Attack of the Type A Monster
So here I am, making a nice recovery from recent arthroscopic shoulder surgery, going to physical therapy, wearing my big black sling with lots of Velcro and padding, when BLAM--I get attacked by the second round of Type A flu I've experienced in just five months. The first time happened before the vaccine was even available (and yes, I did get the vaccine when I got well). Both my daughter Hannah and grandson Noah had been pretty sick with this miserable illness recently: high fevers, coughing, muscle aches and crushing fatigue. Noah was back to normal after a few days of rest. Apparently half of his Pre-K class had it, too. Hannah took longer to recover and missed a whole week of work, which was a big deal for her.
I had the whole gamut of symptoms, including a wracking cough that still hasn't gone away. I went through boxes of tissues and gallons of water and ginger ale in an effort to stay hydrated. Every bone and muscle ached and the site of my shoulder surgery hurt even worse. My appetite flagged and I rarely got out of a horizontal position. Taking a shower required every ounce of effort I had. I often felt slightly dizzy. Thank God for Andy, who pitched in to clean up the kitchen, grocery shop, fix meals, do laundry and take care of the dog. Alison brought over soup and a pasta casserole Hannah made, but made a hasty exit so she didn't pick up any germs.
Andy began going to Hannah's house to feed Noah in the morning and get him off to school, so he wouldn't be around me. Frankly, even the happy noises of my grandson would have been too much to bear at that point. There were two doctor visits to rule out bronchitis. A trip to Walgreens nearly ended in disaster when I became sweaty and felt faint. Mostly, I was so desparately tired that any effort to do anything was just too much.
Finally, this morning, I woke up feeling a little better, like a fog had lifted. I took a shower, put on something besides the tired sweatpants and cotton hoodie I'd been wearing nonstop and decided to have Andy take me to the nail salon for a badly needed manicure. The feeling of fatigue and need for a nap lingers, but I think I'll be completely out of the woods by the weekend and can resume life as we know it.
I'm already thinking about spring, planting flowers, cleaning up the patio and pool and enjoying the warmer weather that will soon come our way. Stay healthy!
What I Miss
Andy and I have lived in the Lone Star State for more than four years now. Besides being near my three grandchildren and their families, there's much to enjoy. Three seasons of relatively mild weather top the list. There's a thriving downtown and new development surrounding the city with great restaurants, shopping and other attractions. Dallas has museums, a beautiful arboretum, a zoo, several large performance venues and funky neighborhoods like Deep Ellum and Bishop Arts.
Even with all this at our doorstep, I sometimes find myself yearning for the City of Brotherly Love. We lived a total of 25 years in the suburbs and northern Delaware. The very center of Philadelphia is City Hall, Broad and Market Street meet. Its wedding-cake architecture is topped by a statue of William Penn. I often miss:
When you live somewhere for more than two decades, its easy to take these places (and many more) for granted, thinking you will always have time to visit. Then you don't. Some day, I'll return and play tourist for a few days, enjoying some of the things I should have done, but could never find the time to take in between working full-time and raising three kids. In the meantime, I'll continue exploring Dallas and all it has to offer.
Like Sands Through the Hourglass
Like sands through the hourglass--these are the days of our lives. So goes the title of a still-running TV soap opera. It's an apt description, though, of how quickly and relentlessly time passes. At age 73, I do think about this sometimes. It's only human to realize one's time on earth is finite. I find myself wondering: Have I done enough in my life? Are there still things to be done, goals to be accomplished?
My very clever eight-year-old granddaughter Lena provided a stark reminder the other night while riding in the car. We were talking about nicknames, especially hers. From the time she was a baby we've affectionately referred to her as Lena Bean. Her aunt Alison takes it a step further, calling her "my bean." I jokingly said, "We'll probably still be calling you that when you're an old lady." Lena shot back, "Well, you won't." You could almost hear the rim shot before the laugh came.
I always expected to live a long time. My grandma Emma almost made it to her 100th birthday. My maternal grandfather died at 97 (his mother lived to 101). My mom passed away at 91, so genetically, I've got a pretty good chance at being around for a while, maybe getting into my 90s. I do hope to see my three grandchildren graduate from high school and college, see where their career starts to take them and maybe even marry. Great-grandchildren may not happen while I'm still here, but that's OK.
Some of my closest friends and, sadly, my own brother Pete, never got to experience those milestones. When I see their wonderful children and grandchildren, I'm painfully aware of their loss and the impact it's had on everyone. I resolved long ago never to complain about getting older, because not everyone gets that privilege. I'll trade the aches and pains of aging for the joy of life anytime. And yes, I'll always call my granddaughter Lena Bean.
In Praise of My iPhone
I am not the most technically advanced person on the planet, but I do love my iPhone. When I retired and gave up my work iPhone, my daughter Hannah made sure I had a new one. Almost every day, I find out something new. I especially like the banking app. I can track expenditures, automatic deductions, deposits, etc. and pay our cleaning lady, occasionally send money to my children, and deposit checks (unless more than $2,500 - I wish). There's an app for nearly everything these days - even tracking my blood pressure. I begin each day by reading the news on several different sites (love the New York Times). Phone calls, photos, videos, text messages, email, and map guidance for driving are easy. I can access Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and lots of other programs. Need a level, flashlight, calculator, weather forecast or just the time of day? It's right there. The possibilities are endless.
I remember our family's first foray into technology. We bought a $99 Texas Instruments computer from Toys R Us and hooked it up to a small color TV. It had no software--you had to plug in a cartridge. I'll confess I became addicted to Parsec, a space invaders game. In my job at a nonprofit in Philadelphia, we were putting in a computer network and I was able to get a 286 computer at a bargain price. Then we could at least do word processing (this was way before Windows software).
When I went back to work, I had to learn fast as technology evolved. This included complex fundraising software and its coding system. In fact, for several organizations I managed data conversions from previous systems and even index cards. By the time I retired, I'd become quite adept at most of the Microsoft programs. I was able to write and design publications through Adobe desktop publishing and upload them to the printing company electronically.
These days, its mostly doing some freelance work on my desktop computer (not a laptop fan) and writing this blog. It's safe to say that I never would have become a writer without a computer (remember Wite-Out?). I can feel the tech world whizzing by (the Cloud is still a mystery) and know that my grandchildren will be light years ahead of me very soon, but that's as it should be. I can remember my Dad marveling at the word processing program in his office and saying I would love it. How right he was.
This time of the year always brings on the doldrums. The excitement of the holidays has come to an end and the Christmas tree and decorations have been packed away in the garage. I've put the house back in order and done a few things I've had on my bucket list, like replacing the dracaena plants in the entry that had seen better days. On a trip to IKEA to buy them, I also purchased a little stand for my other houseplants to take advantage of the sun that streams through my office window. Prescriptions were refilled, a bag of too-thick-for-Toby rawhides was delivered to the local animal shelter and a couple books were chosen from the "new" shelf at the Rowlett library. I've scheduled a long-delayed arthroscopic procedure to remove a piece of bone that causes pain in my right shoulder. A sling will be necessary for a couple of days, as well as some physical therapy, but the surgeon tells me it won't be a big deal and I'll be back to normal very quickly.
While we continue our enjoyable routine of getting Noah ready for pre-K each morning and picking him up afterward, there are hours to fill in between. I'm not very good at sitting around and watching TV, so I hope to identify more free-lance writing opportunities. My Nemours free-lance project is moving rather slowly, so I've decided to reach out to local organizations to offer my services. Finding a volunteer opportunity with a local non-profit is also on my radar.
In the meantime, we enjoy watching our three grandchildren grow and offering as much help as we can to our daughters and their families in their busy lives. Andy and I are the back-up plan for picking up a sick child from school, pediatrician visits and child care when school is out for the day. We receive packages, wait for repairmen and do errands--all those little tasks that can be difficult when you're working full time. Our efforts are appreciated and we're more than happy to help.
The Happiest Place
Christmas has come and gone--the kind of Christmas you can only experience with young kids. On December 24th, the family gathered at a Chinese restaurant for dumplings, sticky rice and bean paste buns, etc. Then it was off to our house for gifts from Grandma and Papa while the grownups sipped champagne. Fast forward to Christmas morning for present-opening and a sumptuous breakfast. The big reveal was that three grandchildren, Hannah and Reagan and Grandma and Papa would be flying to Los Angeles for a visit to Disneyland! Delighted screams filled the room, as we explained to four-year-old Noah that he would soon be meeting Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.
Seven sleepy people rose in the dark for a 6:30 flight, allowing extra time to park cars , deal with bags, go through security (kudos to TSA folks working without pay) and get to the gate in time to gobble down muffins and breakfast sandwiches. As Mary Poppins might say, the kids were practically perfect in every way throughout the flight. We enjoyed a real breakfast at a deli near LAX and then herded everyone into the minivan for the drive to Anaheim where Hannah had rented a cute house not far from the Mouse House.
Having had our share of amusement parks while raising three kids, Andy and I opted to explore LA. After dropping everyone at the gate, we headed for the foothills and beautiful Pasadena, where preparations for the Rose Parade and Bowl were in progress. Next stop was the Border Grill. One of the chef/owners is Susan Feniger, with whom I had a slight connection, as our brothers were friends back in Toledo. She was in the restaurant (one of many she and business partner Mary Sue Milliken own) that day and chatted with us. A spectacular Tex-Mex lunch finished with a complimentary dessert. By day's end, the rest of the crew were pretty wiped from the early wake-up and big crowds, but had a wonderful time.
On another day, Hannah and Reagan took the older two to Universal Studios for rides and Harry Potter. Noah and Grandma went to Adventure City, a park geared toward younger children. We rode the train, a little fire engine, went up in planes and a hot-air balloon, twirled on the carousel and had lunch. He even had his first Uber ride. The next day, while the troops were back at Disney, we toured Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive (where we spotted Larry King!).
We finished a wonderful trip with a visit to windy, chilly Huntington Beach so the kids could see the Pacific ocean, and had a delicious seafood dinner. Another early flight got us home by noon. Andy and I can't thank Hannah and Reagan enough for including us. Special thanks to Alison and Matt for staying at our house with their dog and ours.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.