They shut off our Zoom link before Zoey and I had completed reading aloud and discussing tonight’s assigned story, “Pumpkinhead.” However, I was satisfied with her effort and pleased to hear her accurately summarize the story’s message.
Zoey was smiling. “This is the best story we’ve studied,” she told me. While glad to hear she thought so, I suggested that she might also explore her school’s library to broaden her horizons. Then, suddenly, Zoey’s image disappeared from my screen. The link was gone.
With class done for the week, I could return to my principal and immediate goal, namely, to finish preparing to hit the road for Tucson early next week. It will mark the start of my second annual Winter Escape. The next time I meet online with Zoey, I hopefully will be well on my way.
I notice my bedroom is as I left it, turned upside down, strewn with socks, T-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, underwear, and sweaters draped atop an open suitcase, numerous mismatched shoes scattered on the floor. I see my belt, still on its wall hook. I grab and toss it into the open suitcase. Elsewhere, there are hats, gloves, miscellaneous papers, and a large, backpack-style computer case sitting on the dining room table. I’ll pick through and sort these items later. I head toward the kitchen to make a salad and cut up a smallish rotisserie chicken, careful to gingerly step over an open case with the guitar I’m bringing to Tucson. The kitchen counter is cluttered with open and unopened mail, prescription medicines, and assorted miscellany that I’ll also need to sort through in the next few days.
Eventually, everything will end up in a designated staging area in my basement. The space is already filling up with items: additional articles of clothing, bags and carrying cases, hanging bags, an unopened bottle of Tito’s for my personal comfort and enjoyment, etc.
And then there are the human preparations. Before New Year, I had dinner with Amy, something we try to do each month. My margin in January is too thin to squeeze our next. I make a mental note to call her from the road. Check!
Last week, Lola and I completed an overnight trip to visit Craig and Donna, who live one state removed; Robyn and I enjoyed a fine meal at a trendy neighborhood restaurant with our friends Pete and Cyndee; we also made time to attend a crowded matinee showing of Poor Things (strange but highly recommended adult fare).
This week I played my final games of racquetball with Tommy, Raoul, and Raoul’s brother, Tony, until we next meet in April. A vigorous exercise session concludes with an exchange of manly fist bumps. (photo NPR)
I also attended a last pickleball session that is geared toward advanced beginners/low intermediates. The group exchanged telephone numbers and words of encouragement to keep up our good efforts. We agreed to reconvene at a date and time to be determined come Spring 2024. No fist bumps were exchanged, which I chalk up to the fact that most of my fellow students are women.
I gave up trying to arrange for a farewell dinner with my two nephews and their ninety-six-year-old father. As for my nephews, even as adults, making the simplest arrangements with them can be as exhausting and futile an effort as attempting to herd a bunch of cats.
One of the nephews announced that he wanted to bring along a current girlfriend and his two kids from his previous marriage. Naturally, I couldn’t object, despite the fact my idea had been to enjoy a “guy’s night out.”
Next, at the last minute, the nephew nonchalantly mentions that his daughter has covid. He knows well I’m about to embark on a 1700-mile trek across five states –it’s why I suggested a farewell dinner in the first place. And, without being told, he should know the last thing anybody wants is to be in an enclosed space sharing a meal with a kid with active covid. Plus, my nephew ought to be aware I’m at increased risk for illness as a senior citizen who is in his seventies, not to mention the fact his father is nearly twenty-five years my senior. I don’t mean to come across as a fuddy-duddy, but sometimes I swear, I don’t understand how these younger minds work!
My young neighbors, Allie and Drew had suggested we get together for morning coffee and nibbles before I leave. However, when we spoke yesterday to firm up our plans, I could hear over the phone that Allie’s voice sounded huskier than usual. I managed to squeeze from her an admission that she’s been battling an illness she acquired during the holidays.
Also this past week, Steve and Eric, two charter members of the Frazier Thomas Band, came by my place to watch football. They are a couple of my oldest pals. Our friendships go back to high school. Mont, another friend as well as my upstairs neighbor, joined us. Mont is always happy to exchange manly fist bumps, while Steve prefers the more traditional and gentlemanly handshake greeting. Eric is sui generis. Whether coming or going, he tends to tuck his head and keep moving, raising an arm to offer a silent wave as he passes by, gone without a word.
Steve and Eric suggested we try to meet for lunch this week before Lola and I depart. However, a major snowstorm currently is predicted for Friday into Saturday. We’ll see.
I need to clear the decks by the weekend to devote my full and undivided attention to the lovely Robyn. It’s our last weekend together before Lola the pup and I depart.
Once upon a time Juliet famously told Romeo, “parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” I know that Robyn is saddened that I’m leaving but she tamps her feelings down in front of me because she is aware, as I explained last year, this trip is something I have to do for myself. Hitting the road satisfies some internal needs I must have.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to take Robyn with me. She knows I’m ready to kick up the commitment!
But when we talk about spending more time together, Robyn reminds me she is still working and, in any case, doesn’t much like Tucson. I don’t challenge these statements, though I might.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue to do our best to accommodate the other’s needs, confident that when things change it will be by mutual agreement.