Thursday, 8/30/01—Monday, 9/03/01part two part four
Waiting for my flight home in the Boston airport. The past three days have felt like ocean waves breaking on rocks: steady, crashing, and concussive…beautiful, frightening and exhausting.
Where to begin.
Thursday afternoon I arrive in Boston. It’s beautiful. Didn’t realize how homesick I get for the green, for the older neighborhoods, for the sounds of the Northeast.
I’m running on three or four hours of sleep and functioning as both navigator and driver, but it’s oddly exhilarating to find my way. Find a local folk music station and could swear I hear the DJ say something about Michelle Shocked performing in Cambridge. How odd, because I’d been wondering recently about whatever happened to her.
Get to my hotel and I am childishly delighted with this little studio suite. I settle in and look longingly at the bed. I’m waiting for a call from an old high school friend but she must be running late, so I lie down and fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Two hours later she calls and we decide it’s too late to get together that evening so we’ll see each other tomorrow. I verify that Michelle Shocked is in fact performing at 10pm that evening and worry briefly about the irresponsibility of spending money while unemployed…then I head over to the House of Blues in Harvard Square (one of these things is not like the other).
I am braced for an emotional weekend and grateful to begin it with music I love. I find my way (poorly) through the Boston labyrinth.
The show is sold out…but the lovely young man in the ticket booth sold me a ticket when no one else was around. One of the many, many strangers who unknowingly showed me great kindness this week. Intuition? Like pheromones for sex, does our body produce crisis signals to which others respond? I’m skeptical about the new agedness of it all, and am pretty sure that my usual isolationist façade is just subconsciously wearing thin.
Michelle Shocked is wonderful. Her voice and band are tonic to my soul. Home very late.
The next morning I can’t seem to get a hold of Dave's wife to get directions to their house. End up calling L at work and she mapquests me over there. I find the house, Dave's wife (on the phone working out one of the innumerable red tape issues in her life) smiles, waves me in and asks her four-year-old son to show me where “papa” is–working on setting up his computer.
The little one leads me through one room and into another where his father is sitting. Dave stands up, I walk over to him and we embrace. And, somewhat surprisingly, both of us begin to weep. Can hardly let go of one another. The left side of his head is swollen and stitched up from the biopsy. I am awash with relief and grief at the sight of him. He holds me and says he is so grateful I have come to see him...he seems sincerely happy to see me and says “I can’t believe you’re here; I’ve been such an asshole.” In those few words, years of jagged, painful exchanges are blunted.
We sit and talk and past conflicts fade into pale background images. His speech is at once thoughtful and halting and abrupt. He speaks with difficulty about this growth in his brain and how he is so angry and trying to come to terms with this “thing” that is robbing him of his mind and life.
People and places and concepts. The names are adrift in his head. He struggles to describe things with his hands/with image associations.
He is stymied by complex tasks that used to be so easy and rote for him: their tax returns, hooking up his computer or organizing spaces.
His vocabulary has been decimated.
He can no longer read.
He has some good periods–mornings mostly. His balance is off. Because of the deadly swelling in his brain, he is on diuretics and steroids and is only allowed to drink very small quantities of fluid. He repeats himself and needs simple things repeated to him.
My heart breaks for him. I want to bribe the gods. I want to damn the gods.
His wife is amazing. Unpacking, tending to Dave, their 8 year-old daughter, and wild four-year-old son; greeting guests; running interference with insurance companies and hospitals. She gives Dave and I the gift of time and privacy to reconcile. I am forever grateful.
She is a hard woman to comfort and help, however. I make her “give me an assignment” so I can be useful in the massive unpacking [they had just moved into this new home]. They easily own twice the shit that I do and their new house is only about one and a half times bigger than mine. Seems like a gallon of substance poured into a juice glass of space. Still, she is undaunted.
Goddamn. So much happened–so hard to express it all.
Mid-afternoon I leave to visit an old friend, check out of the hotel and then, later, pick up Daughter from the airport. Dave and his wife really want me to stay with them…of course it’s all surreal, staying in my dying ex-husband’s home, but it seems to mean so much to him and I want desperately to spend time with him each morning while he’s alert.
Driving around is crazy. Traffic and not-quite-accurate directions have me u-turning all over creation. Finally arrive at my friend’s house. We reminisce, share photos and catch up on twenty-five years of history. An unexpectedly warm and comforting time.
Having been warned about the Boston airport’s construction confusion, I leave early to pick up Daughter, and am unable to check out of my hotel.
Arrive, with plenty of time, through the formidable maze of Logan airport only to discover that her flight is delayed more than two hours. So I leave, drive all the way back to my hotel in Waltham, check out and turn around and go back. (This logistical mess is absolutely characteristic of the entire weekend. I am pleased that I’m able to roll with the punches.)
I feel Barbara’s absence keenly; her presence calms me like nothing else.
Daughter walks out of the gate and I am delighted to see her. We pick up her bag, head over to West Newton and proceed to get lost another three or four times. Pretty much our standard in new places.
We arrive at Dave’s late and go up to Daughter’s attic room. We both sleep soundly.