Rich’s plane came back to Florida, I kissed him hello and goodbye and got on the same plane and flew back to Chicago. Although it’s 8 AM in St. Petersburg and sunny and time to sit out on the porch and read the paper with my love, here it’s early and gray and snowing and cold. I’m going to let the Small Green Heron sit on my sidebar rather than switch to the courtyard brick wall picture for this weekend; I’m not sure I’m really all here. I haven’t been up to the zoo yet and that will probably help and I also haven’t caught up with my neighbors who I enjoy. I’d like to be sleepy enough to sleep another couple of hours but sleeping late seems to be a thing of the past. Dan is here and he is still young enough to sleep late.
I picked Dan up at the train station last evening because he has to train back to NYC rather than fly and the train leaves from here rather than Ann Arbor. It’s 18 hours of drudge travel but with 5 instruments and his computer plus personal belongings-well, he doesn’t trust airline baggage handlers with his life’s blood. That makes sense to me.
We went for a light snack of sushi at SushiSamba and managed to keep the tab down to something I could swallow for dessert. I won’t describe it to you beyond saying it is, hands down, the best I’ve ever had. It is, however, one of those places that separates the haves from the have nots and I’ve been twice now and I leave feeling like a have not who sneaked in when the host wasn’t looking. A mixed pleasure. Dan enjoys all the really exotic stuff of sushi- urchin and eel and other slimy things- so he really enjoyed it and that was good enough for me. I’m not likely to see him again for a number of months.
I sorted all the mail when I got here. We can’t have it forwarded to Florida because a) they are barely forwarding it from Ann Arbor as it is and b) mail delivery is, as I’ve noted previously, optional here in Chicago. I don’t want to aggravate the mailman; he has enough power over my life that I’m afraid of him. Anyway, there were fully 50 pounds of wasted trees and that made me sad and and then some mail from home that left me, umm, bittersweet sad and happy.
I typed that last sentence without even thinking about it and now, when I look at it, I find the theme for this post. Mail from home. Where’s that? Where my heart is?
My friend writes, "I’ve been reading your blog over the past few weeks. You are a very talented and witty writer- I’m quite impressed. But I also sense a certain melancholy, a sense that life has been hard these past 6 months, the realization that your babies have flown out on their own and maybe don’t need you in the same way anymore. I can share those feelings so much and have found this phase of my life more challenging than I ever expected. After a lifetime of having a preset agenda of raising kids and working, those roles are quickly fading. The question is, what next? Know that you have many friends who love and care about you."
Because she is one of my oldest and dearest friends she knows exactly what kind of message I need to find in that giant mess of junk mail. And she hits at least one of the nails on the head. Another is that my friends are, of course, back at some other "home" of my past. Rich is at our house in Florida and right now that place, with all the light and green and sun and the sea has much to recommend it. I’m fairly sure that neither Florida nor Chicago are my "home" yet.
Rich is my home. But can I be brutally honest with you here? He is still a relatively new home, too. Less than five years. Those of you who have been married for decades now- well, there may be some worn out and frayed-edge qualities about the place, but your marriage has all the comforts of home. "It takes a heap of living to make a house a home," you know. (If I ever quote Edgar Guest again, shoot me. Please.). Rich and I still have the pleasures- and some dismay- of new discoveries but mostly we’re in that in-between phase. We are no longer infatuated with one another. Now we alternate between frustration at not being able to live life as we please without consideration of one another (because, after all, we were both on our own, raising families and working as single parents for many, many years) and startled, pure unbridled joy. Joy that we have found someone to love and be with for the rest of our time. Startled, when we realize that we have the capacity to stick with marriage and make it work, despite age and history and personalities and frailties. So, yes, Rich is my home. I guess you could call him my dream home.
But let me tell you, "unbridled joy" doesn’t look the same at 55 as it does at 25. It doesn’t act the same either. A hot time for us, as likely as not, involves him chortling when we go to the movies and he says, "Two tickets, please. One regular, one senior." Because we are of like mind (cheap and needing our own way) we get a great deal of pleasure out of buying one large popcorn and asking for a cardboard tray so we can split it, "butter" it as we please and not share. We sneak in drinks from home. We hold hands and when necessary he covers my ears and holds my head close to his stomach for the violent or scary bits. Then we go home and, much of the time, we are so tired we just spoon up together and go to sleep. That is unbridled joy at 55, so brace yourselves.
“Perhaps middle-age is, or should be, a period of
shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material
accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego.” (Anne Morrow Lindberg)
I wrote in a comment at Mary’s the other night-it was actually the wee hours of the morning and my defenses were down- that I miss my friends at home with every fiber of my being, every single day. We know each other. When I was in the same town, they were like the familiar and happy background noise of birds at the feeder. If I wanted to see them or hear them all I needed to do was move a few steps.
One of my friends decided about eight months ago she was going to lose weight, once and for all. To us, she wasn’t overweight; she was our beautiful friend. But she had been suffering with it and decided to do something, so she joined an overeaters group and got serious. At first, like good friends, we all said, " Silly you. You look great!" Eventually, like better friends, we listened as she explained the boundaries she had set for herself and we changed the sorts of places where we ate out and we made sure that we had food that was good tasting but still on her very limited menu when we got together. Some, we tried not to indulge ourselves in front of her- I, personally, should have done that more- and, in the end, some of us picked up better eating habits and a general feeling of can-do inspiration from her. She has succeeded in losing a lot of weight- I think 40 pounds or more- and she looks healthy and fit and radiant. If I were there I would know exactly how many pounds.
If I were there I would be having a SuperBowl party next week with poker and a giant kettle of etoufee. Audrey would bring cloud cake but we would have plenty of low calorie good food on hand, too. This past couple of weeks I’ve missed out on knee surgery, hernia surgery, a difficult anniversary and a colonoscopy. (And you know how much fun colonoscopy commiseration is among friends.) I miss all that, desperately.
So, where is this all going? I’m not sure. It’s sort of a cold, gray, Sunday ramble but be sure that it is not going to, "woe is me." If you leave sympathy comments I’ll come ’round and smack you. I don’t feel that way for one minute. I’m not unhappy with my life and I’m quite certain that I’ve been blessed with far more than I need or deserve- and I appreciate that. I am surrounded by beauty and love and the children are doing what they oughta and I have a house with a palm tree and a house by a wonderful city zoo, the best of husbands and the best of friends. What I am experiencing is a common theme among many of my close friends and family. So, I guess it’s nothing more than idle reflection on our human condition, yes?