Archived Post October 2009

 October 2009

Coming Home


I have always said I would go sometime in the autumn
Away from the bare boughs and the fallen leaves,
Away from the lonely sounds and the faded colors,
And all the ancient sorrow, and change that grieves.
I have always said I would go – and now it’s autumn –
To an island where the wild hibiscus grows
And parakeets flock to the groves at twilight
And fragrance drifts from bays where moonlight glows.
But there would the vasty sound of breakers
Come in to toss their pearls upon the sand.
All through the night – a longing of great waters
Trying to make the vastness understand.
I have always said I would go sometime in the autumn
Away from the lonely sounds and changes that grieves –
But here in my heart is the sound of a distant ocean
And here in my heart is the sound of these falling leaves.
~ Glenn Ward Dresbach ~


            We are heading north on highway 95.  It is a misty, chilly, overcast morning.  Outside, it is 43 degrees and inside our peripatetic sanctuary we continue to play with the thermostat trying to find comfort.  The trees are mostly still dressed, but their green costumes are giving way to bright reds and deep golden yellows.  We have returned from Europe early.  Our desire to disconnect electronically was perhaps not the best idea I have had.  Last Saturday, we were in Budapest, where we spent several magical days, in a hotel built into and out of a former abbey, within an arms reach of a fairy tale castle – a view Andy and Susan would much appreciate.  As we prepared to check out, of the Budapest Hilton, I found an unmanned computer and decided to write to Lia.  Opening my email, I saw several entries, mostly from Caroline, with the subject matter “Mother.”  I resisted opening those emails, dreading what they might contain. 

            I feel that our car knows its way north, and could drive us without our help.  There was no time to look for maps, request a trip ticket, or the AAA guidebooks which I so often rely on – though I will say I was quite disappointed by AAA’s Europe book.  On our drives to New England, we tend to stop at the same rest areas; on this trip, we have found too many closed in Virginia and even in Delaware.  We spent the night, well a few brief hours, in Maryland and have breakfasted at Starbucks; listening to The Founding Brothers, The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph J. Ellis, as Kate drives and I sit with my laptop.  I am hoping to be able to see my Mother tonight, so we drive – with Merry in tow, in her bright yellow, Navy slicker, which we bought for her last year, during this drive, when we stopped to tour the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

            The day after we left, for Europe, my Mother fell and broke her hip; and thus began a series of complications and surgeries which have brought us to this moment.  The last week has been a roller coaster of fear and hope.  It was impossible to continue our vacation, knowing that my Mother was lying in a hospital.  Equally impossible to try to get home from where we were on Saturday, so we headed back to Paris, from where we were scheduled to leave next week.  We placed a call to Glenda, who works in the airline industry, and kindly rescheduled our flight for us; apparently using unheard charm, as the woman behind the Delta counter told us the change in our tickets should have cost thousands instead of hundreds.  Nour waited several hours, for us, at Miami International, as our plane out of Paris, which had mechanical problems, caused an extended delay.  Fran had kept Merry happy and fed, no small matter as she is used to home cooking; and needs extraordinary amounts of love – as all women do. 

            In Connecticut, we impress ourselves with our own memory.  We are hungry and decide to go in search of the falafels we found last year, when we went to see the Mark Twain House, in Hartford.  Without much difficulty we find Tangiers, (668 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford, CT) I order our sandwiches, and walk around the shop which seems to be run by a couple of very nice and polite brothers.  The little shop is well stocked with Middle Eastern foods and I even find Greek sage tea.  One of the charming brothers offers me a free piece of baklava, which is excellent and of course insures that we end up purchasing a few pieces for the road.  It is a nice break.  I reflect on how different this drive is, and we hit the road again. 

            We continue toward Haverhill, making only one more stop, at the Holiday Inn Express.   Kate rushes in, gives the woman her rewards numbers and tells her we need a room, but we want to make it to the hospital before visiting hours are over.  The lovely lady, behind the counter, assures Kate that she should not worry; they will hold a room for us.  I rush into the hospital, while Kate walks Merry, and I make my way to my Mother.  She has had a rough few weeks but she is waiting for me and I exhale.  Caroline and Doug have been her champions and they have done well – we are all grateful. 

            I still feel discounted from my world.  There are email messages, which I read, and phone messages which I listen to, but I do not answer anything.  I do not yet know what to say; but again I am grateful.  Thank you.  I have to process and focus and understand – we mostly just pray, which actually is the only thing which helps.  The day finally ends at Caroline’s table where she gives me tea and I find comfort.  Caroline and I share tea.  I do not know who else she may share tea with, but there is no one with whom a cup of tea means more to me than with Caroline. 

            The days are long and weary.  There are more questions than answers.  You dance around nurses and aids, grateful for the ones who speak with you; but more grateful for the ones who tend to my Mother’s needs which no one else can meet.  This is a strange visit and everything is off.  Nic and Allison are still in Australia, though coming home soon.  Hannah is at school, in Pennsylvania, and Juan, Beth, and Kyle will soon be leaving to California, to welcome Allison and Nic home.  Before they all go, there are visits, mostly at the hospital, but also around Doug and Caroline’s table. 

         It is Doug who makes the most memorable statement of this journey.  On our last night in town, he comes and goes several times, as he tries to deal with the pressing matters of life.  Entering and exiting the conversation, making contributions and excusing himself again – he returns and matter of factly states that this family really does cover the widest variety of topics in a single setting.  It is true, the conversations have been long, challenging, provocative, troublesome, silly, exciting, scary . . . we have to leave; and I do not want to go.  In that moment, I do not think any of us want to separate. 

            My Mother is doing better.  Before we left she had been transferred from the critical care hospital to a rehab facility.  I want to be happy about this development, as I understand it is the logical progression; but I hate seeing her at such a place.  They do get her out of bed, and into a wheel chair.  She takes a few steps, and moves around in bed and begins to make progress.  I can tell she is not happy, except when telling me about her visitors, like my Uncle Glenn and Aunt Beverly who have driven from Ohio, to see her – she is especially moved by this visit, as are we all – thank you.  She tells me about the plants and flowers and cards and calls – and I reflect on how small our lives become when we are dependent on others.  I can easily understand the sadness which such an environment brings. 

            I am home; well I am in my house.  It is good to sleep in my own bed, and snuggle up with soft and familiar pillows and blankets; and stand in my own shower, letting the running water sooth both body and soul.  My refrigerator is still empty and I am wishing we had a plate of Spanish artichokes, sautéed in garlic and garnished with diced ham – what a delightful meal that was.  There are two piles in the guest room.  The contents from the suitcase that went to Europe and the one that went to Massachusetts.  The clothes are easily dispensed to the laundry, but the notes, brochures, flyers, ticket stubs, and stir sticks will take longer to address.  Kate and I have yet to look at our pictures.  I keep wondering if we get to be happy over this trip? 

         I have spent the last hour watching the hunter’s moon slowly rise over the horizon and marvel at its reflection on the lake.  It is a perfect night, except that I am far away from the people I love; and worried about their well being.  Still, I am home. 

          Sitting on the counter is my Trader Joe’s stash, a unique California, grocery store with fresh, wholesome products which do not cost an arm and a leg, that has made its way east to Massachusetts, and beyond, but not far enough south to arrive in Florida.  When I travel highway 95, somewhere along the way, there must be a stop at Trader Joe’s.  From Massachusetts, I have brought a bit of California, home to Florida.  Home is bigger than my house or my family.  I guess home really is my country.  I am lucky.  I know my country.  I have lived it and traveled it and own it. It has been lovely to journey abroad and there will be much to reflect upon, regarding that trip, but in my distress it has been good to travel familiar highways and byways, which have brought me back to home.  That is all for now.

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