Or my upcoming trip to Kenya.
What are you doing for 4th of July, American readers?
It makes me sad not to know if I would have called her Grandmother or Granny or some other name.
It would not be Nana. That name was reserved for my mother’s mother. I never got a chance to call my father‘s mother anything; she died when I was less than a year old.
I have to use my imagination to fill in the gaps of my real life knowledge.
She comes to me in dreams sometimes.
Aunt Mar is in the kitchen of her old apartment of Parsippany. She greets me cheerfully, casually, as if only a few weeks without seeing each other have passed. If she’s at all surprised to see me, it doesn’t show.
Aunt Mar is making eggplant parmesan. Without looking, I know there’s one portion made with chicken already in the oven because she knows I don’t like eggplant. It is always made clear to me that I am her favorite, just as she is mine.
I am overjoyed to see her, but also confused. Hurt. Angry. Why had she had left me? I was only sixteen. I needed her so badly.
I want to scream “you died! How are you here?” But would speaking the words aloud pierce the veil and make my happy dream evaporate? I am afraid.
What do you think of me? Of this person I’ve become?
Do you still love me? I hope I haven’t let you down.
Where did you go? Please don’t leave again. I still need you.
I’ll be OK. I just love you so much.
I say nothing. I let her hold me in her arms like the child I used to be.
She comes to me in dreams sometimes. Just not nearly as often as I wish.
This weekend, I celebrated being back home in Brooklyn after a few days in my home state of Pennsylvania. These were some of the least restful vacation days, but I got lots of quality time with family.
Went to dinner with my friend Amanda at Corkbuzz. We had a wine flight of rosés to acknowledge the coming end of summer. My favorite was the Bisson Portofino Ciliegiolo ’12 (Liguria). The food was hit or miss unfortunately–and pricey.
Got a much-needed haircut here and afterward, a much-much-needed passport photo which, while acceptable, I will not be posting anywhere.
Other than the fact that I got my nails done and hate the color, it was a good weekend.
What did you do?
On Monday, once it was clear that my father was doing well post-procedure and would be released the next day, my mother made the trip north to Scranton while I stayed behind to wait for Dad‘s discharge. Her departure ensured that I got to watch The Bachelorette in the hotel.
On Tuesday, Dad was beyond eager to get home. After six days in a narrow hospital bed, being awakened at all hours for checks of his vital signs and numerous needle sticks, who could blame him? Dad desperately wanted to put on his own clothes and escape, but he still had a heart monitor on him and an IV port for medication delivery. While we waited for final orders, I used a lime popsicle to get him to behave and sit still.
Are all men children for life?
When he got sprung from
jail the hospital, we made a break for it.
Together we drove up the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mom’s Cadillac. Traveling by car with Dad is better than driving with my mother (sorry, Mom). He lets me control the radio and doesn’t criticize my driving.
In fact, he typically falls asleep for approximately 49% of any car trip. It’s only weird when he raises an arm and points zombie-like mid-snooze. Given how much he uses his hands when awake and talking, this should not have surprised me. Dad blames being Polish for that (and lots of other things).
We spent most of the drive tuned into XM-Sirius 90s’ station. Dad didn’t know TLC’s No Scrubs when it came on, but I noticed him tapping his toes to the music and took that as an invitation to give him the history of Chilli, T-Boz and most importantly, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, as well as to explain the concept of a ‘scrub.’
Dad is now fully on-board with the fact that women don’t want or need no scrubs. A scrub would get no love from him should I accidentally date one.
Telling Dad that Left Eye was the one who burned down Andre Rison‘s mansion really put the whole story into focus. He seemed appropriately sad when I told him that Left Eye died in a car accident in Central America.
I was about to tell him about T-Boz’s battle with sickle-cell anemia and Chilli’s history with Usher, but then Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s Good Vibrations came on and I had to keep up.
Dad had never made the connection between the actor he likes, Mark Wahlberg, and the dude who “sang” with a funky bunch and lifted cinder blocks on a barbell.
I didn’t bring up the wonderful Calvin Klein campaign. There are limits to the things I will discuss with my father. I did, however instruct Dad never to call Mr. Wahlberg “Marky Mark” should he ever meet the actor. Can’t have Dad’s handsome face getting punched.
After passing through the Lehigh Valley tunnel, we hit construction-related traffic. Neither of us were bothered. We had great tunes and even better conversation to help us pass the time.
I intend to drive my father around again when I’m back in Scranton in a few weeks. We haven’t yet exhausted the possibilities of 90s on 9, but there’s still the 80s station.
Dad is in the hospital.
In Philly two hours from home.
So Mom and I are also in Philly. In violation of all privacy laws, I will tell you that Dad is getting a pacemaker.
Honestly, I’m more anxious about my impending apartment search and move (note: I am not staying put after all thanks to a big rent hike) than Dad’s procedure. At first glance, you’ll probably think I’m a self-involved ass for that.
But I swear: apartment hunting in NYC is generally more stressful than getting a pacemaker. Weird, right?
I’m approaching Dad’s procedure as a great thing actually. The doctor thinks he’ll feel like a new man once the pacemaker is in. Fingers crossed.
I hope to return to NYC Tuesday. And to blogging soon after that.
Update: Dad’s procedure went great.
I didn’t meet my friend Julie’s son Zach until he was seven or eight months old. Part of it–a big part–was that I broke my ankle the same weekend he was born last May.
Add to that Julie and Zach’s residence on the Upper West Side, my well-established laziness and you have a recipe for procrastination.
When I finally met Zach, he was already about seven months old. Fortunately he didn’t appear to hold a grudge (nor did his mom). Instead, he let me hold him, explored my face with his hands and smiled. He even leaned in to touch his nose to mine several times, deliberately and charmingly.
I was in love.
Every subsequent encounter has been more of the same. Zach’s a charming kiddo, not prone to fussing. He smiles and laughs. At eleven months, he didn’t walk–he ran. Julie’s biggest concern (beyond NYC preschool admission shenanigans) is ensuring he grows up to be a Yankees fan.
Zach. He’s a game changer.
* * *
At six am, I heard a knock at the door. It was soft and tentative, delivered in an uneven tempo. I rolled over in the pink-sheeted twin bed, thinking that if I ignored the knocking, Zoe would go back to her twin sister Emma’s room where she had spent the previous night while I slept in her room. I was tired from having flown in from New York and catching up with their mom, my college friend.
But, no. The knocking continued, persisting until I sputtered “go back to bed, Zoe!”
I was tired from having flown in from New York the day before. Grumpy.
“But I need headbands,” four-and-a-half-year old Zoe wailed plaintively, “HEADBANDSSSSS!”
Tearing back the pink sheets of the twin bed, I stumbled to the bedroom door and opened it to admit Zoe. Looking down at the tiny girl, I grumbled “you’re already wearing a headband.”
“But I need more,” she responded. I flopped back onto her bed.
As Zoe pulled headband after headband out of the bedside dresser, I thought back to what she had warmed me before going to sleep in her bed: Don’t play with my toys. She was probably concerned that I was wearing her four-year old girl sized headbands on my big old melonhead.
After going back to sleep for a few more hours, I stumbled into the twins’ bathroom to brush my teeth and then take a shower. Right around the time I started shampooing my hear, I heard a noise and opened my eyes.
There stood one tiny twin, silently watching me take a shower.
“EMMAAAAAAAA!” my friend Nadine yelled, “leave Jen alone.”
Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to my friend and her sweet, lively family, to check into the hotel and start the business portion of my trip to LA.
I slept like a baby that night and the next.
* * *
Mom and Dad’s friends had finally persuaded them to use their Delaware beach house instead of driving the eight hours to Nags Head. The end of a tradition established before I was born upset me even more than the lack of a vacation.
“You have never in your life seen so many good-looking men,” Mom said when she called. “Next year, you have to join us.”
I was uncertain, hoping they’d hate Rehoboth and return to the Outer Banks. We had made so many memories there.
* * *
I remember pulling into a parking space on crowded Rehoboth Avenue one night, searching for my parents in the sea of faces. They hopped into my rental car to direct me to the house for the first time.
The lights and the noise and the people were nothing like Nags Head. I was tired.
Vacation didn’t begin in earnest until the next morning when I peered out my bedroom window at the private pool beneath.
Later Mom and I walked on the beach toward where she had seen all of the men last summer. She cautioned me, though, not to get my hopes up.
“It’s a gay beach. Your father seems to think he’s very popular when we walk by.”
I assured Mom that my hopes remained very much in check.
* * *
I remember the year the air conditioning didn’t work and my parents and their friends bought just two box fans, one each for their bedrooms but none for my friend and me.
* * *
I remember riding around Rehoboth in a big old convertible with a British DJ named Joker driving and my friend Geraldine in the back seat.
* * *
I remember sitting by the pool, alternating between tears and shell shocked silence.
Just a week prior, I had been laid off by the company for which I had toiled for four years. As a young professional that seemed like a really long time, damn it.
So what if the job in e-commerce had been horrid, to the extent that I required prescription antacids. So what if I had been actively interviewing for other jobs. The job broke up with me before I could leave it. I was crushed, embarrassed to face my family–but not too chagrined to consider not going to Rehoboth on my annual free family vacation.
* * *
I remember the summer when Mark, the guy I liked for a long time, surprised me by showing up in Rehoboth after telling me that he couldn’t make it due to work. Mark and I were just friends. Well, aside from kissing sometimes, and holding hands, and me sitting on his lap once in a while.
He had come to know my family quite well and had traveled to the beach with my family and me once before. This time, he had seemingly taken planes, trains and automobiles to get to us.
I was excited to see him until I saw the massive hickeys on his neck.
* * *
I remember the first time he joined me in Rehoboth. He had to work and couldn’t leave when I wanted so my friend Joanne and I drove out from DC ourselves, getting a speeding ticket on Route 50.
I braced myself for disappointment again, but he did in fact show up. It was wonderful.
My mother expected me to share a room with Joanne, not him. My father turned a blind eye.
He liked Rehoboth enough to join us again the following summer.
* * *
I remember the first time I returned to Rehoboth without him. For some reason, I thought it would be good to bring my married friends Victoria and Chad. They watched me fall apart.
* * *
I remember the nights sharing this bed with him. I remember my worries about how he’d get along with my crazy family evaporating. Sometimes he got along better with my mother than I did.
* * *
Today I spent much of the day in the pool, swimming like the kid I used to be. I can still swim underwater end-to-end, and do forward and backward somersaults in the deep end–doubles actually. I come up for air a little dizzy, but I remember how to do it.
I remember all of these things.
My maternal grandmother would have been 106 years old today.
She loved crossword puzzles. (side note: I loved my Cabana East Motel t-shirt, and my mother loved having my hair cut short like a boy’s)
Side note: I loved my Cabana East Motel t-shirt, and my mother loved having my hair cut short like a boy’s, but those are stories for another blog post.
When I was a kid, I desperately wanted a dog. My mother’s mother Nana lived with us though. Well, technically we lived with her but that’s another story.
Dad loved dogs, still does, and supported my interest in having one, but Nana either hated dogs or was afraid of them. Mom told me the latter.
“One day when Nana no longer lives with us, Daddy and I will get you a puppy.”
She didn’t wink or elbow me in the ribs while saying it, but the message was clear: when Nana died, I’d get my dog. Even though I was only five or six at the time, wanting a puppy became inextricably linked with a guilty feeling: “you want Nana to DIE!” I tried hard not to think about puppies. Continue reading