I have about a week left of my summer-long absence from home. Other than the three weeks in June at Ron and Claire's house in California (while they were in Scotland, driving on the wrong side of the road), we had not planned much special, so I planted over a dozen pots with edibles and flowering plants, the south-facing ones of which I knew would need constant watering. It started off well with the basil plant going, vegetatively, nuts and the tomatoes growing strongly. The onions took off and I actually enjoyed one before setting off to Cali, which was delightful as usual. Nancy joined me for a week, and in the middle of that week, flew off on a four-leg flight to surprise her brother in Kentucky for his retirement as school principal. With her usual careful preparation, she did that, completely, in the greeting card section of the Dollar Store in Fulton, Kentucky. He was very surprised.
And that was to be the hijinks highlight of the summer. But as we all learn, the more one plans, the more hilarious the gods find your presumption.
After years of bouncing in and out of the regular and rehab hospitals, our parents' ongoing health crisis seemed suddenly very serious right before Memorial Day. Mom passed away there before any of us could get to Florida, and Dad, who had joined her at South Bay Hospital, went to the nearby rehab for what turned out to be a very long stay. We each went there for alternating weeks until I finally moved to the Sunshine State on a one-way ticket to stay until something was decided or even decidable. When we realized he was never going home again, a family friend found a room for him in a very fine nursing home near ours in Pennsylvania, thus happily ending an anticipated long time on a waiting list. If you think your taxes are a lot of paperwork, try applying for entrance to one of these.
I guess most out-of-state family members in this situation just have an estate sale (there are several companies that do this locally, as you can imagine with the area population being 95% retirees) and then call in Goodwill or the Salvation Army. It seemed more right to go through everything, item by item, and figure out what to do with it: send to family, sell -- hardly an option in this land of, uh, constant turnover -- give away, or take to one of the many thrift shops. All of the above, of course. Long story short, we (Nancy was here with me for one very productive week) became regulars at UPS and the post office, and some of the thrift stores got pretty tired of seeing me. If you are interested, I am now an expert on where to find boxes in the 33573 zip code, and can point out the best dumpsters. The Salvation Army was great at taking those many items that just didn't fit anywhere else, and they came in their truck, which worked a lot better than Dad's Toyota sedan for all that hauling.
Reluctantly, I guess I'll have to take the hated I-95 north, getting to Richmond at the end of the second day. Many wrapped items in boxes to hand off to family members there, and maybe some time to hang with old comrades. Then home, unloading what's left and hoping to send a lot of that to others in the future. A dilemma to be faced, I don't know how yet: you can't throw these things away, but there's no room for anything. We need a three-car garage.
So it's goodbye to all that: the beautiful bridge from St. Pete to South Bay, with its bright yellow ribs standing up like pick-up sticks, exotic palm trees of many species, waterbirds (egrets, cranes, herons and storks) with impossibly skinny legs and long beaks, golf carts with everyone's home state license plate on the back, old people who can talk the paint off the wall, scattering geckos and lizards by the hundreds, ferocious storms that build up too quickly to run from and bayside tiki bars I'm really going to miss with their sunset ceremonies and island music.
And a long goodbye to people married for 66 years as I pack their lives up.