Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vacation, week one

I went home to see the family for a few days. My parents (and sisters, and Logyn) recently moved out of the 720 square foot home where we grew up into a 3,200 square foot condo. Their friends are all downsizing. Convinced that my sisters aren't going anywhere any time soon, they've done just the opposite. "We couldn't do it anymore," my mom said. "I mean, I know in many countries, several families live in a space smaller than that...but those are better people than we are. We were all ready to kill each other."

It was rather close quarters. The girls and the baby shared a small room. When I visited, I slept on the couch in a semi-finished room in the basement that also served as my dad's home office. There was only one bathroom.

The condo is huge by comparison. It has three bathrooms. Three. The girls have their own bedrooms. ("Now, we'll really never get them out of here," my mom says.) There's still no real privacy. Logyn is two, after all...

Logyn: "You go potty, TT?"

Me: "Yes, I'm going potty."

Logyn: "Can I come?"

My sister: "You can say no."

Me: "I was planning on it."

But, even with the occasional unsolicited assistance in the bathroom, it is a much easier place to stay.

Logyn loves her new house. That's what she calls it. Her new house. When my sister told her I was coming a few weeks ago, she ran around unlocking doors..."So TT can come to my new house."

The morning I left, she wrapped her little arms around my neck, and with tears in her eyes, said, "TT, you come back to my new house pretty soon?"

"Yes," I said, "I'll come back to your new house pretty soon." And then, I was the first person ever to cry her way through a flight from Ohio to the beach.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lucy goosey

A point d'appui

Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe....through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake.

An English literature professor named Bob Davis introduced me to Thoreau and to this, his favorite passage from Walden.

Bob's class was at 3 o'clock in a third story room in the corner of the humanities building. Even in the air conditioning, it got too warm in there in the afternoons. Dr. Davis sat on a stool in front of a bunch of overheated, lethargic college students. They gazed out the windows at kids drinking beer from Nalgene bottles and playing frisbee golf, counting down the seconds until they could join them.

In this group of Gap kids, I stood out like a sore thumb in the scrubs I wore to class because, right after, I had to go to be a nurse's aide until midnight. I dug at the wedding ring that cut into my swollen finger on hot days like this. I added a few things to a grocery list I had started in the corner of my planner...paper towels, ground beef, Tide.

Then, he read Thoreau. And suddenly, I was swallowing hard to keep from crying all over my scrub top.

Thoreau was like a gift. I felt like I must have been incredibly hard to buy for. Nothing else I had--the job, the ring, the grocery list--really fit. But then, Bob Davis read from Walden, and it was exactly right.

At the end of the passage, he laughed a little and said, "In a couple months, I'm going to give all of you a final exam. You're going to write for me for a few hours. At the end of that, I've always sort of hoped someone would throw it at me and say, 'This is, and no mistake.'"

A few months later, he gave us a final exam. I wrote for him for three hours. At the end of it, satisfied with every last word, I laid it on the desk in front of him, looked him in the eyes, sat my finger on the page, and said, "This is, and no mistake."

Then, I straightened my scrubs and went to work until midnight.

It took me a few years to find the hard bottom and rocks in place. I still lose it from time to time. But then, there is the gift--the voice of Thoreau reminding me to settle myself, and work and wedge my feet...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In spite of it

It has been a beautiful day. Ninety degrees. Sunny. I was on call last night but got several hours of sleep so I've been up to enjoy it. And enjoy it I have. Mostly.

I've been alone.
And lonely.

I'm not new to this alone thing. I am actually one of those people who requires a good bit of it. But, as it turns out, I also have a good bit more of it than I require. This is (mostly) my own fault. Today, in particular, it was my fault. I can see how I orchestrated this. It feels sort of like the time I shut my tiny finger in the bathroom door. I was six and was playing tag with my brother. I would have liked to have blamed it on him, but it was me. Knowing that somehow made it hurt even worse.

Like I said, though, it's been a beautiful day. I spent much of it in D.C., lying on the edge of this, my feet floating in the water.

A group of kids splashed next to me. At one point, the sky darkened briefly above me and I opened my eyes to see a lithe six year old boy soaring over my head. His mother yelled at him, "Hey, go around next time."

Ducks paddled past. One stopped on the ledge next to me to shake a little water from his fanny. He was standing so close, he got me wet. What he and the boy gazelle lacked in social graces they more than made up for in comic relief.

I read Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies for maybe the third time. I listened to Astral Weeks. I got a little sunburn. Alone, I enjoyed the beautiful day.

It was on the drive home that I realized I had distracted myself from this lonely, not cured myself of it. It's still here. With me. A shit ass companion, if ever there was one.

But, I'm okay. There's something to be said for calling a thing the shit ass it is...and now, maybe enjoying the evening in spite of it.