You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

All Day yesterday I was focused on just one thing: the plane that woud bring my husband and my daughter home to Boston from their lengthy business conference 1,000 miles away.

Here’s how I felt about David in particular, my feelings nicely expressed in this classic song about a soon-to-be-home lover. Substitute ‘bridegroom’ for bride and that’s me.

I give you three great singers from the dawn of their careers  Shawn Colvin, Roseanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter singing Bob Dylan’s  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Gettin’ out that rockin’ char now!

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The Anguish, Again

Back Bay MagnoliasMonday was so lovely here in that way so much like the weather on September 11th. I suppose that thought came back to us all as we looked on images of blood fountaining all around the Finish Line.

Within minutes we all discovered we couldn’t make phone calls, whether on cell phones or landlines. The Boston.com site crashed so there was no news there. Thank God for Facebook and Twitter.

My firstborn child is in Florida this week along with her dad, my husband David, as well as another person from the company they both work for. She got through to me via text. “Is my family OK?” is all it said. (This is her family here.) She couldn’t get through to them.

That’s how it was for everyone with someone in Boston Monday as in anguish we looked on those images, wondering who were the poor unfortunates from whose bodies life and health both were so violently torn.

It was the same question we had on September 11th.

The planes all came out of Boston’s Logan Airport that day, you’ll remember. When I called David at work, he told me that three of their people flew out of Logan that very morning. The agonized question on everyone’s mind: were any of their plans the ones that hit the towers?

They learned the answer when the company’s travel agent called sobbing. He knew that the nicest man in the company was on Flight 175. His name was Bob Jalbert and anyone who knew him said the same. Here‘s his obituary.

September 11th happened on a Tuesday. The next day Bob’s son called David, and asked him to give the eulogy at the memorial Mass. American flags filled the funeral home. there and in the church the atmosphere was heavy with grief. We were still so in shock over the events of that awful day we reacted with surprise at the end of the service when the priest came down front and said, “Please. Take the flowers.” For there was no body and there was no grave.

What a thing it was for my David to be the one asked to stand and speak about his friend. He is a quiet man not given to public utterance. I imagine he might say that standing before that weeping assemblage to speak of his friend was the hardest thing he has ever had to do. What an impossible task to sum up the life of a person. What a burden. What a privilege.

Looking out at the signs of our slow New England spring I keep asking myself: Who are the people who will speak for these newly dead and wounded. And what can they say? What ever can they say?

This is Bob, glowing as he did all the days of his life.

JALBERT

Times Like These

On days like the one we saw yesterday it’s hard to know what to write, if, like me, you blog every day. Do you go for something light, to comfort people, or look it in the face? I mean the fear, the panic, the sudden loss of control you feel when all the phone lines go down as ours did within minutes after the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

‘Keep calm and do your work’ they say. That’s a challenge now for us all.

My personal moment of panic came when it suddenly hit me that our daughter Annie works right there on Newbury Street.

I tried to call her cell. No Answer.

I tried to call her office. No answer.

I could picture her wandering out onto the street to watch people come in; oh could picture her…..

But no. Her company takes the day off with all the thousands of people milling in there. She got lucky maybe.

But what would I do, what would I do if these pictures were the last I would ever take of her, as she smiled on Easter, as she sat on our bed with her sister’s baby?

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Three families will wake to that anguishing thought again this morning : the realization that they have taken their last photo of that loved one.

May God bless those families. May God bless us all as we try to heal from this last event.

Long Thoughts in the Quiet

the ivy is back-1I was alone all day yesterday – brought my man to the airport at 8am and felt such a tug leaving him there; not approaching the ticketing kiosk right alongside him.

Usually when I drive home from the airport I just know I’ll be finding my plants hanging over the edges of their pots, even though I gave them all a thorough soaking minutes before leaving. That’s how sunny this house is, with its big old windows admitting so much light (and wind and in summer the prying fingers of ivy that work their way right around the edges of the screens.)

But there were no thirsty plants this time because of course this time I had only been gone from the house for 30 minutes. I felt a dip of desolation in the pit of my stomach knowing I was alone here, and would remain alone for some days; but then something nice happened when the implications of that state became manifest:

Within two hours my head cleared and I realized I could think. I could both picture the week ahead more calmly than usual and I could reflect more clearly on the week just passed.

The week just past held a death, the news of which turned my legs to water as I learned of it in a text message as I stood pulling on my street clothes in the Women’s Locker Room at the Y.

The week just past also held a birth of a darling baby girl who I count as a new grandchild for David and me, though her parents are related to us not by blood but by the bonds of love.

I didn’t sleep at all Friday night while this little lady tried and tried to get herself born. At 3:30 Saturday morning, after the last text from the would-be dad spoke of fetal distress, all texting from him ceased – for hour after hour after hour. At 6am I was about ready to pull on my clothes and drive straight to the hospital.

But – finally – at 7:30 in the morning in came word of a safe passage: the child was here and she was perfect. The mother was safe and undamaged.

All this I was able to ponder yesterday: the arc of our lives, the great passages, the way joy and loss are so often tangled together in our experience.

In my solitude I worked all day, emptying a 12-foot-wide bookcase of its hundreds of books, dusting them and sorting and packing them in boxes until we get done painting the room in which they are displayed.

Behind the books I found a sheaf of sheet music that my former child Annie used for her recorder lessons. I found a copy of The Advocate, the literary magazine on whose staff my onetime boy-child Michael worked in college. I found a lock of hair belonging to my former fourth grader Carrie, my own firstborn, who has had from the beginning a mane of hair so thick and long the horses all envy her.

We have lived in this house for 34 years this month, their father and I. We look back and know that those years passed in a twinkling. Will we get another 34 years of life? Why not? I say. No way, says he.

Solitude just seems to invite ruminations: About birth, and death, and the way ivy will press its hands against your windows and stay all summer until the cold comes once again and turns them to scarlet and summons them earthward.

ivy at the windowå

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The Backward-Facing Seat

There she was again, the elderly woman I so often saw outside my uncle’s apartment building when I went there to take him out. Like him, she too would be waiting to be picked up by some member of the ever-hurrying younger generation. She was glaring at me, same as always.

I felt I knew why. It was because when Uncle Ed spotted me from the lobby and began trudging out along the 40 feet of canopied walkway, I would stay in the car. “What’s the matter with that girl?” I just knew the woman was thinking.

I looked away from her to wave at this 91-year-old uncle who was by then pulling himself patiently along with his cane.

“Why does she just SIT there?” I was sure she was thinking. “Why doesn’t she get out and help him?” So, this time, I got out of my car and approached her.“He won’t let me help him walk you know,” I said without introduction.  “He just won’t!”

He didn’t mind the assist once he got close to the car though. Then I would jump out, hug him, take his cane and stand ready to help him ‘come aboard’.

Crippled up as he was by arthritis in his hips, he would take this process very slowly, using his still-mighty arms to pull himself up into the air, pivot and then land, one haunch at a time, on the front seat.

Sometimes he could do this in one motion and sometimes he couldn’t.

When he couldn’t hoist the right half of his bottom successfully into place he would laugh and say, “Turn the other cheek!” then try hoisting the other.

Eventually, he’d be belted safely in place and we would drive off to eat our picnic and feast our eyes on all that passed before us as we sat by the Town Common or the little pond behind the library.

I was still standing next to The Woman Who Glared as these thoughts rushed through my mind.

“Really I’m just following orders,” I went on. “He also says ‘Don’t get out!’ when I bring him back here, and scolds me if I try. ‘I’ve taken enough of your time today!’ he always says.”

“I know you must think that I’m awful,” I concluded.

She looked at me and blinked.

“Awful?” she finally said. “That’s not what I think! I see you and think ‘How does she do this so often, coming to take him out all the time?”

I didn’t know how to answer her. Could I tell this stranger that I was trying always to atone for the fact that I had been so slow to understand about the loneliness of the shut-in? Could I tell her how remorseful I still feel not to have sensed the loneliness in my own mother, who only wanted to see me and be around me, but alas I was too  ‘busy’?

In my speechlessness I could only take and squeeze her hand, and now here was Uncle Ed, smiling and calling “Ahoy!”

I did not know on that early-April day in 2012 that this would be the last afternoon I would have with him; did not know that five days later I would find his poor body, fallen and cold in his neat-as-a-pin apartment.

We so often act as if we’re omniscient; we even imagine we can read the thoughts of others. But in truth we are like children in the backward-facing seat of those station wagons of yore, seeing only where we have gone and never, ever, where we are going.

Ed outside 190 High StEdward Haydon, 1920 -2012, outside his home

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Fun ‘n Drinks

IMG_1529What’s nicer than coming upon a gaggle of children playing on a swingset, when the sun is gold and the air is warm, and someplace deep inside folks’ houses, unseen grownups are performing the magic that will bring forth supper?

Three of the young ones in the  photo below are ‘mine’, meaning I am the mother to their mother, and three are new friends to me. In the shot above the two new-to-me lasses were demonstrating their mastery with swings.

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Just after I snapped that top one, three of the four little boys also worked their way into the picture frame, as you can see, while the fourth continue to describe dizzy circles on the bike that was right there in his driveway.

The minute I came upon this happy scene, ‘my’ three saw I had my yellow thermos with me. “Oo can I have some tt juice?” said the oldest.

“What’s TT juice?” the four new-to-me-friends asked, as one.

“It’s a drink TT invented,” said my oldest grandchild.

“I’m TT,” I said. “I’m the grandma. Hi!”

“We have an aunt we call TT! Hi TT!” they said. Then every kid there took a pull on the TT juice thermos.

“How do you make it?” they wanted to know as one after another took more swigs.

We talked of many things over the next 20 minutes and I took pictures, just with my phone cell which is why they’re not crisper, but one thing I did promise to do was set down the recipe, SO…. To make two quarts of TT juice:

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  • Use any large packet of powdered lemonade mix, adding just one quart and a half of water instead of two quarts. Stir or shaker until mix is dissolved.
  • Take one teabag of mint-flavored herbal tea and set it any microwave-safe cup large enough to hold the 12 ounces of water you will pour into it.
  • Microwave the tea-in-a-cup on high for two minutes.
  • Remove from microwave and let steep, discarding teabag once the tea has attained a nice mapley-syrup sort of color, then discard teabag.
  • Pour the tea in the shaker, adding ice.
  • Do all this again with a second 12 ounces of water and a second teabag and a second scoop of ice.
  • Shake it up baby.
  • Cool mix if there’s time; otherwise start enjoying then and there.

More zing than lemonade! Not too sweet! No calories! that is if you use Crystal Light, which admittedly has in it what my two male grandchildren call ‘cancer sugar,’ because that’s what their mum calls any artificial sugar, even Stevia . I think she’s  stretching it a bit there but what can I say? She, incidentally, was one of the grownups inside making the supper during all this. When she came out and saw our little communion service with the yellow thermos she said “you didn’t give any to the baby did you?”

“Nah,” I told her. “By the time she got to it there was none left.”

It’s just that good, and gives you just the refreshment you need to strike a pose look at life in all new ways.:-)

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Posters We Wish We Had Seen in Time

Sure wish I saw the notice of this event earlier –  like the day before the lecture took place instead of the day after .

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It just kind of speaks to a person, y’know? Do I know any psychopaths? you think.  Oh God, am I one? Am I that wold in sheep’s clothing? 

Not a  bad thing to examine your conscience like this now and then. Sure sorry I missed the lecture!

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