It’s September. The gears that fell into disuse over the summer are slowly returning to motion. I wouldn’t say I have much resembling structure in my life at the moment, but I do have some work. It feels good to have some work. I may have some results to share soon.
The kids started back to school this week and J and I (well, I should speak for myself here) feel that wisp of bereavement that always comes with letting these larger and larger creatures out of our sight. Their absence during school hours isn’t anything nearly as complete as their absence when they go to camp in the summer. We can’t resume our late night schedules and we do have to attend to meal planning and the like. When the front door opens at 3:25 (Young J) and 3:50 (Young A), we have to be ready. Ready to chase off any storm that may have gathered during the day which might be easily dispelled by timely snacks. Ready to listen to what happened in their lives while we were apart, whether good or bad. Ready to make sure they aren’t forgetting things they need to read or calculate or write or do (although Young J gets more reliable about this every year).
I’ve been accompanying my long hours at my desk with a daily exercise routine that lasts only fifteen high-intensity minutes. It’s been going well, except when I skip a day (or as I did this weekend, skip TWO) and have to find the time to catch up. I am finally caught up. (And exhausted.) I am noticing some incremental transformation in my body, which is enhanced by another project I embarked on almost a month ago: Invisalign to straighten my crooked teeth. I’m in the third week (of 42 in all) and am already seeing changes. Exciting. (Of course, before signing on to such a long commitment, I hesitated: What if I straighten my teeth only to die of cancer? What a waste of money and time that would be. Eventually, I overruled this train of thought.)
Change is not always good, as I discovered recently when the health status of a loved one changed. In the process of their examining a possible genetic basis for it, some unwelcome news of cancers shook out of my family tree. I’ve now been referred for genetic testing myself, in order to find out if my genes might predispose me to melanoma (and other bad actors not to be mentioned here). The process will take a long time to complete and I’m not sure insurance will cover the costs. So that’s another thing occupying brain real estate. As is the fact that I’ll have to go to the hospital in Baltimore for these visits, the same hospital where my father died.
My eyes have been acting up since late July. I had another cancer meds-induced flareup of iritis in my right eye just before our family trip to California in August. I spent weeks putting steroid drops in my eyes and not taking cancer meds, but may have inadvertently made things last longer by: a) using drops that I knew were expired, when I had a brand new bottle ready to go; and b) not being diligent about the drops during the final week, when I was to use them once a day. (I stopped instead.)
As soon as we got back from the trip, I had a relapse involving both eyes. Now I have a retina specialist (because my ophthalmologist apparently grew tired of treating this condition). And last Sunday, I had to see one of his colleagues who was on call, because I’ve had a sore eye for days. It hurts when I move my eye, something that had never happened before with iritis. It slowed my pace of work down the past few days. Pain is exhausting, as exhausting as fifteen minutes of a high-intensity workout (which I’ve somehow kept up in spite of the eye pain), so I’ve spent a lot of time either sprawled in bed thinking about work or sitting at my computer not doing work. I called the retina doctor again today and after 25 minutes on hold I was instructed to “take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen” — which I am not allowed to take because of the targeted therapy! Tylenol has been helping a bit. So does trying to get my mind off it. So I am back to work today, and plan to do some cooking.
On Labor Day, while J took the boys to a baseball game, I spent a few hours researching my grandfather in order to write a short biographical essay about him. He was a Yiddish journalist in Argentina for fifty years, but began his life in Poland training to be a teacher, and along the way he worked with Janusz Korczak, a world renowned educator who ran a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. Last year, I was contacted by someone whose organization is interested in translating a book my grandfather wrote in Yiddish about Korczak. My day of research this week led to some interesting discoveries, including a page from another book of my grandfather’s I had never seen before, and finding a brief biographical sketch online of my great uncle, who was killed by the Nazis in 1942. (Young A is named for him.) I had not realized that like my grandfather, he too had published several books. I had not realized there was an eyewitness account of my great-uncle’s murder in a book in Yiddish which is also on the Internet. (I wasn’t able to understand much of it.)
Finding evidence of my ancestors in the world — on the Internet, even — was exciting, but I kept feeling the impulse to call the person who would have been most interested to hear about it. In the process of writing up what I did, I referred to many emails from my father, and had to fight the urge to reply to them.
Then I went grocery shopping, and came home with an unripe pineapple. As I turned it upside-down inside a vase, a trick my father had come across for faster ripening, I suddenly burst into tears. “It’s not fair!” I kept repeating, as though I were eight years old again. It isn’t fair. He should be here. I shouldn’t be having to fumble my way through my grandfather’s life story without my father to correct me, to translate for me, to enlighten me.