Sunday, July 30, 2006

A London tale told in haiku

Yes, I'm busy sorting and packing for my big move. I came to a pile of old emails and paused. Pack rat that I am, my hoarding does have its moments of reward. I found myself reading through travel notes and poems which I'm so glad I saved.

Daughter, baby granddaughter and I had flown to London two years ago which, in itself, is quite a story. At the moment all you have to know is that Hannah was ten months old and screamed a lot, on the plane and while we were traipsing about. We got to see Jenn's close friends in Kent, travel to Brighton Beach, visit an English garden estate, and return to Jenn's college flat in Shepherd's Bush and reminisce.

Homebase was a lovely cottage in the tiny town of Tonbridge from which we could walk to the train and venture into London as one of our many day trips. However, day tripping with a baby began to wear on both me and daughter, Jenn. Add to that, a baby who was nursing and a camera that had dropped on a tile floor and took some damage. We turned to poetry to relieve our stress. Below are some excerpts from one extremely long excursion into bustling London, a day which stretched us to our limits. In retrospect, it also brought us closer.

How to Kill Twelve Hours in London
A Three-Generation Literary Adventure

Jenn's Thoughts

Infant, I beg you
Do not choke on the biscuit
No one will aid us

If you lick the glass
Of the train window again
You will drink Purell

Nurse her on the train?
Car of frowning Englishmen
Rock, hard place, and me ...

London with baby
Only disabled homeless
Enjoy themselves less

Spitalfields Market
Baby bawls and Grandma gripes
We buy marked-down cakes

O, lively market
Sequins, rosettes, fashion blooms
I am large and dull

Still at Spitalfields
Masochists. Why is it that
Only my babe cries?

The famous Christ Church
Sir Christopher Wren, I say
Mother curls her lip ...

A thousand cafes
Cold wind, grey sky, camera broke
Spent, we choose Starbucks

The Tube. Hannah howls.
I pray hard for diversion
Rob me, pickpockets

Vacation? Pleasure?
With the baby and my mom?
This is pilgrimage

Eight tenths of a mile
Tonbridge station to cottage
New muscle group found

Fish and chips tonight
Fried cod longer than my shin
Eat it all? I do.

The smell of neglect:
Seven hours of urine
In a cheap nappy

“You bathe her.” “No, you.”
Hannah gets a bedtime bath:
Hand sanitizer

Three thousand miles
From home, routine. Funny that
All I want is sleep

My Thoughts

Daughter writes the tale
Hyperbole comes to mind
New “reality”

Only grief and woe?
Gen X meets Baby Boomer
Aware of complaints

Perception is key
Baby is interference
Screams and impatience

Rushing to appease
Camera falls on hard ground
Baby Boomer sighs

Costly things do cost
But which is of more value
Memories of what

Meltdown moments fade
Baby licking ice cream cone
Pigeons sunning selves

Castle on a hill
Camera works as before
Storm clouds threatening

Racing baby home
Standing at the window’s ledge
Giggling at the rain

Baby turns and smiles
Values quickly fall in place
Travel becomes joy

Inconvenience pales
Meaning resurrects itself
Sun returns from clouds

Camera is scratched
Worn down and out like daughter
Still captures the truth

Moments of magic
Glowing sun over chimneys
Baby falls asleep

Daughter takes to bath
Grandmom sits amidst the peace
Cottage holds all three

Life as a journey
Movement, tension, too much haste
For now all is calm

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tote that barge and lift that bale

To tell the truth, I wouldn't mind getting a little drunk right now. The weekend is here and I have exactly three sets of Saturdays and Sundays to get my act together, clean out the apartment and move on up to the Berkshires. In between the weekends, I'll still be working full time at my present job.

I have no idea who these people are but the photo reminded me of my friends - good souls all who are dropping by at one time or another these next three weekends and letting me use them as indentured servants.

One dear cyber-friend is driving up for an entire weekend just so that we can finally meet before I move even farther from her home state! I promised to feed her and provide lodging for the night. She, a younger and stronger gal, has promised to climb ladders and share my power drill to remove all hardware from walls. We'll be rolling rugs and boxing books and probably LOL all the time. Thanks a bunch, geo! You get a free limo ride one day when we attend one of Jenn's premieres in NYC.

Let me confess now that I am a hoarder. I breed paper. I'm sentimental about emails. I will have to make some tough decisions this weekend. Maybe I can follow what I just began at work. I really jumped in today and cleared one corner of my office and it was quite satisfying to see two large industrial-strength bags of trash outside my door. It took about two minutes to decide to ditch all my old teacher's notes from past semesters. Been there, did that.

Here's to letting go!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Welcome to the family, Iris!

Iris Kathryn made her debut on the west coast this past week. It was a home birth and my darling daughter-in-law brought forth my fifth grandchild surrounded by proud hubby (my son the doc) and baby's big brother and sister, Ben and Olivia. There were a midwife and a doula and Katie's mom and sister also present to add even more love and laughter and energy to the mix.

Ben is still safely ensconced as the Crown Prince of the family, now having to deal with two little sisters and two female cousins. I'm still remembering his "too many girls" comment last summer and laughing. The boy will need some serious male bonding.

I can't wait to see the newest addition. Word has it that she may actually look like our side of the family. After the move to the Berkshires, I'll have to track down some frequent-flyer air miles and cash in. Being so far way at times like this is difficult but knowing that the clan is growing is a reward in itself.

It's been a very good week.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oh Hillary why did you fail?

I need to rant.

I'm following my North Star but it seems that health-care coverage will be left back on the trail. Tell me why a federally-mandated program like COBRA has this cute little clause in it that prohibits my getting on the program in Massachusetts because I'd have to have a Pennsylvania PCP (primary care physician) assigned! Now isn't that the stupidest thing ever? Next best thing is shelling out over $550 per month on a "basic individual" HMO plan which still doesn't cover prescriptions.

There's gotta be a better way. This venting does not mean I'm regretting my decision to pack it all up and get out of Dodge. Hell no! But I'm frustrated at this turn of events.

I'm getting an education on the plight of millions of my fellow citizens who, like me, are stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to medical insurance. I plan to stay healthy for the time being and start looking for a fulltime job sooner rather than later.

Appreciate feedback and innovative solutions.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More takin' care of business

I've been in the Berkshires all week, tcb. I feel like one small step has been made towards the giant leap I'm about to take. I found a roomy apartment close to daughter which will welcome most of my furniture and belongings. No little thing.

I pared down drastically when I sold my house several years ago and now I'd like to keep the few pieces of furniture that are left. They include an old desk and rocking chair from my parents and several bookcases, computer desk, bedroom bureaus which I put together with my Sears variable-torque power drill. One of the first things I invested in after the divorce was a shiny red tool box and a cordless drill. It paid off. I managed to save money by buying various items and assembling myself. This was quite a feat for a woman who usually depended on a man to handle this kind of stuff. The furniture may be humble but the feeling of pride from doing it myself was priceless.

One of my favorite posters is the WWII print of Rosie the Riveter reminding "We can do it". My dad was a wartime supervisor in a steel-production plant. His assembly line consisted of many "Rosies". He once told me that after the war he hated to lose such terrific workers. The women were tough and dedicated and quick to learn a new skill. They produced a quality product. I wonder if they were content to return to their own homefront after the war as the men returned to the positions in the factories. That may be another story for another time.

As Jenn mentions in her blog, it has been almost twenty years since she and I have lived in the same city. I had not even realized that. It was a revelation to think that when I sent my firstborn off to an out-of-state college in 1988, I really was giving her wings to fly away. So now we'll be neighbors and I'll get my cardiovascular workout walking up the hill to visit daughter and family.

Thanks for all your notes of support! There is still much to do but at least I know where I'm landing in August.

Friday, July 07, 2006

You can't go home again

Isn’t that a famous quote? I wasn’t convinced of its validity. Even after the divorce and selling of the house which held thirty years of family memories, I kept trying to go back.

Until this week.

I had to return to the old neighborhood to see my family doctor who happens to have his office at the corner of my old street. We lived right down the block and it was so easy to just walk over and tell a nurse what was happening. This was when the kids were little and managed care was just on the horizon. Life seemed so much simpler. The doctor and his young associate were accessible and friendly. Once a neighbor’s son had a heart attack in the driveway and good ‘ole Doc Welby came running. One of the reasons my son became a doctor was because of their good example. We had so much history together. They treated me, the kids, my mom and mom-in-law. As the years went by, they dispensed hugs and kisses along with the prescriptions. I love and respect these men. Often, the familiarity and comfort of just being in their presence was the panacea.

That was then. This is now.

This week I go into the office and am told that there have been some changes. The associate has left the practice. Managed care has managed to disrupt the expectation that he was going to be successor to the practice. It seems that once physicians buy into a health-care management system, they sell their souls to the corporate end of medicine and no longer are free to control outcomes. So Doc Welby and his sidekick are splitting up. More unsettling news – the older doctor is retiring. I get seen by a stranger, a somewhat harried but pleasant doctor who is just “filling in” until someone takes over the practice.

My two constants are gone. I don’t even get to kiss and hug them good bye. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Every time I went to the doctor’s, I went home. I found myself driving or walking past the old house, the house that welcomed me as a new bride, a new mother and a woman who believed that roots were important, family was important. This house was home to others in the family … elderly parents during times of crisis and transition. Our basement was turned into living space for my father-in-law as he became a new man and reconciled with his wife and family, and later housed my own mom as a new widow. Swings were hung in trees. Traditional Polish Christmas dinners and decorate-our-tree Christmas eves were celebrated. Choir practices in the living room. Pet menageries in the basement. There was a glorious energy to the house. In the end, there was an aching emptiness. Time to move on.

Even though I no longer lived in the neighborhood, in that house, I still felt connected. I always got a visceral feeling when I returned. I could almost reach out and touch the memories which would come flooding back. Playing on the lawn with my daughter’s dog … walks in the park … huge snowstorms and digging out the street and driveway with the neighbors, many of whom had already moved or passed on.

Until this week.

I walked out of the doctor’s office, got into the car, and drove very slowly and deliberately past my house for one last look, one final goodbye. I may not have had the chance to say farewell to my dear doctors, but by God, I was going to make the chance to say goodbye to my house. I looked up at the dogwood tree and the front window, lights glowing behind the closed curtains, and I blessed this house and said thank-you. That was it. My gut stayed calm. There was no strong feeling pulling me any longer. The connection was broken.

And now I am packing and driving up to the Berkshires this weekend to find a new house and a new life, to plant some new roots and find some new connections.

I have a strong feeling that my family will be waiting there.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Light up the sky

It’s happening. I knew it would.

The euphoria of the decision to leave my old life and start up again elsewhere is starting to wane. Reality and the logistics of making this happen are settling in. It’s often hard for me to make a final decision but once done, I’m pretty good at following through. This thought sustains me for the challenging days ahead. I’m adding on to my “to do” list daily and methodically making important phone calls, setting appointments and taking care of business. I know where I’m headed by September. How I get there is up to me.

Thank God for family and friends. They are my support and pep squad - keeping me honest and keeping me on task. Shining stars, each and every one.

It’s a holiday weekend here in the states but I’ve decided to sit this one out. Instead, I’m planning budgets, sorting clothes, throwing out some baggage. I’m also thinking of my son and his wife who are about to bless me with another grandbaby … Jenn and David who are about to welcome me into their community … Louise, my dear new friend across the pond who has become part of the family … all my old friends and Polish cousins who have and will continue to sustain me through life’s ups and downs. I see them all in my mind. I see them smiling and waving me on. Godspeed.

They light up my sky just as vividly as the fireworks exploding on a warm summer’s night. Each one has a special trajectory in my heart. Each has a unique sparkle and glow.

No need to attend any of the pyrotechnics this Fourth of July. My sound-and-light show is self contained.