Wednesday, March 30, 2016

SOLSC Day 30: An Ordinary Day

I will not report on technology, except to say that I HATE HATE HATE Microsoft Excel.
            A pleasant day. Some paid work, followed by a long lunch with a friend (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, all very delicious), then she drove me and a cartload of YA and middle-grade books to donate to a used bookstore in Washington Heights. A nap, dinner of leftovers, then more paid work. Next I will call an old friend in Hawaii.
            Nothing exciting, no insights, but a nice day. It would have been nicer if it were warmer, but I can’t have everything. (Oh, why not?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

SOLSC Day 29: Focus Group Questions

I just got a phone call from Advance Focus, a market research company looking for people for a Democratic Party focus group next week. First the woman calling had to see if I qualified.
            My age was okay, my employment status (semi-retired) was okay. But then she asked what my occasional work was. When I said, “freelance copyeditor,” that disqualified me. “Publishing” was one of the industries they didn’t want.
            Why? I didn’t ask that question, but could it be that I’m assumed to be too well informed? I’m not average enough? Does it distort any focus group in New York City to exclude media workers, since media industries are a major sector of the city’s economy? So many questions: I'll ask the focus group of this blog.

Monday, March 28, 2016

SOLSC Day 28: “There Is a Field”

I saw a powerful play tonight, There Is a Field, about the death during a protest of 17-year-old Aseel Asleh, a Palestinian living in Israel, in October 2000.  Jen Marlowe,  a human rights activist and writer, wrote the play; she knew Aseel when she was a counselor at the Seeds ofPeace camp, which brings together children from all sides from regions in conflict.
            The play is based on years of interviews Marlowe had with Aseel’s sister and other members of his family, presenting a heartbreaking account mostly from his sister’s point of view. The Asleh family lived in Arrabeh, a village in northern Israel, and the parents brought up their children to be proud of being Palestinian. Aseel wrote, in a 1998 e-mail to his Seeds of Peace campmates about Land Day commemorations (about the 1976 seizure of Palestinian land by the Israeli government): “We should never forget, but we should forgive.... I will go on. I will make this planet a better place t live and I will go on. For all the souls who only saw pain and sorrow in their eyes; for the souls who will never see a pain of another soul, I promise you I will go on.”
            In this presentation, Aseel appears as a very mature, serious yet playful young man, and it is lamentable that his voice and actions were stilled by police in actions that an Israeli commission determined were not justifiable.
            I’m really glad I saw this performance at Columbia University, the middle of what the playwright calls the Land Day Tour. There Is a Field will be seen at other universities, in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri, and there will be two more performances in New York in mid-April. Check here for more information about tour dates.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

SOLSC Day 27: Spontaneity

I brought vanilla cream-filled chocolate eggs to my book group in Brooklyn today, and had bought a couple of extra to share with my daughter when she visited last Friday. But I forgot to give the extra to her. So, since she lives in Brooklyn, we agreed that I would come by after book group to hand her over her “cream egg.”
            I arrived at her apartment in early evening, and we had some very emotional conversation about grieving, sadness, loss, what it all means. As I was getting ready for the long subway ride home, she asked what I would do about dinner. We decided to go out to dinner in her neighborhood, to a quite good Indian restaurant. (I had tandoori fish, which I had never seen on a menu before.)
            As we walked her back home on the way to my subway, I realized that this sort of evening would not have happened were Jack still alive. He did not enjoy spontaneous changes in plans, so I might simply have left the cream egg with C. and gone on home, or not even bothered with the detour and given her the chocolate eggs the next time we saw her. It feels almost perverse that while grieving his loss, I now feel more freedom to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. Ambivalence, ambivalence, ambivalence.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

SOLSC Day 26: Reading About a Lost Manuscript

Another movie today (the French My Golden Days, though the original title Three Memories of Youth is more accurate). I didn’t fall asleep during the film, though I was afraid I might; I slept little last night. But once home, I drowsed for maybe half an hour before assembling my dinner: leftovers of baked fish, mushroom risotto, and kabocha squash. I am still cooking, which means there are often leftovers, which I love.
            While eating dinner, I read an article in The New York Review of Books about the original typescript of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. I read this classic novel by a disillusioned Communist (as a red-diaper baby, I was drawn to these stories) in my early 20s, and the author’s two-volume autobiography — I still remember his horrifying account of having his tonsils removed as a child, without anesthetic! From the NYRB article I learned that Koestler’s original manuscript, in German, had been thought lost. An English translation by Koestler’s then mistress, a young artist who was not a writer, was the first publication, in 1940, and Koestler translated it back into German a few years later. But now that the original has been found, it seems that there are numerous translation errors that soften Koestler’s points, German syntax creating awkward English, and unidiomatic English. What seemed odd to me is that Koestler translated the English version back into German after World War II, apparently without recreating his original — odd, until I remember that when I’ve rewritten something I’ve lost on the computer, I never feel it’s as good as what I wrote the first time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

SOLSC Day 25: What’s Normal?

I saw the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot this evening. It’s based on a memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by the journalist Kim Barker, and after seeing the excellent movie, with Barker played by Tina Fey, I’d really like to read the memoir.
            The movie is set mostly in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006, and shows some of the ways the Americans trying to help the country rebuild deeply misunderstood the culture. Marines repeatedly rebuilt a well that was bombed in a village, thinking they were helping village women so they wouldn’t have to walk a distance to get water. When Barker accompanied the Marines on one of their repair missions, the village women were able to talk to her — they couldn’t speak to the men — and confess that they were destroying the well because collecting water was their one chance to socialize without the village men around. And they wanted Barker to ask the Marines not to rebuild the well.
            Barker confesses to becoming addicted to the excitement of being a war correspondent, but when one of her colleagues, who she’s also having an affair with, is kidnapped (she helps engineers his rescue), she rethinks that attitude. She tells the colleague she’s returning to the States because, she says, she was beginning to think that life in Kabul was “normal.” What was heartbreaking for me, though, was this: Barker, as a Westerner, could leave Kabul and Afghanistan, but for Afghans, life there, no matter how insecure and corrupt, is their continuing normal. Unless they’re rich, they have no escape. I hope Barker’s memoir reaches that insight.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SOLSC Day 24: Colliding Lives

My lives collided this afternoon. Have I mentioned that I seem to be living three lives simultaneously? There’s the life of memory and the past, remembering Jack and  random thoughts, experiences, stories. There’s my life now, moving on, on my own. Then there’s the imaginary life of what Jack would have thought, liked, hated, what we would have talked and argued about.
           Today the life when Jack was still alive and the life when he isn’t crashed together when I ran into an acquaintance in our neighborhood. I was at Mondel’s buying custom chocolate Easter eggs, and the husband of a woman who I first met at the sandbox when our kids were toddlers came in. I’d probably last seen them in November, after Jack had fallen at home.
            “How’s he doing?” the neighbor asked. My heart clutched. He didn’t know, and I had to tell him.
            I hate these moments. Later today I’m getting a refresher with my physical therapist, whose colleague treated Jack over the past two years. I will have to tell him, but I’ve been preparing myself. In Mondel’s, it was unexpected. I told him, he was shocked and sorry, and I left the store. But I had to sit down outside on a street bench to put myself back together. These moments, when the life when Jack was alive and the life when he isn’t collide suddenly, feel like the emotional atoms of my being have scattered like pool balls. I need to gather them back into the frame of my body.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SOLSC DAY 23: Bilingualism

I am bilingual in computers. Except for a brief flirtation with the immediately obsolete PCjr, I’ve been a Mac girl all the way. But at work there have been mostly PCs, so I’ve learned to work in both operating systems.
            Since I’m mostly working at home the past couple of years, my PC knowledge is a little rusty. So when one of the editors I will be working with the next couple of months, who also works at home on her PC, wanted a refresher, I found that trying to imagine the PC screen while talking her through a process over the phone wasn’t that easy.
           This afternoon I decided to stop by my old office to give myself a refresher in Windows 7. I went through the steps the editor was having trouble with, took notes, and will consult with her when she has stories ready to work. And I took advantage of being in the office to hang out for a while, which I have missed while working at home.
            Do you have a favorite computer system? Are you a Mac or a PC person?  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SOLSC Day 22: No Fun

This was not a good morning. Because of my spinal stenosis, I have some stretches to do before I get out of bed each morning. Today, as I swung my legs into the first stretch, I felt strong pain in my back. No bed lumbar twists this morning. I tried the standing twist, gingerly, but I couldn't feel the stretch nearly as well as I should.
            At my podiatrist appointment, I reported the tender spot under my second toe, and the podiatrist gave me a silicone “cushion” to wrap around the toe and lift it off the ground. In the office, it merely felt uncomfortable, which I put down to not being used to it. But after I left and walked a few blocks, the silicone device pressed more on the ball of my foot, causing pain and throwing my gait off.
            The upset I felt was partly because of the pain — but it was also because I knew, when I went home, there would be no Jack to rub my back and make it feel better, and no Jack for me to bounce off my feelings about the silicone device. I was overcome by sadness, and had to sit down on a bus shelter bench and cry. I’m not the kind of person who cries in public, and fortunately, no one stopped to ask if I was all right. And after a few minutes I was. Went home, took off the silicone, have sat with my back flat against my chair all afternoon.
            I will be all right, but aches and pains alone are no fun.

Monday, March 21, 2016

SOLSC Day 21: Busy

I don’t know what to write my Slice about today, since there’s been so much. So I’ll just make a list.
  1. I went to my first bereavement group this morning. There were four of us bereaved and two social workers, two who’ve lost husbands, one who’s lost a wife, and one who’s lost her mother. I’m not the worst-off person emotionally — I almost feel lucky. Is that okay?
  2. I walked down Broadway from 32nd Street to 18th Street and to Taste of Persia, delicious Persian stews from a corner of a pizza parlor. Taste of Persia started as a food truck, but was so popular that it moved into this permanent space. I had a delicious stew of okra and other vegetables.
  3. Back home, I made several phone calls involving financial matters. I also got a phone call from my doctor after my annual checkup; she said my bad cholesterol was bad enough that I should start taking statins, and I also have to add a lot more vitamin D to my supplements.
  4. In the evening I went to a Conversationson Race and Other Diversities with Johnnetta Betsch Cole” at the CUNY Graduate Center. The participants included academics, the host of a public radio show Micropolis, and a former NFL player-turned-activist against sexism and homophobia. They managed to discuss intersectionality in plain English.
  5. I walked over to Broadway and up to 42nd Street from 34th Street, and got in my 10,000 steps for the day.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

SOLSC Day 20: Rummaging

I was poking around a closet in what used to be our daughter’s room, and had become Jack’s computer room and general storage, and found a tote bag with things in it. What could it be?
            It was one of the tote bags Jack used whenever he needed something for carrying his medications that needed to be taken as specific times. So what else was there?
1. A long-sleeved YMC T-shirt, which he took to the movies in case it got too cold.
2. A bottle of Tylenol, expired two years ago.
3. Two big envelopes from TIAA-CREF, where he’s moved his 401(k) when I retired three years ago, so our retirement accounts would all be in one place.
4. A Playbill program from December 1, 2012, for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, for which we had series tickets. The concert opened with Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony 1 in D major. This was a concert that not only did we forget that it started at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 8, but on the way there, we realized that we’d forgotten our tickets and had to return home to retrieve them. We thought we were arriving at the concert in the middle of the Prokofiev, but it sure didn’t sound like Prokofieff. In fact, it was Mozart’s Jupiter symphony, which followed the intermission.
            It may have been lucky that we missed the first half of the program, since it included Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, op. 14, composed in 1939. Jack usually didn’t like music composed after 1900, and while this concerto is not as atonal as much 20th century music, it doesn’t have the usual melodic touchstones of 19th century and earlier pieces. I was very sorry to miss the Classical symphony, however; it’s one of my favorites.

SOLSC Day 19: Baseball’s Coming

Today I took the train up to Connecticut to meet with a group of New York Mets for our annual preseason lunch, craft beer, and trivia.
            The warmup to trivia was a heated discussion about who on the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot should be in voted in. Personally, I cannot get excited about these arguments, but at a table full of those who are, I will have opinions. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire all raise the question of whether players who took steroids should be in the Hall, and opinions were mixed. I suggested the Hall of Fame have a separate Steroid Wing. And no Hall for players who were designated hitters most of their careers; they were playing only half of the game.
            The trivia contest has always been created by D.G., our group’s convenor for the past 33 years — I’ve only been a member since 1991. Today’s was fiendish. Set up like a Jeopardy game, the categories were minor league teams from 1949, 1955, 1965, 1975, and 1985, with a softball category called Batting Practice for those 90 years old (one of us), and women (that would be me). We were assured that every answer was a Major Leaguer we would all know, but no one liked this game. The clues were too obscure, and starting with the name of the player’s minor league appearances was disorienting.
            If you’re not a baseball fan, this probably sounds pretty silly, but we had a great time — and hope to see a Mets game together sometime in the summer.

Friday, March 18, 2016

SOLSC Day 18: Drunk Shakespeare

Drunk Shakespeare — that’s the name of a performance put on by the Drunk Shakespeare Society. I saw it tonight with my daughter and her partner (they had already seen it three times).
            The conceit is drinking: all audience members receive a shot of some liqueur (mine was red; I think it was grenadine) as we enter the theater, set up like a cozy library lounge where all the books are arranged by color of binding. There’s a bar, and you can order a variety of beers, basic wine, or esoteric cocktails. One actor each night is the designated drinker, starting off with four shots of whiskey — and an audience member is invited to drink a shot to assure us that it’s real whiskey.
           The evening is like a literate drunken college party of thespians having fun with a condensed Macbeth, with a fair amount of improv and audience participation — and more drinking. At one point, Banquo is announcing the people in attendance, and I was pointed out as Lady Gaga of the Future (prompted by my white hair and pink bangs?). Later, I was selected to choose a badass name for Banquo’s son (Fleance, in Shakespeare’s play), and when I shouted out “Gangsta-X,” I got a fistbump from Macbeth, and applause from the audience.
            If you’re ever visiting New York, and aren’t a recovering alcoholic, I highly recommend this silly romp.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

SOLSC Day 17: Mammogramming

I had my annual mammogram today. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in New York almost every mammogram technician is from eastern Europe. I always ask where east Europeans are from, since, back in 1991, I co-founded a nonprofit, the Network of East-West Women, supporting women activists in the post-communist countries, and still co-moderate a workshop on their issues.
            Today’s tech was a late-middle-aged woman with short dark hair. When I asked where she was from, she answered by asking me to guess. Hmm, I thought, is she Russian? Polish? Serbian? Croatian? Not Bulgarian, I thought. “Russia?” I guessed. Yes, she replied. I said I’d traveled in eastern Europe, but wasn’t good at distinguishing accents. She said their languages were all Slavic, so they mostly sounded the same. I said, not really, Czech sounded quite different from Polish.
           Then there were several minutes of her positioning me into the machine, adjusting my body and arms, and letting the machine squash my breast. There’s one position, with my shoulder down and head turned back, that always feels like a frozen dance move.
            When I asked where in Russia she was from (maybe I’d met someone from there?), she confessed that actually she was from Tajikistan, near Afghanistan, in what they called Middle Asia, but she’d stopped saying that when most Americans had never heard of Tajikistan. (My workshop has had a couple of speakers from Tajikistan.) I asked if she spoke Tajik. She said, the Tajik speak Farsi, but it’s written in Cyrillic. She still speaks it, but not so well, and her children, born here, don’t speak it at all and aren’t  interested in Tajikistan.
            One hundred years ago, there were massive numbers of immigrants into the United States — including all my grandparents. It feels like we’ve having another wave now, and I welcome them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SOLSC Day 16: Bookkeeping, Part II

A week ago, I wrote a Slice about two sets of hospital doctors' bills for my husband — one set I’d paid last month, and the second set, 10 pages long, including both the old charges and new ones. A friendly woman in the hospital’s billing office said she would send me an amended statement for only the new charges.
            On Monday, I received two statements, one nine pages long, the other 12 pages. Again, each statement contained charges I know I’ve paid. Today, I went through all four statements, marking the charges I’ve paid, adding up the charges I haven’t. The total was about $30 less than either of the amounts on the statements I got a couple of days ago.
            So once again, I called the hospital’s billing office and talked to another friendly woman. She had an explanation that made no sense to me for why the check I’d sent hadn’t been applied to two of the doctors’ charges. I kept trying to understand, she kept repeating her “explanation.” In the end, I decided to stop arguing and just say I would send a check for the amount I think I owe, and she laughed and conceded that there was some problem with the way payments were applied to charges.
            These are the kind of life details that are so boring and so annoying. Yet they also became a test of attitude. Shall I become angry and obsessed over some weird computer glitch, or just pay what I think I owe and let the problem roll off my back? I am following path #2, and I feel much better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SOLSC Day 15: YouTubing

Daughter C. and her partner, R, came over for dinner tonight. I made a West African chicken stew with peanut butter — delicious.
            Between dinner and dessert, we showed each other Oscar-nominated animated shorts on YouTube. C. showed me The Blue Umbrella, which is sweetly sentimental and cleverly shows how many inanimate objects can look like faces.  I showed them Destino, a Dali-Disney collaboration from 1946 that was never completed until Disney’s nephew unearthed it in 1999, had it completed, and it was nominated in 2003. Surreal visuals and a haunting song make this something I could watch over and over.
            These Oscar-nominated shorts, the animated and live action, can usually be seen only if you’re an Academy voter or are lucky enough to live in New York City or L.A., where they are sometimes shown in the weeks before and after the Academy Awards. But YouTube has many of them, either whole or trailers. Check them out.

Monday, March 14, 2016

SOLSC Day 14: Time Passing

We’ve been living in our current apartment building for 45 years. (And is it okay to continue to say “we,” even in the present tense, for describing something that included Jack in the past?) One of the building’s handymen, Luis, has been living in the basement apartment with his family for almost as long as we have lived here. And he is retiring at the end of the month.
            He’s 80, so it’s way past time for him to stop doing the kind of work that handymen do, polishing the lobby floor, sweeping up in the basement, shoveling snow or steering the snowblower, collecting trash from the 15 floors and bundling it out to the sidewalk. I’m sure he’s done way more work that I never see.
            Luis’s cousin Pedro was one of our doormen for many years, and he retired a couple of years ago, moving to Florida. There was a building party for him, and there will be one for Luis.
            Having the people who’ve worked for you for many years retire and move away is one
more mark of passing time. When Jack and I moved into this building, there was a middle-aged couple on our elevator. We never knew their name (New York is like that; and we live on the second floor so didn’t usually take the elevator), but we smiled and nodded when we saw them. Then he died, and then she ... moved away? died?
            Now I feel like I’ve moved into that slot for newcomers in the building. They saw the notice about Jack’s memorial in the lobby, perhaps wondered who he was, may even have seen him going out with his walker to walk around the block. But they didn’t know his name, and they won’t know mine when I disappear. (Unless I make an effort.)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

SOLSC Day 13: Glad & Sad

I think I had a burst of energy from the memorial, with all the people and relatives last weekend, and it ran out yesterday. Is that why I forgot about writing my Slice until it was too late?
            Here’s today’s. I’m walking home after shopping and pass a couple roughly our age, he in a wheelchair, she pushing, and she stops. She says, “I can’t push you when you do that.” He says, “But I have to.” As I pass them, I see that his wheelchair does not have foot rests. I remember that it’s hard to get into the wheelchair when foot rests are attached, even when the food pads are flipped aside. I wonder if she’s complaining because he’s using his feet to “walk” along, because I remember that it’s hard to push slowly enough when the sitter does that — and it’s also hard for the sitter to hold his feet off the ground if the foot rests are gone. I wonder about their relationship and how long she's been having to push him in the wheelchair. I hope they have a flat entrance into their building and an elevator. I am relieved and sorry that Jack and I won’t have to face these problems.

Friday, March 11, 2016

SOLSC Day 11: Poetry Underground

The New York City subway system has, since 1992, had a Poetry in Motion program, with a new poem posted in subway cars every so often. I saw the current poem, “Heaven,” by Patrick Phillips, this evening, and it so spoke to me. It was as though someone was tuned in to what I need and have been thinking. I wish I had written this.

by Patrick Phillips

It will be the past
and we'll live there together.

Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.

It will be the past.
We'll all go back together.

Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.

It will be the past.
And it will last forever.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

SOLSC Day 10: Old Mail

Jack’s first e-mail account was with AOL, back in the days when you had to pay for it — and he never changed it. Of course, I have to close that account so it’s no longer a drain on the pocketbook. But first I wanted to download all of his Sent mail. He used to reread his Sent mail, and I wanted to see what was there.
            It took the computer know-how of my niece and brother to accomplish that last Monday. Today I started browsing. The old mail only went back to 2009 (I guess AOL only saved back that far), and it was fun to read the exchange of e-mails between Jack and our daughter when she was on a solo trip to Glasgow. Also an exchange from an English friend who attended debates organized as the Battle of Ideas; it used to have a New York partner called the New York Salon that Jack and I attended a few times, but it no longer exists.
            But when I opened some e-mails about my mother moving up to New York into an
assisted living apartment, I was overcome by melancholy. My mother had been living independently in Florida, but at 91, she’d decided it was time for more help, and she was willing to move back to the cold weather to be closer to me and my sister. Reading those e-mails only reminded me that she’d been much sicker than I had realized, and just a month after she arrived, she was dead. We had both been looking forward to long talks about memories — we’d even started, with my mother tellilng me her fascination with science began with a college anatomy class visit to an autopsy. There were so many questions that never got answered, one more life ending with an incomplete.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SOLSC Day 9: Bookkeeping

A couple of weeks ago, I got a bill from the hospital Jack was in. Last month I’d gotten what looked like the same bill and paid it. I had to do some comparisons — was the bill exactly the same? was it for different doctors? was it for different procedures? But a couple of weeks ago, I was deep into memorial mindset, and could not face diverting my attention, mental and emotional, onto financial matters. The bill could wait.
            Today I went looking for the bill I knew I had paid. I looked in the file it should have been in (Jack’s medical bills), and it wasn’t there. I looked in the second file folder it might have been (my current to-do); no luck there either. I sat down and determined not to panic. I don’t throw paid bills away. I just don’t do that, no matter how addled my brain is. I only had to think of the places I often stick papers, went to my own “bills paid” file, and there it was.
            Now I pair up the two sets of bills, and on the first page the doctors, dates, and procedure codes are identical. I’ve already paid these. But page 7 on each set is different. So am I going to compare every page, cross out the doctors I’ve paid, add up the new charges, and figure out the difference?
            No, I call the hospital billing office, wait only a few minutes on hold, and talk to a very helpful woman named Donna, who says she will send me an amended bill with only the amount I now owe. Vast relief. One task, semi-complete. Life can work out the way it is supposed to.

Blast from the Past

I met a friend to see the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! this afternoon. Before that, we stopped into a nearby restaurant for lunch, and the only tables open were in the bar. After we sat down, I could hear a man at the bar saying to the bartender, “She looks familiar.” I looked over, and he asked, “Did you use to work at the Village Voice?” Yes, I said, but he did not look familiar: a round-faced, slightly heavy-set black man. “It’s Patrick,” he said. Then I remembered Patrick Merry. He had an administrative job, I forget which one, but he was one of the nicer people, when working at the Voice sometimes felt like being in a kindergarten with kids who hadn’t learned social skills yet.
            We didn’t have time for reminiscing; my friend was only in town briefly. But I love running into people I haven’t seen in a long time — and it did feel connected to the memorial somehow. On Saturday I was seeing many people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Perhaps I will continue to see people I haven’t seen in a long time for the next several weeks. I would love that. 
            P.S. Hail, Caesar! is very funny, and full of coy references, and sendups, of old movies.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Catching Up, III

Today I transitioned, from family to friends. Over the weekend, my brother and his wife, two of my nieces and their significant others, my nephew, and two cousins were all in town for the memorial. They came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, and California. They flew in, and they drove. Some I'd seen recently, others not for years. Some stayed at hotels, some with me. It was fun, but also wearing. Family interactions can be intense, with archeological layers,

It's interesting to see certain patterns emerge. When we visited relatives when I was a child, my father was the family handyman. People saved their broken appliances and electrical problem for him: "This radio hasn't worked in years"; "Can you move this outlet?"; "This TV only picks up static." My brother and his wife just gave me an electronic weather station, with indoor and outdoor thermometers and some sort of sensor that offers a forecast. Today my brother labored away at finding a location for the outdoor temperature gauge, installing it (masonry or metal were the only surfaces available, and he had to make a couple of trips to my building's handyman for the right kind of nail), and then setting up the indoor monitor. So he's filled the Mr. Fix-It slot our father used to occupy. (Jack would not have wanted my brother climbing out of windows and hammering into walls to set up some device he, Jack, didn't see any need for.)

Niece R. filled the computer tech slot previously occupied by my brother, though he added input as well, as we tried to divine how to download Jack's old Sent mail into a new e-mail client I wanted to try out. Helpful, yes.

The transition happened when niece and boyfriend set off for home, and brother and wife will leave too early tomorrow for me to see them again. So I went off to meet GirlGriot for a writing date, where I am writing these Slices. Friends and family came together at the memorial, and now move off into their respective worlds.