Grandparents on Call

Recently we received a call to ask, very gently, if we would be able to come to the west coast for a month or so to assist with our three-year-old grandson. The explanation was very simple and straightforward. Our son would be away for a work assignment for an extended period of time, perhaps a month or more, and he was unable to come home at all. In a split second, we changed our plans and booked arrangements. Suddenly I felt personally uplifted, valued, and excited about the trip.

About a week before we were to leave, another call came indicating his work trip was canceled. Wow! But we were graciously re-invited for a “grandson” visit. What a fantastic dilemma, spending money unexpectedly but having quality time with our grandson. Who could resist? An unplanned time having fun, laughing, watching him, sharing family meals again, experiencing non-stop sunshine!

Off we went to Southern California but for only ten days. Precious and wonderfully unexpected.

Bus Station Musings

In a moment of despair, floating through the shadows of self-doubt and mental emptiness, I remembered childhood bus trips to the City. At that time, exploring the world, I was freed from the emptiness of waiting at home, reading in my cardboard refrigerator box, caring for action but enduring the sluggishness of an unstructured summer break existence. As incredible as it seems in this world of stranger warnings, Missing and Exploited Bulletins, and government intervention in child-rearing, as an eight-year-old, I was able to board a bus, go downtown, and return home with not much ado. I had a destination, and the bus went by the front of the building, enabling me to study dance and squeak through some useless voice lessons.

I decide to take a day to explore the blissfulness of this bygone style of travel and recapture the free-flight emotions of youthful independence and endless opportunities. As I make my way to the nearest Greyhound Bus Station, many years have past and I am anxious to sit and ruminate, wondering if anyone will actually be waiting for a bus to anywhere? Is there a need for buses anymore, except for the most low-income, and where do people need to travel anyway by bus? As I peer around, I notice that rather than a suitcase or small satchel, most of the travelers have burgeoning backpacks. Young children jump around erratically or sit sullenly next to mothers staring vacantly, and older teens have their heads bowed as if in technological prayer. Not what I expected. No hand-to-mouth homeless folks or retired old ladies seeking a visit with their adult children are lounging about the station.

Since I am not purchasing a ticket, I decided to sit unobtrusively on a bench within earshot of folks so that I may eavesdrop, while seeking a conversational prompt to capture their travel itineraries and pry to the extent I am able. There are no young children traveling unattended as I had. There were no professionals with briefcases, hurrying off to a busy day at the office. Clearly, there weren’t salesmen with sample cases. I looked carefully to determine if any of these bus-takers were old-styled “domestics” and concluded that nannies probably live-in now or have vehicles and cleaning staff arrive in mini-vans with emblems advertising their services.

Within minutes I skulk around closing in on some conversations, and I am able to capture some information. The young man next to me with the enormous backpack and low hung pants is actually a college student going to classes. His conversation on his phone is with what sounds like a girlfriend. Not too exciting and definitely a replay of many informational exchanges with mild romantic interests. The young mother is shouting endlessly at her three young children to sit down, stop jumping around, use your indoor voice. Not much there of interest given no conversation is happening.

What has struck me is not what is there waiting for life. There are travelers, having a destination, not particularly distinguished by their economic levels, and no one interested in chatting. No one seems to be excited about the experience or having the adventure of their lives.

The Best Laid Plans: Remembering Hurricane Irene

August 21, 2011 – August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene was the ninth named storm and first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

A trip, August 25, to begin the many trips of my retirement, began with a leisurely journey to the airport for a non-eventful flight to Kansas, not the final destination but a brief visit to the daughter who landed there after graduate school. Kansas was meant to be the stop-over on the way to Sacramento August 30 to pick up our retirement dream, an RV with 3500 Ram Truck to be the transport around the United States, fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing this amazing country.

Relaxing early Sunday morning, August 28, having coffee with the family, my cell phone rang. Simple, just a ring connecting me to friends and family, yet it wasn’t. This was a neighbor asking if I knew my basement had 18 inches of water in it. Remarkably I calming determined that the entire cul-de-sac was under water and the electricity had been off since Hurricane Irene had swept through, apparently two days previously.

A rush to pack, schedule a flight home, canceling reservations, calling RV Dealer ensued. A trip to the airport and an expensive unplanned flight home with the oppressive fears of what we would find, overshadowed any concerns about money or time, yet off we went.

Finally arriving home, generators and pumps littered everyone’s yard and the street. Furniture laid strewn about. The house looked normal as we entered. With dread as we walked down the stairs, the entire basement was beginning to smell, water was at least up to the second step and floating loose materials bobbed about. The sump pump was not working due to the electricity being off for several days. What followed is routinely what faces victims of floods, calling the Emergency Clean Up companies, the insurance company, and on and on.

All of the drywall and doors required replacement and most of the furniture and belongings were not able to be reclaimed. Sadly, thirty five years of memories ended up on the massive pile of lost debris on the curb. The whirl of dehumidifiers and fans going 24 hours a day drove me to the edge. Just as the mold treatment was completed and the drywall reinstalled, Tropical Storm Lee caused another power outage, resulting in another 4 inches of water and a redo of the entire process.

We sold the house two months later, deciding retirement, with the responsibility of a house was unlikely to be a carefree and relaxing period of life.

The Ubiquitous Gnat

It is that time of the year again – gnat season.  The official definition of a gnat is “any of many species of tiny flying insects in the dipterid suborder Nematocera…They can be both biting and non-biting.” I was happy to learn they have a lifespan of 7 days, which if you have a cloud of them around can seem like a lifetime!

The challenge when past fifty is to ferret out a real gnat or is that merely a floater?

There are several strategies suggested to kill them.  I don’t feel the least bit of remorse.  I have gotten attached to certain fluorescent beetles or stick bugs and miss them for a moment when gone.  I must confess I feel joyful when I manage to hand capture one or I find one of my traps has been successful.

I have tried the commercial with red containers with promised Gnat Trap capacity.  These have not been lethal enough for me.  Too many fly around erratically and determine they are too smart to fall for the trap.  I also have used little bowls of sweet vermouth. While observing the gnats happily sucking up the liquid and sitting topsy turvy on the rim, few simply fall over dead or drown.  The mixture of cider vinegar and soap is somewhat more effective.  I actually count the dead bodies so I feel some sense of accomplishment.  The craziest thing is I think they crawl up the bathroom drains.  I live on the third floor, so it seems unlikely, but I find them around the shower drain and flying around the glass shower enclosure. To combat this possible entry, I use bleach or Drano on occasion.

The best strategy?  Wait until the first hard freeze which does come later each year! › wiki › Gnat

Death of a Child, No Matter the Age

My son-in-law, Simon, disappeared on August 9.  While he and my daughter were divorced, he was the father of our very first grandchild and he remained always in our thoughts, if not in our lives that frequently.  It has been an exasperating and frightening time as we all grappled with the why of his disappearance.  The complications of filing a missing person report were overwhelming.  The police don’t really address adult missing person cases with a serious effort if there is no sign of foul play.  Adults can go where they want, when they want. Could he have absented himself due to some unknown personal pressure and was merely clearing his head? Where could he have gone?  As the days dragged on, we theorized that he would surely return for the first day of his teaching this past Monday.

He was found yesterday, August 22, oddly enough, off a ramp from Route 29 to West Ox Rd in the heart of busy Fairfax, not far from where his family was living and his school is located.  He was riding a motorcycle and went off the ramp, likely on August 9th, landing apparently in deep brush.  He was found by a landscaping crew doing routine maintenance.  It is unimaginable to think of him lying there, all this time, unnoticed and perhaps suffering at some point.

This is a very sad time for our family, especially for his young son, but we are grateful to finally have closure.  Simon was a special education teacher and Junior Varsity Coach in Fairfax.  He loved his job and as a teacher of emotionally disturbed adolescents, he contributed to their lives.

He was not a young child.  He was the age of my children and his unexpected loss foreshadows every parental fear of their child preceding them. While Simon is no longer with us, his being found was a gift.  The loss is great.

The Clock

Many years ago, maybe in the early 1990s, I self-gifted an oak, chiming clock to match my small home office suite.  I have cherished this clock for many years, packing it carefully through three moves since that time.  Several months ago, the tic toc pendulum continued to move like a metronome, but the hands of the clock remained stubbornly still.  Batteries were replaced and nothing happened.

I resolved that this clock would work again, like a remnant of my past I refused to abandon.  After several hours, a few YouTubes, a search on the internet for parts, and an $85 replacement package on its way, I continue to hope for a vibrant future.  Nothing is too old to be reclaimed J


Each morning the omnipresent email nag delivers the “Word for the Day.”  Since the pursuit of learning is a lifelong endeavor and to preserve cognitive function, with a coffee cleared head, I read the word, commit it to memory, and use in a sentence to ensure it remains in my central brain-data repository.  Today’s word was verdant. The proffered definitions were “green due to lushness” and “inexperienced or fresh.”

Having never heard verdant used to describe “inexperienced,” I began a search to see if it really meant this fresh take on the familiar definition. Apparently, my genome sensory knowledge is older than I was aware since according to Merriam-Webster, English speakers have been using verdant as a synonym for “green” since the later 16th century.  Since the 1820s it has also been used as a descriptive term for inexperienced or naive. Who knew?  It is derived from an Old French word for “green” – vert.  Of course, this particular etymological discussion goes on and on.

The Doctor’s Office

Sitting here humbled by the process of seeing a doctor, especially a gym, , and always nervous about the physical contact, I hazard a glance around the room. The elderly lady in the wheelchair with wispy hair, zebra roots, and a sunken face, appears relaxed. The young women with long stylish curly natural and fabulous young girl body comes in with her mom. Her mother hunches over in the chair lapsing into a full snooze snore within minutes. I watch the daughter as she stares into her phone and wait. How long? She leans over and knocks her mother’s arm startling her awake. Soon mama slips back into slumber. I am jealous as sleep, even medicated, escapes me nightly. Conversations overheard, brief snatches, family discourse, personal comments. A father reading a long text from his daughter out loud praising him for his many wonderful attributes. Life is good.


It’s late.  I don’t want to check because it will make me nervous. I have suffered from insomnia since I was 7 years old.  Once one is out of elementary school, this is a useful trait.  I could study well into the night.  I was able to read many books, mostly for entertainment.  As an adult, I was a much better employee as I was able to take work home and complete it with time left over.

At one point I was a single parent of three teenagers, had two elderly parents I cared for, held down a full-time highly responsible administrative position, taught two courses in a graduate program at night, was completing my doctorate, and writing books.  I subsisted on 4 hours sleep and didn’t really notice.

Now, I am retired. Many of my friends are older and are part of the early to bed, early to rise group.  Just about everyone I know is abed by 10:00.  While I like to sleep in a bit more now, I remain about the only person awake at 11:00.  My three adult children, from what I understand, are all in bed earlier.  My dog is asleep by 8:00.  My spouse is asleep soon thereafter.

I have tried many elixirs to speed sleep, all without success.  I rely on Calm, a sleeping app to assist in the process, but my Apple Watch Sleep tracker says my ideal sleep time is 11:15 p.m.  How can this be?  I am out of step with the rest of my age cohort and those younger and older. Oddly enough, if my mother was still alive, we would still be in sync, as she and I went to bed every night at 11:30, after the news.  Maybe, my sleep pattern is genetic or maybe it is learned, sigh.

King Lear’s Message: Aging and Children

Raising children, taking care of aging parents, continuing professional education, working in high-level administration of an agency…all have given way to retirement and relocation.  Living at the beach has provided beautiful sunrises and sunsets best enjoyed with strong drink.
My three children are successful professionals and I have two wonderful grandchildren, one on each coast.  Traveling is an important distraction and a necessity to maintain contact with children and grandchildren.
But, I feel lonely and bored occasionally, without the driving purpose of my 40s and 50s.  I have family and friends and many interests.  But, I am not necessary to my grown children’s lives.  There are no executive decisions impacting many lives.  Calls are more about birthdays to friends.
I am not unhappy, but I am not necessary either.  I am an aging baby boomer, looking at adjustments, not challenges.  It is okay but what choice is there?