Traveling

Inspired by….Ragtag Daily Prompt Quench

I used to really enjoy traveling.

Even when I was a little kid. Despite the fact that I got carsick, I enjoyed the excitement of discovering the unknown. Even if it just meant the next “tourist trap” as my father described Country Stores and such. We didn’t go on many family vacations but they were always memorable for one reason or the other. One was the coin operated vibrating bed in a cheap motel room somewhere. I shoved a coin in the slot, pushed the button and surprise!

Fast forward a few decades. Air travel was exciting then. There was security of course, but we could bring any food and drinks right through all the checkpoints. Family members accompanied us to the departure gate and waved goodbye.  Even 20 years ago, a cross country flight was not the hassle it is now. I didn’t think twice about the process. And I could run without gasping for breath to the gate for my connecting flight.

Now it is stressful – at least for me. My adult children are faintly annoyed by this (well, perhaps more like eye-rolling annoyed). They don’t understand…because they have mostly known air travel post 9/11.  I remember when it was easy. They do not.

So here I am. High anxiety 2 days out. Making lists. Everywhere.

Getting ready to fly to see my grandson – all 2 ½ years of him. And his parents too, of course — who need some childcare help while the daycare is closed for a few days. Grandma to the rescue. So to speak rescue. Well, Grandma is trying her best to get her travel act together. For a 4 day visit. Let’s see….
Make a list –
What will fit in the carry-on….that I can lift and drag/wheel through the airport including the ladies room. Along with my tote bag, purse, computer, etc.
What do I need…what don’t I need….
Back cushion!! Don’t forget that.
Special goodies for the kiddo.

What about the weather! High anxiety 2 days out.

Ridiculous.

I wonder if this is a sign of advancing age…the inescapable fact that my body is just not responding to my commands as it used to. Sitting. Standing. Stairs. All harder. Trying to find safe foods to eat on the road…gluten free because I have to.
What the heck.

However what I do know for sure (thank you, Oprah) is that I miss the sight of this little one who I last saw in person…walking down my hall in June. It’s the ache in my heart that won’t calm on its own.

So, until his little family moves closer – about 500 miles closer – I will quench my thirst for this bundle of love and limitless energy.
By powering through this travel thing.
To see him. And his parents too.
FaceTime is all very well and good,
But nothing beats a real hug and sloppy 2 year old kiss.

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see ya next time Grandma

 

 

I Voted

ivoted.jpgAs I drove towards the polling location this morning, I was thrilled to wait in a long line of cars to turn in to the parking lot.

Up and down the packed rows of cars I went, looking for an open parking space. Unlike the usual me, I felt no aggravation or need to complain under my breath.

The clouds and misty drizzle didn’t dampen my spirits as I parked. And walked by crowds of supporters holding campaign signs. Peacefully. Democrats on one side of the walkway. Republicans on the other side.

I was smiling as I waited in line behind other voters once I got inside the building…the town’s former high school. Tables side by side divided up voters via the alphabet — first letters of last names.

There were men, women, children, babies – all patiently waiting. Rows of red, white and blue curtained voting booths also waiting throughout the old gymnasium. I made it to the check-in person, showed my driver’s license and received my ballot – yes, here we have paper ballots as long as your arm. A black sharpie also waited inside each booth. To fill in the empty circles beside all the hopeful candidates’ names.

I am always filled with a sense of awe at this moment. At the privilege – and the right – of having my voice actually count. It is only one voice, but it is as important as that guy in front of me in line. And as important as the young mom holding the curly headed baby in the line to my left. The perfect equalizer. That not everyone in this world has.

Just before I turned 18, the voting age was changed from 21 to 18, courtesy of the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution (which followed the crucial 19th Amendment 51 years earlier…also making my vote possible). When I actually turned 18, I registered to vote at my high school. We had passionately discussed the significance of this change in History class and amongst ourselves. After all, there were 18, 19 & 20 year olds headed to Vietnam who should at least be able to vote.

I haven’t missed an election since.

When my two children turned 18, I took them soon after to our city hall to register. My son registered on his actual birthday – the next day was election day. And we both went together. “Did you get your absentee ballot?” I’d ask each of them every year when they were in college. We are lucky in this country, I tell them. We have a voice.

Use it.

Falling

Falling

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I never worried about it when I was younger. I fell all the time as a kid. Off my bike. Off my skateboard. Running and jumping.
I’ve got the shiny scars to prove it.  On my chin. Forehead. Wrist. Knees. Falling down: bruises, scrapes and sometimes stitches. But that was it. Within days (or less) I was back to my normal fearless self, good as new. Or at least it felt like it.

The bouncing back of youth. I took it for granted.  I was only really scared once: I tripped and fell while carrying a half gallon glass bottle of milk…rushing up the front cement stairs at dusk. That fall – onto broken glass – led to an emergency room visit…and thank god you didn’t cut your artery, you could have bled to death…That popped my eyes open on the ER bed.  I’ve got 2 scars on my right hand & wrist from those stitches. I was 11.

Decades later, it’s all about so much more. The consequences are now totally different.

The television commercial showcasing “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” is not really funny at all. Perhaps it only amuses a younger audience. I used to laugh too. But now I think, There but for the grace of God…

Both my Oma and Opa fell in their condo – the same day – and couldn’t get up; eventually crawling to reach a phone. Back before cell phones. They were forced to call my mother – closest geographically and their only child – effectively ending a 5 year simmering I’m-not-talking-to-them feud. Not quite worth the silver lining. They went from hospital to nursing home.

Within the next 10 years, my mother slipped and fell down the garage stairs, breaking her hip; triggering a decline in her health and functioning. My mother-in-law fell in the nursing home she was living in; broke her hip and then decided never to walk again. My father slipped and fell down an icy driveway, shattering his hand in multiple places. Their stories are not unique.

Now here I am in my “golden years” living in an “over-55” condo development. All the units are one level “garden style” type. We moved here for many reasons, but the biggest reason we chose this particular living arrangement? To reduce the risk of falling. No stairs to climb in our unit.
No guarantees though – stairs or no stairs. One of our new neighbors recently fell in the bathroom and will be immobile for many months. One fall and your life takes a different path. One you wouldn’t have chosen voluntarily. A few stitches or ice packs is not going to fix you anymore.

Of course not everyone “of a certain age” carries the same risk (and catastrophic falls can happen at any age); but it increases as time goes on. Falling can mean the end of having control over where you go, how you get there, what you do. Your world gets smaller and smaller. And often more painful.

But I wonder if worrying about it and being careful shrink your world as well? Where’s the fine line between sensible precautions and obsessive worry? There has to be a balance.

Recent condo association board meetings have had agendas full of “how to decrease liability.” Irate owners shouting We need speed bumps because people drive too fast. Someone will get hit, fall down and we’ll be liable. Others: Get rid of the speed bumps because people are tripping over them and falling and we’ll get sued. Or fix the sidewalk before someone falls…and we’ll get sued.

They are afraid. And not just about lawsuits. I’m convinced it’s not all anger…really. It’s fear. It’s about what can happen when you fall.  It’s fear masquerading as anger – on both sides.

In the backs of our minds, it’s there. I know I can’t be the only one, as I am on the younger side of the demographic here.

One fall and twist of the hip.
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Or arm.

Or leg.

One break.

Life changes.

 

The Day Everything Changed

September 11, 2001

In my lifetime, this is the day everything changed.

We are being attacked!
I heard my coworker yelling as she ran down the hall past my office. I worked in a hospital at the time and yelling in the halls was unusual. And disturbing.
Planes are hitting buildings in New York City!

It has become one of those awful “where were you?” moments. The horrific alteration of reality that gets seared in memory.

Must call family. Must connect. My daughter – a college sophomore on the east coast. My son in the 8th grade. My husband at home. My parents called him. My siblings. My friend in DC. My friend in NYC. The need to wrap oneself around loved ones as we watched the horror, the fires, the smoke, the pain unfold on television – over and over and over and over.  Hope draining away as the hours dragged on.

Emails flew through cyberspace.  Are you okay? Are you okay? My good friend who lived close to NYC frantic to help in some way. A doctor, she made ready to go to Ground Zero. But there was nobody to save. Was on call for helping at hospitals but no living to care for…she wrote to me.

Such profound loss.
Since then life has been divided: Before 9/11 and After 9/11.
A whole generation of children are now growing up under the cloud of what happened that bright sunny day in 2001. Its aftermath. Its fallout.

My heart breaks, still, for those thousands of innocents who died that day. And for their families. And for the first responders. And their families.

Soon after that day in 2001, the nation was called upon to light candles together in remembrance and solidarity. It was a time of unspeakable tragedy and for a brief time…there was unity. We stood on our small deck with a candle. A moment of silence.

I drove to work a few days later and saw a big American flag newly attached to the top of a huge crane – at the construction site for the hospital’s addition project. Similar to the ones at the WTC.

~~~

As a child, I hid under my school desk. Practice drills. Crouched low with head down. In case we were attacked. Then we weren’t. And life went on much as before.

That won’t work anymore.

This morning, the news networks held a moment of silence at 8:46 am to mark when the first plane hit.

Today is a Tuesday, as it was in 2001.

We must never forget.

 

 

lights

Everybody thinks that the most important thing in life is cash. It’s not. It’s your health.

So said Dan in a recent conversation.

Dan is our electrician. He stopped by last week to look at our new condo. We needed his ideas about installing a ceiling light in the second bedroom. It could have been done during construction, but we’d wanted to keep costs down. Not smart in the long term. But Dan didn’t put it that way…

“You’d rip up that nice new sheetrock and never get it looking this good again.”

Okay, Dan, you’re right. Skip the ceiling light, but our aging eyes need more light at the flip of a switch. And our aging brains didn’t think it all the way through.

“Try wall sconces” he suggested. “Those would be simpler – won’t damage the walls.”  We agreed to visit a local lighting store and check some out.

One other thing…”We also need some dimmer switches here in the dining area. It gets too bright.” The apparent contradiction of the 2 lighting requests didn’t faze him. Dimmer switches are an easy fix.

“So how do you like living here?” Dan remembered our previous suburban home and recognized the significant life change we had made. He was perhaps 10 years behind us in age and lived out in the country. We now live in a multi-unit condo complex close to a busy state highway.

“I like it…it’s much less work….but I miss the quiet.”

We talked about the unending responsibilities of home ownership and snow removal and such. And why, for various reasons, my husband and I made this move. Entered into a mortgage again. Realized we needed to conserve our strength. I needed to avoid another fall off the deck while removing ice dams from the roof. No more climbing stairs down to a basement and up to a second floor. A shorter commute to work.

As time goes on, our physical limitations come into starker view. And we need to pay attention.

He described a recent evening at his home – windows open – all he could hear were the crickets. He just can’t give that up. As he gets older, it may get harder to keep up with his home’s needs, but…as long as he stays healthy it will be okay.

Same here, Dan, same here.

Grammy and Papa

Weeeeellllll, I sure like those crispy things!

Grammy, my paternal grandmother, was born and raised in Tennessee. She often unwittingly entertained me with her distinctive southern accent…and dietary habits. And observations about life. She loved to fish, pick walnuts, hickory nuts, berries and eat fried food (especially at the Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips near my home)…hence the favorite crispy things/bits left on fried fish. Oatmeal bread was too “rich” for a slice of toast. The best part of a leftover roast from dinner was what rose to the top in the broth amongst the congealed fat — which, once cooled, she poured over cold cereal for an evening snack. An expert seamstress, she sewed Barbie clothes for my sister and me; as well as long colorful “dress-up” dresses embroidered with rick rack and lace. She crocheted orange coasters for my wedding gift in the 1970’s. And over many years, she mended our countless “holey” socks, ripped seams and torn play clothes when she visited.

Grammy and my grandfather Papa, lived in Cincinnati, Ohio in a large house (or at least it seemed large to me) set on a hill. We made the trip from NY and NJ several times in my early childhood to visit them and my mother’s relatives as well. It was always an adventure: my sister, brother and I stretched out in the rear of the station wagon – back seat flattened out – supposedly to sleep during the long trip. We would leave around 9:30pm.  This was the 1950’s and 1960’s when the risk of kids flying through the air from a sudden stop wasn’t on the parental radar. Not sure how much sleep we actually got amidst the rolling around and poking each other. I do remember being somewhat awestruck by seeing the stars in the night sky out the window. The worst part of those trips: when I threw up out the window due to my tendency to get car sick. (at least I hope it was always out the window)

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circa 1956-57 Ohio
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circa 1956-57 Ohio

 

Papa was from the Chicago area, and met Grammy passing through her small country town on a train while working as a lumber inspector. He wooed her to Cincinnati, but she forever missed her southern home. And she missed her sisters and brother and fishing holes and woods.

The last time I saw Papa was in 1964 after one of those long car trips.

diary july 1964

Several weeks later he died unexpectedly at the age of 78.

What do I remember about my Papa?

He was a quiet man with kind eyes. He took me – just me! – for walks down his street when we visited (perhaps to buy the newspaper?). During one of those walks, he stopped, plucked a wide grass blade from a nearby patch, positioned it between his thumbs and showed me how to whistle through it. I was amazed. He plucked one for me and waited patiently until I was able to whistle all by myself. He taught me how to play chopsticks on their piano. And in their kitchen, we’d sit across from each other by the window and play double solitaire.

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circa 1958-59 New Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

spring has sprung

I love this time of year. It seems like anything is possible! Trees are coming back to life; tiny buds one day and full bloom the next (or so it seems). Hardy evergreens – the storm and snowplow survivors – are still standing. The green leaf beginnings of iris and other “mystery” plants poke out of the soggy ground. Every day they reveal themselves a little more.

So much snow this past winter. At times it would have been hard to imagine it gone.

Early yesterday evening as the light was getting low, I caught some of my favorite trees against a blue sky.

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