Three’s Company

Al, me and Dad

My dad is only 18 years older than I am and we are the only two of our family who live in Florida. Dad just got home from an extended visit to my mom and brothers in Michigan; Al and I are glad to have him back. It seems natural that I start to think, when I notice he’s not moving so fast these days, “this is me in 18 years.” I’ve always been interested to see how it feels to become older. It is mostly full of surprises, both good and not so great. Dad’s still got his health and his mind is sharp. He drives a cool sports car, lives in a condo a few blocks away that’s a step up from ours. We all love the weather here. My dad’s mother was born here and so was her mother, Mama Q, who lived in Leesburg her whole life. She died at 99, but not before she’d met my sons, her great-great grandsons.

It’s official now: Al and I are Florida residents. We recently received our new driver’s licenses and registered to vote. Dad has been a Florida resident for many years. He’s still married to Mom, they love each other, but they prefer things as they are. She loves the cold; he doesn’t. They are in their 80s but still visit back and forth. I got a text from my brother yesterday Don’t worry about Ma, we’ll take care of her. I knew that. And he knows I’ll help Dad if he needs me. In a way, we all grew up together.

Remember the “sandwich generation”? Caught between their children and their aging parents? Trying to raise kids and take care of Mom and Dad? I could never relate to that. It’s only lately my folks have been slowing down (a little bit) and my boys are both married with little ones of their own. My boys don’t need my help and my folks don’t either. But there is another guy I turn to all the time now that he’s retired…Al.

Since Al retired not quite two years ago, I notice I have become more dependent on him. Not life or death, just open the pickle jar. Watch the finances. Handle the real estate. Even sometimes…wash the dishes. Al is easy to lean on, but I probably do too much of it. He doesn’t complain.

Al and Dad usually golf together but they have not started yet. It’s a bit warm for Al still and Dad’s hip has been bothering him. We did take Dad to his favorite place for a waterside lunch on the Intracoastal after picking him up at the airport. It was getting cold in Michigan. 60 degrees some days! We knew he’d appreciate the heat and the band. It reminds him of better times, when his friends were all alive and they’d party the afternoons away.

I got a tiny sun blush. We all ate local-catch fish. My sandwich-free life may seem odd, our family might look strange, but we are a family and we’re all doing good.

Moving On

Heading to Bainbridge Island, Seattle

We did not move to Seattle; we had a family vacation there. Right after we moved to our little winter condo in St. Pete. We filled our car (down to one car for now) with boxes, dropped them off in Florida and hopped a plane to Seattle. We hadn’t been on a plane since Covid and we had not seen our Seattle children (or grandchildren!) since before Covid. We planned the trip back in that wonderful short window when it seemed that the pandemic would soon be over. Of course we still wore masks in airport and on plane. We wore them in Seattle, except in the house. Our grandkids are not yet vaccinated, so we did it for them. We had a great time. Little Julia is just 4 years old, but not shy. She touched my fingernail and said “Pink is my favorite color.” I said “Mine, too!”

The next day, she introduced me to all her stuffed animals. Owen is in second grade now, and he loves playing video games, just like his dad did when he was 7. Mike is still working from home. Jessica is working harder than she thought she’d be at this time. Not only is Owen home, but Mike is too. We got a tour of his office and Owen learned how to operate the copy machine. One day we all tried, by howling, to get Murphy to howl. Murphy is the dog. He did not howl but looked at us like we were nuts. It was a fun relaxing vacation. And lovely to see my son, his wife and our grandkids again after such a long time. They have plans to come here to Florida this fall. I hope it works out. You just don’t know. I’ve a nagging worry about the mu variant.

Jane.2 languishes. I am ready for it to return to life. My plan is to read Jane.1 and take notes. Then read the 100+ pages of Jane.2 plus post-it notes. Then write to the finish. I would love to have a complete draft by the end of 2021. Found a desk on Wayfair, a big one, and even though this tiny condo is crammed, there’s a spot for it here. I checked and it doesn’t SEEM to come from China, as I need it ASAP. I am longing to get back to work. I have been longing to get back to Monday Blogs and yes, it seems I’ve done it! My laptop finally has WiFi and all is set for take off into this new life.

Blogging Blues

Ain’t Got No Home

We do have a little condo in Florida, but this stuff won’t fit into it. So it’s in storage until we find our forever dream home. As usual, Al loaded more boxes than me. I have 7 boxes of books, all the rest are things like wires and plugs and stereo/electroic stuff. It’s fine, I am looking forward to having a turntable and records again. In the first Jane in St Pete book, she decides to buy herself a turntable and vinyl records. So far in Jane 2.0 (100+ pages) she has not mentioned music once. Back to Al, he has decided, with my encouragement, not to sell his motorcycle, but it’s stored elsewhere. He needs to work on it. A lot. And I’ll work on my book.

This should be a happy exciting time for us but I am too keyed up and Al is not at his best when he is planning two vacations at once. We finished booking the short trip to Traverse City, but the long one to Seattle is half done. The internet, at least the part of it that run hotels and Airbnb, is having issues this morning. So we have our plane tickets and our main place booked (Jimi Hendrix House–or something Jimi Hendrix). Did you know Jimi was born and raised in Seattle? So we will pay tribute while there. We plan to stay on Bainbridge Island for a few days but that’s when the internet went boom. Or the travel parts of it. I called the island on the phone, someone took my number, told me their internet is down, and they’d call me back. Al was having the same problem.

Eventually, Al and I had words and I took a pill. I had the Bainbridge Island place all set and he wouldn’t like me press “book” because he is a control freak and also says I get things wrong sometimes. Both those things are true but I have booked lots of vacations. Saw my final doctor yesterday and I asked if I might need to see a therapist of some sort because I have a new phobia (walking down stairs) and it is accompanied by a vision of me lying crumpled at the bottom step, she immediately said YES. And she changed around my meds meanwhile, as I have no time to find a shrink in Michigan. I will find someone in Florida or maybe this new pill she gave me will be the magic one. I will be fine. I have my trusty Xanax, it’s just got side effects I’m not fond of, but it works really well for panic attacks and even everyday anxiety.

We are mostly done here. The storage area is set except Al’s giant toolbox. The things we are taking in car to Florida are mostly packed. And we almost have our second leg of the Grandchildren Tour booked. We are not staying for any length of time in Florida in August. 1. Go see Ben 2. Close on house 3. Drive to Florida 4. Fly to Seattle 5. Have a fun relaxing time. That’s the entire plan. Except I will bring a pen and notebook and write when I can. I’ll have my laptop too for blogging which I feel I’m neglecting horribly. I used to do a faithful #MondayBlogs and if not Monday I’d hit up #TuesdayBookBlog. I have no hashtag for this thwarted Thursday.

Contained Chaos Ensues

We sold our home in three days; lucky for me I didn’t have to keep the place pristine for very long. The buyers are a lovely couple who have agreed to let us stay until mid-August, so I think maybe amid the chaos I may continue to try to write my novel. Or at least fit in one more scene before we split town. It works to my benefit to keep my writing tools close to hand until the very end. People who are 66 years old, or at least some of them, accumulate a lot of stuff, which they, or okay I, nonchalantly decide I don’t want most of anyway. Ha!

The two or three boxes of books has turned into six and those are just the ones going into storage until we find our next good home, which will be big enough to hold these things that just won’t fit into our little St. Pete getaway. So into a storage unit most of it goes. Into the car we shall pack our usual assortment of clothing, minus winter coats and boots and sweaters. Those we will leave for the Estate Sale ladies to deal with, as they have ensured me they are very happy to do. They even sell unopened food. These Estate Sale gals have made the moving process much easier. Whatever we don’t want, they’ll sell. Whatever they can’t sell, they’ll donate. And then they’ll clean the house for the new owners. We’ll already be gone.

That I have the luck to be able to write a few more times in between the sorting and boxing owes much to these ladies. Meanwhile this big scene in Jane.2 has been growing, shooting out pretty flowers inside. I know I need to write it now. Or soon. For sure before we leave this place for good. Yes I’ll miss my writing room, but I’ll miss my family and friends more! As for missing a room, I do mostly write on a chair with my laptop, which I can do almost anywhere. This “ardent coral” room is for all the else, some of it practical like a printer and paper clips, most of it inspirational, like my books. I knew I was going to keep the complete collections of my favorite authors of fiction: Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Erica Jong, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Sara Lewis and Margaret Atwood.

Turns out, I forgot my favorite non-fiction writer: Anne LaBastille. And my lone male short story writer: Raymond Carver. He comes along with Alice Munro and Carol Shields. Then there are the poets and the Zen philosophers. But I ruthlessly cut myself off with one box there. Oh and I had to add Laurie Colwin, who died way too young. She wrote fiction and two cookbooks. Her stories were a big deal to me back in the day. I want to revisit her.

Except for the writing books, those I’m using as research for this book (here’s a hint: Frida Kahlo) will wedge into the loaded southbound vehicle with Al and I and our electronics. The few other favorite “How to Write” books, several of them by script doctor/screenwriter Linda Seger, I will store for use on the next book.

We are taking this a step at a time and I may be nuts to think I can actually write a book while relocating twice. Well, maybe only once. We are thinking we will stay in our little jewel in St Pete six months or maybe a year. Al is my guiding star with this as he knows all about the economics of the housing market these days. I couldn’t do this without him, but then I don’t think I would have ever been able to write a book without him. All you need is love. And books.

Barbara Pym

This Covid time would have been so much worse for me without books. I’m writing my own book too but right now we are in the middle of a move and I feel too scattered to settle into a daily routine. You never know when someone will want to view your house and thus it must always be in showroom condition and we must be out of the house. I did manage a chapter a few days ago. And I have an idea entirely real in my mind I want to put on paper. I scratched out a few notes until I can give it my full attention.

I’ve not been happy with most of the books from my re-read collection. Too contemporary. I go back to the tattered Regency romance print editions or buy new Kindle copies. I’m on my fourth Pym and enjoying it very much. Hers were contemporary for her time. She was born in 1930s and so wrote beginning in the 50s. Her career was ruthlessly interrupted in the late 60s-70s when her publisher dropped her and she couldn’t get a new one. Her books were just too old-fashioned and sweet. They didn’t fit. They seemed throwbacks to gentler times. But when she re-emerged in the 80s, even all her backlist reprinted by a fancy literary press, I discovered her and fell in love.

She only had ten years or so left to write her sly erudite stories of women’s lives in mid-twentieth century. There’s romance, but usually of the thwarted sort. Right now I’m reading The Sweet Dove Died. A young man with fluid sexuality, his uncle who runs an antique shop, and the three women the nephew falls to some degree in love with: a young woman..maybe a beatnik? An older woman…but still beautiful in her way, and a heartbreaker of a romeo who tosses the young man aside for a new version.

These books don’t seem like much as far as plots go: they are character-driven and the main pov is the older woman. The wealthy antiques dealer uncle loves her and would marry her but she holds him off, allowing him to feed her fancy meals at the best restaurants or see an opera together. I do so love the characters even though they are not typical “good” heroines. Pym wrote before the time of strict rules for writing women characters. They don’t have to be all good; and they are not. They feel more like real people for all that. The other thing that captivates me, besides the lovely London setting, is Pym’s prose. She’s an easy wordsmith and handles her sentences with a lovely dexterity and cadence. She’s a great comfort to me in these days when I just can’t seem to read murder mysteries.