Posts Tagged ‘visit’

Exed Exes

26 June 2011

Dear J-

We got a visit from one of our fellow Ridgelings* today, a lady we hadn’t seen since theVet and I got married eleven years ago and who in the meantime started her own career and family as well. The original plan was to have their family meet ours in a no-holds-barred deathmatch at our house, resounding long and loud as a mild rebuke to our uphill neighbors who seem intent on partying well past midnight every weekend. Er, right; actually they wanted to meet at our house as their boys tend to be a bit rowdy and four kids are prone to all sorts of hijinks that might not be suited to the usual Sunday brunch places. As things evolved this past week it turned out she’d be coming alone instead — one thing after another and the stress meant it would be a relaxing weekend off for her.

Long story short: we have a history together too. Being the sort that I am having few histories with anyone I’m not quite comfortable with how you’re suppoed to act based solely on inexperience with that particular situation. Thankfully I’m the only one and there were no strange awkward pauses, no phrases redolent with meaning as I’d idly imagined. I admit to photographing in anger the last time fresh off the split trying to catch a bad side as she sang and not being particularly proud of that. What next? You move on. Forget. Forgive. It’s tough enough in the world without burning yourself on half-imagined slights. Giving those up isn’t giving up: you are free to be free.

We took lovely pictures today. My favorite turned out to be the first, an unguarded moment before that wary veil slid back down. It’s not the bristly defense of old broken friendships but the strange distance of friends gone stale from distance and infrequent contact. We shake off the rust and together find our way back from that yawning chasm before too long. I begin to understand the social norms that govern our lives, invisible forces drawing us all together in gravitational orbits, coming closer and whirling, ever spinning in place and around each other in steps too fast for normal dance.


* These are folks who used to live in Ridge House together. Pretty much my whole college experience can be summed up in four words: mechanical engineering, Ridge House — such is the influence of where you live should you choose the right place to live. Co-op living is more than the sum of questionable hygiene and cheap rent: the people you meet are friends forever.


Ease In

11 June 2011

Dear J-

It has been a long Saturday back but relaxing nonetheless. We got up luxuriously late (and putting on pants this morning I noted with some sadness just how easily I put on weight during the last week), made pancakes and headed out the door for a long cooperative session of child-rearing. While I was left to the devices of the kids and their cousin along with her parents theVet took off for a baby shower. Calcifer has begun to phase out naps whether because of teeth sprouting or some unknown demon seed coming to the fore and so I spent most of the next four hours on my feet coaxing him to relax while figgy ran around with her cousin happily.

For a while, at least. We pushed our visit through dinner time when figgy was able to exhibit her dreadful table manners (running off with dinner half-finished) and the increasing irrationality that comes with lack of sleep, sniping at everyone and everything including her cousin who was just trying to get along. When nothing is right including things that just were the nap is overdue. Yet she refuses to take one with us so either we conk her over the head or put up with it. She fell asleep, heavily asleep on the car ride home but when woken up to go to bed went on a long irrational crying jag for ten minutes or so. Nothing could be done or understood except this: “You’re making me MAD!”

It has been a week, after all. Why shouldn’t I feel so rusty trying to soothe the savage beasts who roam our house? It feels like forever, it feels strangely familiar. I only hope that I can remember the patience I’ve had while this is relatively fresh before I start in on the nasty ways of our lives later.


Long Saturday

4 June 2011

Dear J-

It has been an exceptionally long day, full of fun and defiance on one hand and new opportunities one another. Today we went to two birthday parties which despite the free-flowing soda, juice, and cakes both cup and not wiped both kids out. Since we came back and hustled them off to bed we’ve hard nary a peep out of either of them despite their usual insistence on fighting the unconsciousness that usually overwhelms them like the relentless tides. We sometimes threaten her with things we know we can’t follow up on. “If you want to go to the party … well you know, I suppose it doesn’t matter because we’re going anyway.”

If nothing else — and you can’t always count on the birthday party being a good opportunity to stuff them full of anything but cake and chips — the parties are a source of entertainment for them and it keeps them occupied together while parents discuss such weighty matters as school districts and the crippling fear that we’re all alone struggling with various rearing difficulties — and then discovering with no small relief that we share the same. It turns out we’ve formed a core group of four kids who must hang out together at daycare and invite each other to everything — it’s nice to see them again and we’ve started to form a little klatsch of sorts.

Finally we got to see Ben and Sarah before they embark in their own journey of discovering inner peace while the world and sleep melts down around them. There are those people who will gladly share warnings of what’s ahead in an effort to prepare the unwary traveler. For me parenthood is a little like that: you want to tell people how crazy life will take you but you get the feeling that it’s not quite believable until you’re actually hip-deep in it. As luck favors the prepared, though, your responses are dictataed by your fears: is this normal? Thankfully the answer seems to be almost always yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Best part is I have this to buoy me ALL week long in Alabama.


Battleship Cove

10 March 2011

Dear J-

After the work of the day, which consisted of wrapping up the audit with a sternly-worded meeting, we said our goodbyes (this was interesting, as one of us worked at this company in a previous life and had in fact hired someone thirty years ago, someone who was still working there in fact) and made our separate ways out of Mansfield. Everyone else headed for the airport but I went to Fall River instead. It turns out the whole time we were there only twenty miles away from BB59, USS Massachusetts and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. For fifteen dollars I got to clamber around four different ships (that fourth one was explored in a casual manner at best: I was completely exhausted by then) for three hours.

What strikes me first is the crew quarters. It felt almost like prison sometimes, the close spaces and locking doors. Dig a little deeper and it’s clear why sailors hold such attachments to their ships. When you’re climbing through the bowels of the ship and sliding down rails you start to think that you’re inside a living organism, humming with activity and groaning in peculiar ways. The ship, alive around you, engulfs you in a warm embrace and makes sure you hurtle through the indifferent sea safely.

Because I went on a Thursday afternoon there were only a few other fellow museum patrons and for long stretches I was essentially alone on long treks through echoing corridors, wondering if the voices I heard were coming from real people or just displays. Later I would run into more people but I kept imagining I was alone instead, dreaming of life aboard and underway, deck vibrating with sea and engines, watchful eyes to each quarter, crew pulling together to bring everyone home. I would close my eyes and let the ghosts whisper in my ear: sail away, wind at your back and face full of spray. Eventually I’ll get to visit the other big battlewagons but I’m glad I finally had the chance today before I left.


Distant Relations

16 January 2011

Dear J-

Earlier in the week we got a call from theVet’s parents:  could they come over, they asked, and visit this weekend? It’s beyond ungrateful to refuse and it’s not like we ever have big weekend plans so of course we said yes. They asked for directions to the local Korean grocery before coming and after a brief struggle between my landmark-based navigation (no, left AFTER the car dealership. I dunno, Chevvies and Jeeps?) arrived safely at our house, where the work began. Her mom went to the kitchen and busied herself there while her dad plunked down on the couch to watch soccer — without cable, there’s not a lot of choice here.

It was eerily similar to what theVet’s sister has said about visits to her house:  mom cooks up a storm while dad withdraws to the television, and it’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself at every gathering I’ve been to lately. After the screaming freeze-out that followed figgy’s birth I’m glad that we’re talking again, but it’s a cordial, distant feeling. We like you, you like us, I can already see that in order to avoid the stranger-danger reaction that figgy has we’ll have to inject ourselves, bit by bit, into your lives. I just can’t help but feel the guilt of ingratitude — I’m thankful they’re here, and they’re making the effort, I am, but there are times I wish the routine we have wasn’t disrupted. The obligation of entertainment and company shouldn’t be this hard.

My brother is now living in Taiwan. I sometimes think that his wife is happiest about that — she’s originally from there, so there’s that but there’s also the fact that my parents, in order to move down from the snow of Cheney, moved to San Jose not far from them and were integral parts of their lives (weekend babysitters, spare drivers) for a few years. I’m beginning to understand. On the other hand perhaps it’s exactly what we need.


LEGO Island

9 January 2011

Dear J-

My eyelids are heavy tonight.  It’s been a long fun day in the shadow of Monday, and if the best treatment for that is a healthy dose of ignorance and defiance, I’ve got enough banked from today to cruise for the rest of the week, sleep deprivation and all.  We’d been planning a trip to LegoLand since Christmas but it came together nicely today, the surprise was complete and the delight worth talking about over and over.  Even bringing Calcifer along as a nonparticipant worked out, with eyes open and watching us with the grave expression we’ve come to love.

If you forced my hand and made me encapsulate the day into a single episode it would be this:  figgy running amok in Miniland, dashing here to there in as loud and obtrusive a manner as possible, other parents either giving me an eye askance or sympathetic, depending on the verdict rendered.  I didn’t mind.  After five hours in the park she still had the infectious enthusiasm she arrived with.  After five hours of rides and food she still had the wherewithal to ask for a snack and then fall into a deep, trance-like sleep on the way back, secure and sated on the day’s feastings.  It was a boost to our psyches, having brought this day to her and later them; the lessons of giving versus receiving never grow old.


Emergency Room

17 December 2010

Dear J-

We filled her up with sugar today from cookies to popsicles and ice cream and marshmallows, there wasn’t a spare moment that went by without a bit of sweet passing by.  What else do you do with a kid who bumped her head and came home early from day care — serious enough that they called us, and they never call anyone to pick them up early, telling us she would need stitches — but make the experience as fun as possible?  Tonight she’s glued our heads back together too, checked our blood pressure, and taken our pulse; there’s no one as observant as the three-year-old going on thirty, making sure that everything you do can be reproduced later.

I called our usual service provider (Scripps) and they told me their urgent care facilities prefer not to handle the little ones — after hanging up and swearing volubly we headed off to Rady Children’s Hospital instead; I thought the appropriate place was the Acute Care center, but they pointed me towards Emergency* instead (in retrospect Acute Care seemed to be filled with chronic disorders).  The doctors said there would be a scar no matter what we do.  Yet the scar can easily be covered over with hair for now and will fade in time given the natural resilience of her stubborn nature.

You could consider the day in terms of work done (zero — we’d just gotten settled back down for the morning) expenses paid ($100), stuff (they gave her a Barbie doll, new in package, at the conclusion of the visit — I remember when the gold plastic ring at the bottom of the dentist’s pirate chest was the best prize I could hope for from a medical visit) but that’s clearly missing the point.  We’re rapidly passing the milestone where all she’d want was comfort and hugs; now you invest her in the process and protocols, explain the whys and hows and it’s amazing still to think of the results:  a visit to the doctor’s is not something to be dreaded, even an unplanned jaunt like this.  figgy is fine tonight, and our mental health is intact as well.  Thank you to the medical staff, thank you to the day care, thank you to figgy for making it look so easy.


* At some point I think everyone has to go to the emergency room (it seemed like an absurdly small reason for an ER visit, but the good folks at Rady Children’s Hospital kept pointing me that way) and thank goodness we have adequate insurance — the ER copay/deductible is $100.  Without insurance I’d have been tempted to get a tube of superglue.

T-Day Visit

23 November 2010

Dear J-

My folks are visiting tonight as part of the parade of faces for Calcifer to enjoy; he has given them the same steady regard he has given everyone else so far, gazing past or through them but starting to bring the world into focus.  When he does gain some focus on them I wonder if he’ll see them (or us) as I do:  well-meaning, even-handed, occasionally exasperating, and tinged with a bit of guilt.

I am a disappointing son in several different ways, preferring to hold my family at arms-length and providing contact in sporadic, as-needed fashion.  I was also a demanding one growing up:  things needed to be my way, now, and in no uncertain terms, lest they receive the dreaded sulking lip.  Even today I’m not the most steady personality, blowing up at the slightest provocation in inconsistent fashion — it’s like living with a bomb, which has the rest of the family counseling patience.

At times I wonder why anyone would choose to live with me, which is the real source of my holiday blues:  reflections on the person I am, not who I want to be.  But of course there’s nothing worse than self-pity, unless it’s despair that self-pity is all you can muster for a full day with more to look forward to tomorrow:  what plans, what frustrations lie to be conquered (and which should just be ignored — work being first amongst those).  Instead of ruminating on the regrets of today, think about what you can do to make tomorrow better.


Ghost Writing

13 August 2010

Dear J-

The plane is headed west, which is great news for me, although they’re already talking about the next trip out (three weeks from now). This particular audit went well, I think; it was clear that they’d taken pains to read through the requirements of the ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code and had structured their program accordingly: it’s neither cheap nor easy to get certified by the Board, so my Mickey Mouse audit activities had roughly the same effect as whistling into the wind. Who am I to point out discrepancies and deficiencies; knowing how we are at work I sometimes feel like a giant hypocrite whenever I open my mouth on an audit.

I had trouble sleeping last night, whether it was the difficulty of being an auditor, the excitement of the last day, me actually choking on phlegm (or my mind thinking I was), or the plans for this last day. I kept waking up every couple of hours, checking the clock disgustedly and throwing myself back into bed (oh, and here’s a tip: Hilton is proud, in their Garden Inns, of their soft beds and pillows; by last night I felt like I was drowning in quicksand every time I laid myself out) until the too-early alarm intruded and showed me to today.

Afterward the audit exit meeting we went our separate ways — some of us heading back to California this afternoon, others traveling onwards to the next one, and still others not yet ready to travel — I don’t necessarily get it. The Southeast has been quite hospitable but the choice between one more night here and going home doesn’t even make me think twice.I had just enough time to make a side trip up to Kennesaw Mountain, which is a Civil War battlefield dating back to Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’ve never been to a Civil War site before (I know, very lame for someone who’s interested in history, gravesites, and the military) but I found it oddly refreshing despite the triple-digit heat and mugginess. I’d go back, given more time and another chance; it’s places like that which shaped our nation. The battles around Kennesaw took place on days like today, where the humidity and heat take your breath away; I can only imagine what those young men felt in their hot woolen uniforms marching through the dappled woods.

It was a fitting capstone on this trip; if I was traveling with family I’m not sure we would have taken the time to head over there. At work we like to talk about lessons learned and operating experience, which can be summarized thus: smart people learn from their mistakes, but really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes. If I’m coming back in three weeks I’ll have a lot more stuff to bring (hard to believe — it boggles the mind — but that PE isn’t going anywhere at the moment and I still need to study) and a better base with which to attack the touristing issue. At one point — standing atop the mountain and looking at the haze wreathing modern downtown Atlanta — I realized that the trip was worth it (the whole week) for that one moment. The ghosts were whispering stories in my ear today, maybe all night last night and I’m glad we had a chance to meet; there are so many lessons, and I love to learn.


Light House

4 June 2010

Dear J-

One of my cousins dropped by for dinner — it’s easy to forget that there are four of us now down here in Southern California, but when there’s a mob, one of us isn’t too far away. Of my cousins, this one — Amy — is the oldest and most outspoken; in fact, she actually went along (together with a couple of my mom’s sisters) on my parents’ honeymoon to Niagara Falls. I’ve said it before, but it’s funny how we all fall in together, chatting as though it was just yesterday we last saw each other; we gossip like fishmongers and catch each other up on family news.

theVet accuses me, not without reason, that I tend to say the same stories over and over again, so I’ll limit it to this bit: I remember going to St. Louis and she already had her driver’s license; she’s always seemed so impossibly, unapproachably mature compared to me that I can’t believe that we’re able to talk like real adults (there are multiple moments when I realize that I’m supposed to be a mature adult now; they are quite disturbing).

At times it seems like we’ve got a weddings-and-funerals relationship; we get together for big family events, and it’s nice to be able to see one another outside of those. You (I) tend to forget that we’re humans rather than bodies to drape fancy clothes off when occasion demands. Life is full of touch-and-goes; we spin apart and come back together at random moments, right? We can’t predict — we can’t know — the next chance and so these days stand out like beacons in my memory.