I’m free. For the first time in 17 years I’ve had the house to myself for a week. Wheee! Wild times at 152 High Street. Not. But I’m still grateful to have this time to myself.
T went to Seattle to visit B and family, and V is in a respite group home for the first time ever. A lot of big changes. It took some research to find a place that V could go for a week, and miraculously it seems to be working out, with a few hiccups: his first night he was up til 5 am and slept past noon, but he seems to have acclimated and gotten back on a schedule. The fact is I can’t be on my own with V at this stage of our lives, and we found a way to make it happen. We hope this is the first step in a future where V can live happily in a group home. And as much as I am the one eager for this to happen sooner than later, the fact is that I’ve been incredibly nervous as to how he would do. The official document that states all his challenges and enabled him to get the funding he will need in the future, doesn’t begin to explain who he is as a person, or what he needs from others (mostly love and understanding, with a strong measure of guidance to navigate his path.) Challenges for sure, yet he is also a charming, intelligent and interesting young man. Hopefully the staff at the home is seeing him that way.
What to do with this glorious week? Well, I didn’t want to be too far from home in case of an emergency, which means not going up to visit my BFF in Maine or down to Philly to see my Dad. But it doesn’t preclude me going to the city, which is what I did with my first full day on my own. I got together with J, an old friend who I lost touch with after leaving Brooklyn, where she still lives. She worked hard to track me down, eventually running into L, another Brooklyn friend who I had stayed in touch with, and who gave her my contact info. We’ve texted a bit in the months since and I finally had free time for a visit.
I hadn’t seen her in 17 years! And yet it was like old times, we picked up immediately, walking around the city for hours, eventually finding a place to eat that fit our various dietary restrictions – foods that we can no longer have due to various health issues. (Yes, getting old is lots of fun : ) There are so many people that I lost touch with over the years, most after we moved and it was just too overwhelming dealing with V and everything else to keep up, and one by one friends disappeared from my life. And while I’ve made some good friends here I don’t have the social life I did in the city. Too much isolation in the world of caregiving. So it was a delight to reconnect, making me realize it’s never too late to regain old friends.
Then I met up with L, who I have stayed in touch with but haven’t seen since the pandemic, at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park, which was an annual occurrence for me when I lived in the city. It’s a wonderful event, which has grown in its 30 years to include concerts in several parks over four days and this was the last performance of the year. Thousands of people gathered on seats, and spread out in the park to hear great music. While we were sitting and listening I saw another old Brooklyn friend – he and his wife were our best friends in our old apartment building, someone else we stayed in touch with for a while (they were at B’s bar mitzvah) but eventually lost contact. Proximity counts for a lot. It was great to see him and in a way not surprising as he keeps up with the best music the city has to offer.
There were two jazz ensembles led by women, which was refreshing to see in the generally male dominated jazz world. But the highlight this year was seeing Archie Shepp, at 85 still playing the saxophone and singing, with a stellar jazz trio. The respect for him was palpable – it was like the jazz world equivalent of seeing Serena Williams at the US Open: lots of love and awe in the audience, and it was a fantastic way to end the day.
Then I raced up to catch my train, taking an Uber home from the station in a Tesla. I can’t stand Elon Musk but he makes a hell of a car. I deserved that ride: I had walked 18,000 steps in the course of the day! I miss that sort of city day with hours of walking, great art, good friends.
The rest of the week has been pleasurable if less eventful, getting back on my recently tuned up bike to go to the library and do a few errands, having a few down days when I wrote and read and cooked and took it easy. There were times of loneliness for sure, yet I have really savored this time alone. I’ve also been enjoying the yard, which is hard to find time for since V still refuses to set foot in it, one of the many unsolved mysteries in a curious life.
I met up with my cousin downtown, sitting outside at a coffee shop; we hadn’t gotten together in a while and it was wonderful to see her and catch up. I had a glass of wine with my next door neighbor, sitting on her lovely porch on a late afternoon after the heat of early in the week had subsided. Little get togethers that were to me a big deal as they just don’t happen as much as I wish they did.
Then I had a second city day, going to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) where I met up with a friend who got us free passes. We saw the Matisse exhibit and wandered through the museum. It was another day with lots of city walking, great art and friendship.
There were little things I appreciated: having toiletries out, asI usually have to hide items like shampoo and toothpaste; not having the cabinets and refrigerator locked up; making vegetables I’d gotten at the Farmers Market, without the smells and greasy pans from the carnivores I live with the rest of the time. It’s the little things that wear me down, and also so easily lift me up.
Today I biked to the train to the pool to have my last outdoor swim of the season. I’m still getting back in bike shape so I didn’t swim too hard or long but it was a ritual goodbye to summer I didn’t want to miss. The pool was nearly empty and it felt so good to be in the water one last time.
I just made a key lime pie to take to tomorrow’s block party some neighbors organized. I signed up to help set up beforehand because why not? How often do I have free time to help others out? To do what I want when I want? To go somewhere and not feel rushed to get back home?
I know that all of this will end by Sunday morning, when T comes home from a good trip away – he’s on the red eye – and then we go to pick up V. I hope that he is okay, that he was well-cared for and didn’t feel that we had abandoned him. There are such complex feelings I have about him: so much love and concern for his well being and yet all too aware of the toll that care takes on me. Having this week made me realize just how much of my energy goes into meeting his needs, both in the moment and in planning his future, and how restorative it was to be on my own and to spend time with people I like. I will let the peace and quiet linger for just a little longer…and then get on with life and whatever it brings.
If you’ve read through to the end thanks for staying with this longer than usual post – just a lot I wanted to celebrate while I could. I hope the end of summer brings you some peace and joy in even the most fleeting moments.