September 12th, the day after the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, we were still glued to the television set for hour after hour. It is still difficult to believe that this is not a horrible B movie, but that it has really happened. Having been in healthcare for so long, stuffing my emotions in the attic of my mind, this jarred me to the foundation of my being. I feel that it probably permeated my soul being so close and having a personal connection and many recollections of New York City over the years. Then the thoughts of who I may have known from school, from the neighborhood, from various other associations that may have been victimized rapidly floated through my mind like a stormy sea. Each day, the local paper lists the residents of the Shore area who were working in the Towers and are missing or found dead. There are further lists by high schools and junior high schools of students who have a missing parent. The stories are heartbreaking and continue forever. The numbers climb each day. Some companies have lost upward of one thousand of their workers. To think of the grief a survivor of one of those companies would have to suffer through emotionally is unthinkable. How could I survive psychologically if I lost a large group of friends at one time? I don’t want to begin to imagine what it must be like. I have said for many years that family does not always have to be within bloodline and this is certainly true in my life.
I would have hoped that this situation would drag many Americans out of their egocentric narrow little worlds, but only time will tell. Before the presidential election, I remember seeing interviews with people on the street asking them what they thought of the race. It saddened and frightened me that many people in their 30s and some in their 40s stated they did not even know who was running and they said it did not affect their lives so they really did not care who won. Many would love to blame Californians alone for this attitude claiming they are so different from the rest of the nation, but this sentiment was found throughout the country. We have lived in a cozy nest of complacency that has been shaken. Wake up Americans, you are NOW affected. It is beyond the time for lectures, but we have had our lives changed in ways that we cannot yet perceive. I am grateful my brother is too old to be drafted and my nephews are too young, for some time yet.
The word WAR scares me and we use it with as much ease as other obscene words that sometimes we use with varying degrees of shock value. If there are an estimated 100 “sleepers” in the country, how can we be certain what the future holds at any moment in time? If we declare war on one man, there are many tentacles of his power and followers who may still grip us in a vice. When does it end? It also saddens and disgusts me to read and hear of the reports of the vigilante killings and other abuses that are happening around the country because people are “from” countries we don’t trust or religions we do not understand.
Our next couple of days passed into evenings with few accomplishments other than monitoring the news. We were successful in getting the balance of the boxes into the storage unit. All that was left was one sofa and one chair. Both the room at my father’s and the storage unit were filled to capacity. Another unit was out of the question. My brother and sister-in-law had just bought their first house, so he came over to collect his unintentional house warming presents: a sofa and a chair. We followed him home for dinner with his family, but Dad had to stay behind to baby-sit Michelle’s children. Later that evening at 10:30, I was typing away on the laptop when I heard my father talking to someone in the kitchen. I assumed he was on the phone and was surprised and taken aback when he walked into the dining room with a person. After teaching Human Sexual Behavior for twelve years, there is not much that makes me raise my eyes in the wonderment of humankind, however, my protective instincts went into full alert. The person I was about to be introduced to was shaved bald, about twenty-five years of age, though difficult to accurately guess without the benefit of hair, and pierced in five different places on the face leaving the ears a safe haven from a holey experience. There was no clue as to the gender of this person. I was introduced to Nadine, the adult daughter of one of my father’s former beneficiaries. After meeting me, she left rather abruptly which I knew could only mean one thing. She came for money. She later called for my father at 11:30 pm and wanted to come over to speak with him about an urgent matter. My feelings were getting confirmation about her needs. I refused to go to bed until she arrived and departed, but by 12:30 am, she still had not made her second appearance. At 12:45 am, she called to say she would catch him another time.
By Friday, we were ready to leave for Philadelphia for weekend with friends and anticipating a bit of relaxation after days of unpacking and moving, then stressing and worrying, then questioning and wondering about leaving for London. Then Marsha called! Our sweet Angel of Mercy who was going to buy my car had her loan all ready to go, but needed a form signed my me for the DMV. The Department of Motor Vehicle…though I had spent hours on the phone prior to leaving California with the bank financing my car, it totally escaped me to call the DMV about transferring the car. Now we hit a major glitch. Marsha needed the form from DMV filled out and signed by me before they would release the loan. While I was on one phone with the bank that has my loan, Ron was on the phone trying to get through to the California DMV. As I juggled the phone, I was also on the Internet searching the DMV website for clues as to which forms I needed to complete this task. It struck me as being a waste of effort as both my father and brother’s printers were out of commission, so even if I had found them, they could not be printed. As providence would have it, it is the only form that is not on the website. When Ron reached a live person, she insisted it was until she tried it herself. The form is in the mail. We will have to have the forms needed sent to London and arrangements will need to be made to pick them up at the American Express office. Thinking that this was in progress, we headed to Philadelphia in the rain.
Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities in the country. Having lived there for eight years, it amazed me how much has changed in a city that is too historic to warrant changes. On South Street, Ron and I were able to wander in and out of the boutique stores that are ever changing, but always fascinating and never mainstream. I was able to tour him yet again to all of the landmarks of my past before driving out to my friend Carol’s where we were going to spend the weekend.
Carol and I were in graduate school together at Temple University when we were both working on our Masters degree in Social Work. Our first year placement was also at the same place, the University of Pennsylvania Hospice. We bonded during that time and the friendship has continued since through phone calls and e-mails. Driving to Carol’s house, which is in a suburb that I had only visited once, we lost our direction. It took fifteen times to stop and ask directions before finding our way. Who says men don’t stop for directions? No one seemed to know where this street was and it seems there is a Country Line Road in every borough within 30 miles around. When we made our final approach to the correct street, I realized I had forgotten to write the house number down. Door to door guessing would have been a new adventure, but I was correct on the first try. Carol was waiting and wondering when we were going to show. Although I had been calling her for the last twenty-four hours, it did not help that I was one digit off.
Carol made some interesting and unusual alterations to her home. She took a three-story home and converted it dramatically. The final result is a living area, partial kitchen, breakfast room, computer alcove, and full bath on the first floor. On the second floor, she created a television room, living room, full kitchen, and full bath. The third floor consists of two bedrooms. Until the borough objected, Carol was able to rent out both bedrooms and live on the first floor. The tenants were able to use the second floor kitchen and living area as a common area. Unfortunately, the zone restrictions were that she was not allowed to have two full kitchens in one home and she was only able to rent out one room. She had the refrigerator and stove removed which satisfied part of the requirements. Then she moved into the second bedroom, making the first two floors common areas. We were able to occupy the first floor for our visit. It was like staying at a Bed and Breakfast. Carol has a very comfortable sofa bed in the living area and a coffee pot and all the needs for a breakfast in the kitchen area. She had pastries waiting for our next morning breakfast all ready for us. After a wonderful dinner out at an Italian restaurant and hours of catching up on old times and discussing our day to day lives, we called it an evening.
Saturday, we drove to New Hope, PA. New Hope is one of my favorite areas. It is an artsy community with unusual shops, restaurants, and galleries. It sits on a river and the streets are narrow as well as historic. For the last twenty-five years, I have felt like I have stepped back into the hippie era when visiting there. Actually, when I first started going there, it was still the hippie era and was au courant. One of the galleries we ventured into had the original artwork of John Lennon and Jerry Garcia. One piece was the only erotic piece John Lennon had done of Ono. Why some collector has not snatched it up is beyond me (insert sarcasm here).
Peddler’s Village was the next destination, my second favorite place to visit in this area. This is a village of unique and captivating little shops on hills and dales with walking paths all around. To make it more festive, this weekend was the annual Scarecrow weekend. Each shop decorated a scarecrow with goods indigenous to the wares they sold in their store. It was quite festive. I realized how much I miss the changing of the seasons and all that each season represents with the traditions and memories associated with each. It would be wonderful to be here for the changing colors of the leaves, but hopefully, we will witness that spectacle somewhere else.
To end the tour of the day, we went to Doylestown, PA. This is another quaint little town with a lively downtown area and beautiful homes surrounding it. Most of the shops had closed by the time we had arrived. The day made me realize that there is recovery for a shopaholic when one condenses their life to the bare minimum. It would be dishonest to say that there were not dozens of things that I would have loved to purchase, but without a home to put them in, it put things into an eye-opening perspective.
By a popular vote of three, we decided to stop at a market and pick up dinner rather than eat in a restaurant. Carol put together a wonderful meal in a matter of minutes after we returned home. She had invited us to go to a Quaker Meeting with her the next morning since that is where she has been attending. We thought that would be a healing experience especially due to the current events of the nation. At 10:00 am we arrived at the Radnor Quaker Meeting House. It was filled and there was standing room only. The quiet meditation, the sharing, and their pacifist nature was healing, relaxing, and reflective.
From Carol’s we drove to Marcus Hook, to see my friend John. John and I had lived together in Center City Philadelphia and then in the Wissahickon area when I bought a house with my parents. After a visit at John’s home, we went to a wonderful restaurant for an early dinner. By this time, I was dreading the drive home and fearing what I may find when we arrived. I had plenty of time to catch up with John and relax during our visit.
When we arrived home, my Dad greeted us with the news that there was a dog in Michelle and the kid’s room: just in case we hear growling or barking. It is beyond my comprehension how someone who is depending on the charity of others for their shelter, food, and babysitting could possibly further impose by bringing a dog home for the night. The children went to visit their Dad’s for the weekend, an unusual occurrence and brought the dog home for a visit. My heart goes out to the children, but their mother needs parenting classes. While we were gone, Michelle told me that there were others here for financial handouts and the Bank of Father had teller hours. This continues and my brother and I are at a loss to stop it from happening. We have discussed selling the house with him, getting a Senior Case Manager to assist him, and face-to-face confrontations about his giving away money to others, all to no avail. He states that he is not doing it, but I have caught one person calling to find out when I would be leaving the house in order for her to run over to make a withdrawal. What bothers me the most is that Michelle informed me that he had co-signed loans for these almost strangers and they have reneged on their payments, so he is responsible for them too. It is so difficult raising your parents, but each time I watch the news these days all of my problems seem trivial in comparison.
We have extended our stay here until the 26th of September since we were uncertain what the airlines would be doing by this Wednesday and we had some unfinished business to attend to. I will be e-mailing our flight information out…just in case. So unless something dramatic happens between now and then, the next e-mail will be from London. I have been collecting everyone’s comments into a file to save for future enjoyment.
In a separate e-mail I will be sending a couple of websites that are especially heart warming and heart wrenching with photos of the Twin Towers.