notes from the spiral

The Newton Living room/Dining room 

A week and two days.  Hold tight.  This is long.  I’ve taken notes.  I am really tired and last night Cheshire and Justin brought over an “extra” air conditioner to take the edge off the heat.  We’ve made it though the loading, the drive, the almost catastrophe, the arrival, the delivery, seeing our new home, a measure of unpacking, and our ninth death day celebration.  Lots of being here with some worry on the side.

Beginning last Thursday.  Closing on the Madison house and the journey out here were, as in any good transformative tale, challenging.  My buyers hesitated and complained a bit. Wedding jitters? This might have been their first old house buy or their first buy together.  My cleaners were responsible for some of the anxiety—the middle burner on the stove top probably still wet from cleaning did not immediately light and the cellar floor, still wet from a wash, suggested a wet basement.  Then, the central air did not immediately switch on and blow out cold air, but I hadn’t run it yet this season and directions needed to be followed.  Does anyone read directions? Eventually and with some realtor help, signing happened.  I worried and fretted from the road and was happy and relieved that I had pre-signed what I needed to do last week.

The empty Madison house.

The first day and a half of the drive was positive and uneventful.  Bliss!  A bit of traffic around Chicago and some very fast drivers in Michigan.  I was standing still at 73 mph!  The second evening I caught Julia using Instagram inappropriately, that is, she was messaging strangers.  She agreed not to do that when I let her fire up her instagram after a few weeks hiatus.  Now, possibly she has been messaging strangers, presumably “cos players” but who knows for sure, for more than a week.  I have not been as eagle eyed as usual.  Asking her not to do this is no longer an option.  So, I did what I told her were the natural consequences: messaging strangers results in losing the instagram app.  There was no surprises here but the quality of our journey took a dive.  Julia was loudly furious and unrelentingly angry.  She stayed up much of the night alternating crying and yelling.  I was called every name in the book, and a few more and in the end, I got angry too.  

Unfortunately, this happened in the Seneca Falls in a Micro Hotel which was very small and basic, and the only option when I finally got around to making reservations.  I planned to stay two nights, to be able to see the Seneca Falls Women’s History sites and take a break from two days of driving.  It became two. days of raging and trantruming. I’m sure it was about more than Instagram.

Early the first evening, I suggested a bath, which provided a break in the wailing but nothing to break the spell of behavior.  She caught some sleep and then started in again in the morning.  Breakfast, sight seeing, museuming did nothing.  She might calm down for a little while and then ramp up again.  At one point, she said in the car, crying and screaming for more than 45 minutes while Muta and I sat on the stoop of a shop.  A much younger me would have been incredibly embarrassed.  For good reason.  At this point in our life together, negative judgment from stranger caused by Julia’s behavior is not taken seriously.  Part of me was waiting for the police, which I think might have scared her out of her behavior.  Alas, none came.  The second night in Seneca Falls was a bit better but complains, crying and shorter tantruming was still breaking out.  She was; however, exhausted and we both got some sleep.  

Sunday morning, we woke up early and there was a perceptible change in the atmosphere.  I had about 5 hours of driving and it looked like we would be on the road by 8.  Julia was not being at all helpful but the worst seemed over.  

And then, the really awful happened.  

I packed us both up and got stuff to the car.  I loaded the car, careful to keep the cat in.  Muta did pretty well on the journey.  He had his morning gabapentin pill with his wet food.  It kept him more or less drowsy for the best part of the day. He spent some time each day close to us, at Julia’s feet or between us in the front seat.  Each day, I took him out on a leach a few times and he walked.  He would walk where he wanted and when it was time to bring him back to the car, I’d pick him up to his meowing protests.  Behind the Micro Hotel, there was a mowed area and then a thicket of bushes, trees and weeds along the river.  Muta strained at the leash a few times when we were near thicket on other walks.

Anyway, everything was in the car and I was ready to leave.  Julia got in and was talking and leaving the door open.  The cat ventured towards the door; I told Julia to be aware of the cat; she looked at Muta but did not close the door and he jumped out and ran as fast as he could toward the thicket.  We then spent two hours trying to find him.  I talked to Cheshire on the phone and texted with Amy.  I was ready to give up.  Two days with a raging Julia had sapped my energy, losing Muta was not a loss I had considered and I felt shattered.  

I was talking with Cheshire when I saw Muta flash by—he had indeed explored far down the river bank.  I called him and he did not answer.  Clearly, the exploration was still fun.  Amy suggested tempting him with food which usually doesn’t work but he had not eaten much that morning.  She also offered up the proverbial St. Anthony prayer.  So did I.  I got his metal bowl with food and a fork.  I banged the bowl a few time and stirred the food to let some of the odor into the air.  I put it on the ground all the time calling him.  He answered my calling, came out of the thicket and started eating.

Relief was never so sweet!  I scooped him up and put him in the car.

Back in the car, we began driving.  I had not had coffee or breakfast but I was fueled with adrenalin and drove for almost an hour before stopping.  Julia was silent at first and I was not interested in talking to her.  We stopped for gas and McD’s breakfast and were back on the road.  We seemed to be riding a rim of storms and I wanted to drive as little as possible in heavy rain.  After eating, Julia began complaining again, not escalating but complaining.  Life was awful, she had nothing (meaning Instagram), she didn’t want to move to Boston, she didn’t want to go to school anymore, she didn’t want to do her daily work.  I was angry, mostly about the cat, and let my fury rain down on her.  I told her she was selfish and mean to let the cat out of the car.  I told her she was 18 and didn’t have to go to school.  We would find a work training program for her.  I told her she didn’t have to read or do DonaLee work or draw or play cello.  I told her that I have her do these things to make her brain stronger so she can be independent someday.  I told her that typical kid of her ago do a lot of independent things that she is not ready for — giving examples. And I told her about all the decisions I had made and everything that we did that helped her.  

Then there was a lot of silence.  Followed by an apology.  The last few hours felt like the end of an epic.  We lived through the challenges, most of our own makings, to come out the other end of the tunnel, possibly wiser than we went in.

We arrived in Newton after 5 and retrieved the apartment key.  We went over to see the apartment, and unload the cat and plants.  Then we headed to Charlestown to spend the night with Cheshire and Justin.  They had a supper waiting and a bed made.  Heaven!.

The next day, Monday morning, July 1, we were where we said we would be.  Newton, MA.  Windows opened; most working. Borrowed inflatable mattresses inflated in our bedrooms. Two camp chairs in the living room.  This might qualify as glamping.  The rooms echoed.  Muta was content in the bathroom.  We waited first for the cable guy and then for the plumber.  Internet was installed, the  plumber fixed the toilet, we went to the library and got cards and then did some food shopping.  We were kind of bored without enough to do and in a holding pattern.  

At one point, I sat in my camp chair, watching the sun move across the dining room floor, wondering what I would do with that room.  My kitchen table goes nicely in the kitchen.  I have no other table.  I would like the possibility of a working dining room but maybe a folding table that can be pushed against a wall most of the time.  There is a wide window sill along one wall.  If I protect it,  it will be a good plant shelf. There is tall wainscoting on one dining room wall with about with a grooved top and three feet of wall above.  A good place for small art?

The empty Newton house.

Tuesday, still a day before the movers would come, was spent at Newton-Wellsley Hospital getting help applying for Julia’s MassHealth.  The application was for our family and as I’ve written before, as a family, we do not qualify. The application must be submitted, we will be formally rejected, and then I will file the disability supplement so that Julia can be reconsidered.  I will try to talk to the social security office on Monday.  If I can show that Julia has the federal adult disability determination perhaps the state of Massachusetts will not have to do another determination from scratch.  The process may still take weeks although Julia should qualify for a very minimal plan quickly.

Wednesday, July 3, the moving truck arrived.  My plug for United Van Lines—My driver and the guys hired on either end were all wonderful.  Considerate, hard working, efficient and kind.  Kind to Julia as well as the unloading filled the house with so many boxes it might have burst.   Labeling and color coding of all boxes worked extraordinarily well.  There were only two boxes that were not color coded with ‘moving tape.’  The moving guys told me they were put in the cellar and sure enough I needed one yesterday and it was downstairs.  I chaffed with the notion that I no longer had ‘my’ space.  Yes, I did design an excellent kitchen for myself in Madison—not saying it will work as well for the new owners but it was near perfect for me.  Traditional cabinets are not as easy for me as my shelves and drawers, although I found that the baskets I used to use in the bathroom closet fit in two of the lower cabinets making makeshift drawers.  

By Thursday afternoon, most of the kitchen and bathroom, video paraphernalia and china cabinet contents have been unpacked.  All need adjustments, pretty placement and tweaks but we have working rooms.  Two room challenges: the bathroom is incredibly small with very little storage.  Adaptation will be ongoing.  The dining room is a dilemma—Making it into an extension of the living room is possible but I am not sure how.  I do have too much furniture for the living room so my big leather chair can be shifted, but how to arrange or make the room useful, as of yet, no idea.  My neighbor attached my washer and we will buy a dryer today.  I assumed I could buy a gas dryer because there is gas in the house. Carefully following the gas line demonstrated that an electric dryer is eminently more practical.

Back a day, after unpacking and then breaking to watch tv—oh, yes, first new purchase, a 40” tv.  It is the biggest and the most interesting tv I’ve ever owned and Julia is interested in it.  No cable but an internet hook up so we have Netflix and Amazon Prime.  It is a brave new world. 

Back to back a day, after unpacking and breaking, Julia and I went across the street to a 4th of July barbecue.  There are five new households in the neighborhood, some buying, some renting, and our across the street neighbors had invited all of us and a few more folks to party and then walk down to town fireworks.  There are a host of kids on the block, some younger and a few Julia’s age.  They all had a big water balloon fight in the street in front of the house and most of them, including Julia got very wet.  She loved it.  It was an easy group for her to fold into and the play was undemanding and uncomplicated.  The kids closer to Julia in age were enjoying the younger play which was a gift.  The food was plentiful and delicious—more meat than I’ve eaten in a long time.  The conversation varied and easy. Possibly because there were so many new faces, there were lots of informational questions asked and answered.  The family visiting from California came further than we did, but second place for distance moved was ok by me.  We walked a dozen blocks for so to sit in a blocked off street that faced a sports field when the fireworks went off.  It was closer than we usually are to those displays and the noise  and Julia had a hard time even with ear plugs and head phones.  Walking home, with dozens of other people, I was incredibly grateful for this gift of the evening after the challenges of the journey.

Yesterday, the 5th, David’s 9th Death Day.  Julia and I unpacked more.  She set up her book case and then put DVD’s away.  I worked on unpacking the dining room and lifted one too many book boxes.  Alas, my right shoulder hurts which prompted a unpacking free day on Saturday.  Cheshire and Justin went out for Indian food and we explored a bit of Belmont’s main street.  Really, a lot of restaurants! 

The alternative to unpacking seems to be shopping.  Saturday booty included a clothes dryer, a microwave, ideas for a trash can and portable air conditioner.  With the move and a very expensive month, I have almost maxed out my credit card which was both expected and surprising.  

I also met my landlords early this morning.  I was on the couch tapping away and they were coming home from foreign travels and leaving for their New Hampshire house.  We will talk when they return.  I’ll find out more about the house and I’m sure they will find out more about us.  

So much is changing, has changed, will change.  I look at Facebook pictures at settled lives of friends and family.  Throughout the day today, I almost wished I could have my settled life back.  Exploring is hard.  I get lost all the time.  Sometimes I recognize the street name but it is another town and the same need streets do not connect.  Siri is spending a lot of time redirecting.

Metaphors keep pouring in.

One more bloom in my Madison garden

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