Everything Changes

At my job, things are getting shaken up a bit. My team’s workload is shrinking, which means people are going to be reassigned to other projects. First, we thought that would be me, with the QA person taking over the (not that complicated) BA work and me going to some new project. Then, my big boss told me last week that actually, it might be the other way around – I take on the QA work (which I have done before), and she moves onto another team. As far as I know, no decision has been made yet. There are goods and bads for each path. If I stay on the same team, I already know what’s going on, not that much ramp-up, I’ll just have to get caught up on some changes that have been made to the features that get most heavily tested. But a new project would give me new skills and new knowledge. Not that, at this point in my so-called career, I’m looking for Career Development, but still, it’s nice to be challenged and engaged. OTOH, there are opportunities to learn more technical stuff on my current project if I’m doing the testing as well as the business analysis. It’s all good. I like my job a lot and particularly like the organization and the culture. We’ll see what happens.

For many many years, C and I had a routine of visiting my parents over Thanksgiving week. C would take over the kitchen, do all the cooking, which made everyone happy. We’d borrow the car and go outlet-mall shopping, or go into Beaufort, Savannah or Charleston to go exploring. Sometimes my brother would join the family, sometimes not (Mom and Dad had only one guest bedroom, so C and I would stay in a hotel or we’d work something else out, but that was always a Problem to Solve.) But certainly after a couple of decades of this, I was starting to feel like we were in a rut, rather than a pleasant tradition.

The last five years have thrown a lot of changes into that routine. In 2018, Mom and Dad moved from Port Royal, SC, to Durham, NC, which is where my brother lives. So, new parental home, new things to see, a new outlet mall (closer!), and Sam was already there in his own house and there was no battle for the guest room. So we had one ‘new normal’ Thanksgiving. But the next year, Mom had just been diagnosed with the cancer that would kill her two months later – so we did the visit, but it was melancholy and tense.

Then Dad was a widower, living alone, and then COVID hit, which meant we didn’t do Thanksgiving with them that year (I visited, alone, in June). And last year, when things opened up, C’s mobility issues were in full swing, and we had to do our normal routine with C often in a wheelchair.

This year, everything is completely fecacked, of course, and with none of us remaining three particularly enthused about making a Thanksgiving meal, we’re going our own ways. But I did want to visit, so took advantage of this early-November long weekend and flew down on Thursday, the day before Veteran’s Day.

Had a pretty early flight, so made sure I was packed and ready before going to bed. Had enough time in the morning to have the coffee, get cleaned up, and do the 4 things to close up the apartment for a trip: shut the storm windows, wind the grandfather clock (or stop it if I’m gone for longer than a few days), empty the garbage, run the dishwasher. Then off to LaGuardia, much more painless than the last few years, now that a lot of construction has finished. Flight was uneventful. But the whole process of going through RDU Airport was one of, ‘usually, this is something we went through, and last time was so hard with the wheelchair and all, and now he’s just gone and…. aaaaaugh’. Anyway.

I’d not been sure if I’d needed my own car this trip, but decided to rent one, and that ended up being useful. Avis Preferred will now just email you and tell you which space your car is in, so you just get off the rental car shuttle, get in and drive away. Well, not quite. I found when I went to open the trunk that the outside of the trunk was dirty (fingerprints and such), which I didn’t care about, but then there was some garbage in the trunk as well (empty soda can and some other stuff). Not a big deal, and not enough to stop and complain about, but still, there will be a strongly-worded email this week. (Also, as I found out through the week, the gas gauge seemed to be stuck.) But, unlike some of the other Toyotas I’d been handed over the last few months, the car was willing to talk to my Iphone, so that was good.

Off to Dad’s, where he came out and greeted me and helped me take stuff in. I’d brought an extra suitcase just because, when he was up a few weeks ago, he’d picked out some of C’s clothes that he could use, so I brought those down. Met his new kitty, Julian, who’s a sweetheart tuxedo boy, about 8 years old. And we went out for lunch at a local restaurant. (Sad flashback: my G&S-community friend Uncle Cliffy, who lived in Durham, and I had had dinner there a couple of years ago. Cliff passed away last year, unexpectedly. As a friend of mine said on FB recently, ‘why are we losing all the good people?’. Good question.)

Dad and I hung out in the afternoon. I got to see some of the changes he’d made to the condo since last year: addition of utility shelves in the kitchen, magnetic cooking knife racks, a workbench setup in the otherwise-unusable narrow part of the porch. All in the service of organization and keeping thing neatly at hand, and I heartily approved. (Clearly this is a gene I inherited.) Certainly, part of these visits is always, ‘is Dad doing OK by himself’, and judging from this trip, the answer is an unequivocal “yes”, thank goodness.

My brother, Sam, is recovering from shoulder surgery and can’t drive, so we went to pick him up for dinner and ate at Local 22, a favorite spot over by Duke. They both ate healthy – salmon and such. I shamefacedly had a BBQ chicken pizza, but I didn’t eat the whole thing, so that’s good. Dropped Sam off, then did what turned out to be our little routine – ice cream and watching the news, then to bed early (where I watched RuPaul on my laptop before going to sleep).

That porch of Dad’s is built on what was the balcony, and it look out on a golf course, and it’s a lovely place to start the day. Make coffee, read, pet the cat (who enjoys the space heater), and watch the outside go from ‘completely black’ to ‘oh, there’s some detail’ to the sun coming up.

Normally Dad and Sam go for walks together almost every morning, but Friday was rainy, so we didn’t do that. I’d discovered, at home, a Brooks Brothers gift certificate that Mom and Dad had given to C for Xmas that he’d never used, so the plan was to go to the outlet mall and let Dad spend it. Dad’s not an outlet mall person, but this is a nice place and it had stopped raining by the time we got there. Dad managed to get some shirts and we put the remainder of the card on another card for him. (Had a nice chat with the clerk, who, it turns out, is the husband of the guy we usually see there at Thanksgiving time.) Also bought some socks at the Jockey store, and looked at a couple of other shops, but didn’t get anything. Odd not to have C there with us, looking through the Tommy Hilfiger store for cute outfits for Olivia and Jackson.

I’d planned to take Dad to lunch at one of the local restaurants that C and I had discovered, but we’d passed Hillsborough on the way there and Dad had said he’d heard it was cute and maybe do lunch there. So we did – I found the visitor’s center on Google Maps and we headed there, figuring it would be in the center of town. It was closed, but they had a rack of maps and brochures out on the porch to take. Hillsborough was indeed cute, lots of lovely buildings and homes, very charming. We didn’t really walk around, just looked at restaurants and picked one really quickly (the Wooden Nickel). It was fun! Dad had fish tacos and a beer, I had a buffalo chicken sandwich and macaroni salad and a green salad too.

I would have liked to walk around, but Dad wasn’t into it, so we went home. Where I immediately thought I’d lost my wallet (even calling the restaurant to see if they had it) and after going through the car a time or too, picked up my man purse and just sort of squeezed it – and yes, the wallet was clearly in there – I just hadn’t looked in every single pocket. Dumbass.

Then an afternoon of hanging out, and negotiation about dinner, and we ended up going to a Chinese restaurant. Dad had some very good dumplings, then a squid dish that he didn’t like, but I did. I had my fallback hot’n’sour soup and General Tzo’s chicken. The soup wasn’t great, but the the chicken was very nice. Back home for ice cream and news (and knitting). We went to bed quite early.

Saturday, the weather was nice, so we could do the walks. Dad lives adjacent to some very fancy neighborhoods, so walking around the Croisdale developments is always fun, but since Dad has to go pick up Sam anyway right now (since he can’t drive), they’ve been discovering some new nature trails. So we picked up Sam and did one of those, very nice.

Then we dropped off Dad so I could spend some time with Sam alone (so we could talk about Dad, heh) and I could help him run errands. Took him to a haircut place, then went grocery shopping for him in the Harris Teeter next door, and got myself a pastry, since I hadn’t had breakfast. Took him home, and he got to show me the new stuff. First, the teardrop trailer he’s bought for camping and has been having the best time with. It’s great, cute form factor. It’s basically a little bedroom on wheels, and has a hatch in the back that opens up to a workspace that you can use for cooking or whatever. He’s been going out as often as possible, really loves it. I’m not much of a camping guy, but I can see how nice that would be.

He and Dad had also bought and installed a shed in the backyard, big toolshed with a workbench and a loft for wood and such. I’d heard the drama stories about installing electricity and such, but the end result is really great. (I suspect Dad pushed this project so he could have a good workspace, as the condo doesn’t really have room for such a thing. It’s all good.)

Then we sat in his living room and had a great heart-to-heart. There’s not a lot of people I can talk to about the real nitty-gritty of my grief, and my relationship with Charles, and Sam had a lot of really interesting points to make. One, which I totally agree with, is that my grief is manifesting as anxiety, which presents itself as mania (definitely true) and that I want to Fix All the Things Now – which will of course help relieve the anxiety. But it doesn’t all have to be fixed now and it’s OK to let some things slide for a while or completely – something will take care of it, if not me. It was nice to get a fresh perspective, and of course it underlines that – as I keep saying – I need to find a therapist. Right now, my priority is dealing with my back/knee problem, but once that process is in place, yep, time for a shrink. (and yeah, the mania also explains why I’m tired all the time. Huh.)

I would have taken Sam out to lunch, but he was tired and kicked me out. So I went to 9th Street in Durham, by Duke, which has funky shops and restaurants, and explored a bit. Went to a coffee shop which I’d tried before, got a “Mayan Mocha” which has cayenne pepper in it. Too much cayenne pepper, actually, it was really hot. About a third of what they used would have been about right. I drank it, though, very slowly, all afternoon (after I drove home and ate the leftover General Tzo’s).

Dad and Sam and I went out to an Indian place (Lime & Lemon) for dinner. Good, except they rushed us through the meal. I think Dad wanted to enjoy his cocktail first, but all the dishes came flying out. I was deliberately trying to avoid spicy (not easy in an Indian restaurant) after having had nothing but spicy food and drink for several meals, but managed to get just enough spice to make it enjoyable and not painful. Dad got a fried mushroom appetizer that was really good, and lamb chops. Sam had chicken tikka masala (which I love) and I had something else chicken with a coconut cream sauce that was not that different. Plus an appetizer with baby corn, peppers and onions in a chili sauce which was excellent – but the baby corn was fried, which I wasn’t expecting. Nice meal – Sam took most of the leftovers home, and Dad got some too.

Dropped Sam off, then Dad and I went home for ice cream and news. This time, the news was interesting enough that we stayed with it, and got to see when they made the call that Cortez-Masto got her Arizona senate seat, insuring Democratic control of the Senate, very exciting. Then my senator Chuck Schumer gave a speech in what looked like the lobby of a NYC hotel building, complete with sirens going by.

Sunday morning, much the same. Picked up Sam, did a different nature walk – this one a 3-mile loop that was actually somewhat strenuous, although we all did fine. At some point we ended up somewhat in synch with a young lady who had a little yappy dog on a leash that was energetically trying to get free so it could rip our faces off. It was really yappy and pissed off, so we tried to keep our distance. But, you know, if it had gotten free and gone for us, I could have easily punted it in to the golf course next to the trail, heh.

Dropped Sam off, hugged him goodbye, then Dad and I went home and had bagels before I had to get cleaned up, packed and out the door. Dad’s taken up football watching again now that he’s a bachelor, and he had four games cued up. I hit the road about noon, tanked up the car, and headed to the airport. No problems there, but my flight was delayed about 25 minutes, so I decided to go to one of the sit-down restaurants and have a beer and sliders and a side of ‘fried brussels sprouts’, which were treated in a spicy way kind of like fried calamari, and which were really good. Of course this was at airport prices, but NC airport prices are equivalent to NYC regular prices, so…

Flight home uneventful. Got my luggage, got an Uber. For some reason the Uber zones are chaos, because none of the Uber drivers actually want to come into the curb in case they get trapped, so they all stop in the middle of the road, and it’s a zoo. But it all worked and I got home around 5:00. I was pretty beat, so decided not to do much of anything – go out to the Queensboro for dinner at 6:00, then go home and watch TV. Dinner at the Q was nice – a turkey pasta dish I hadn’t had before, and chocolate banana pie, also new to me, very nice. Then home, where I watched the news for a bit, then started watching The Lincoln Lawyer until I realized I was totally falling asleep. And that, my friends, is how I ended up going to bed at 8:15. And got up at 5:00, so I think I’m reset now in a good way.

And that’s that for that. Time for work!

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