Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daze of Wine and Roads

Cheyenne is asleep on the king size bed in a rather luxurious Red Roof Inn (as far as they go) in Hebron, Ohio a little less than three hours from my new home while I wait for the State of the Union to begin.   Outside my window is a snowy landscape with the temperature hovering around freezing, which is a heat wave compared to where they were a week ago.  Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas or Texas anymore.

I pulled off to watch the speech since I won't have cable until Monday, but also because I was nervous about driving up the windy, hilly roads into my neighborhood at night.  Probably without cause, but better safe than sorry I guess.  Of course, there is a piece of me, if I'm being honest with myself, that is putting off the final step because it's just that - the final step.  Not of getting in and settled of course.  There is a lot of chaos and work to be endured before that happens.  Groceries to buy, painting to be done, contractors to line up to handle the little and not-so-little things I want done that I'm not willing to subject the house to myself (thinking of resale value - this is our Get Me There House after all), possessions to unload, new furniture to be delivered, cable and Internet to install.  It'll be a whirlwind time, which hopefully will leave some moments to savor the atmosphere of the Steeler Nation savoring its eighth trip to a Super Bowl.  Yep.  Lots going on.  But, arriving at the house somehow symbolizes that finality of leaving a lot behind.  Friends, dogs, deer and most of all family.  Even if it's only a temporary separation, the reality of that word "separation" can no longer be ignored once Cheyenne and I find ourselves alone in a house 1,400 miles from where we began our week.

Of course, family is not limited to daughter and husband - and regarding those other family members of the in-law ilk, what a strange goodbye it was.  So, let me take you back a few days and tell the tale of this long journey from the beginning.

And I'll begin by stating that I cannot think of any real positive that has ever befallen anyone from becoming inebriated past a pleasant buzz.  I can say this from personal experience - several times over, sad to say - but also from years and years of observation of a lot of people who have given it a lot of practice.  Whatever drives us to drink until we're dizzy is never solved by our drunkenness.  To the contrary, it's always right there waiting on us to sober up and face it, now with a fuzzy head and cotton mouth to boot.  I do not say this as a means to lecture.  Nor to discount the addiction of alcohol.  I drink.  I am aware that I've drunk more since Kelsey died.  But, I'm just saying is all, and here's an illustration of my point...

Friday was my youngest niece's birthday.  She is the newly-arrived-back-to-Austin daughter of the sister-in-law I am estranged from.  They decided to throw her a family party and Greg insisted I go.  I didn't want to for several reasons.  The most pressing being the headache I had started the day with became a full blown migraine that had completely sidelined me.  Gone were my thoughts of stopping by the office one last time to say final goodbyes, gone was any chance of seeing the Most Amazing Hairdresser in the World one last time, totally gone was any thoughts of finally finishing packing the china.  All I could do was manage to drift off the Law and Order reruns.  But, secondly, I hadn't directly been invited.  I wasn't sure I was welcome.  And, lastly, I knew my presence there only days away from my leaving would detract from what should be on every one's mind, which is celebrating my niece turning 13.  But I went.  Marissa had to drive me, and we got there fashionably late.  My older niece met us at the door and warned us there was some drama going on:  my mother-in-law and the sister-in-law (SIL for ease) had been fighting and SIL had barred herself upstairs.  MIL was half way to blitzed when I got there and made it the rest of the way in short order.  No one was saying what the altercation was about, but I worried it might be over my presence, and I guessed the mostly empty bottle of red wine on the counter had some factor in it.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law (or BIL) arrived a bit later, morose over something or other, and poured himself some wine.  I won't recount the blow-by-blow of the evening, just suffice it to say, I curled up in the corner with the least light and tried to blend into the woodwork; SIL finally was drug downstairs, where she stayed uncomfortably in the kitchen, and we didn't pass a single word to one another.  And sure enough, as I finally made to leave, there was a big hubbub to say final goodbyes to me by the two individuals who were wine fueled.  The hosts just stared, I'm sure livid at this intrusion on their daughter's moment.  If that's the case, I'm right there with them.  This should not have been in any way shape or form about me, but it was almost inevitable just because of the timing.  By the way, BIL was accompanied by a dear friend of mine, who I'd like to shout out to for sitting with me most of the night and babysitting me.  It was long night, would have been far longer without you.

Anyway, curiosity always gets the best of this cat, so the next day I asked my daughter if she knew what the argument was about.  Sure enough, my name was involved, but not because I was coming per se, but because my MIL attributed a statement to me that set SIL off.  And with no surprise because it was a whopper!  I never said it, which wouldn't have been true had I done so (and therefore will not be repeated here).  I'll leave it at this:  if it had been true, it's a serious enough situation I would have immediately addressed it with my SIL, right after filing a police report.  So, to think I made such a serious accusation is pretty crushing, I am quite sure.  Under the circumstances, barring herself upstairs was probably about the most gracious thing SIL could have done, I'm sure she wanted me dead at the moment, but if not, she for sure didn't want me sitting downstairs in her living room.  I feel badly she thinks I accused her of something that she didn't do.  Someday maybe we can discuss the issues that in fact did wedge us apart, but this incident just furthered the divide, so I'm not really optimistic at this point.  I feel worse that any of that drama between all of us supposed adults interrupted my niece's birthday.  But, with my daughter's urging, I didn't try and reach out to them about it.  She counseled it would just fuel a fire - a fire already fueled pretty well by a bottle of red wine followed by a bottle of white.

In the meantime, my BIL, himself pretty lubed up by evening's end, apparently pouted that he didn't get to say goodbye to me for a while after I left.  Weird because he in fact did.  I don't know if he wanted to say something specific to me that MIL interrupted with her own goodbyes or what, but when Greg tried to get him to come over the next day, he was over whatever it was and didn't see me again.  Again, I put it down to Bacchus being uncorked and floating around the room that night, impacting everyone, even those who weren't drinking.  And again, I regret that my presence cast a shadow on the real occasion of the gathering.  But, that's how the extended family and I parted company.  Strange, messy and regrettable.

So, with that shadow cast, Cheyenne and I are on the road, wondering how my long term relationship with my in-laws will shake out across the miles.  But, I now travel toward my mother's family and hope I do a better job of relationship building with them, and I certainly hope I'm about the be embraced by the Steeler Nation in our shared hour of celebration.

More on the actual trip later, for now, I've got to get ready to make the final leg of the journey to the new home...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Progress Report Part Two

Well, now I'm sitting here waiting for my brain to stop exploding inside my skull.  I am pretty sure I was doing some awesome teeth grinding action last night, resulting in this morning's malady.  So, as I wait once more for the coffee and aspirin to kick in, I'll update you again.  Here it is:  the van is loaded top to bottom in a sea of cardboard, furniture and mover's blankets.  There isn't room for a mouse to move around in there.  There are still at least two dozen boxes of things I've determined I can't live without long term that didn't make it onto the semi.  At one point, as my husband and I surveyed the remains, I muttered, "Too many books."  Greg simply agreed.  We are not taking any type of major appliance, no couches and most of my book shelves collapse, and we still couldn't get it all in.  Greg managed to squeeze an amazing amount in even after declaring that we weren't going to make it, but among the left overs are the nerdy Lord of the Rings and Star Wars memorabilia that I thought I was being so clever to pack first.  That means it was at the bottom of the pile and will make it to me last.  How we manage that remains to be seen - it's likely the remnants will remain here until Greg's ready to come east.  That means if someone invites me to a formal event, I'll be without an evening bag and shoes (although I will have a long skirt, because I used it for padding).  And it means if I have to host a formal dinner, I'll be doing it without my china - or most of it anyway.  But, since I don't think either of those things are likely to happen in the next few months, I am remarkably sanguine about it all.

I need to take this opportunity to apologize to my husband for my frustration over his earlier lack of effort with the packing.  He kicked in a few days ago, and once he did, he was all business. While I pondered over every box - what to take, what to toss, how to pack it - he just tore in and got it done.  He fetched, he carried, he made so many trips to the U-Haul store, he probably wore ruts in the road.  And, he loaded the van - at the end, all by himself.  His best friend and his younger brother came to help after the hired muscle (including a completely dreamy former football player who played college ball with Antonio Brown) had to leave.  But they both had to leave as well before it was done, so Greg single handedly finished it off, as I toiled in the bedroom, trying to slough off enough clothes to keep myself down to two wardrobe boxes.  I wondered to myself if he had just been resting all along to gear up for the final push he knew it would take to get it done.  Whatever the case, there's no way I would have made the time frame if he hadn't put in a Herculean effort.  I've wondered more than a few times if he's regretted allowing this to happen, but if that's the case, he's masking it well, up to and including very purposefully packing most of his clothes on the van, almost as a good faith gesture to assure me he's really coming.

And the day didn't make it easy for any of the men who helped load.  It began with some light rain, which ushered in a bitingly cold wind.  The thermometer (until I took it down to pack) read 38 degrees, but the wind chill had to be eight degrees colder.  I admit, with the doors open so they could load, I was uncomfortably cold, and took a long while last night to shove off the chill that got into my bones after a while.  It's 19 in Pittsburgh right now.  I'll have a worse day of this on the other side as the movers unload.  To those unknown men who are stuck doing that for me, I'll apologize in advance.

As the chaos of the day unfolded, I thought more than once how novice and awkward we are at this.  I'll realize the full weight of any mistakes when I open all the boxes and see how much damage there is, but just looking around at what got left out - my surround sound speakers, the flatware (!) - I mean, who forgets to make sure the flatware makes it on the truck? - all my pantyhose and stockings, I know that we were not very organized, and a successful cross country move is, I've concluded, all about organization and planning.  I tried to take the advice of others who had done this before - I was given some very sage counsel that I repeated in my head as I worked over and over, and I tried to do my own research online, but at the end of the day, the move controlled us, not the other way around.  But, for the most part, it's fine up to this point.  The flatware will come with Cheyenne and me in the car, along with the speakers somehow, my Steelers flag, my Steelers banner and some other sundry stuff that a friend told me I would have - in the tote he advised me to have ready - and I'll manage to live without my Legolas doll for now.  I think my Princess Leia doll actually made it on the van somewhere, so that's good.  You take what you can get and go with it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Progress Report

I took a photo of the sea of cardboard literally blocking out the sun in my living room, but it looks as though I've packed every USB chord I own, so I can't upload it.  Which is too bad, because it's quite a sight.  Our lives collapsed into all these boxes, representing untold hours of sweat equity to pack it all, just to reverse the process in a week.

I think it says something about the American lifestyle that I can pack all this stuff and live comfortably without it for weeks - in some cases months.  I'll need to ponder that further some other time.  For now, I'm checking in briefly to report in on how it's going, give the coffee time to kick in and let my back stop talking back to me.  It's not at the screaming stage, but it's definitely protesting three solid days of constant bending over boxes, only stopping for the Steeler game, which really didn't help because I spent the entire game an uptight bundle of nerves.  (I knew it would be a nail biter, but c'mon, Ben and the O-line, did you have to make it that interesting?)

And, speaking of that, the irony of it all!  The Steelers fight to earn the right to come play for their seventh title 200 miles away from where I am right now.  If they do, I'll find myself 1,400 miles away watching them alone.  At least I'll have that new Steelers couch to watch it from.  And at least I can catch the vibe of the city, which I am sure will be electric.  I had wanted to be a part of that for the Winter Classic.  Maybe the Steelers will give me another shot at it.  Of course, they have to take care of the Jets, who now boast former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, so worrying over how I've totally blown my best shot at seeing the Steelers live in a Super Bowl is a bit premature.  And really pointless, because everything is in motion, all except me at the moment, that is.

And I need to be.  There is still the kitchen, garage, two bathrooms and the master bedroom to pour over and the moving van arrives tomorrow for us to begin loading.  We have a crew coming the day after to load the large pieces of furniture, but that means all those pieces have to be empty of their contents, and hallways clear so they can get through.  And, I need to get my car ready to meet the treacherous conditions the Steelers hope to leave behind.  I read a Tweet this morning from a woman who lives there complaining that she needed ice skates to take the trash out.  (I actually have some in one of these boxes somewhere...)  I packed with the window open yesterday, the day sunny and mild.  The weather here was almost taunting me, it was so pleasant.  Yes, it's true, I could not have picked a worse time of the year to do this.  For everything scary about this move:  leaving my family, my dogs and my friends behind (which has been way harder than I could even have imagined), leaving a job and not sure about securing a new one, getting lost in a city where around any particular bend is a part of town you don't want to be lost in - just driving up there scares me the most.  I have never driven in snow and ice on a routine basis.  Now I'll not only be doing that, but I'll be doing it on roads completely unfamiliar to me.  Fair warning to any and all who live in a hundred mile radius:  watch out!  I'm sliding my way to you.  When I falter, lost in the nerves of the enormity of the challenges I've handed myself, I just keep thinking, "Only six miles away from Sidney Crosby..."

Go Steelers, go Pens - I'll be there soon.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Adventures in Packing Part Four: Why Am I Doing This Again?

I am to the point where if I'm not at work or asleep I need to be packing.  The van gets dropped off on the 19th and everything:  me, Cheyenne and my stuff leave for Glenshaw on the 24th.  Between now and then there is 30 years worth of accumulated stuff to sort through, pack, sell or discard.  But, for the moment, I can't go anywhere where there are not people asleep.  As I leave, my estranged sister-in-law and her family return to Austin from Arizona.  They rolled in last night and my two nieces are asleep upstairs.  Marissa is camped out in the living room.  The Paper Boy is catching a few hours of sleep before he goes over to their house to help them unload.  So, with no place really to pack without waking somebody, I'm taking these stolen moments to update everyone on the Big Move.

This is a cautionary tale.  Moving sucks.  Moving across country sucks and costs you an arm and leg for the privilege.  Finally, the house is beginning to be dominated more by boxes than anything else, but it's been a bit like walking uphill through quicksand in the snow.  One thing I can say, it's given me an appreciation for my mother's tenacity that I could never have had before.  A year after Dad died she made the decision to move to Pennsylvania herself after living in our Montana home where she had been accumulating things for exactly three decades to a two bedroom condo in Washington, PA.  We all flew back home for a week to help her, and we did do some good work - what she would let us do anyway - but, we also squeezed in an overnight trip to Yellowstone and had some general fun.  Then, only able to take a week off at a time, I left her to tackle the rest of it herself.  She was 77.  I genuinely had no clue until now exactly what she had accomplished until I woke up last weekend, more than a quarter of a century younger than she was, my back sore from carrying load after load down the stairs.  As I had the fleeting thought that I am too old for this, I thought of Mom.  If she can do it, so can I.  I think that first little bit back in Pennsylvania, as she camped out in a residential hotel waiting for the condo to be finished, back in the bosom of her family, were the happiest she had had since I was a little girl.  For one thing, she was so proud of what she had pulled off.  She wore her independence like armor.  Now I can genuinely tip my hat to her.  Mom, you truly, truly were one tough cookie.

So, following in her footsteps, here I am packing pretty much by my lonesome.  Marissa is doing her share by sorting through her own stuff - trust me, that's quite a lot, but Greg is pretty much a bystander in the process.  I am alternately understanding of it and totally, completely pissed off about it.  When he told me he was going to help his sister unload, he got one of my patented looks because my thought process was, "Oh, you'll help her, but your job around here is to hold down the sofa.  Nice."  But, I get it on the one hand because my inner Alpha Dog comes out at times like this.  I want what I want, am discarding as I go, and am determining where things will go in the new house both because I've seen it and he hasn't, but also because that's just how it is.  I'm pretty sure if you asked him, he'd tell you it's best just to stay out of my way.  Of course, if I get to pack on my own, I get to do other things on my own as well.  Like pick the sofa for our basement.  Yeah, baby.  I love the sofa I've picked out.  I'll make you guess what it looks like until I actually get it and can take a picture.  I can hardly wait!  So, if the cost of my new sofa is that he watches me toil from his comfortable perch, then so be it.  Let's see how comfy he is on his new sofa when he gets there.

But, it's a messy business to tear down the material manifestations of a life and collapse them into oceans of cardboard.  I've had plenty of moments where I lose sight of why I'm doing this.  Being close to where Sidney Crosby goes to work doesn't help me if I'm so bankrupt I can't afford to see him play there.  The cost is daunting, the inconvenience almost indescribable, the disruption to friends and family heart-rending.   So, remind me, I ask myself, why am I doing this again?  The answer I always come back to is this:  when you lose a child, whether they are 3 or 23, you literally lose a piece of yourself.  Greg and I are the waking dead right now; hollow, soulless manifestations of who we used to be.  I don't know myself anymore.  Every parent who survives this has to find a way to fill that void again.  Some do it through religion.  Others through volunteerism.  Some have another child.  Everybody has to find their own way, but they have to do something or they will be lost.  And I have to survive it.  I have to be there for Marissa and her future.  I owe it to her to make myself whole once more.  She deserves it, and I want to be wholly present as she blossoms into adulthood.  So, for us, so deeply rooted in the disease that took Kelsey away from us, I simply keep coming back to the fact that if we're going to get past it, we're going to have make a violent break from the past.  This seems, so far, to fit that bill pretty completely.  Let's see what happens to us once we get there and the dust settles.