birthday countdown: 16 days.
i took the day off today, so i could head down the Cape and hang out with my parents. i haven't seen them in a few months, and mom wanted to make sure we got together sometime this month to do a celebration sort of thing. you would think this would feel like a mini vacation, wouldn't you, hanging out on the Cape in the summer? it felt like a lot of things, but a vacation wasn't one of them.
never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to get cross town. the bus station is maybe 4 or 5 miles as the crow flies (actually, i'm totally guessing, but it really isn't that far). and it takes the better (worse) part of an hour to get there from my house. get organized, pack everything up, feed and water cats, worry that it will be too hot for them, take one last look around, walk down the corner to catch the bus to the T station, hop on the train, head over thru the cement jumble that we laughingly refer to as South Station these days, find caffeine in the form of a highly overpriced chai, grab this month's Sail and GQ, get a ticket, wait in line with a gaggle of underscrubbed hippie kids twanging on guitars, and finally sink into an aisle seat on the bus. *wipes brow* phew.
the sad part is, having a car wouldn't actually make it any easier. it might make it more direct, but the frustration levels inspired by the wacky game we call local traffic might very well cause my head to explode.
dad met me at the station, and i realized with a shock, when i got in the car, that he's finally starting to look old. i mean, he's no spring chicken, but i still don't think of him as an old man. he got his summer cut recently, tho, and decided to have them buzz it short. you can really see the bald spot, and how his hair is thinning. hrm. i don't think i like that.
i don't like it any more than being eye level with gram. we went over to have lunch with her, and the three of us went to Hallett's for sandwiches and frappes. when we walked into gram's apartment, she got up to say hi to us, and as i stood there hugging her, i felt odd about not having to look up. i'm short. not really short, but untall enough. and gram's always been a very statuesque woman. it's been gradual, the change, as she gets a little older and her bones betray her. eh. i don't think i like that at all, either.
eh. it was fascinating to see how the dynamics are changing in the family, tho. dad has mellowed some, compared to years ago, and he's stepped into more of a caretaking role. so now he's the one who takes gram out more often than not. this is how it ended up being just the three of us at Hallett's for lunch, without mom. i watch, and i judge (in the assessing sense), and i try on different ways to find my place in this new arrangement. hm.
talking with dad one on one is also interesting, and good. the thing that makes me laugh, altho not out loud laugh, is gauging his voice. when he's telling a story, being a performer, doing what he thinks is expected or right - that's one voice, a little higher, a little more modulated, sort of hollow. (you wonder where i got Marketing Mode? wonder no more.) when i hit a real discussion point, when there's some meeting of the minds, the gears change and the facade drops. his voice sounds more like him - no rehearsed lines, no tinny tones. just dad. and i like hearing that voice more.
i also like hearing gram talk, when she gets her words to behave, and her thoughts come out in a way that makes her happy. i'm afraid that those moments are becoming more difficult for her. but we did have a good visit, during lunch and for a little bit afterwards. i'm hoping to get down to visit again in a month or so.
you know, this is what's tiring about going home - i spend so much time in my head. i haven't even told you about half the stuff i saw. and part of me would rather paint you pretty word pictures of old fashioned malt shops and salt-rimed sedges in the marsh. *sigh*
well, how about i tell you about waxing the car? dad was telling me about some nifty new buffer he'd gotten, and i offered to help wash and wax the car. 'oh, good! i was hoping you'd help.' well, duh. that's what you do when you go home to visit - you help out. :) so i changed up when we got back to the house, dad cranked up The Blind Boys of Alabama on the stereo in the car, and we waxed. i slopped green paste all over the car, dad buffed, and i detailed. productive little foray. after we finished up, mom and i hung out on the hammock for a while, just catching up. she seemed happy and centered just then, and it was a nice afternoon.
dad offered to take us out to dinner at a Mediterranean place to celebrate; who am i to turn down a free meal? it was quite excellent, altho i know i'll be paying the price for eating that much roasted garlic. funniest moment: dad gets the check and looks at the details. '*sputter* *cough* you got a *hack* $9! *cough* glass of wine? oh, my god...' 'yeah. it was pretty good, too.' i couldn't resist tweaking him, tho. 'aren't you glad i didn't get a second glass?' *blink* hee hee. mind you, i've been known to get some might fine plonk for $5 a bottle. but, hey, why not live it up? especially if dad's treating. ;)
we did birthday presents before the ball game (which, as it turns out, was washed out anyway) - mom got me a very sweet lilac silk negligee with little rosettes along the seam across the front, and dad got me the slipcovered edition of The Lord of the Rings. whoo hoo! nice start to what will apparently stretch itself into a birthday month.
dad and i sat for a while going thru the family pictures and documents he picked up the last time they were in Arizona. this is a huge thing - dad was never particularly close to his family (for good reason, says i), and some of these pictures he'd never even seen. there's a great one of his grandfather, and i saw pictures of my dad as a kid for the first time. there's one that made me laugh (and feel a little sad) - he's graduating from first grade or something, with his mortarboard and diploma in hand - sporting a fine looking Red Sox t shirt. my dad. my dad at 6. i've never had those images to play with. there are so many stories tucked away in those photos, some of which dad told me, so many more of which are there to be found.
after mom and dad got ready to read and watch TV for a bit, i went outside to have a smoke and just lie in the hammock. it was peaceful out there, so silent - but it actually wasn't quiet at all. there was just an absence of city noise. i swung gently in the hammock in the dark, trying to absorb the sounds of the wind in the trees and the crickets, trying to soak in the images of the light spilling out the front window, the tall oak on the far side of the house rattling in the breeze, what the place looks and smells and sounds like at night. i came home so many times to the old house that i never gave it a second thought. with this house, i don't have any of those memories. so i lay there, in the hammock, concentrating fiercely on building new memories, and feeling the salt tang of the breeze brush my face.