Wednesday, November 10
It was a bad time to take a few days off to drive down to Long Island and visit with the family. Two big shows in 2 weeks and not nearly enough stuff to make it worthwhile. I needed to be chained to my work table. But we needed to connect, see for ourselves, how things had changed since we were there last.
In July, everyone was well. (Or we thought we were). It was a festive time and it was a real kick for me, coming from a family you could count on your fingers, to see this virtual army of relatives descend. But now it was Fall and things had changed.
At first, all seemed well. We got in at night and everyone was heading for bed. Saturday morning seemed normal and the day was filled with visits from the sibs, lots of conversation and laughter. Political talk, medical talk, family talk. It may have been too much.
In the morning we had to go for breakfast quickly. No time to shower. Now. Now. She's afraid to stay here. Afraid to stay in a house you've lived in for 60 years? Off we went. And then we started to see it.
"Who is that sitting on your lap?" "Why is the waitress carrying all those flowers?" "Who is that man behind you?"
Well, I thought, she really is legally blind. Macular degeneration. The bad kind. That must be it.
But then, at home, she leaned over the table and whispered to me that people were coming into the house at night, taking it over and she didn't know why the landlord allowed it. They banged pots around and kept her awake. Then, in the morning, they left.
I said, no, that was Russell and me. We spent the night. We made tea after you went to bed. That was us you heard.
She narrowed her eyes and leaned closer. "I'm not stupid", she hissed, "I know you were here. THEY come every night. You didn't hear them?"
No, I didn't hear them, I thought. And I didn't see the little girl sitting on the couch and I know that nobody stole your tool shed and I know with certainty that a woman I loved like a mother is leaving my life. I can touch her. I gave her kisses when we left. Tight hugs. But she isn't there.
I wish I knew how to get her back. I miss talking to her, sharing good books to read, working crossword puzzles, debating politics and religion, gossiping benignly about people I never met.
We learn to accept the fact that we will lose people we love. But this loss breaks your heart in advance.
Meanwhile, theories are tossed about. Maybe it was the fall she took, maybe the green tea, maybe the cough medicine.
But, one voice, clear and strong says it is the cycle of life and we need to work on accepting that.
He's probably right, but few of us are ready to begin that work.
On the ride home, we talked about it some and pondered it a lot. There is so little anyone can do. So we will wait and see what happens next. It is an uneasy time.
Along Rte 17, signs were everywhere that the iconic roadside antique and flea market shop that has distracted drivers on their way to NYC for decades was closing. Big sale! Let's stop, I said, it may be gone the next time we pass by.
So we did. And bought a heavy iron coat hook thingy to hang by the back door. I wandered through the rooms, looking for the big sales, but most of their things were still too expensive for me. But interesting. Always interesting. I hope the new shop is on an interstate, too. A little piece of whimsy on the long, endless highway.
As we left I asked Russell to wait while I took a picture. To remember the place. I think the first time I stopped there was just before I started college. Could that be possible? Well, whenever it was, I certainly would never have been able then to imagine the shiny iPhone I was using to take the picture.
"The name of the place is sort of ironic this weekend, isn't it?" I asked Russell and we looked back at the sign.