2020, Month 43

I saw a meme last week that this year it seemed like we (America) got caught building on an Indian burial land. Uh, well, yeah…that does seem to make things clearer. I feel like our life-landlord is looking to our renewal contract, has better tenants in mind and is, therefore, making our lives as hellish as possible to encourage a move out. Or maybe it’s just all at the hands of SpaceX, ready to collect its first list of Mars volunteers. 👋 👋 👋 👋 Reserving four spots, please.

Our focus in the last few months has been on the very unfocusable Class of 2020 faux diploma presentation and minimized celebration for Zoe afterwards. Minimized due to Covid restrictions at the time of planning but which have now actually eased which means we could invite more people, change the Chicken Fiesta order, re-formulate driveway parking jenga and, oh, forget it. Will just do a do-over later in the summer. When we started planning graduation, there were to be ten tickets available – enough to fill our spots without much drama. That number was cut in half among the ‘here’s how else this year is going to suck’ chapters of the Class of 2020, turning the assignment of seats into something so stressful we’ve often thought just skipping it would be easier. We did land on the five winners of the golden tickets and are now sizing them for the required hazmat suits to witness Zoe’s first of two jaunts across the stage. Which jaunt will include an actual diploma is anyone’s guess – as is her projected level of enthusiasm for graduation-round-two in August. Her current level of enthusiasm regarding graduation-round-one is hindered by a) not having much interest in it and b) the terrifying reality that this will be a small crowd full of big relationships. With every family of divorce, I suppose, there is that inaugural event – the one where the ex-wife and new wife bring along their respective baggage for the first combined public display.

Our list of characters will include:

  • Rich, Jyl, Zoe, Zack. Easy.
  • Rich’s ex-wife.
  • Rich’s mother, who is not a consistent fan of either wife (and sometimes not Rich)
  • Rich’s father, who has zero interaction with Rich’s ex or Rich’s mom but does love my parents and me
  • My parents, visiting Virginia for the first time in many years and sometimes a misunderstood humor wild card (also not fans of most of the above due to years of my venting)
  • Some family friends who we thought would enjoy the show more if it wasn’t in a retelling days later. Really, these people got the most golden of the golden tickets. Well done.

I go back and forth on what sort of downer I’ll be taking and just keep telling myself ‘this is it – this is how every big event will be moving forward.’ What I’d like is a sneak peek so I can know what my role is and how I handled this shindig. Am I just the organizer? Here’s your taco bar, what would you like to drink? Will I be recognized as having a hand in getting Zoe through high school? Thanks for getting to know her teachers and volunteering and keeping up with her work. Or will someone else swoop in with all the oohs and aahs that have been missing for years? How will I handle that? With grace, Jyl. It’s always my goal. Let them look back and say ‘oh she handled that with such grace.’ Bless your heart.

While preparing mentally for all of the above, I thought ‘why not throw in a little foot surgery?’ I’ve had a bum foot for a few years. When debating on my off-tennis-season options last fall, I picked getting my bum wrist fixed. Once quarantine started and spring tennis was cancelled, I thought it’d be a perfect time to go head and knock out my foot as well. Except that Covid cancelled elective surgeries, giving me more time to realize that I really, really needed my foot aching fixed as soon as I could. Which turned out to be last week. Besides the pain of a growing neuroma (essentially a nerve gone rogue), my family was tiring of watching me pack three pairs of shoes for every outing, hoping one pair would be the answer to walking comfort. What I didn’t account for, post-surgically, was losing my ability to drive. How’d I miss that? Right foot…the driving one…hello? No big deal though – a quick drive buy to the scalpel, right? And I mean that – Rich was relieved of me at the door once we were both cleared of fevers – sending me through the doors to the surgical suite alone.

It’s fairly odd having surgery by yourself. The nurses were outstanding – extra effort times one hundred to lessen the very, very lonely-I-only-have-my-snowballing-brain feeling. Time positively crawled with sketchy phone service (a treat – I was allowed to hang onto my phone until go time). It seemed like I was nailing it until I asked for a quick bathroom stop on my way to the O.R. where I proceeded to drop the back of my gown in the toilet and had to be stripped and re-wired in record time while the doctor wandered in with his clipboard and knife sharpener. I woke up alone, but quickly noticed by another nurse who came over to get me set up to leave – in and out, masks on, germs unwelcome, no dawdling. My delivery back to Rich included a ride to the parking lot in a wheelchair and a ‘tell us which car is yours when you see it.’ Odd to say the least. I think my time at St. Mary’s was under three hours.

With such a quick departure, I was thoroughly stoned as I slid into the car – but I could tell the mood was a bit more ‘off’ than I would think normal for an easy surgery. I may have slurred my way to demanding an explanation, formulating that the last phone call Rich would have gotten was from my surgeon. Had they amputated? Was the exorcism a failure? Why did he seem so sad? Finally (maybe…time…wasn’t…going…normal…), Rich explained that while I was in surgery, his beloved grandmother had passed. Of course, I didn’t believe him. Did I mention the drugs? Dead? This woman had lived at its door for years – often peeking through the windows to wave at the Grim Reaper. Really? Yes, really.

I sat there knowing I should be forming supportive tears but was too foggy to summon them. I’m fairly certain I asked him if he wanted me to drive home. That was either before or after I requested McDonalds. Grammy would understand the munchies. I spent an hour trying to force my brain to clarity so that I could be of some help to my husband and his family – I am, after all, the organizer of all things. What better time to shine than a semi-unexpected death? My mind was very uncooperative – beyond insisting that he go and help his mom and promising that the kids could handle me (despite the 27 documents we’d signed ensuring St. Mary’s that we’d have a responsible adult caring for me…surely a 14 and 17 year old would do). I was able to recruit a few friends for afternoon visits which gave him enough confidence to go be with his mother while I remained hazy and maybe less needy.

Why is it that each time I say to the universe ‘oh good grief…what next?,’ the universe responds, ‘oh, thank you for asking, I’ve been working on these ideas as well.’

Grammy has been on the move to heaven for years, actually. We’d been summoned, holiday after holiday, to celebrate her last Thanksgiving, last Christmas, last Easter, last birthday – or, just a random Tuesday when she’d determined it would be her last. There also several times when, family collected to her house, we would all break from our chatting as someone noticed how quiet and still she was in her chair. Inevitably, someone would ask if she was okay. Then if she was breathing. Then poking her and saying her name. Until, finally, she would open her eyes with a glint and announce her return. You’d think by now we would have been prepared for the actual end. But can you ever be?

We worked our way through arrangements, the funeral and the post-funeral gathering of more friends than expected in a familiar house that suddenly seemed very unfamiliar without its matriarch. The end of the day restored our breath a bit – the stress of getting through it all lifted with a feeling of having done it just right. Sunday, we would breathe again – not thinking of funerals, not thinking of the new to-do list in relation to Grammy’s home, not thinking of upcoming surgeries. A day dedicated to mental deflation before we’d shift back to, oh, jeez, now there were only days to go before graduation.

I should have been so thankful that I’d started planning the festivities six months ago – a personal smack to the universe of ‘Ha! I’m ahead of you!’ – except that my to-do list now looks like this: Pre-graduation dinner for 15 at Ginger Red (closed due to COVID), dispersal of ten graduation tickets at the Siegel Center and collect handicap parking passes for our elders (cancelled), post graduation luncheon for thirty-ish (not thirty, less than ten. no, wait, less than fifty but six feet apart. oh, screw it). I am continuing on a path of very uncomfortable flexibility – the nemesis of a born organizer. I’m trying to take these glitches as love notes from the hypnotic voice of the year 2020…you’re going to go with the flow….you’re going to enjoy the moments you ARE given rather than the ones that were taken away…you’re going see all the good as actually really good…not just because you were trying to convince yourself to find some good…stop asking what else I have in store for you, you really don’t want to know…you’re going to maybe go to Mars….

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