It’s strange being untethered from the children and my normal responsibilities. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does it’s like being in a foreign land where I can look at things from a different perspective. I’m amazed when I talk to people without children what they don’t have to factor into their thoughts or plans. When you go on an outing–any outing–as an adult in adult company, the concerns are figuring out where and when. A trip to the museum means thinking about what you will see at the museum. When you do all your outings with small children it doesn’t matter as much where or when. "Where" will boil down to car seats and trips to the bathroom, and when is whenever you finally get there.
The last major trip I took to a museum I saw none of
the museum. It wound up making more sense letting the unencumbered
adults go off and I stayed in the play area with all the kids. I hated
to miss out, but I know even if I had gotten into the areas with art to
see I would have had to keep all my attention on the kids and making
sure they didn’t wander off or touch anything. My kids are very good,
and we have gone places and done things, but it’s work in a way that
unless you’ve done it you don’t understand.
Anyway, before I leave Michigan
I feel like jotting down the odds and ends of my thoughts during my
time here, because soon I will be back in tot-land and drowning in
violin repairs and it will all fade. And not that most of these
thoughts may be interesting to anyone, but they are mine and this blog
is mine and what the heck?
First: Habits. I am fascinated by
the fact that you can resume old habits that you didn’t even know you
had when you return to an old place. Staying in my parents’ house again
is so crazy, because in the strangest ways it’s like I never left. I
know which light switches are installed upside down and always reach for
them the right way. I can’t help myself from scratching at the varnish
on the upstairs railing. I still instinctively veer away from the spot
in the driveway where there used to be a big dip even though that was
filled in years ago. I know how long I can run the hot water in the
upstairs sink before it gets too hot. I am always nervous I will bump
my head going into the basement.
On the negative side, whatever
progress I’ve made about being mindful of what I eat at home, the minute
I’m in Detroit it goes out the window. I just don’t care and I don’t
know how to make myself care. I want to eat at the favorite Chinese
restaurant of my childhood and not stress about it. I want to go out to
breakfast with my mom and enjoy bacon and say yes to whipped cream. I
want to eat my mom’s cookies and have thick slices of bread with cherry
preserves and share sandwiches and pastries with my dad and indulge in
middle eastern food the likes of which I can’t find outside of Detroit.
I will recommit to better health habits when I get home, but frankly
food/stress issues are just too much for me when I’m here. Oh well.
Second: Observations. I never ever noticed until this year that the
house across the street from my parents didn’t used to have a garage.
There was a gravel driveway on the right side, and I remember people
parking in it all the time, but I just assumed it kept going behind the
house and there was a garage there somewhere. Nope. The latest owners
put in a new driveway and built a two car garage on the left side.
how did I walk past that house a gazillion times my whole life and never
notice the absence of a garage? I’m not saying the garage itself
matters, I’m saying I think of myself as somewhat observant, and I
missed that. The neighborhood I grew up in is filled with interesting
and elegant houses from the 1920’s and 30’s, prior to a time when a
garage would have been included as a standard item, so that’s not insane
at all. But if you had asked me I would have told you every house in
Pleasant Ridge, Michigan had a garage.
And I would have been very
wrong! There are two houses on just this one street that still don’t
have garages. Once I started looking I was amazed at how many houses
there are that only have a little drive along the side of the house and
that’s it. My dad thinks I’m being silly with my new garage obsession,
but I’m mostly intrigued with seeing what I thought I knew in a
different way. Also, on the two longest streets to the west of us, I
used to have a paper route, and I still only tend to look at the houses I
delivered to. I spent so many years only focusing on the houses where I
had customers that it’s hard for me to see the houses between. I made
myself look at each house on this trip just to really see them. (And I
still remember every house that gave me grief or didn’t pay me. What
kind of person rips off a 13 year old paper girl?)
Lastly: Walking the dog. Specifically this dog:
walking a dog has purpose, and it’s fun. I’ve liked having an excuse to
go out every day regardless of the weather. I don’t mind a walk in the
rain, but wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to. Walking the dog is
great. I also just love having the dog around. She’s curled up in my
bed as I’m typing which is very sweet. (I think she’s planning to spend
the night at my side which is rather flattering.) She is thrilled when
I come in the door, she is beside herself when I offer to take her out,
and she makes the house feel welcoming. She is cute and quiet and
gentle. If I could find a dog with as endearing a disposition that
didn’t make my husband sneeze I might get one. I can’t believe I’m even
considering that, but my children will be thrilled if it happens. That
is the power of a truly adorable dog. I think when my kids stop
greeting me at the door with wild enthusiasm I may start scoping out
canines at the humane society.
And how is my dad doing? Okay. Remarkable, actually, considering
that anyone recovering from a broken arm and gastro-intestinal surgery
would probably still be feeling the effects even if they weren’t in
their 80’s. The worst part of chemo so far was having to listen to The
Price is Right blaring in the background, but I read a book aloud to my
dad and we were able to block out the TV.
My dad has stage 4 colon
cancer and chemo is his only option, assuming he can tolerate it. We
are facing a lot of uncertainty, but for now we have a course of action
to follow and we have hope. It’s been a lot of work getting dad to all
his appointments and dealing with so many medical issues, but we’ve also
had time to play Scrabble, talk about the world, and laugh. It’s a
week I won’t forget and I am lucky to have been here. My brother,
Barrett, told me before he left at the beginning of the week that the
past month and a half that he’s been here caring for dad he wouldn’t
trade for anything. I know how he feels. It’s a strange transition to
go from dependent child to feeling protective and responsible for your
own parent. I hope my own children know nothing of that for themselves
for a long, long time.
(Minor UPDATE: The dog did sleep next to me all night.
Maybe she sensed I needed a close up snuggle. If I didn’t love my
brother and his girlfriend so much I would steal this dog.)