Three days’ worth of fatigued posts

July 31, 2009 at 5:21 pm (Uncategorized)

“Blame Canada” — Wed., July 29
It’s “late” — 9:26 or, as they say now that we’ve left the States, 21:26 – and the girls have been up since 4:45 this morning. I’m tired for them.
So this entry will be brief (lucky for you).
At home, we packed and cleaned and tidied and even changed the car’s oil (thanks, Dave) today, all prior to leaving for the airport to take a one-hour flight destined for Vancouver, B.C. And here we are, in a Hilton close to the airport. Apparently, it hit 100 F up here today, where Canadians, too, got a taste of high temps only a few degrees “cooler” than what Portland was blanketed under. Portland broke records set decades ago with a high of 106. Blistering heat is how I’d describe it. Up here, it was blistering, too, and more humid than at home. Unpleasant.
But all was made well in the Portland International Airport, the instant we stepped onto the stairs of the Air Canada prop plane that would soon and shakily take off for Vancouver. A big yellow sticker adhered to the bottom of the stairs on the jetway read “No Step” above four lovely words: “Ne pas mettre pied.” How fitting that before landing in France we’d touch down for just one day in a country adjacent to ours where nearly all the signage is in both English and French. It’s a taste, a tease. I just can’t wait to be entirely surrounded by the French.
Ni-night.
“It’s hot here, too” – Thurs., July 30
The heat wave singeing Portland swept up here, to Vancouver, B.C., too. To beat the Canadian heat (oxymoron?), we spent the afternoon in the Richmond Hilton Hotel’s 4-ft. deep pool, adjacent to a black-top parking lot. I believe the pool area thus was hotter than any other locale around town.
We dined this morning at IHOP, bought Hayley a tooth brush at the nearby mall (I remembered EVERYTHING…except her tooth brosh) and then headed to the pool. Now, we all are rehydrated, bathed, repacked and off to the airport to head to London. The girls’ biggest concern is whether or not their airplane seats will recline far enough to help induce sleep. My biggest concern is whether or not the complimentary wine will taste any good. If it induces sleep, all the better. Off to the airport!
“There sure are a lot of languages spoken here” – Thurs., July 30, Fri., July 31
We’ve reached the point where, on any international trip, no matter how well or how long you plan for it, total exhaustion has set in. As well as disorientation about the day and date; we’ve given up saying, “Yesterday, I…” and instead are saying things like, “Well, 19 hours ago, I…” Anyway, it’s indeed Fri., July 31, and we’re indeed in London. Actually, we’re a half-hour taxi ride from London’s Heathrow, in a sweet little town called Watford, home to Nicky and Grame and daughters Esme (2.5 years old) and Martha (6 mos.).  I met Nicky in 1992 when one of my best friends from UCSB, Jen (nee Hughes) White, was studying abroad in England the same year I was in France. Jen and Nicky became fast and lifelong friends, and I’ve benefited from the friendship since we were juniors in college; today, while I hadn’t seen Nicky since Stacie Young’s wedding in 2002, it’s so amazing to know we could email Nicky six months ago and ask to stay here, with her and her family, before we make our final trek (via Chunnel) on Sun., Aug. 2, to Lille, France. She said yes in a heartbeat; after getting to her home today and unloading our massive number of bags onto her tiny entryway’s floor, she offered us tea (English style, with milk), homemade olive-and-sundried tomato bread, cheeses, tomatoes and homemade chocolate layer cake. I may be tired but I’m happy to also be sated, at last.
Also despite our best preparations, Alyssa foiled us again: The child did not sleep one second during our flight from Vancouver, B.C., to London. Not a wink. Despite a melatonin, an airport-purchased eye shield, a darkened cabin, an afternoon of swimming at the hotel before boarding the Air Canada 777. Not one complaint from her, either, even though her extreme fatigue was etched on her face, in the form of dilated pupils and pale skin. Hayley, on the other hand, tucked in her new dolly — Chrissa, an American Girl doll who, if you ask Hayley, even beats the pants off her beloved Skippy Peanut Butter, without which Hayley would not subsist (we’ve brought two big jars of it on this trip) – and went to sleep – with her legs uncomfortably splayed across my lap – for about five hours. I dozed on and off, I think. Dave didn’t sleep at all. Like Alyssa, not a wink.
We got to Heathrow, quickly made it through customs and were to briefly meet the French family as they were en route to our home. But the timing didn’t work out just perfectly, and so we merely were able to exchange voicemails while both families were in Terminal 3 at the same time; the girls were disappointed not to meet the children who will be using their bedrooms as temporary housing, and Dave and I were bummed not to meet the folks who for three weeks will call our home their home. But, we’d made it. Just a taxi to locate and take out to Watford.
There was to be a taxi driver – hired in advance by Nicky – awaiting our arrival, with a sign in hand, indicating our destination. No such sign, driver holding a sign aloft, or vehicle was to be found, however. Then, after about an hour of trudging from taxi-service site to taxi-service site outside the terminal, the driver called Dave’s cell and gave us his location. Until then, Alyssa literally was doing cartwheels to stay awake; I’m quite sure some of the babblings in foreign languages were directed at us and our – er, Alyssa’s – Cirque de Soleil-like behavior! (I’m not sure America is a melting pot; I think London, at least, has quite a bit on us.)
Alyssa, while leaving Heathrow and finally able to breathe non-recycled air, verbalized a couple key observations: People sure smoke a lot: “I’m not going to be able to hold my breath the entire time we’re in Europe”; and “Wow, they drive on the wrong side here!”
Alyssa, Hayley and I fell asleep during the lulling taxi ride to Watford; now, Alyssa, Hayley and Dave all are asleep; I have a few minutes to myself to wrap up this latest missive that I apologize for if it’s not entirely interesting or easy to follow; I’ll admit that while I’m not planning on napping, the keyboard is literally swimming before my eyes that are functioning…partially…in their (my) fatigue.
Later in the day —
I awoke my slumbering family to ensure no one awakens tomorrow at 3 a.m. London time. Dave and I got the girls bathed and outside for a bit of very fresh, mild air, with the sun shining down. I then took a little walk through Nicky’s neighborhood. I don’t know what it is about Western Europe, at least, but I just swoon looking at the architecture, ambling down the narrow roads, noting the many church spires that rise above the low-slung houses throughout the town, watching people gather at corner pubs for a pint (or three or four) as evening comes on. Brick houses with built-in slabs noting their year of construction: 1866, 1903 and years in between.
Tomorrow, a day in London. Sunday, at last, France. If, that is, the country isn’t on strike, its workers protesting a 36-hour work week or some such.
Cheerio for now.
“Blame Canada” — Wed., July 29
It’s “late” — 9:26 or, as they say now that we’ve left the States, 21:26 – and the girls have been up since 4:45 this morning. I’m tired for them.
So this entry will be brief (lucky for you).
At home, we packed and cleaned and tidied and even changed the car’s oil (thanks, Dave) today, all prior to leaving for the airport to take a one-hour flight destined for Vancouver, B.C. And here we are, in a Hilton close to the airport. Apparently, it hit 100 F up here today, where Canadians, too, got a taste of high temps only a few degrees “cooler” than what Portland was blanketed under. Portland broke records set decades ago with a high of 106. Blistering heat is how I’d describe it. Up here, it was blistering, too, and more humid than at home. Unpleasant.
But all was made well in the Portland International Airport, the instant we stepped onto the stairs of the Air Canada prop plane that would soon and shakily take off for Vancouver. A big yellow sticker adhered to the bottom of the stairs on the jetway read “No Step” above four lovely words: “Ne pas mettre pied.” How fitting that before landing in France we’d touch down for just one day in a country adjacent to ours where nearly all the signage is in both English and French. It’s a taste, a tease. I just can’t wait to be entirely surrounded by the French.
Ni-night.
“It’s hot here, too” – Thurs., July 30
The heat wave singeing Portland swept up here, to Vancouver, B.C., too. To beat the Canadian heat (oxymoron?), we spent the afternoon in the Richmond Hilton Hotel’s 4-ft. deep pool, adjacent to a black-top parking lot. I believe the pool area thus was hotter than any other locale around town.
We dined this morning at IHOP, bought Hayley a tooth brush at the nearby mall (I remembered EVERYTHING…except her tooth brosh) and then headed to the pool. Now, we all are rehydrated, bathed, repacked and off to the airport to head to London. The girls’ biggest concern is whether or not their airplane seats will recline far enough to help induce sleep. My biggest concern is whether or not the complimentary wine will taste any good. If it induces sleep, all the better. Off to the airport!
“There sure are a lot of languages spoken here” – Thurs., July 30, Fri., July 31
We’ve reached the point where, on any international trip, no matter how well or how long you plan for it, total exhaustion has set in. As well as disorientation about the day and date; we’ve given up saying, “Yesterday, I…” and instead are saying things like, “Well, 19 hours ago, I…” Anyway, it’s indeed Fri., July 31, and we’re indeed in London. Actually, we’re a half-hour taxi ride from London’s Heathrow, in a sweet little town called Watford, home to Nicky and Grame and daughters Esme (2.5 years old) and Martha (6 mos.).  I met Nicky in 1992 when one of my best friends from UCSB, Jen (nee Hughes) White, was studying abroad in England the same year I was in France. Jen and Nicky became fast and lifelong friends, and I’ve benefited from the friendship since we were juniors in college; today, while I hadn’t seen Nicky since Stacie Young’s wedding in 2002, it’s so amazing to know we could email Nicky six months ago and ask to stay here, with her and her family, before we make our final trek (via Chunnel) on Sun., Aug. 2, to Lille, France. She said yes in a heartbeat; after getting to her home today and unloading our massive number of bags onto her tiny entryway’s floor, she offered us tea (English style, with milk), homemade olive-and-sundried tomato bread, cheeses, tomatoes and homemade chocolate layer cake. I may be tired but I’m happy to also be sated, at last.
Also despite our best preparations, Alyssa foiled us again: The child did not sleep one second during our flight from Vancouver, B.C., to London. Not a wink. Despite a melatonin, an airport-purchased eye shield, a darkened cabin, an afternoon of swimming at the hotel before boarding the Air Canada 777. Not one complaint from her, either, even though her extreme fatigue was etched on her face, in the form of dilated pupils and pale skin. Hayley, on the other hand, tucked in her new dolly — Chrissa, an American Girl doll who, if you ask Hayley, even beats the pants off her beloved Skippy Peanut Butter, without which Hayley would not subsist (we’ve brought two big jars of it on this trip) – and went to sleep – with her legs uncomfortably splayed across my lap – for about five hours. I dozed on and off, I think. Dave didn’t sleep at all. Like Alyssa, not a wink.
We got to Heathrow, quickly made it through customs and were to briefly meet the French family as they were en route to our home. But the timing didn’t work out just perfectly, and so we merely were able to exchange voicemails while both families were in Terminal 3 at the same time; the girls were disappointed not to meet the children who will be using their bedrooms as temporary housing, and Dave and I were bummed not to meet the folks who for three weeks will call our home their home. But, we’d made it. Just a taxi to locate and take out to Watford.
There was to be a taxi driver – hired in advance by Nicky – awaiting our arrival, with a sign in hand, indicating our destination. No such sign, driver holding a sign aloft, or vehicle was to be found, however. Then, after about an hour of trudging from taxi-service site to taxi-service site outside the terminal, the driver called Dave’s cell and gave us his location. Until then, Alyssa literally was doing cartwheels to stay awake; I’m quite sure some of the babblings in foreign languages were directed at us and our – er, Alyssa’s – Cirque de Soleil-like behavior! (I’m not sure America is a melting pot; I think London, at least, has quite a bit on us.)
Alyssa, while leaving Heathrow and finally able to breathe non-recycled air, verbalized a couple key observations: People sure smoke a lot: “I’m not going to be able to hold my breath the entire time we’re in Europe”; and “Wow, they drive on the wrong side here!”
Alyssa, Hayley and I fell asleep during the lulling taxi ride to Watford; now, Alyssa, Hayley and Dave all are asleep; I have a few minutes to myself to wrap up this latest missive that I apologize for if it’s not entirely interesting or easy to follow; I’ll admit that while I’m not planning on napping, the keyboard is literally swimming before my eyes that are functioning…partially…in their (my) fatigue.
Later in the day —
I awoke my slumbering family to ensure no one awakens tomorrow at 3 a.m. London time. Dave and I got the girls bathed and outside for a bit of very fresh, mild air, with the sun shining down. I then took a little walk through Nicky’s neighborhood. I don’t know what it is about Western Europe, at least, but I just swoon looking at the architecture, ambling down the narrow roads, noting the many church spires that rise above the low-slung houses throughout the town, watching people gather at corner pubs for a pint (or three or four) as evening comes on. Brick houses with built-in slabs noting their year of construction: 1866, 1903 and years in between.
Tomorrow, a day in London. Sunday, at last, France. If, that is, the country isn’t on strike, its workers protesting a 36-hour work week or some such.
Cheerio for now.
Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

How do you say “powerwash” in French?

July 29, 2009 at 3:58 am (Uncategorized)

We leave tomorrow, first for Vancouver, B.C., then for London, where we’ll stay with friend Nicky Main and her family for two days and then, on Sun., Aug. 2, we’ll leave for and arrive in Lille, France. I told Dave from the outset of planning this trip I wanted to avoid arriving anywhere in Europe on a Sunday. Then I recommended a two-day stay in London to acclimate to European time, tea, crumpets, royalty, loos and lorries. Two days after our arrival in London is a Sunday. So while my motive was right, my execution, as too often is the case, faltered. The French family whose home we’ll soon overrun, but treat as our own, let us know that, indeed, not a thing will be open upon our arrival. I’d wanted to share my living-in-France experience with my family; I believe I will, empty stomach and all. In 1992, when I arrived in Pau for the intense language program we college kids had to complete before moving on to our host cities (mine was Toulouse), I didn’t know that the French lazed around in parks all day Sunday, pausing mid-day for three hours to dejeune (lunch) with friends and family, of which I had none when I first got to France. I nearly starved my first Sunday in France; Dave and the girls especially will be thrilled to share with me that moment from my abroad experience.

We’ve been carefully planning for this month abroad since roughly this time last year, and I’d wanted to avoid a huge last-minute crunch prior to our departure. That goal we’ve met; our snacks are organized, our toilets are scrubbed, our rides to and from the airport — for ourselves and the French folks — are set and I got our pharmacy to request a vacation override for any prescription. But, of course, there are last-minute arrangements (we learned yesterday Alyssa’s 6-year molars need to be sealed) and preparations to make (ensuring, for example, the Millescamps family has a meal to quickly heat up and consume upon their late arrival Friday night and that our yard, as well as our house, looks neat and orderly). The meal I took care of (including dessert. Chocolate, of course). The weeding I did, too. The endless scraping with a mega-powerful stream of water to upend seven (yes, seven) years’ worth of built up dirt, grime, moss and slick, green stuff from our front and back patios, front stairs and driveway was all Dave. Indeed, all day two days ago, yesterday and today. It hit nearly 110 degrees F today; in fact, I think Dave nay have said a few things starting with “F.” He’d borrowed his folks’ powerwasher and got to work; the scummy, muddy residue left in our street, bordering the front of our house, resembles the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; while the outside and inside of our house now both are spic-and-span, the house is, however, lacking in literal “curb appeal.”

It’s a good thing we waited for the girls to go to bed tonight so we could go through their self-packed suitcases. It seems Alyssa was going to wear only paperback books (with one hardback thrown in for good measure) and Hayley was not going to don underwear. How French. Alyssa now has equal parts clothing and (paperback only) books; Hayley’s nethers now shall be well-covered. Good thing I read books about parenting.

Permalink 7 Comments

The run up to our departure

July 21, 2009 at 4:54 am (Uncategorized)

Today the girls had their final French lesson. In June I hired a lovely, petite (of course) French woman who teaches young children her native language at the Portland French School. She agreed to come to our home a few hours a week to literally immerse Alyssa and Hayley in French. Quite quickly, the two picked up key words, phrases and even a nice accent — to the point where Alyssa, when hearing me chat with Benedicte, told me I should take part, too, in the lesson, to improve my accent. So, if nothing else, the girls learned I don’t speak French like the French do. Gee, and I’d hoped to hide that from them for the duration of our month abroad.

So, clearly, we are wrapping up what we need to do prior to our departure: The cats’ care is arranged; our passports are updated and in hand; the spluttering plumbing is nearly fixed; Alyssa’s 8th birthday party is over; the French family — Gilles, Florence, Hugo et Ines Millescamps — has received our front-door key; and we just confirmed with that family that they can use our linens and towels and they’re welcome to ours(!). A much bigger event, however, has wrapped up in our lives.

My grandmother, Gammy, died on July 14. Her graveside burial was in Seattle on July 17; the four of us were there, along with my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and a few Seattle friends and relatives. The ceremony, on a nearly 90-degree day, was intimate, brief and beautiful; few tears were shed as it was Florence Clement’s time to go and finally join her long-since interred husband, buried in 1966, during the Vietnam War. After the ceremony, our entire family and some of Mom and Aunt Susan’s friends joined us for a lunch that felt like a celebration and a relief. Shirley Temples and ice cream with whipped cream were enjoyed by the children; when Mom, too, ordered a towering ice cream sundae covered in a fluffy layer of whipped cream (with a number of spoons to go around among the adults) I knew that Mom, too, felt Gammy’s spirit smiling down on our gathering. At the end of this entry, I’ll include the comments I shared during Gammy’s burial; I wanted Mom and Aunt Susan recognized for their tireless, loving devotion to their mother, not in the days before Gammy passed, but in the decades before her final decline.

Adding to our sense of hurry-up-and-wait as our departure date, July 29, approaches, were Dave and my joint doctor visits today, him for a protruding disc and me for what turned out to be a staph infection in my nasal passages. We adults will be fine, and thank G-d the girls remain healthy and energetic.

Meanwhile, you can track our travels here, and we thank you for your interest and site visits. We’ll try getting photos on this site, too, and hope to read through your comments, as well. Until then, be well, all, and do keep in touch; if the French go on strike while we’re living in their country, we’ll need your comments to provide us with something to do.

July 17, 2009

My dad says it’s nice to attend a service honoring the dead, where the person being remembered is remembered properly – as the person he or she was, not as a person he or she really wasn’t. I agree. My memories of Florence – who, to my sister and me was Gammy – aren’t all sunshine and roses. What was sunshine and roses, however, was witnessing my mom and her sister, our Aunt Susan, <dote> on Gammy for years and years. And for that reason, my reflections here as the eldest grandchild are more of a tribute to my mom and aunt than to Gammy.

Due to one hip being higher than the other, Gammy walked with a distinctive gait. This caused her near-constant back pain. She also had evident arthritis; her knuckles swelled so that her rings permanently remained at the base of her fingers, unable to pass over the midpoint of her digits. Gammy had feet so narrow, she wore an impossible-to-find quad-A width (though the word “width” here doesn’t seem very fitting).

Before her hip, back and knee pain became near-crippling, I remember Gammy at one time able to amble with me to a park close to her Vancouver, Washington, home. She loved to water her garden and talk about its upkeep and the flowers she got to bloom and thrive in it. And a couple times I remember her taking me to ice cream; in her oversized American car there always was one of those fold-able contraptions that people with back pain use, allowing driving to be more comfortable, at least for short distances.

Eventually, Gammy’s ability to track conversations faded. As did her ability to remember people, places and songs on the piano her once more-youthful fingers used to easily produce.

I observed Mom and Aunt Susan doing all they could to keep Gammy and her second husband, Sandy, at home as long as possible. Mom and Susan ensured Gammy left her house rarely; they ran endless errands for her, commuting back and forth over the Insterstate bridge from the dry cleaners, clothing stores, shoe stores and cobblers. I’d sit on the yellow fabric-covered bench at the foot of Gammy and Sandy’s king-size bed and watch Mom gently, lovingly undress her mother so Gammy could try on myriad soft turtlenecks. Cotton sweat suits with elastic waistbands. Bras. And shoes. Endless pairs of narrow, tassled, leather shoes with heels of uneven heights. Always needing to be returned for yet another adjustment.

Later, Mom used masking tape to adhere simple written instructions to Gammy’s CD player, so Gammy might be able to operate it on her own. Once Gammy was in the Rose Schnitzer assisted-living facility, Mom did all she could to get Gammy to and from our folks’ home so Gammy could participate in special occasions and holidays. And, three years ago, when Gammy entered the Robison Jewish Health Center, Mom and Aunt Susan began working out a monthly schedule dictating when they’d “be with Mom,” sometimes with the assistance of the fabulous caretaker and, later, friend, Kris Hill.

Mom and Susan spent countless hours at meals with Gammy. They advocated via the nursing home’s administration and caretakers for their mother’s top-notch care. They fussed over her clothing, her warmth, her extra blankets, her hair, teeth, finger- and toenails, jewelry. They always had fresh flowers in her room, # 24. Photographs of key family members, at one time to help Gammy remember, eventually for others to admire, always were tacked up. As my sister Abby and I brought four great-granddaughters into the world, their photos all were added to the small cork board on Gammy’s wall, above the head of her bed. And Mom and Susan always ensured Gammy’s favorite music – Barbra Streisand, Michael Feinstein among the most endlessly played – was whirring on her CD player, taped instructions on it still intact.

I could go on. Throughout Gammy’s time at the Robison, nurses, administrators and the like would approach me when I visited, crowing over my mom and Susan’s steadfast dedication to their mother. We eventually learned few children always were so dedicated to their parents relegated due to physical or mental deficits to finishing out life in a nursing home. Even until Gammy’s last breath, Mom and Susan never wavered in their dedication, nor easily accepted compliments on their devotion. I believe Gammy, despite her very deteriorated brain the last few years, deep down knew her doting daughters indeed doted until the end. I watched as Gammy lay on her death bed and turned her head to Mom and Susan’s voices, trying mightily to pucker her lips, to return their light kisses.

As all people fervently wish for themselves, Gammy died in her sleep. That part she did on her own. So much of what it took to usher Gammy to her final breath, however, was the work of her children. Gammy now, finally, after close to 95 years, is at ultimate peace. I pray Mom and Susan now can find some for themselves. The love Gammy showered on them in life, the two reflected back onto their mother in spades. May Gammy’s memory be a blessing; may Susan and Mom’s love of their mother be an inspiration.

###

Permalink Leave a Comment