Have you ever seen those game shows where a contestant gets into an enclosed cylinder and grabs at dollar bills while being attacked by winds going at 100 miles an hour? That’s what 2014 was for us, except instead of snatching at money, we grasped at life changing events—not quite as fun. I’m tired and overworked, my boots don’t fit, and come to think of it, neither do my pants, but that’s another story for another day. Here is what happened during my long hiatus…
May brought the first of the two unexpected trips for me. My niece’s nanny, Anna, insisted we go to Poland to pray for my father, who at that point had battled stage IV cancer for six years. She was adamant that a pilgrimage would help and her relentless efforts paid off when my nutty sister and I found ourselves literally on a wing and a prayer, headed to Eastern Europe within a matter of weeks.
My boss was surprised by my sudden religious revival, my diligent spouse, P, was in a flap at the thought of running the five ring circus that is raising our one and only child, Lanes, all by himself, and I was in a state about being stateless since my passport, still of the motherland, usually gets people kicked out of countries instead of being welcomed in.
However, as tired as I was by the three legged foot race it was to get my visa in order, on the way there, I was delighted to have my sibling to myself. That never happens with various spouses and children running around, no offense to them. I was less enchanted when I found myself pasted to the window because my sister decided to bring a green army tank as her carryon. It was placed on my left foot all the way to Poland. It’s a wonder I didn’t develop deep vein thrombosis.
Anna came too, and I nearly fell to the floor with amazement and delight when she pulled out of her handbag, homemade, individually wrapped, meat chops and chocolates for each of us. She force fed us while we were waiting for our flight, and I did not protest one bit. She’s magical to say the least! Slow roasted chops in a bag. Brilliant!
The onus of planning the trip fell upon my nutty sibling, and she found someone on the internet to drive us around Poland. The internet. Was this a Lifetime movie waiting to happen? Was my smiling face about to appear on a poster somewhere? Did she find some stalker or nut job? Who was this Anthony guy? Overly prudent and prudish, I was squawking about this nonstop and took it upon myself to fight him off should he make any untoward passes at pretty and delicate Anna, who could easily pass off as a Gabor sister.
I felt silly approaching him in my black bodyguard outfit, brandishing my umbrella on day one because Anthony turned out to be a charming man, who looked just like Robert DeNiro! He was completely bossed around by Anna. If she started a request with ‘I’m asking you nicely’, he best get on it! I was rather teary eyed when we left him behind in Warsaw, but I think he was in bad need of a vacation after running around the Polish countryside with us, each pointing in a different direction.
I was happy that our pilgrimage went off well. Anna arranged a private mass at Jasna Gora. Everything was in Polish and the only thing we understood was when my father’s name was announced, with perfect pronunciation. Anthony was next to me, giving me cues on when to stand and kneel.
Still in disbelief that I actually made it there, I was moved to tears. My sister looked otherworldly, and Anna, in-between praying and crying, was taking pictures, despite being told not to use the flash. Anthony was muttering under his breath, steam coming out of his ears at the looks we got each time little streaks of lightening came out of her camera.
When the priest approached us with the host, I froze. P had told me very sternly and with great authority that only those who are baptized may receive communion. Here I was, praying fanatically and the priest who had hundreds waiting for him was offering me the bread. I confessed quickly to Anthony that neither my sister nor I were baptized and I hoped he would rescue us from any sacrilege.
I looked terrified and ate it, all the while, hearing P gasping in horror in my head. In terrible fear that I had committed an act of blasphemy, I cried even more, envious of my sibling, who had no idea of the faux pas she had committed. No wonder they say ignorance is bliss.
After we prayed, several people flocked to Anna and Anthony to inquire about the foreigners ‘with such great faith’. A security guard, on the good side of 70, and costumed like he was off the set of a Federico Fellini film, asked Anna if he could marry my sister, which sent me in a fit of giggles. Anna kept him at bay saying she was married and then he wanted to marry me! What am I? A consolation prize?
On the heels of my return from the trip, we finally started to make a real move (pun intended) towards getting out of our crazy ghetto fabulous building. We found a realtor who had the most fascinating hair—because naturally, that’s what one looks for in a real estate agent. Lanes was mesmerized by him, and that made all the house visits we had to endure bearable. After a series of shoes on, shoes off, nice deck, too old, too expensive, finally on Lanes’ 7th birthday, we got a call from our agent, Andrew, saying he found a place.
The location was a bit far, but we thought we would go since Andrew was so awesome and we didn’t want to disappoint him. We got to the place a little early, so we scoped out the neighborhood. I had started to plan the spiel we would give Andrew about declining this place, when we realized that there was life out in the boondocks. The house was central to many stores we frequent and then I found the prize, an oasis in the desert, a Taco Bell.
The clouds parted and there was a ray of sunlight. It was at that moment, that I turned to P and said, we will take it, sight unseen. P laughed at how easily I was swayed. All it took was hope of a few chalupas (which incidentally, I found out later, were NOT available here—it was a tragic moment).
The house turned out to be nice, even though there were fish (and shrimp!) tanks everywhere and the walls were Pepto-Bismol pink, neon blue and operating room green. Despite the nauseating palette, it was the first house I entered that I felt at peace. By this time my father was really taking a turn for the worse, and I was steadfast in my mission to grant him his wish of raising Lanes in a ‘proper house’.
We put in an offer and our agent entered some sort of American Gladiator round of negotiations with the sellers. His boss and he were starting to get sick of the other party and were about to tell us to walk away, but by that time, we had to book a last minute flight to the Motherland to see my father before it was too late.
The agent’s boss, Italian and all about la famiglia, looked me point blank in the eye and asked if I was in a rush to put the deal through so that I could tell my father we have a house before he passed away. My feelings were bottled up until that point, because frankly, who has time to cry with a seven year old around?
I ungracefully burst into tears, hacking like a choking seal. The waterworks instilled in him a great ferocity to get the deal done and at 10pm he jet propelled the seller’s agent over and we were signing paperwork before we knew it. Soon after, we were on a flight, dazed and confused, for our second unexpected trip for the year.
This time, my boss was praying I made it on time, P was at a loss for words, and I was completely unprepared to be fatherless. We did make it on time, just enough for my father to register we came and for him to see pictures of the house on the internet. The cancer was in his brain by then, and except for smiling when Lanes spoke, he didn’t do or say much after that.
Lanes was convinced that her presence would protect her grandfather and despite invitations from her cousins, she spent every waking hour in his room. The one day she was asked to step outside, he passed away just after the family priest came and said a prayer over him.
The funeral was the next day. My nutty sister, refusing to accept fate, did not bring appropriate clothing for the event. She had to wear clothes left behind in her closet, which were probably left untouched since 1984. As we stood by the coffin, my sibling looking like a waiter no one would hire, I couldn’t see her as a 40 something year old. I could only picture her as a young teen and myself as a child.
It was the same feeling I had when I got lost in a store when I was three years old and despite the sales ladies consoling me, I was convinced they would kidnap me and that I’d never see my parents again—only magnified a hundred times more. We didn’t want to leave the casket. My father was the picture of good health, and he donned his favorite suit and trademark mischievous smile—the kind he gave when the joke was on everyone else.
He loved colognes and my nutty sister put his favorite bottle in the casket. Luckily, I noticed, because he was to be cremated. I’m sure my father didn’t intend to go out with a bang! I fished it out and thus spared the guests who did manage to find out about the funeral (my father wanted it immediate and on the down low) from becoming BBQ entrees. Instant and free cremations were not gifts they wanted.
My sibling stayed on a little with my devastated mother, but we had to run back because there was no leave left for us to take. I would have wound up losing my status at work from full time to temporary which meant I’d lose all my benefits. Plus, we had to pack and move. Moreover, Lanes had just gotten into a new school and she needed to be there for the first day.
Good job on us! Not only did she lose her grandfather but we ripped her apart from the comfort of her beloved friends. Some day when I’m dropped off at a home, these deeds will come back to haunt me. I am not up for mother of the year, that’s for sure.
Moving day was a nightmare onto itself. Lanes began the day by throwing up. Turned out it was the excitement of it all, so we shipped her to school. The movers didn’t believe me when I said we had a lot of furniture and they double booked us.
As a result, P had to run off to manage them and clean the apartment and I was left to carry everything up and down stairs since they unceremoniously dropped all our stuff in the garage of our new place. I’m amazed at the power of adrenaline. I lugged stuff that I could barely push on a good day. I could have bench pressed Rambo, made dinner, and given a TED talk at the same time, I was so pumped!
That day itself, I set up 85% of the house, starting with Lanes’ room. Over that weekend, everything was unpacked and we could have fooled anyone into thinking we had lived in the house for years. I am so amazing, if I do have to say so myself! Looking back, I would call us meticulous hoarders. I have no idea how we managed to store everything in an apartment.
With the move over, came braving the commute. It is a blooming nightmare. I wake up at 5am, where I stand at a bus stop on the highway. Considering it rains 80% of the time here, I brace myself every time a truck drives by so that I don’t get sprayed. I then run to catch another bus and then dash up a series of stairs to catch the train. Getting home is even worse.
I race down stairs at the train station to catch the bus. If I had to eat a 100 year old duck egg at the end of the stairs, my routine would be exactly like a leg of the Amazing Race. If I don’t run, I either fall or get carried by the crowd.
If I miss the bus, it means at least a 15 minute wait in the cold and rain for the next one. If I do get on the bus right away, I usually have someone’s armpit in my nose and another person’s backpack in my ribs. It’s a long 25 minutes, invariably perfumed with the l’air du body odour and unseemly bodily gases.
This bus pulls to the station just when my other bus is pulling out. That means another 15 to 20 minutes in the elements, and usually I’m fuming in the line next to the idiot who decides to start smoking. Undaunted, I’ve taken to studying the flight patterns of Canadian geese while I’m waiting. I might start to name them. When I do get on the bus, I eventually get to a stop where then have to walk across two major highways to get home, wasting 7 minutes at each crosswalk light, where I have the pleasure of inhaling exhaust fumes.
Sadly, this is the best route for me. The other two alternatives did not work out at all! With the first one, I wound up on a narrow strip of pavement in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bus that never came. I got splashed every time a car whizzed by, and the wind was shoving me into an overgrown hedge. My umbrella bounced me off the hedge and into a garbage can, from which I was pinged back into the hedge. This cycle of misery continued for little over an hour.
I was roaring with rage by the time I got home, and I might have found a goldfish swimming inside my left boot. With the second alternative, my co-worker showed me a route wherein I found myself crossing over a sprawling highway four times! After which, I had to stand at a very precariously placed bus stop. If a driver sneezed, he could have swerved and taken us all out. No way!
Such is my life nowadays. At best I have five minutes when I get home to shower and have Lanes’ dinner ready. When Lanes gets home, everything is a blur. Her lunch is uneaten, her hair is everywhere, and I can’t wrestle her into the shower or settle her down for dinner or to do her homework. It’s like wrestling an alligator in a big vat of jello.
With that I must sign off, and I promise like a politician that I’ll post again next week. These days I don’t know what lies ahead seven minutes from now let alone seven days! I’m telling the universe that I’m going to win the lottery, so I can spend my days wearing chunky jewelry, eating chocolates, writing and adoring my 45 rescue dogs. But for now, it’s off to catch bus number one I go…(please do leave comments)…more musings from BC next week…
PSystem Angelo, you now have to keep your end of the bargain. Please cook your famous eggplant for me. I'll pop over anytime.
PSystem Angelo, you now have to keep your end of the bargain. Please cook your famous eggplant for me. I'll pop over anytime.