March 16, 2008
Saturday morning Anh, Samwich and I drove down to Rhode Island to visit my mom. It was Samwich’s birthday, and we hadn’t seen my mom in a while – good opportunity!
We usually don’t get a car when we are just in Boston, so Step 1 was to actually get a car. I usually rent from Avis, because I have a Preferred number with them (you can get this easily from them), and it makes the rental process easier. They have your license and credit card information on file, so it’s quick, and you get a bit of a discount. I haven’t yet updated my ID information with them yet, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. I didn’t even rent the car with my Preferred info, and just did it online without it. When I got to the desk to get the car, I gave the agent my license and credit card, and when he swiped it, it automatically came up with my Preferred number. Turns out that Avis uses your credit card number as your long term ID number. Changing my name with them was trivial as a result.
On the way down to RI, we stopped at Dunkin’ and got Samwich his first donut (it was his birthday after all). Loved it… but he loved smashing it more. Samwich is in food-smashing mode for most soft foods these days – bananas, bread, you name it. I think he’s looking for the treasure inside. Denied! He does eat the smashed bits too. (Not to go too far down the Samwich eating habits path, but Damn Samwich! Are you part penguin? Just about anything he puts in his mouth, he takes a bite of, then takes it out, looks at it, and then decides if its worthy to go back in or not. Sometimes he just sucks the essential juices out, like the salt-monster on Star Trek, and spits out the effluent.)
The last time my mom saw me in person was November 30th, the day after FFS. This is what I looked like:
In talking to her since then, she’s had a hard time getting that image out of her head, because there hasn’t been a live one to replace it. Yes, she’s seen pictures, video, and even the ABC stuff last week, but that’s just not the same.
Luckily, I was able to give her a new image… (sorry, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of me… this is the only one)
My sisters were both there when we arrived, as well as my niece and great-niece. I hadn’t seen any of them since November either.
When we arrived, it even smelled like home. They had put a turkey in to roast and my old(est) sister had made a cake/cupcakes. Smell is such a personal, deeply emotional sense. To me at least, a remembered smell can bring me back more quickly than any other sense.
I could see the relief on my mom’s face almost right away. She hugged me, then came back to hug me again a few minutes later.
We had a great lunch, Samwich loved his birthday cupcake, and spent the afternoon just relaxing. It was nice to be home.
My mom was/is still struggling with the name/pronoun thing. I don’t think for a second it’s because she isn’t respectful or understanding – but as *my mom* she has such a pattern of interaction with me, its hard to break. At one point, she said she was just going to call me “Michael Megan” so I couldn’t tell when she screwed up. Got to love the hardscrabble Yankee pragmatism.
That night, at about eight, I went downstairs, and noticed a good-sized water leak in the ceiling. Looked all around (up and downstairs), but we couldn’t find the source of it. I can fix a lot of things, but plumbing – that’s one thing that I’m not good at – clueless sums it up.
My mom is blessed with awesome neighbors, and she called across the street to ask for some help. Glenn helps my mom out a lot – he shovels her out, will help with house maintenance, and he and his wife both have been a real source of support for my mom since my dad passed away.
He came over – we (well, he swung the hammer) tore out the waterlogged ceiling, and saw that the leak was coming from behind the wall. We went upstairs, tore out some more wall behind the bathroom sink, and discovered that the joint on the hot water line was leaking. We then spent the next two hours repairing it (well, I held the flashlight, and did general helper 3 rd class duties). I love watching someone work who really knows what they are doing – doesn’t matter what they are doing. Watching my old(est) sister make bread is amazing – she used to be a baker in another life – always something to learn.
Glenn hadn’t seen me since last summer. You know what? If he was different in any way, I couldn’t tell. We were just getting the job at hand done – at 10pm at night on a Saturday. Glenn is a police officer in Pawtucket, and he’s one big, strong, tough dude. He’s awesome. Thanks Glenn.
After cleaning up the big mess we had made by tearing out a ceiling and a wall, we went to bed.
When we got up this morning, Ma suggested that we all go out to breakfast at her favorite neighborhood joint – Oatley’s. Rhode Island, even though it’s wedged between Boston and New York can be both very urban, but surprisingly rural. Just five minutes from my mom’s house is a huge turf farm. The vibe of her town is east-coast rural. Lots of stone walls as you drive around, not made for the look, but out of necessity from clearing the land.
My mom and dad used to go to Oatley’s five or six days a week before he passed away. She goes less now, but is still a regular, and pretty well known there.
We had our breakfast, Samwich did his penguin-eating, and as we were leaving (and I was across the room paying), one of the waitresses who knows my mom well came over and was chatting with them. Just as I walked over, she had to run, but my mom said to me “Well, I’m sorry that she didn’t get to say hi to my youngest daughter!”
After we finished up, we stopped by the cemetery to visit my dad’s gravesite, and to leave a ceramic bird at his site. This was harder for me than I thought it was going to be. Samwich hadn’t been there before, and as we were driving up, Sheila said “Samwich, are you going to say hi to Pa?” Samwich never met my dad, and my dad never knew that Samwich was coming. Anh was only a few weeks pregnant (we knew) when my dad passed, and it didn’t seem like a good time to tell him. (Long story).
As we were walking up to the site, Anh said “What’s that rumble? Is that Pa rolling over?”. Just some context here… we all in the fam have talked a lot about how my dad would have dealt with his only son coming out to him. This was on *all* of our minds as we walked up, and Anh, because of the way she is (fabulous) felt like the ice needed to get broken. Ma said “Well, I think he would have said ‘Are you happy? If so, that’s all I care about.’ Then he would have said ‘Jesus F#!$’ing Christ! What next?’ “
We all laughed…. That’s the way my dad was. I got a little misty just thinking more about it – thinking about how I was never able to talk to him about this.
Well Pa, I’m happy. We are happy… Your kids and your grandkids all love you.
We drove back home, for lunch had some pizza and a meatball grinder from Fillipou’s Pizza (401-294-4767 – on Ten Rod Road in North Kingstown – the BEST!), and then headed to the airport. Ma as she always does was a little teary and sad to see us go, but we’ll be together again soon (next month!)
It was a good homecoming – another “First” down…