The altered texture and flavor of life…

The school year is going well.  J is happy to be back to his routine, and had a minor incident of discontent when he realized that yesterday (Labor Day, a day looked forward to by millions of people who don’t have to go to work and enjoy a long weekend) was a no-school day.  Oh, he railed against the powers that be, and wanted me (as if I had any say in those things) to put the BUS and BACKPACK on his PECS board…  “I can put them there,” I said “but the fact remains that we’re all at home on Monday.”  Woe was he.  It lasted all of five minutes.  He soon noticed that I had lined up not one, not two, but THREE cube units that he could put together at his leisure to pass the time.  And then he noticed that I had put the MOVIE THEATER card on the schedule board for Sunday.  All of a sudden his misery was not quite as miserable as he had made it out to be…

On Sunday we all went to see Ghostbusters.  Thirty years ago, my cousins and I stood in line for well over an hour, fretting constantly about whether we’d get into the theater, to see this movie. This time around the audience was much smaller, but the movie was just as enjoyable.  It was nice sitting there in the dark with our kids…you know: those creatures who weren’t even a glimmer in our eyes when we first watched this film.

The weather has not been summer-like at all.  While, yes, it has been hot from time to time, it is quite clear that autumn is approaching quickly.  The green of the leaves is more muted, and we have seen a discreet weaving of fall colors making its way into the landscape.  If you walk outside you will feel a slap of heat and humidity, but a sudden breeze will find its way to you, and it will not have the quality of summer to it; a definite change is in the air.

As this happens, we begin to adjust to life without a parent.  Dada has his travel arrangements for the funeral later this month.  Getting up at 2 a.m. to make a 5:50 a.m. flight, and carrying luggage (that he hopes will arrive with him) this time around is one of the discomforts of this trip.  The endless of stream of hands to shake, hugs to accept, inevitable sadness lingering in the proceedings make this a trip he would rather skip but cannot.  What was going to be a private affair has grown into a much larger to-do because -even in the face of personal sorrow- we are social creatures and we leave a footprint wherever we go.  I have spent a significant amount of time organizing, scanning and distributing photos to be used for the memorial service.  I do this because I would otherwise be useless to everyone; a rough draft of an obituary that will be heavily edited by other hands is a small investment of time on my part, but there’s not much else I can do, is there?

While my dear, lovely, kind father in-law is no more, my father seems to be improving day by day.  He now speaks…cantankerously.  He now participates in physical therapy…grudgingly.  He now has the chance to spend a few more years in the land of the living, and it’s unclear how he feels about this.  The word “miracle” is one he would scoff at, but that is the word that doctors most often utter in the face of his recovery.  Is it, I wonder, because he is not as lovely and kind as my father in-law was?  We have a saying back home: yerba mala nunca muere.  This basically means that weeds don’t die, and it’s usually applied to people who -in spite of everything- thrive when they’re not expected to.  I still get to call my stepmom and ask how my dad is doing, and I still get glowing reports of how he’s flirting with nurses, ignoring doctors he doesn’t like, reacting gruffly when he’s not pleased with someone…  I get to hear him in the background, grunting and complaining.  I also don’t get to remind Dada “hey, you said you’d call your dad at 4!”

Little things creep up on us.  Looking for a contact on the phone directory, there are Pops’ name and number.  Looking for a cornbread recipe, there is Pops’ lovely handwriting explaining, step-by-step, how to make his famous decadent chocolate cake with chocolate ganache.  The wall of photos that was dedicated to Dada’s mom is now a wall-to-wall gallery of family, with Pops and Mom smiling at us, at each other, at the kids…

Dada’s birthdays (don’t make me tell the story again…) are on Thursday and Friday, and we’re keeping it low-key because that’s what he’s feeling like these days.  I totally understand him.  I can tell that he is happy to be with us, but that his father’s passing starts to sink in a little more when he least expects it.  That’s the way it is for everyone,  I think.  You’re fine and you know in your bones that someone is gone, and then you realize it all over again.  It hits you…it keeps hitting you for a long, long time.  On Thursday/Friday it will be 52 years since Dada’s mom said (in the middle of the night) “oh, dear…the baby is coming,” and then Dada’s dad kicked into physician mode and delivered his fourth son using a pair of kitchen shears to cut the umbilical cord.  How can Dada not want a low-key birthday celebration in light of recent events?

J knows there’s something different that we’re all getting used to, and he’s observing quietly and calmly.  Aside from the disruption to his routine caused by the holiday, J has been happy and relaxed.  He misses his brother when TGG goes out, but he enjoys the attention he gets when TGG can give it.  He loves his new sofa, and he is comfortable in his TV room.  He doesn’t obsess about laundry, but watches my closet like a hawk.  He loves that he has a hat for being at home (he doesn’t really wear it, but he likes the idea of it,) and another for school.  He loves that we are back to letting him walk from the bus to where I stand waiting.

On the surface it all looks the same, but we can tell one of the seasonings is “off,” and the stew was too thin and we overdid the thickening.  Like Dada said the other night: it’s like Hostess Fruit Pie…it used to taste oh, so different when we were younger, and we see the packaging and think “yes!  Hostess Fruit Pie!”  Then, one bite into it, you realize the memory of it was better than the actual thing…

We will find the new level, I’m sure…we always sort of do.

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