't a Gatsby theme, because my sister went to a Gatsby themed party a few months ago and found all kinds of good dresses, hair things, and RCJ knows how to wig shop, so I totally would have been hooked up for some fun with that.

I posted this picture on Facebook of the gathering of items on my bed, and my friends all chimed in on how cute everything is. I'm inwardly groaning but totally love their enthusiasm for me about the occasion. Demands of selfies and pictures of me and Doug done up nice. They're so cute.

And I also love that they know me enough to know this is a kind of big deal for me to pull all this together and make the effort.

I just wish it wasn't 15 degrees out. Jesus. So cold, too cold to go out in a dress. The good news is we're staying at the hotel where the party is, so my plan is to get dressed at the hotel, and come down the stairs, and go back up the stairs, without ever freezing my feet and ass right off.

And then I can jump right back into yoga pants and a Guster T-shirt. Whew.

Here's to starting off the new year ... glamorously?

And then tomorrow. Geoff's birthday. We asked him to pick the restaurant he wants to go to for his birthday. He's been making a list of the places he's eaten, been to, so far. And I've got a few ideas. Like maybe we'll go up to Frederick or the Waredaca brewery, like I wanted to during Christmas week.

I'm kind of sad that we're not up north for this, because he has a couple friends I'm sure would take him out for his 21st, instead of having to go out with mom and dad. We were out at dinner the other night and the girl tried to take an order for a beer for him and he told her he wasn't yet 21. He looks super lumbersexual right now. Flannel and long blonde hair and a cute little beard thing. His father's son for sure.

He still hasn't found his footing here. He has a part time job, but hasn't made any friends in his age group, is still thinking about applying to the community college and missed the application deadline to start classes this semester upcoming. We'll see about getting him a little more progressed here.

And that's the 2018 update so far. Hoping all my friends in the Boston area are doing alright after that blizzard, the Bomb Cyclone, the flooding on the seaport and many of the coastal down-towns. It was weird to watch from afar, I'll tell you that.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How did we get here?

People have asked how my mom is doing. She's keeping up with her PT, has a visiting nurse, and has graduated to walking with a cane when she gets out into the world, which is good. My husband told her that it would take 8-10 weeks before she felt "normal," and I think she's on track for the further end of that prediction. If not even further beyond that. She tells me she is in pain a lot. I keep encouraging her to keep moving, keep moving, and keep talking to her osteopath.

So this is good news.


My dad ended up in the hospital. Over the summer he developed a cough, and it persisted and worsened. When I came to visit during mom's hospitalization, it was obvious he needed medical help but he pooh poohed us when we suggested.

Coughing fits were common, and would turn into inability to breathe. He was winded after very short walks, like from the car to the postal drop at the community office, or the car to the restaurant. Talking was an issue, because breathing and talking go hand in hand so he opted to just be quiet, or expressive with his eyes and gestures.

Mom called me on a Tuesday afternoon to let me know that he'd woken up, had a coughing fit, and then coughed up blood.

He said "I think it is time for an ambulance." So she called one.

Diagnosis at this point is pneumonia, and an abscess in his upper node on one of his lungs. The doctor put him on antibiotics to clear the infection, and after the course is run he wants a CT scan to see if anything is "still there." Meaning a mass, tumor, whatever. Mid January is when he'll have the next round of tests to see what's happening, but the "mass" is getting smaller, and hopefully will be gone by the end of the antibiotic run later this week.

The doctor didn't want dad to have a needle biopsy, didn't want to "put him through that yet," if all it is is an infection. But he'll need follow up care for sure.

Our good friend Chris Kelly, columnist at the Scranton Times Tribune, recently wrote about his mom, and some medical scares she's gone through.

The assessment in the article is "how did we get here?" His point is more along the lines of "we didn't plan for this" is how we got here. But when I mentioned it to my mom she was more metaphysical about it. "How did we get here to this point in our lives." Chris even intimated that to me saying we were supposed to be long dead before we had to deal with all this grown up stuff.

My mom's sister is having all kinds of issues with her memory, and will soon have an MRI to look for dementia. Her husband, my uncle Ken, has stage 4 liver cancer.

My mom said to her sister the other day "we don't have a lot of time left, Bea." And sadly this is true. And for whatever time there is left - we can only hope it is fairly calm, or goes quickly without suffering and incident.

You know? Let there be mercy.

On November 11th, my aunt Esther passed away. She was 84. She was active, and driving, and getting around and doing all kinds of things before she passed. In fact, she was sitting in her chair, with her iPad, on Facebook, when she died.

Auntie loved to stalk us kids (kidding, she wasn't a stalker) on Facebook. She'd put comments on all our posts, and get in the middle of the ribbing/arguing/joking throwing in her two cents, and always some little "sticker" of an animal with big eye hearts or jumping up and down, or rolling around laughing.

Those drove me nuts. "Oh, here goes Auntie with her heart eyed doggie and her praise of my beautiful niece! so lovely and funny!" kinds of comments.  She would comment all the time on pictures I posted.

I didn't realize how deeply sad I'd be not seeing those. And here a month and a half out, after Christmas, looking at all my cousins' posts on Facebook of how they miss their mom, I'm sure they are asking themselves "how did we get here?"

I kind of have a feeling that I know where I'm getting in this next year, and I will be amazed if I am sitting here this time next year with both parents still breathing. It is a sad feeling. But I'm feeling more prepared, maybe.


Saturday, November 04, 2017

When the expected unexpected thing happens

I got a phone call on a Monday.

"I fell and broke my hip," says mom.

Great. Of course you did.

When we were deliberating whether or not we should take the offer to move, as you, dear reader may recall, worrying about my parents and their health and safety was at the top of my list.

What if they get sick, what if something happens to my mom and my dad doesn't know how to manage his medications. What if something happens to my dad and my mom is despondent and inconsolable.

I was in Maryland for a little over two weeks when I got this call. I wondered if I jinxed us by worrying at all in the first place, or if it was just statistically inevitable at this point.

Both of my parents have had relatively good luck health wise. My dad only recently started getting sick and having issues, and my mom has really only had bronchitis which landed her in the hospital. All told, they don't get out much, don't do much, don't behave in a risky manner. Aside from decades of smoking and my dad's drinking. I have to admit I've always been surprised a little that they've made it into their 70s.

But on that fateful Monday, the trash barrel started to roll away down the slope to the road and my mom chased it, instead of just letting it go and landing wherever it decided to land. And in chasing, she took the spill, landing on her left hip.

She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where X-rays and examinations revealed the break, up high on her pelvic bone. She said repeatedly "If you're gonna break your hip, that's the place to do it!"  And I guess it is true because your hip joint isn't involved, so no joint issues or leg issues.

Surgery was on that Wednesday, and the doctors told my sister it went very well. Linda drove up on Wednesday afternoon, I flew in on Friday. I picked up Jess and we were able to have good fellowship with my sister and my dad. We visited with a friend of mine from college who lives literally around the corner from my parents, and adores them. She has offered to do them many tasks and duties - and I didn't get to see her before we left for our move so it was great to connect. And I knew she'd be a good neighbor to have.

My parents frequent a bar/restaurant in their town and due to my mom's chatty-Cathyness, they've made a lot of friends. I began getting notifications from strangers saying that they were bringing my dad to visit her, or they were taking food to my dad. People were making sure that everything was operating as well as can be expected.

When I was in the hospital, we had all the church ladies and friends stepping up to offer help for Doug (who basically refused things because he's pretty capable. He can grocery shop, cook, and clean... but my dad is a whole different person). We had that community, and initially, I thought it was weird that "strangers" from a bar would be my parents' equivalents of that kind of fellowship. It began to sink in that this is where they "worship" as it were. A few times a week, dad plays Keno, mom chats with everyone and sings "Born to be Wild" at the bartender named Shorty (her real name is Cheryl).

They have their community. It's a little different than what I have had, but it is no less powerful, loving, and responsible a fellowship. So I'm incredibly thankful for that back-up safety net of people. One of the waitresses told me on the phone that "these aren't our patrons, they're our friends." And that made me happy.

Mom is doing well and the PT says she is kicking ass. She's a motivated-to-go-home person, very unlike a lot of people who end up in PT at age 73. She says she is sore all the time because she's working so hard at this, but I told her that's to be expected when all you've done for about 40 years is drive a car, smoke cigarettes, and sit at your computer. No offense intended. But if you're not even carrying groceries into the house you're not getting much of a workout, so yeah... you're gonna be sore.

And especially when your legs need you to use your upper body strength to get around, by wheeling your own wheelchair or pushing your walker around, welcome to that reality.

They are planning to send her home next week, which is good for her. And soon she'll be back at their bar, welcomed like a returning hero from the fray.

I was hoping to fly back up after she got sprung from the hoosegow, but I'm not sure we can afford it. We're suddenly very low on money here, and it is a little nervewracking. First, Doug bought Geoff a really nice, really really nice bed. I mean, Wow. He needed a new bed, and the temporary air mattress he was using sprung a leak. But I didn't expect that my husband would go to the store and buy a bed for him as expensive as this is. "It has a 20 year warranty!" he says to me. "He'll be 40 when this bed is worn out! Think about that!"

I don't really want to think about Geoff being 40, and me being 70. Thank you.

Expensive beds said,e we have to replace both of our cars because they won't pass inspection in Maryland (long story) but they probably would in Massachusetts (go figure). One of them sooner than the other. Geoff had a small accident this week with one of the cars - resulting in both side mirrors getting whacked off.

Picture this, if you will: He went to change lanes to the left, and someone clipped him, knocking out the driver's side mirror. He then over compensated and bonked the bus next to him (which he was trying to pass in the first place) and knocked the passenger's side mirror off. Bus left, other driver left, and Geoff was confused about what to do. So he just went to the gym and worked out hard because he was angry, and was sure we were going to kill him.

We weren't going to kill him. After all, the car was not going to pass inspection any who. I am just disappointed it wasn't the other car, the one with no heat and defroster.

Doug went and bought a new used car from a dealer, put a down payment on it and the dealer is replacing the windshield and doing the inspection.

And get this - in Maryland, you only need to get the car inspected once. And you never have to again. Never. It's kind of a stupid thing, they inspect 100 things, and can fail you on dumb things - but you never have to get it inspected ever again as long as you own it.

We can pick the car up when we can pay for it in full, which hopefully will be this week, once we (finally) get our security deposit back from our Landlord.

We had hoped to get a futon for the guest room and start building out the "office" that we'll have in there, and get bookshelves that are uniform and match (I gave away our old bookshelves to our church so the women's fellowship could use them for their quarterly yard sale out of one of the ladies' barns.

Oh, the freaking drama.

Aside from the Shirley hip excitement, and car disasters, things are going relatively well. I'm still not in love with being here, but my little house is cute and slowly slowly we are getting our shit together and organized. I realize Thanksgiving is just 3 short weeks away. My birthday is 2 weeks away. No fun trips to Montreal, but maybe a dinner out in DC or something. Or maybe just take out Thai since we can't afford much of anything else at this point. We'll see how that all shakes out.

Monday, October 02, 2017

And Now, I Live In Maryland

17 years on Long Island. Up to Massachusetts in 1984, with little side jaunts to Oregon and Atlanta. Back to Massachusetts in 1992. There ever since.

Until now.

I've told saga of our moving adventures twice before. This time, not as much saga. Having a company move you is a different world. The only problem this time was that I couldn't pre-clean a lot of things that I wanted to, so they got packed and moved, dusty. So now is the unpacking and cleaning portion of events.

Moving truck left on Thursday afternoon. Our initial plan was for me to start driving after the truck left, but I had a box of toys and things to give a friend, and she was to the north. She couldn't come down and get it, and the forecast was for rain - so I couldn't just leave it on the porch or in the garage.

Jess came with me to drive up to New Hampshire to drop off the box, and say goodbye. I took Jess home, and went to Carrie's to spend the night. Happily.

You know you have a good friend who makes you a cocktail and bacon & waffles at 11:30pm because she is worried that you did not eat.

The following morning, I still had a few things back at the old place to swing back and get, because of the stuff that I took to New Hampshire. Carrie came back with me and we did a swing through to gather items and trash to put out on the corner. The girl I hired to clean came to the house so we chatted with her a little while. And then it was time to go.

Except I had a box of bank statements and tax returns and items with our social security numbers on them, that I never got to bonfire one last time. I gave them to my neighbor Beth, and asked her to burn them. She agreed, and then she said ...

"What on earth happened to your eye?" 

My eye? I have no idea. I have showered in the past couple of days but Lord knows I have not looked at myself in a mirror. I got in the car again, and pulled the visor down. My right eye was solid red, pretty much to the whole left side (towards my temple).

The hell?

I tried to figure out what could have happened. I literally could not remember hitting myself or getting anything big in there. I know I got a little dust in there and rubbed my eye, but seriously - in 50 plus years I've never done anything like that. There was no pain, no obstruction to vision... but I had to go to my family doctor because what if... what if something was seriously wrong.

I drove the 1/2 hour to Jess' house - she was coming with me on the ride, thankfully. I've learned I just do not see well in the dark, and it is good to have a co-pilot. We called the doctor and they said they could squeeze me in at the beginning of the lunch hour - someone would take a look. So 40 minutes to the South East to my doctor, and luckily when your doctor has been your doctor since you were 19, he has a special affinity for you.

He looked and tested - put a drop in my eye to see if there was an abrasion. He told me that it is basically a bruise. I either must have bumped my eye, or that tiny bit of dust - rubbed my eye too hard to try and dislodge it. The blood thinners probably played a factor in this, but I'm uninjured. Just weird looking.

He said that it would probably take a week or two to clear up.

Great to hear - no damage. And now we are two hours behind schedule. But that's okay. That's alright, that's okay.

Hopped back in the car and drove like mad. Got down to the NY/Connecticut line just in time for rush hour. Waze told me to get off the highway and cut through Yonkers. Having never done that in my entire life, it was a little nerve-wracking. But we avoided a lot of traffic, and got down to Riverside Drive and onto the George Washington Bridge quickly. Traffic was a little heavy on the Jersey side - we sat by Met Life Stadium yelling about my machine being stuck in the mud way down in the swamps of Jersey.

After a while though, the rest of the trip flowed quickly. Philly - boom. Gone. Delaware bridge - zip. Done. Hello Maryland. Hello.

We got here around 11 pm. I was so exhausted. I didn't sleep well because we were on an air mattress (thankful for it, since floors are hard) and my dog spent the night pacing.

Jess was in the guest room which we flipped back and forth calling it "Jess' Room" and the "Guest Room" or the "office" so it turned into the Jest Room.

Movers arrived on Saturday morning - and unpacked all the boxes from the truck. And that's it. Done. Here. Maryland with my dog, my family, and my boxes.

Jess was helpful, Geoff has been more than helpful, and Doug built our bed, which hasn't been built for a couple of years. We've kept the mattress and boxspring on the floor for years, but now... Hello Bed. Hello.

Notes from this move:

  1. For the first time in many years, I actually felt somewhat in control and organized. Doug thought that was funny, because he isn't seeing it that way. But screw that, I literally think I know where everything is. 
  2. Except the Roku, the remote for the TV and the emergency back-up DVD player. 
  3. I said it before and now it is official - never moving myself again. Paying for someone to do it forever. Happy my company picked up the tab for this. But next time, I'm happily footing the bill.
  4. I should have cleaned a lot more stuff in advance of the move... Things are dusty and dingy in this bright white clean space. The moving company told me not to unload stuff from the cabinets, and I listened. I should have cleaned, and I should have washed every last thing. 
  5. The cleaning girl I hired to clean our place did a great job (with the material she had to work with. Our place was a dingy old mess). My landlord was so impressed he wanted her to clean the other half of the house on Saturday before the new tenants moved in there on Sunday. I don't think that worked out though. 
  6. I am hiring a once a month cleaner.
  7. Still purging things. 
  8. Not unpacking books at this time. Usually that is the first thing I unpack but I think now, they're in the basement in storage and I'm okay with that.
  9. My kitchen is too small. We have way too much kitchen stuff. We need shelving. 
  10. We left behind one piece of furniture which right now I wish to hell I had not. Geoff had a palate style bookcase that we got years ago - and it would be the absolute perfect height and depth and width to go next to our fridge. Doh. 
  11. My dishwasher is noisy.
  12. My washing machine is tiny! I'm so sad about that fact... 
  13. It is very quiet here - much quieter than my "country" house, even though we are in the city.
Doug discovered a little bar where they make the crispiest chicken wings, and toss them in Old Bay. And yes - everything. Every. Single. Thing. Here in Maryland has Old Bay on it. I really want some right now. 

People have asked about the house. It is a corner lot, and street parking. The one thing we wanted that this house didn't have was a driveway. We can live with that. A lot of the neighborhoods in the area have houses that are very close to one another, and this neighborhood is spread out nicely, without everyone having huge yards or anything. So parking is not an issue, and it is nice to know my son does not have to try and parallel park in a snowstorm.  

When you walk in the front door, to your left is a nice living room with a fire place, and to the right are two bedrooms (one bigger than the other) and a rather small bathroom. There is a linen closet by the second bedroom, and the living room has a spacious coat closet. We will be using the second bedroom for guests and an office. 

Walking further into the house, there is a nice sized dining room, and when you turn left you are in the kitchen. I wish it was open format - the kitchen feels way too small. The kitchen itself has all brand new, labels still on, IKEA cabinetry and a new fridge. The gas stove is a little older and was well used in the past. Turning right out of the kitchen, you go down a few steps to the left to a three-season porch, where we will probably put out some party furniture and lights, and enjoy that space. 

If you turn right, instead of going out onto the porch, you go down to the large, finished basement. There is a bedroom, tons of storage (closets for days) and a 3/4 bath. This is Geoff's domain. He has everything he'd need down there except a kitchen, so he feels completely independent and happy with the space of his own. The washer and dryer are down there, and everything is nice... it isn't a scary, gross basement like our last house. A proper, honest living space. 

Oh and speaking of Doug, he likes his job, his commute isn't too hellish, he says. He's home from work, and he is ready to find some dinner. Perhaps some wings with Old Bay on them. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Go Tits Up

We had a little adventure last night.

Phase 1 was complete, we got Doug down to Maryland and he enjoyed his first week in the new house and the new job. The plan was for him to fly home here on Friday (last night) and come to my office to pick me up after what would probably be a fun/bittersweet/sad night of saying goodbye to my people.

Text at about 6pm says his flight is delayed at least 2 hours, meaning he wouldn't land until after 10pm. I knew there was no way we'd be hanging out at the office that late so I was about to suggest he take the bus home, and I pick him up there when he told me he was going to jet over to the other counter and try to get the flight to Manchester NH.

Success. But, I had to leave the party to go get him. Thankfully I had only one beer before this transpired.

Co-workers helped me put stuff into my car, and lots of hugs and smell ya laters transpired. Amazingly, I didn't cry.

Got a text from Doug saying "taxing the runway. I'll race you." I told him "It's on."

I arrived in Manchester in time to actually see his flight landing. U2 live concert blaring from the speakers, I pulled into the cel phone lot and texted that I was there waiting for him. He texted back saying he'd call from the curb and I could come pick him up.

I turned the engine off, and waited. U2 still blaring from the speakers.

Ten minutes later, I went to start the car and got nothing but clicks - and then the alarm went off. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Doug called asking where I was.

"Houston, we have a problem," was my reply.

He walked over to my location. I had turned the car all the way off, let it rest, tried again - nothing. I got out, set the alarm, unset it, got in, tried again - nothing. Doug did the same - nothing. We called AAA and the guy tried to jump the battery. He said it was 100% drained - but all my interior lights and the radio were still working. The click click click part of things sounded to me like a starter problem. But he had no way to test that.

After about an hour - we opted to have it towed to our mechanic (Thank you AAA plus) and rented a car to drive home with.

Over the past 30 years, Doug and I have gotten to the point where we don't rattle easy. I know I posted a while back about our little pick up truck, check engine light, and "Born to Run" singing while we gunned it up the highway just hoping to get our asses home one summer night. We take a deep breath - and we just go.

While waiting for AAA we had good conversations about what our new Plan B was going to be, since they (Doug and Geoff) needed this vehicle to drive to Home 2 with. We decided he, the boy, and the dog and a car load of our things would go down. I'd stick around here as I was planning to do, only now I'd drive instead of fly on Friday. Our car is with our mechanic. I have a rental to get through the next couple of days and the list of things I have to do. And I'll head down either Thursday afternoon and break the trip up with a visit to my sister, or, one fell swoop on Friday. We'll see.

This morning, I gave my last tour of our church to an actual Lord and Lady from the British Parliament, so that was kind of neat. They were lovely and funny.  I had considered canceling my being tour guide on this day, giving it to someone else. I'm glad I kept it. It was a wonderful way to end our time here, especially at this church.

Doug just called and said they made it to the house, Geoff is settling in, and they are going to find some food and enjoy their first night at the house. So I'm happy to hear from them, and happy they are safe.