The kids have been at camp for over two weeks. I’d say we were in the sweet spot of kid-free time, but that would be a little bit of an exaggeration. For one, I can’t turn my head without looking right at a wall of shelving to be emptied and dismantled in advance of our big move at the end of this month. Also, after just one week at camp, Young J broke his elbow, and we had to spend 24 hours traveling up there, taking him to a doctor, shepherding him through his very first MRI (I was relieved to see an MRI of a broken elbow does not require you to be as far inside the tube as the brain scans I get, but I kept him company anyways, trying to distract him, but also not make him laugh too hard). While we thought we’d be bringing him home, it turns out that his camp has a lot of experience taking care of campers on the injured list, so we left him there. He has a cast now, covered with signatures, and a waterproof bag so he can at least get in the pool with his friends (but not go down the waterslide). Young J is learning a lot this summer, I imagine — just not the things he was hoping to learn, like archery, martial arts, and rope climbing. I’m just so glad he gets to spend time with his friends, rather than home with us, moping. Young A, judging from the photos that are posted daily, is having the summer of his life at camp.
J and I went away to the shore for a few days, where we did nothing more strenuous than log many hours sitting on the beach (inside our tent, of course) or hopping up and down in the surf. I wore my new swim tights, which weren’t too uncomfortably hot, even at midday. It felt strange not to have any children to look out for. I trained my eyes on the horizon, instead, and was rewarded with the fleeting sight of a couple of dolphins swimming by.
Three weeks from today, a truck loaded with our yet-to-be-packed belongings will pull up in front of our new home and begin unloading its contents. This feels surreal, too soon, disorienting. I should be out gulping up the last few days of city, but instead today I went to see my GP, Dr. S, for a final checkup. It felt strange and wrong to be saying goodbye to her. She has been my doctor ever since a severe bout of pneumonia landed me in the ER in October 2008, and I was sternly reprimanded by the ER doctor that I didn’t have a doctor of my own. I was mired in motherhood then, ignoring my own health in favor of caring for Young J. Dr. S was a godsend. When I first went to see her, I was still coughing so hard I would vomit every time. Using her complementary medicine training, she very casually suggested that I try a homeopathic remedy, alongside the antibiotics I was taking for the pneumonia. I found the pellets at my local pharmacy, and started putting a few under my tongue every few hours. Before I knew it, the vomiting had stopped.
Over the years Dr. S has seen me through several more pneumonias, as well as side effects from my cancer treatment. She donated to my bike ride in support of immunotherapy research. And last November, when I feared I had developed yet another case of pneumonia, I managed to reach her on a weekend, a day before she was to run the New York City Marathon, to get a prescription for a chest x-ray. I don’t anticipate I’ll ever find another doctor like her.
I was nearly in tears when I left the office, and not only because it marks the end of my association with Dr. S. A few years ago, she took over the office formerly occupied by my kids’ pediatricians. She did a few renovations, but she never removed this light fixture in the bathroom, which I remember staring into when I was a bleary-eyed new mom, and the brief respite I got was when I went to use the bathroom.
Every interaction feels fraught for me right now, every time I leave the house I may encounter someone I won’t be seeing again for a time, or maybe ever. Because of the nature of real estate transactions, we may be between two places towards the end of this month, and I’ll come back up here in late August for a checkup with Dr. P, which will mark a new experience for me — becoming a couch surfer in a city that was once my own. You don’t slough off twenty years of inhabiting a place so easily, even if you are moving back to your hometown. The entirety of so many of my life experiences have been lived in one city — career development and atrophy and rebirth, love and courtship rituals and marriage, childbirth and child rearing… all of this, and near death experiences too.
I’m looking for auspicious signs everywhere. Our hotel room number this week provided one. As did our housekeeper there, Michelle. We met in the hallway our first morning there. Within minutes, we had confided in each other as cancer survivors, and hugged.
In the time I have left, I’m looking for balance. I’m hoping not to get overwhelmed or overemotional, although both are fairly regular afflictions for me. Once the kids are back next week, they will be looking to me. I never moved anywhere as a kid. What do I offer them? I guess, this: Moving isn’t easy. We will be sad, but we will also be happy. Where we are moving, it will be harder to get good pizza and bagels. It will be easier to go swimming, and to see stars in the sky. There are people we love and will miss who love us and will miss us here… and people we love and who love us and who will welcome us there.
It’s a start.