Saturday, February 28, 2009

Left Behind Right Behind

This week was melancholy for me. Mostly, both Saul and I were rushing through our days trying to organize and wrap up everything that needed to be done before his spring break and trip to Israel with Ari on Friday. He will have to hit the ground running when he returns next Sunday evening, as school begins at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. That is no mean feat at this age.

Our friend, Elaine, came and spent the afternoon and evening with Mom last Sunday so that Saul and I would be able to get out together to see the movie, Coraline, in 3D, before it left the movie theaters. We enjoyed it, weird as it was, but we were a bit let down because of all the positively super hype it had gotten. Ari was able to meet us at the theater on his way back home from a New York party for his friend, Sam. We even called reservations ahead, before the movie began, to Bahama Breeze, across the parking lot from the theater, and were able to have a quick dinner together before Ari had to get on the road to make the three-hour trek back to DC.

Monday evening, I snapped a photo of Saul all dressed up to go to a meeting. I thought he looked wonderful in his new silk sport jacket.

All through the week, Mom was getting more and more apprehensive about Saul’s absence and was asking both of us multiple times during each day how much longer before he was leaving. Tuesday afternoon, Marianne, our hospice volunteer, dropped in, and spent a few hours with Mom so that we could have a very late lunch together and do some errands. Tuesday evening, Ken and Randi stopped over for a few hours to say goodbye before they left, also on Friday, for their month-long vacation in Hawaii. I was also pleased that my case of pomegranate juice from Pom arrived this week, my consolation prize for being one of the eight finalists in the Pom Blogger Contest.

Secretly in my heart, I had hoped that, at the last minute, the stars would align in some way that would allow me to go to Israel as well. For about two glorious hours on Tuesday, I thought there might be the glimmer of a possibility. Randi’s lifelong friend, Paula, had lost her job and was looking for work. I barely dared to ask about the possibility of such a commitment caring for Mom for over a week on such short notice. Before asking, Ari and I checked thoroughly to see if there was any possibility of my getting a seat on the same plane. I would have had to pay double, assuming there was an extra seat, but all that soon became moot because Paula was not ready and immediately nixed the idea.

Once I knew for sure that I was definitely not going, the melancholy really set in. I was delighted that Saul and Ari had the chance and did not hesitate for a moment to encourage them to go when the opportunity of a cheap flight arose at the perfect time. Marianne was excited beyond belief that she would have the opportunity to see her twin sister, and I was glad I sort of pushed her into making the snap decision to buy the ticket. The last two days, and especially Friday morning, I couldn’t wait for the trip to begin because I wanted to be into the process of getting through the week on my own, not waiting for it to happen. Saul and I have not been separated for 10 days since our teenage years, when he was gone for months at a time in the U.S. Navy. On Thursday evening, Mom became extremely ill and vomited several times. I thought that she had worked herself into a lather worrying, but as it turned out, she was finally able to sleep through the night and was feeling better on Friday morning. The hospice people feel that she had just caught a bug that was going around. My Thursday evening was hellish, though, worrying myself about how she would be feeling this week and if I would, God forbid, have to make funeral arrangements while everyone was away.

“Everyone” was an understatement. All through the week, I had been reassuring Mom that there were so many friends and family I could call on in an emergency. As it turned out, Larry decided to schedule a trip to Orlando. Roxy called to remind me that this is the week she will be vacationing in St. Thomas. Adele had scheduled a colonoscopy for Friday months ago and was out of the picture Thursday evening and Friday morning. Marianne, of course, was going to Israel, too. Jessica is on bed rest and can no longer make the trip home. Then, when we called to see if Beth would join me for Shabbat dinner, we discovered that she had suddenly decided to take a trip to Arizona. We were calling her on Thursday afternoon just as her plane had landed. Now, I know that I still have lots of great friends and neighbors out there that I can call on in a pinch, but Thursday was a bit of an all-time low for me.

On Friday, after the flurry of early morning packing activity which culminated with a visit by Kathy, Mom’s nurse; Darnice, her aide; Marianne, and the friend who brought her over, Peter; I didn’t know what to do with myself in the stillness of Friday afternoon. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the movie, Dr. Zhivago, for hours on t.v., a melancholy movie if ever there was one. I knew I would be lighting candles as always on Friday, but should I put a tablecloth on the table? Should I pour myself a glass of wine and make the beracha (blessing) myself? Should I take two challot out of the freezer and say the motzi myself? Should I cook dinner for myself and eat it alone at the kitchen table? By 4:30 p.m., Mom was sleeping peacefully, and I had decided I would just light the candles and go to bed with my New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. Then, the phone rang. Adele had had an excellent report from her colonoscopy and was feeling much better. Would I like to come out to dinner with her while Erica and Ava stayed with Mom? Danny was taking Brenna to dinner and a movie and was staying over at Beth’s house next door to take care of her dogs.

No, I didn’t want to go out to dinner, but persuaded Adele and Erica to join me for dinner. In an hour and a half, I set the table with tablecloth, napkins, china, stemware and flowers. I took two small challot out of the freezer. I made minestrone soup by doctoring some cans of Amy’s organic and adding Saul’s homemade dumplings. I washed last week’s two remaining heads of romaine (six came in the package from Costco) and served them with my homemade Russian dressing. I cooked black and white rice with sesame oil and raisins. I sautéed a package of boneless chicken breasts with shallots and snow peas and topped them with a satay sauce. For dessert, I served pareve chocolate mousse crepes that I had made previously and stored in the freezer. We had a great dinner with berachot (blessings). At 5:32 p.m., while Mom was still sleeping and before Adele and Erica arrived, for the first time in my entire life, I lit the Shabbat candles and had no one to whom to say “Shabbat Shalom!” I think that makes me a very lucky girl!

So yes, I am in “left behind” purgatory, but I am also consoled by the fact that I am doing the right thing caring for Mom, keeping the home fires burning, so to speak, allowing Ken and Randi to take a much-needed vacation with an easier mind, and helping provide a rare opportunity for Saul, Ari, and Marianne to visit family in Israel. During the week, I will have help from Adele, Paula, and my friend Laura as well. I truly hope every one of my friends and family who are traveling have a safe and relaxing vacation as well. I hope to be right behind you as soon as the time is right for me.

P.S.: Adele came for a visit today again. Saul and Ari called on a cell phone they borrowed about 1 p.m. this afternoon to tell me they had landed safely and about what a wonderful adventure they had had so far. Towards evening, I had just climbed into bed and switched on the t.v. when I heard Saul and Ari speaking to each other in the next room, my office. I went running in, and there they were, looking at me live from my computer screen (from Shira and Mark’s house). And there I was, looking at them. We had left Skype open and available so that we would be able to communicate, and communicate we did! For this, I ran over to Mom’s room, woke her and wheeled her in front of the computer screen so that she could talk to them also. All this for free! What joy! I love the computer!


Anonymous said...

My rule of thumb when left behind is to indulge in all of the things I never do for myself when everyone is around. Give yourself a manicure with all of the works! rent on demand movies that no one else would watch with you! Eat ice cream just cause you feel like it! Order something indulgent on the internet, and ship it to yourself by 2 day air, then when it arrives open it and use it right away!

Most of all, DON'T MOPE!

Marilyn said...

Thanks for the good advice! Did I sound like I was moping?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for letting me go. I love you. We will try to write tonight about our first day.

Showed Eliezer's fam your Blog.

Ari said...

Despite your absence, you manage to radiate waves of good travel karma across continents... :)

If you have some free time, can you fix the slideshow on our post? It's waaaay too late here, and we give up!