Category Archives: Family

Family visits at Christmas

Last March, I told my mother I wasn’t coming home for Christmas. As the look of devastation begun to appear, I told her that she would have to come visit if she wanted to see me at Christmas. This gave me two benefits: (1) I didn’t have to worry about making plans to travel home and (2) my mother would focus on planning a trip and not me leaving all summer.  And it finally happened!  They arrived at the Heathrow airport last week!

We got to spend a few days in London. Our airbnb was out just a few metro stations away from the middle of all the tourist attractions, so it was a nice place to be, but the building with the windows knocked out across the road from the metro stop was a little unnerving.

Some of the best experiences we had in London we had was seeing Wicked and visiting the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide. James booked us tickets to see Wicked, which I got to see in NYC. I really enjoyed seeing it a second time because it was like rewatching a movie or book — you got to catch all the foreshadowing. I was able to recall some of the clues after watching it the first time, but it was amazing to see how much I missed the first time.

The slide was 80m tall and takes 40 seconds to slide down, and Alex was able to convince James to do it. Here they are admiring their challenge, and conquering their challenge.

James was a little less enthusiastic about enduring the slide than Alex was. He’s lowered the amount of time he’s willing to endure anything from 40s to 30s…

After venturing around London, we headed to Cambridge to spend time there. Alex had  to leave the day after Christmas and I got to spend a couple of days with my parents, hanging out, and visiting the Ely Cathedral before they headed home.

New York, Washington DC, and MD

Over this week, I was able to make a trip to NYC, Washington DC, and Maryland for an exciting series of hellos and goodbyes to some friends and family.

My adventure started with Josh and Cyrus (now known as Whisper and Speedy) as we departed on an overnight bus from South Carolina to New York City, a roughly 750 mile and 14 hour journey riddled with paranoid intoxicated passengers, numerous uncomfortable sleeping positions, and a climate so cold it could have frozen a polar bear solid. Regardless of what our new friend Anthony thought about the driver’s choice to tailgate or take a path that resembled a bumper-ed bowling ball at a child’s 5th birthday party, we made it safe and sound.

The three of us proceeded to spend the day together purchasing a few final things for their upcoming trek at REI, exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which we so large that it made us feel like we were skipping and skimming everything quicker than the kid who forgot his reading quiz was today on the 300 page book he didn’t read), listening to live jazz in central park, and exploring Times Square. I was excited that they chose to spend the day with me before they continued on to Maine the next day to start their next adventure: Hiking the Appalachian Trail. You, like myself, can follow their adventure on their blog where they will post their adventure and have a link to a shared folder of uploaded pictures: jcontheat.wordpress.com (which I like to vocalize as JC on THEAT) They have my thoughts for their constant safety and wellness, but I fully trust them to be adequately (mostly) prepared.

I was lucky enough to spend a few more days in NYC with a friend who just started her doctorate at Cornell. After saying my farewell to Josh and Cyrus (admittedly fighting back weird condensation formations around my eyes at the fact that I won’t seem two of my best friends for a significant amount of time), I began to explore NYC on my own. I headed downtown and got to see Wall Street, the iconic bull, battery park, the Ground Zero memorial, and then headed up for a peaceful afternoon in Riverside Park and Central park before meeting Wola for dinner and taking the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty that night.

The next morning, we fought the NY metro — got on the wrong direction, changed platforms, and then unknowingly got on a train headed the same direction — before purchasing the last two tickets to the sold out 2pm showing of Wicked, my first ever Broadway show. I’m not a huge musical fan — the idea of a sing-song storytelling method doesn’t appeal to me — but I really enjoyed Wicked. It was a well performed and put together show from the score, the art, and the casting — it surpassed my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We ended our day by visiting Grand Central Station, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and getting late night pizza.

After a great three days, I had to end my first visit and take a bus to Washington DC where I’d meet my family out in Maryland. I read most of the way and was able to finish the book I was reading on my tablet. I had a wonderful visit with my family — a much slower pace, but everything I wanted that trip to be. I ate and drank while sharing stories of my adventures over the last few years while listening to all the new stories about the new additions to the family. We watched Donald Trump run his mouth at a million miles an hour and dig himself a political hole. I got to spend time with my cousin and his family, spending time at a cookout with them where we swam and ate food.

I was able to meet my friend from school in Washington DC for a day. Kevin showed me all of the coolest things at the Air and Space museum before we walked around the National Mall, played pool at the underground “Rocket Bar”, and got ourselves a little carried away on one too many cocktails at “the Brick and Mortar” bar watching Olympic Soccer (By the way, I give Brick and Mortar a glowing endorsement — a fantastic atmosphere with great drinks and bartenders).

Unfortunately, my exciting week trip had to come to an end with a long bus ride from DC to SC, where I arrived at 4am.

Old Age, Life, and Death

This past weekend I was able to travel and visit my family and grandmother out of state. Unfortunately, my grandmother is physically limited and requires the attention given at a nursing home.

Her ability to walk was lost many years ago; her body is weak such that basic functions, like sitting up straight, eating, and using the restroom, are nearly impossible for her to do on her own. Her ability to form thoughts is impaired by a mixture of old age and mind clouding medicines to relieve pain. She’s not the most capable person here, but she’s also not the least.

While joining her for lunch, it becomes very clear who is higher functioning and who requires more assistance. Some are able to eat on their own, some must be woken up and spoon fed only to fall back asleep.

I watched an interaction between two residents as they attempted to pick up a fallen napkin. The struggle was a good thing to watch and showed they were still living. The man was noticed the napkin and began a series of efforts to retrieve the napkin, shifting his wheelchair around, reaching down but unable to touch the napkin. The woman next to him had a good laugh when she told him to stick his gum to a stick and collect the napkin that way. She eventually engaged in this mental and physical challenge to ascertain the lost paper.

As sad as it was to see two unable to reach the floor from their seats, it was good to see them able to recognize the challenge and attempt to solve the problem. Others here, unable to lift their eyes or forks, seem dead in their chairs. Would I want to live that way — unable to communicate, form thoughts, feed myself, take care of myself?

When does a person’s life end, and when do they die? An easy answer is of course when the heart beat ends, but that’s too simple. The end isn’t that cut and dry.

Are people who are unable to form thoughts living? If they require two or three other people’s time to complete basic functions without being able to comprehend what is occurring and what others are doing for them, are they even alive? It’s hard to watch people suffer without being able to think or create in their mind.

I’ll be walking around the cemetery near here, thinking about how many people have died well before they enter that pine box.