GRANDPARENTS’ MORNING… and the trials and tribulations to get there

Last week my son sent me an invitation to Grandparents Morning at his son’s Montessori school. The event started at 9:45 AM. Under the invitation, he texted: Miles wants to invite you. Probably impossible.

 Miles is our four-year-old grandson. Let me explain the probably impossible assumption. My son lives in Connecticut. We live on Long Island. The path from here to there is not an easy one. Between the ubiquitous lane closures for roadwork/construction, and the certainty of accidents along the way, combined with the slog of rush hour traffic, we would have to leave the house by 6:00 AM to arrive in Connecticut on time for Grandparents’ Morning. I felt a headache coming on just thinking about it. Probably impossible was probably true. 

Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but my husband and I are both retired now. The pace of life has changed significantly for us. For one thing, we don’t rush anywhere anymore. That’s a privilege we’ve finally earned, and there isn’t a morning that we don’t appreciate the quiet, unrushed, peaceful start of a new day. 

We sip our coffee and update each other on our minor aches and pains:  my legs were cramping last nightmy shoulder hurts this morning, I’m still constipated, I have a dull headache. Not all of these ailments happen on the same day; these are just the most common. On any given day, any one of those ailments would be deterrent enough to any long-distance travel. (Anything over 30 minutes is long-distance travel). 

As we sip our coffee, we read the paper, start the crossword puzzle, continue reading the paper, eat breakfast, and wait for the gastrointestinal highlight of the day – the morning bowel movement – hereafter referred to as our “business.”

 Now that we are retired and don’t have to watch the clock in the morning, we don’t leave the house until we’ve both done our “business.” We will check each other’s status before embarking on a long trip:

“Did you do your business yet?”

“No; not yet.”

“Did you?”

“Yes. I’m ready to go.”

“Well let’s wait a while. I feel something brewing. There’s no rush, is there?”

No rush! Take your time.”

 With a morning routine such as this, to be ready to leave the house by 6:00 AM, we would have to be up at 4:00 AM! That would mean a lot of rushing around and bumping into each other in the dark. Probably impossible was probably true.

As I picked up the phone to reply, I reread the invitation: Miles wants to invite you. That was the catch that tugged at my heart. After two years of missed holidays, zoom birthdays and canceled celebrations, we were beginning to worry that COVID would be around forever, that our grandchildren would grow up to be adults before we could visit with them again. I showed the message to my husband. Miles wants to invite you.

 “Miles wants to invite us?” he said. “We’ve hardly seen that kid in two years; I didn’t think he knew who we were!” Miles is our youngest grandchild. We haven’t seen him as much as we would like, as much as we’ve seen the other grandchildren through the years. He was two-years-old when COVID started, and the few times we saw him during COVID, we were wearing face masks and holding our arms out in midair giving safe distance “air hugs.” There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about that, certainly not enough to build a loving relationship on.

“Well?” I asked. “Do you want to go?”

“Of course I do! Miles invited us!”

A simple solution solved all of our pressing travel issues. The day before Grandparents’ Morning, after a leisurely breakfast – our business completed – we took a mid-morning drive up to Connecticut – no rush hour, no traffic – and checked into an Airbnb. On Friday morning, we were only 30 minutes away from my grandson’s school. We had plenty of time to sip our coffee at a local diner while discussing our minor aches and pains over a leisurely breakfast. Back at our Airbnb we took care of business.

At my grandson’s school that morning, he lined up with the other students to sing an endearing song to us grandparents. Then we went to his classroom so he could show us something he was working on. But the highlight of the day was the surge of love I felt when he reached up to take my hand and lead me into the auditorium to make a craft. It had been so long since I held a tiny hand in mine; I never wanted to let go.

For our craft time, he rolled a sheet of beeswax around a small wick and made a candle. “That’s great!” I praised him. “Will you take this home to mommy?” 

“No,” he said, handing me the little candle. “I made it for you.” 

On the way home, I kept thinking back to the feeling I had when I held his tiny hand in mine. Why was I so moved, almost to tears, when it happened? It could be that two years of COVID’s isolation protocols had numbed me; I hadn’t felt the slow growth of a hard shell around my heart. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the soft touch and love hugs of grandchildren. When he reached for my hand, it took all my self-control to not reach down and lift him up into my arms, to hold him there for a long time, to make up for two years of “air hugs” that were no substitute for a good strong grandma hug.

We headed home after lunch and plodded through several delays from accidents, lane closures, construction and the slog of Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. After four hours, we finally reached home. Was it all worth it? You bet it was!

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Grief Isn’t Funny

Laughing With Buddha was launched several years ago when I was in a better frame of mind. I wanted to write a humorous blog and I found a lot to write about. I was happier then. Not so now. 

My mother died on March 27, 2021. It didn’t matter to me that she was 93 years old when she died. She was my mother and my best friend. 

People at her wake said, “She lived a full life; she’s at rest now.” All true, but it didn’t make me feel better. My heart was breaking knowing that I would never see her again, never speak to her on the phone, never ask her advice about anything. We would never share a lunch at the local diner, or a simple cup of tea at her kitchen table. 

The day after her funeral, I wanted to crawl into a dark cave and sleep forever. I hated sunny days, couldn’t listen to Christmas music or hear the sound of laughter without cringing. The world was spinning, life was going on, but I wanted no part of it. I wanted the Covid lockdowns to continue. What did I care about socializing or getting back to normal? 

It has been a year since my mother died and I’m still grieving, but I’m making progress. I’ve recently taken baby steps out of the cave, blinked my eyes at the sunlight and felt my heart quicken at the sight of tiny crocuses popping up outside my door. Everywhere I look, the earth is pregnant with life again.  Flowers are breaking through the soil, stretching toward the sunlight. Tree buds are plump and ready to burst. Maybe, because I have been grieving for so long, I am hyper-aware of the changing light, the colors, the smells and sounds of spring.  

Today, on the anniversary of her death, I’m remembering something my eight-year-old grandson said a year ago at my mother’s wake:

 I think life is like a video game. When you come to the end of one level, you don’t die, you just move up to the next level. So, grandma isn’t really dead; she just moved up to the next level.

I find comfort in that thought. If she is only on the next level, she’ll never be very far from me. 

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À Bientôt

I set this blog up a year ago as a personal discipline, to see if I could produce an original essay once a week. I’ve had a lot of fun in the process, and have enjoyed sharing my escapades and stories with all of you. Your positive feedback and constructive comments throughout the year have been much appreciated!

But now it’s time to take a break from blogging for a while, in order to pursue other writing projects and activities that have been put on hold.

I will be posting essays here from time to time, but this will no longer be a weekly blog. So it’s à bientôt, for now – not au revoir. I will be back some time and hope you will be too.

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MEAT STINK! An Illustrated Tale

My mother had a dentist appointment last Monday at 3:30 PM. It was going to be a long one and I wouldn’t be getting home until about 5:30. I had the day off, so I decided to prepare the potatoes ahead of time. I was trying a new recipe: Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta.

picture 1

Without a working stovetop exhaust fan, the apartment was soon filled with the rich aroma of garlic, tomatoes and thyme. And so was every pore of my skin, hair and clothing.  When I walked outdoors, the contrast of the fresh air against my coat made the aroma even more pungent.

I cracked the window open in the car, hoping it would blow the garlic stink out of my hair.  It didn’t. “This car smells… like food,” my mother said, when I picked her up for her dentist appointment.  “Do you have food in the car?”

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“No, it’s me.  I smell like a Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta. I was trying to get a head start on dinner.”

“I like to do that, too,” she said.

I got home at 5:30, and was glad I had started the dinner earlier.  All I had to do now was heat up the Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta in the oven and fry the skirt steak on my stove top.

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“Mmmm!  Smells great!” my husband said, as he walked in the door that night. “I could smell that meat as I came up the stairs.”

After dinner, my husband went to the gym for about an hour, and when he got back he wrinkled his nose and said,  picture 4 “Maybe you should light some candles; this place smells like meat.”

So I did.

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But that only made the air smell like lemon-beef scented candles. When we went up to bed that night, the bed covers, my nightgown and pillow smelled like meat.

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The next morning…

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…it still smelled like meat!  So I sprayed the apartment with an orange scented room deodorizer that has been known to get rid of some pretty nasty bathroom odors.

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And then, if you haven’t guessed by now, …I created the aroma of Chinese Orange Beef.

I couldn’t stand the smell anymore, so I threw my smelly beef clothes in the hamper

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and took a shower.  I scrubbed my hair and body twice, to be sure I got every stinky bit of garlic, tomato, black olive and beef out of my pores.

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Then I reached for a clean towel to dry myself off.  As I stretched up to dry my face and hair, I smelled it – – MEAT STINK on the clean towel!

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What to do?  What could I do? I thought about opening the windows, but decided against that.  The crazy squirrels might smell the meat and think I was inviting them in for a treat.

I got dressed in some clean clothes that only had a slightly beefy smell. Then I found a little piece of leftover skirt steak in the refrigerator.  So  I fried it up with a scrambled egg and ate it for breakfast.   Yum!picture 11



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