After an awesome couple of days in NYC and NJ, we are now at my mom's house. Using dial-up to access the internet. It's like stepping back in time, I tell you. But in all good ways. I haven't slept in my parents' place since I had that Angelina dream about my Dad a couple of weeks/months after he died (or, was it the time I woke up and thought it was morning but it turned out to be the exact time on the clock that he had died?), so it's actually really lovely to be here again. Even though the place has lost the Crazy Scotsman look it used to sport (e.g., massive clutter, nail clippers in the pocket of the lazyboy chair, clipboards with recipes attached all over the place), and even though this place in Del Boca Vista has never been my home, it feels like coming home nonetheless simply because this was the last place I was with my Dad before he died in the hospital. My mom has kept the "Dad stuff" that matters and mercifully heaved the exceedingly large quantities of stuff that doesn't. So now it's a totally cute Grandma apartment, full of kids' toys and play kitchens and whatnot. And it's also still the place I remember him reading to Bambina and taking her on leaf-collecting walks. So it's really happiness-inducing to be here.
We did NYC yesterday. Took a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, played on the Big Piano at FAO Schwarz, went to the bathroom at Bergdorf Goodman, rode the subway, ate bialys from Kossar's, and blew our credit limit at Economy Candy. Bambina had her portrait painted by one of those guys sitting around Central Park. He only used black oil paint and various brushes, and he did a pretty decent job. There was a wedding going on at The Plaza Hotel which had moved outside; a photographer was taking a picture of the groom serving the bride a cone from an ice cream truck. We walked by and my first thought was, "Oh that's so sweet!" Then I looked at the picture being taken: a groom handing an ice cream cone out a truck window, over which was written, "Mister Softee." Not exactly the most auspicious beginning to marital relations. But that's going to be one hell of a photo!
We then hung out with our almost 90 years-young GiGi in Jersey, eating every meal at various diners and just relaxing and chatting with her. Then today we visited BB's grave for the first time, which was nice. In Jewish tradition you leave a small rock or stone at the grave to show you were there. Bambina brought along her stinky stuffed sheep, Stephan, who also "wants to leave a rock." So she and I went rock searching while the BBDD and GiGi chatted with BB. She found some of that "onion grass" (it's long grassy stuff that smells like onions when you pick it), and because BB did not like his vegetables, she put them on his grave because vegetables are good for him. It was pretty sweet, even though she really does not get the concept of death. She gets that he is gone and that his headstone says his body is there but that his soul is with God. Whatever that means. Nonetheless, she felt good that she left him some greens.
On the way to DC, we stopped off at my old haunt, Johns Hopkins Hospital, to meet up with my wonderful old nurse, Nancy. I had joked that I was going in for "my victory lap," but to be honest I was a bit wobbly for a few minutes there. My only experiences at that hospital involved me being sick, scared, and sick of being scared. I spent 3 days a week there getting various blood products, feeling sick as a dog, tired as all hell, and watching my blood counts drop on a weekly basis. I got all kinds of bad news in that building: that I was going to miss my friend C's baby shower, that epogen was not helping my blood counts, that I was not going to have a 35th birthday party with friends after all, and that I was really really fucked if I didn't get a transplant, like, tomorrow. So for whatever ludicrous reason I somehow thought I'd just walk in there doing my Rocky dance and no harm done. Weeeel. I forgot that in order to feel the victory in having overcome something, your brain has to take you back to the stuff you overcame. And I hadn't quite prepared myself to have the dread and fear and angst come flooding back to me as soon as I stepped through the revolving doors. But there they were. So I was back-footed for about a minute as I talked myself down from my bad nostalgia, back to present day E-ville, where I am not wearing a mask, I am not imminently going to die, I am not going to miss another damn birthday or baby shower of people I love. Fought back some tears. Pulled my shit together and walked in smiling. It was great seeing Nancy, who had never seen my full face without a mask, and great standing in that building on my own two feet, with pink cheeks and a smile. But as we drove away I said to the BBDD, "It was so great to see her! Let's never go back there again, okay?" From my mouth to God's ears, y'all.
So tomorrow is the Old Neighborhood and old friends. Places, again, I haven't seen since leaving in a cloud of fear and illness. It's going to be fun. Right after I give myself that moment to acknowledge--and be okay with the fact--that it wasn't always so good. What the hell. That's still a victory lap. Isn't it?