On Saturday I got up at 6:30 Eastern Time in Charleston at my son’s house. He and I walked to the nearest open coffee shop where I bought a large cup of coffee for my daughter. I woke her with the steaming coffee, and in an hour we started the drive to Atlanta to catch our plane for home. That was the beginning of about 20 hours of travel. I crawled into bed at my daughter’s house on Whidbey Island at midnight Pacific Time.
It was good to see my sons and their families. The trip was too hurried and we interrupted the lives of working people, but still, I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we went together.
On this trip I had a flash review of the stages of life.
It has been years since I have traveled with daughter 3, Lawyer Daughter (Deborah). When she moved out west to go to law school I drove across the country with her and the two kids, Bridget, 4 and Julian, 2. That was almost 20 years ago. Bridget has graduated from college and Julian is at the University of Washington.
First Deborah and I visited my youngest son, Ben, in Atlanta. She is 11 years older than Ben, but they are both loving people and were glad to see each other. Ben is 38. He married his childhood sweetheart, Katie, and they have 2 enchanting children. Jamison is in 1st grade and I went along to her teacher conference. She is bright and verbal, understands “math concepts” but doesn’t always remember “math facts.” I think this means that she knows what addition and subtraction are about but doesn’t always remember that 9 + 9 = 18. I suggested flash cards. Oh, dear. Flash cards are apparently out of favor with educators. The teacher, a nice woman, said we should play games about numbers.
Ben is young enough to feel that life has unexplored possibilities. He would like to change careers. He is now the executive chef at a country club, a job he dislikes. Because of company policies he is obliged to order and serve a lot of pre-prepared food, while he believes that the best meals should come from fresh local ingredients.
Since he was a small child he has been fascinated by the natural world, and especially by snakes and reptiles. He would like to go back to school, become a field biologist, and perhaps be a forest ranger. He still has time.
Katie, his wife, is back in school studying to be a nurse anesthetist. She works long hard hours and the two parents juggle child care. Katie is home on weekends while Ben works. Ben is home 2 weekdays while Katie is in school. The other 3 days they are helped out by Katie’s parents who live nearby. It is a frantic schedule and they are temporarily short of money without Katie’s comfortable income as a highly trained ICU nurse.
Katie’s parents stopped by to say hello. I have known them for many years. We have watched each other grow old. Bonny said to me, “You look wonderful, Anne, you never change.” Sweet words, but we both know not true. I thanked her and thought, “Bonny, you are still a good looking woman, still look like yourself, still look natural, intelligent, and loving. But older.”
Ben and I took the 2 children to a local nature center where there was a good collection of snakes and a few other reptiles. Many of the snakes were active so I got lots of movies of slithering snakes with Ben’s non-stop commentary in the background. For kids everything in the world is new; they were full of excited interest.
Granny (that’s me) took everyone out for Asian food and the next day Deborah and I drove a rented car to Charleston to visit my oldest son, Stevie. The drive is about 4 ½ hours through gently rolling country with low pine forests and brown fields. It seems monotonous compared to the dramatic landscape of the west.
When I first saw Stevie I thought he looked thin and pale, but actually I think he is well, though he eats mostly funny sorts of health foods. He constantly exercises at his gym when he isn’t at work treating people who suffer from chronic pain. Every morning he gets up early and rides his bike to his favorite coffee shop where he sits at his favorite table for 2 hours working on math, physics and biology. He is writing a paper on something about the physics of cell responses. I think. It is full of equations.
Stevie is 19 years older than Ben. He has already done his career change. He started as a professor of mathematics. Now he is a medical doctor.
Steve and Michelle are a devoted couple, but both of them find that aspects of their work and their lives make them unhappy. They look with trepidation to coming years of late middle age and retirement. If only they could momentarily share my vantage point of old age they would see lots of time left to do so many things.
Michelle works for the state of South Carolina. A big part of Boeing is moving to Charleston, and she will be working on finding local people for the new Boeing to employ. She will have a fine new office with a fine view.
Because Steve and Michelle both had to work while we were there, Deborah and I spent a lot of time together. We reminisced about years past, and she talked about the law practice that she has with her husband, Chris. They are now doing well, after the first years of struggle. Chris is gradually limiting his practice to Social Security, which he enjoys, and Debbie is hoping to specialize in personal injury. Their youngest child, Clare, is still at home. She will be 13 soon.
Deborah is the only one of my children who is religious. She told me about her religious experiences and feelings, and while I don’t share these, I can understand and take an interest. What I find more difficult to comprehend (she knows this) is her allegiance to the Catholic Church, which interferes in secular matters and takes political positions that she and I both disagree with strongly.
We got home tired. I spent the night at Deborah’s where we had bacon and eggs at 11:30 P.M. in Debbie’s kitchen which had been made spotlessly clean by Chris. The next day, Sunday, I drove home to my Jerry, my poodles and my cat.
The strawberries I planted before I left were sprouting happily.