The Abandoned One Schedules a Visit

Finally, tickets have been booked for the Abandoned One to visit.

It’s been a long process.  Abandoned has a full social and musical life, and only two weeks vacation, so he finds little time for travel.  He’s also gotten a bad case of the travel-time distortion syndrome that afflicts so many people who live in the city and who judge every trip against what is available within five subway stops.

People in New York use that yardstick, or some variation, to avoid being overwhelmed by choice.  The subway simplifies life so that one need never consider restaurants, bars, music venues, museums or even friendships that fall outside the magic route.  Without it, life would be overwhelming.

Trying to entice city folks to visit was bad enough when I lived in Staten Island, but is far worse here.  At least when the folk is my own son.

First, because he has inherited the miserly DNA of both his paternal grandfather AND his maternal grandmother, he began looking at flights by price.  Yes, you can get a relatively cheap flight to Montgomery if you don’t mind two or more layovers. American, for example, offers an itinerary that takes you to Chicogo’s O’Hare and then to Ft. Worth before nearly closing the circle by coming to Montgomery.  It’s a good way to build up your miles, I suppose.

But it takes about twelve hours.  So I advised that he should limit his search to the single stop-over, which means either Charlotte, Memphis or Atlanta.  Generally it takes about five hours.

Which equates to a completely unacceptable subway ride.

“I can’t find anything less than five hours,” he told me.  “It’s a lot less time if I fly to Atlanta. What if you pick me up there?”

“How long does that flight to Atlanta take?” I asked.

“About two-and-a-half hours.”

“Well,” I explained, “it will take about two-and-a-half more hours to drive from Atlanta to Montgomery, so the trip will still be five hours.”

“OK, I’ll change planes in Atlanta.”

Next obstacle down.  Yes.

“Looks like I can’t get into Montgomery until late — about 10 at night.”

What?  Does he think we’ve started going to bed at 9?

“Not a problem,” I replied (this was happening via online chat).  “It’s only 20 minutes to the airport from the house.”

“OK, well it looks like I can arrive at 10 pm on Friday and leave at 5 on Sunday.”

I did some quick calculations.  He would arrive on Friday, sit up with us for a while and then go to bed and sleep on Saturday until 3 pm.  Then we’d have about 24 more hours to visit.

“Why don’t you come in on Thursday night?”

And thus, through a series of small decisions, we negotiated our way to an actual visit the third weekend of May.

I should let him know what shots he’ll need.

News from the Abandoned One

For those of you who are wondering:  The Abandoned One is doing just fine.

At least I assume he is, judging by the absence of SOS calls.  Or of any calls for that matter.

It’s spring in New York, and it seems there’s plenty to do to keep a free-as-a-bird, unencumbered-by-parents guy busy. He’s playing guitar with a woman singer-songwriter who, according to her website, also eats fire.  They practice, and they’ve got some gigs in places with names like Otto’s Shrunken Head.

Fortunately, he posts occasionally on Facebook, and equally fortunate, his father (Mr. NYer) shares his extensive knowledge of pop culture and song lyrics, and can translate for me.  Today, for instance, the Abandoned One’s FB status was, “Should really be getting on declaring the pennies on his eyes.”

Lifelongnewyorker, ever the hypervigilant mom listening for the cry in the night, fought back alarm.  Pennies were once placed on the eyes of dead people to pay the ferryman crossing over to the afterlife.  Was this a suicide threat?  A quick call to Mr. NYer cleared it all up.  The Abandoned One was commenting on the need to file his taxes by quoting from the Beatles “Tax Man.” Of course.

Homeward Bound?

Dateline: Wytheville, Va.  Halfway between home (old) and home (new).

Yesterday we relaxed.  With 15 inches of snow on the ground, it was good to wake up in a hotel bed and hear the sound of plows clearing the parking lot.  Over omelets cooked by someone else, we chortled at not having to dig out the cars or shovel the sidewalk in front of the house.  Ha!  Talk about timing.

After spending three nights in a hotel room with cats, I can confirm that they are, indeed, nocturnal creatures.  At 2:30 I arose to get some water and found them darting about like eels on the ocean floor.

Having skipped housekeeping on Thursday, we decided to allow it on Friday while we enjoyed our omelets-cooked-by-somebody-else.  We scooted the cats into their cage and asked the maid to freshen the room.  We came back to an overturned litter box, upset water dish, and two very distraught cats.  We unlatched the cage to mop up and the two cats dashed under the bed for the next six hours.

Lifelongnewyorker seriously wanted to take advantage of the hotel’s spa and went as far as to grab a menu of services.  But there was some work to do, the papers to be read, and a final visit to Mr. NYer’s Dad, who is still in the nursing home but has improved markedly.

Mr. NYer’s retirement party turned into a moveable feast.  Morning news was that the restaurant at which it was scheduled was closed by snow and the party canceled.  By late afternoon, word was out for the fearless to join us at the restaurant at the hotel.  Unbeknownst to Mr. NYer, I conspired with the Abandoned One to get him there as a surprise.

So a scaled-back retirement dinner went on despite the snowstorm, with the surprise appearance by the Abandoned One, and the added boon of not having to drive.  Lifelongnewyorker got a last taste of the Staten Island-small-world-phenomena by running into several former newspaper colleagues.

The first was Ms. Realestatebeat, whose only daughter was about three years old when Lifelongnewyorker worked in the newsroom.  Ms. Realestatebeat, whose little girl is now 15 and who has added a 15-month old caboose baby to her family, took the latest buyout — a wise choice to anyone young enough to consider a career other than print journalism.   At the tender age of 40, she told me she worried about reestablishing herself in a new career.  It was good to be able to tell her that I didn’t start my “new” — i.e. non-teaching career — until I was 45 years old.  Having changed jobs three times since then, I was able to reassure her that life is full of possibilities.

After chatting for awhile, I headed to the ladies room via the bar, and ran into The Editor, my former boss at the paper.  “You’re supposed to be in Alabama,” he bellowed.

I sat and described the last five days in four-part harmony, with 8-by-10 glossies with a paragraph on the back of each one … well, I told the tale.  And we talked about the move, the new job, why his daughter decided not to look at my house (the stairs scared her), the state of print journalism, people we both knew, and, of course, we shared some stories from the past.  I was glad to run into him — he’s mercurial, to say the least — but he gave me the job that allowed me to discover what I was capable of, and I am grateful for that.  Plus I got to work in a newsroom, which is a great experience.

This morning we again herded the cats into the cage in preparation for a long day’s driving.  The vet prescribed a sedative for the Lunatic, suggesting we try a half a pill and see if he needs more.  We’re up to a full pill for him and find that it has a minimal effect:  it turns him into a normal cat.  The Mush has been more vocal, in a plaintive and heart-rending way, whenever we cage him, so we decided to pill him as well.  Given that he’s nearly twice the weight of the Lunatic, we gave him a full pill, too.

Every time we stopped for gas, a bottle of water or a bathroom break, we lifted the rear gate to check on the cats.  They blinked warily and huddled.  After nine hours on the road, we stopped here in southern Virginia, took them into the room, and un-crated them.  The Mush staggered about, over-sedated, and stumbled on several attempts to jump atop low furniture.

The Lunatic operated at about half warp-speed, so the pills still worked for him, too.

Another long haul tomorrow, and home to Alabama.  And that seems very strange.

(Am I) The Worst Mother in the World?

The summer before my only child, Soon-to-be-Abandoned, went to college, I went into mourning.  Stunned by its depth, I struggled to find ways to hold on to my son.  Mr. NYer and I cagily planned the perfect summer vacation that year, a five-day rafting trip down the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon, guaranteed to provide us with a whole heap of quality time with our son.  

The trip was wonderful, and we enjoyed the time together immensely, but that dollop of quality time did nothing to diminish the huge sense of loss I experienced every day as I contemplated the end of his childhood and the end of my role as mother-of-a-child.   Maybe it even made it worse. 

So, how am I dealing with this latest anticipated separation?  It’s different this time, of course.  Soon-to-be-Abandoned moved out out to live in hip and young Williamsburg last year.  He’s 24-years old, an age when, if I remember correctly, one didn’t really feel the need to have Mom & Dad close by.  Grandchildren are, I believe, more than a few years off.  If they appear, we will pack up and follow him where ever he has wound up.    

Mr. NYer worried, too.  “I feel the need to be his safety-net,” he explained, adding that it was a terrible thing to sell Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s childhood home, the only home he had ever known.  More troubling, most of his earthly goods, the personal artifacts of his childhood, student days — everything — were in our house and he would have to figure out what do with them.  I dreaded seeing the store of “friends” — the two score stuffed animals that he managed every night to pile atop his body before he went to sleep — pulled out of the closet and consigned to the trash heap.

Soon-to-be-Abandoned took the news of a possible move in stride, with a sweet generosity of spirit.  “Well, of course I will miss you, and feel sad about the house being sold,” he explained, “but the fact that the job sounds really interesting and something you would enjoy helps.”  Great, I thought:  He has no idea what this is going to feel like, and it will hit him like a ton of bricks.  

Rational thought could be deployed to stave off emotion: Soon-to-be Abandoned is resourceful and independent; Montgomery is not on the other side of the world; our wallet was the most important safety net he would need. 

The rational mind dominated until The Crisis. 

When we finally made the decision, it turned out that something else was preying on Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s mind.  He had moved into a new place, with four strangers, in August.  This was an arrangement made possible by Craigslist.  By October, however, a crisis had arisen in the apartment, and his hearty independence and self-sufficiency seemed more an illusion than reality.  Two of the roommates were moving out; he was faced with an ethical and practical dilemma that was resolved only when all of the roommates decided to move out, even if it meant losing their security deposits.  He reported that he was having headaches and that his neck and back were sore. Obviously he had meningitis, and how could I rush in to help him if I were a thousand miles away?

The solution to the Crisis (not the meningitis — that was simple tension) is that Soon-to-be-Abandoned is moving back home for a few months.  This is a good thing:  he gets to save some money, can help out with the house-clearing and packing, and we get to spend some quality time with him before he leaves.

I just hope it doesn’t make it all harder.