Friday, June 10, 2011

Bathtub Kayaking

Late in April I went to We Be Sushi for dinner with Tom, his girlfriend, and her son. Close questioning revealed that the son’s birthday is the very day after mine, so he has just left his teens and I have one more year before I turn 50.

Did I mention the very helpful thing my father said when my mother had cancer? Before I tell you what it was—cliffhanger!—I wanted to mention that after my mother’s cancer was gone, I got an email from her out of the blue giving me permission to mention it here. That was very sweet of her.

As for my father, he said he tries not to worry about anything he can’t control, and certainly not about anything not happening today. That is at the other end of the spectrum from my own procedures, but it seemed to have some merit nonetheless, and proved to be very helpful. Even setting aside my mother’s cancer, I’ve spent far too much of my life brooding over the past and worrying about the future and I vow to enjoy as many moments as possible from now on, past (probably well past) my life’s halfway mark.

But there is no reason for gloom on that score. For one thing, I’ve spent so much time in fruitless mental pursuits that it’s entirely possible I could have more moments of being present in, say, the 20 years to come than the 49 years already gone. Actually, I could probably do it in one year.

Also, as it said on the front of the birthday card I got from Carol Joy, “Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.” Good point! And a nice contrast to our society’s highly prevalent view that old age is to be dreaded.

I went to Ypsilanti for a week just before my birthday and had a lovely time. I stayed with my parents, of course, and went with my mother to a couple of appointments. My sister came over thrice, I had lunch with Helen and Ginny at Seva (unfortunately, Sally and I couldn’t work out a visit, which I was looking forward to, but I’m sure we will next time), and Amy had me over for a lovely homemade vegetarian birthday dinner with her and her son Mike. She roasted a variety of vegetables, and baked me a birthday cake.

She said I was the first person ever to request a white cake with white frosting, a year or two ago, but it has now taken hold in their family enough that Mike requested the same for his most recent celebration. I said I was glad to learn I had had at least some positive effect on him.

Later in the week, my father announced there would be a “birthday ceremony” around dinnertime, and at the appointed hour, produced a beautiful fruit-covered tart, a card, and the check he customarily mails every year. I am very fond of that check. Because it comes some decades after childhood, it always makes me feel quite spoiled and loved.

Amy and I also got together on another day for lunch at Seva, and Dad and I took a trip to the cemetery one sunny and tranquil afternoon. I’ve never seen a family member’s grave before and found it slightly arresting to see our last name on a headstone. One of the markers was that of a little girl who died after only 19 days, of something that would be readily fixable now. It was overwhelmingly sad to see that stone, with a lamb carved in one corner, and to reflect on what those 19 days must have been like for her mother, who knew from the beginning that her child would not live. Three women on my father's side of the family all outlived a daughter.

Living for a week where there is a TV let me get caught up on Rachel Maddow, and, less happily, on Palin and Weiner. Rachel said she got an email from her parents saying that if they die, they would like such-and-such public couple to adopt her, which I thought was endearing. During the many days of non-stop Weiner coverage, Rachel said something like, “Perhaps you were out today and didn’t get to watch TV. Maybe you missed your TV. If you want to know what your TV looked like while you were out, it looked like this,” and then we saw a screen divided into four quarters, each displaying Congressperson Weiner’s face.

Late in the week, I had lunch at Haab’s with my Uncle Rick and his fiancée, Janet, about which I had had some slight trepidation. Mentally, I was one hundred percent on board, but I feared that when we actually met, I might be overcome with grief over my departed, beloved aunt, but it turned out perfectly fine. Janet is lovely—outgoing, cheerful, full of enthusiasm. She and Uncle Rick have known each other since high school, and are doing all sorts of fun things together. I fully and completely endorse this happy match.

Uncle Rick has lost nearly 40 pounds and looks utterly fantastic. I hasten to say he looked entirely fine before—he’s one of the more handsome uncles around—but he looks amazing now. (Actually, Janet said that when one of her longtime friends learned she was engaged to my uncle, the friend said, “You’re kidding! He was the It Guy in high school!”)

One thing Janet likes to do is go kayaking, and so we discussed the three of us doing this together next year, as they’re about to buy a house on the water. My mother is already worried about it and suggested I take some kayaking lessons in the meantime. I pointed out that Uncle Rick and Janet’s new house is going to be on an internal, probably very placid, waterway, and that I’m sure Janet will save me if anything goes amiss. My mother wasn’t reassured.

“Wait!” I said. “You want me to go kayaking in San Francisco Bay?”

“No,” she explained, “I didn't mean you should go out past the Golden Gate in a kayak. I meant in a swimming pool.”
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