Friday, August 16, 2013

A Scene of a Rosary

Tonight, as I sat at my grandfather's rosary, I couldn't help but feel I was outside of my own body, watching bits of a film from someone else's life. In fact, since loading into the car Thursday morning with my five siblings, ranging in age from 7 to 32, my stepmother, and my father, then driving 18 hours in one day to San Antonio, spending the morning in one home playing and laughing, and spending the evening in another, praying and crying, I realize the majority of this trip feels like something out of a movie...

Here is the scene:

The widow, an elderly woman of 88 years, is seated in a rocking chair by the fireplace. The fireplace is unimportant and, without a doubt, unnecessary, as it is the middle of August and the temperature reached over 100 degrees this day. She is peaceful, quiet, watching as people move about the room. This is my grandmother, in all her beauty and wisdom, experiencing a goodbye to the man she has loved since she was 16.

When her son-in-law and one of her thirteen grandchildren approach with two of her youngest great grandchildren, she comes alive, cooing and purring at them in Spanish. When my father, sister and brother sit by her, her hands move about, animatedly telling stories and asking questions. When I come over to kiss her, I can smell her perfume, which always reminds me of holy water and the church we attended during the summers we stayed in San Antonio. I can feel one of her hands softly rest on my shoulder, the other squeezing my fingers. Despite kissing my Grandma's cheeks, I am reminded of Grandpa instantly. Where is he for my kiss? Where is his hand on mine?

The house has filled with strangers. Strangers to me. I've met many of them once or twice, but couldn't tell you their names. If they recognize me, its because they remember Grandpa Joe's twin grand daughters, even if they met me when I was still only four feet tall.

I wish I were still only four feet tall.

If I were still a child, I could innocently hide away in the playroom, watching movies and sleeping until this foreign experience was over. I want more than anything to honor my grandfather's memory, to hear stories about his incredible life, to share in my family's joy in him and grief in his passing. But the rosary is not something I have ever experienced. I'm worried about the ceremony of it. I am worried about the emotion behind it. My tears have come and gone randomly since I heard the news of Grandpa's passing early Sunday, but I know that seeing my family cry will undoubtedly bring all of those tears and feelings to the surface again.

One of my aunts gathers all of the guests in the living room. It must have been Titi Gloria, it is her home after all, but I honestly can't say. I'm anxious and distracted. I didn't bring the rosary my grandmother gave me years ago, nor the one my best friend Chris gave me. I didn't know I needed to. Should  I ask for one from Grandma? But she is seated, so comfortable in her rocking chair by the fireplace, her friends and family surrounding her as they catch up.

Now I feel like I am still four years old, unable to go to Grandma and ask her for a rosary, afraid of being scolded or embarrassed in front of all these strange faces. If Grandpa were here, I would ask him. I decide to take a seat on the stairs with a young girl I do not know, my little sister Shoshana, my twin sister Jessica, and Emma Grace, one of my younger second cousins. I am immediately at ease when I notice from across the room that one of my older cousins and her husband also do not have rosaries, though they may be excused by the presence of their baby and a rosary around his tiny neck.

I cannot see my aunt's faces during the rosary. Nor can I see my father's. I can see my grandmother's though. I realize her expression, whether she is happy or sad, or even in prayer, never seems to change. I wonder if my own perception of her face has been so deeply engrained in my mind, that I can only see now always what I picture when I am not near her.

The rosary continues. I picture Grandpa in my mind. The image is him, sitting across from me in the den of Titi Gloria's home, more serious than he has ever been in my entire life, although Titi Gloria and he himself have assured me that he is 89 going on 13. It's February, and I've stopped in San Antonio on a break from my cross country road trip. Grandpa is telling me about the day he met Grandma, and about how he came to study engineering, and about his friends that are long gone. He doesn't know it, but I've begun recording him telling stories on my phone. I record him saying "90 years old" to himself, as if I am not even there, as if he can't believe it.

The day he passed away, I listened to all of my recordings of Grandpa from that short visit. It was the last time I saw him in person. It was the last time I kissed his cheeks and felt his hands holding mine. I wanted to see him again before his birthday, but I let money and work and other things get in the way. But my own last moments with Grandpa, I have them saved.

I am brought back to the rosary by my little sister's head on my shoulder. She is fighting exhaustion, having woken up early after spending all day in the car, with no nap and a day playing with her young cousins and at the pool. She is fighting tears too. She is a sensitive and intelligent girl, and at almost 10 years old, Grandpa's passing is not something that is over her head. I laid down with her and my stepmom Tamara after my Daddy told her the news, unable to hold back my own tears as she sobbed. Tamara and I held her, kissed her, tried to comfort her. "I wish he was immortal. I wish he didn't have to die." She cried to us.

I wish he was immortal. I wish he didn't have to die.

During the rosary Sho is sweet and calm. She holds my hands. When the group begins singing,there is all at once both a feeling of lightness in the room, yet also an overwhelming sense that the damn may break at any moment. I can't see many of my family's faces, but I have the idea that they are struggling to fight back tears, if not already letting them flow. Maybe its in my head, but the singing seems to channel everything everyone is feeling, making it stronger.

Sho figures out where Daddy is in the room and moves to his side. I see her curl on the floor next to him, and Tamara moves to them both. My brother is close, meditating or praying, I am not sure which. I am alone on the stairs as the rosary ends.

The man leading it tell us that he has heard there are two deaths. The first is when your body gives up. The second is when the last person who remembers you dies. He tells us, I think Grandpa Joe will live a long time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"P" is for Preparedness... and Providence.

Mi amor and myself enjoying the sun in Providence...

 "Fortune favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur

It is absolutely incredible how once a concept or idea enters your brain, you can become fixated on it, so that as life happens around you, you’re able to find a million connections to that exact concept that you normally wouldn’t notice. It’s the same way that reading your horoscope always feels as if it perfectly applies to your current circumstances. Or just like when you start watching a new television show or hear a new song and suddenly everyone and their mother is talking about it.

I’ve recently been thinking a great deal on the plans we make for ourselves and how, in reality, planning is just about the biggest waste of time. Of course, since I began contemplating the (f)utility of planning, my life has become a roller coaster of events with plans quickly being made and, almost as quickly, flying out the window.

Planning. .. ridiculous.

Sure, one should plan to go to college, or plan to spend a certain amount of money next month, or plan a vacation to visit the family. But no matter how much you plan, who knows what the next month, week, or day might bring - shredding all your plans and tossing them in the garbage like another crappy credit card offer.

Yes, if the last six months – hell, the last six days - has taught me anything, it has taught me that planning is for the birds. 

Preparedness, on the other hand, seems to be the life skill to cultivate in oneself.

Certainly, planning is a key part of preparedness. One can plan for the best and plan for the worst, thus being equally prepared for either outcome or a happy medium. But there seem to be times when no matter how much imagination one has, planning for the worst case and best case and in-between scenarios just cannot help you when the events take a turn for such an extreme of the unexpected that there is nothing left to do but simply shrug your shoulders, sit back and watch the scenery fly by. I guess the other big part of preparedness is the ability to roll with the punches, finding the best in every situation, and readjust without much discomfort (whatever the word is for that).

I’m beginning to think that I may just come out of this year as an expert in the art of preparedness.
In the last few weeks I’ve been attempting to plan the next few months with less information than I need, an optimistic attitude, and realistic expectations of the worst case, best case and in-between scenarios. 

Knowing my wonderful boyfriend was in negotiations for an almost as wonderful as he job in the exciting city of Providence, RI, I decided I better get on top of the job hunt if I was planning on joining him in his North Eastern adventure, as he so hoped I would.

I had already decided months earlier that while South Korea, a potential destination for myself this fall, would have been an excellent opportunity for my seven months ago single self, it was now out of the question. I know all too well that an experience like that would turn into a half-life if I attempted to maintain a serious relationship overseas, and I’d rather travel and work abroad with a wonderful friend and love by my side than all by my lonesome.

So I began searching in the Providence and Boston area for full time jobs that would take me out of the restaurant industry and back into the field of education that I so sadly left in Washington.

Lo and behold, I was able to quickly find a dream first(ish) job in Boston, only an hour commute by train from Providence, working for a non-profit, study abroad focused division of a privately owned, international education company. Jackpot! I luckily had a recently refined resume and cover letter to send the company and within the same day had a phone interview scheduled. 

My first and second interview came and went quickly and I found myself giving tentative notice at the restaurant I’ve been spending 40+ hours a week at. I pondered briefly whether or not I may be jumping the gun, however, my love’s negotiations had, by that time, turned into a full-fledged offer and acceptance, and as a northbound move was in my near future, job or no, giving my current employers a heads up couldn’t hurt. This thought process could have been justification and self-comfort for hasty decision making, or maybe that attitude of “I’ve already got the job” which I’m told helps you actually land the job, but whatever it was, it was as much planning and preparedness as I could accomplish with so little to go on.

My love and I quickly scheduled a four day trip to the Providence area, with one day dedicated to my final interview in Cambridge and exploration of Boston, and found ourselves, in the midst of packing and storing all of our belongings, dramatic family events, financial stress and work overload, jetting up to the city we will soon be calling home.

I would be lying if I said this was a carefree adventure in which my love and I were able to wander aimlessly through parks and beautiful cityscapes enjoying the sun and blue skies…

We were on a mission.

There was indeed sun and blue skies, which made the mission more pleasant, but there were also countless U turns, a constant stream of coffee supplied by Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner, mini naps in our car rental on the side of the road, hours of debate about the value of purchasing a house versus purchasing a condo versus renting, hundreds of new street names and neighborhoods cataloged in our brains as desirable or non-desirable, very little eating, lots of rushing to different meetings, creeping on properties for sale that we couldn’t get inside of… the list goes on and on…

I am so happy that I am experiencing all of this at Robert’s side.

As much stress as there was leading up to the interview, looking at houses, and everything else that this trip entailed, my love kept me smiling and laughing as best as he could considering the exhaustion and moodiness that overtakes me when kept in a car all day, not fed regularly, talking about decisions and not making any, and/or kept from sleeping. I tried my best in turn to do the same, although he certainly bested me.

Robert was particularly heroic in helping me figure out how the heck to print copies of my resume in the correct format from the hotel apple computer just hours before we were meant to head into Cambridge. I was completely useless, as my patience and intelligence had been eaten up by interview preparation, nerves and fantasies of not getting the job and having to commute to Boston to continue working 14 hour shifts at the sister restaurant of that which I am currently employed. He, my sexy nerd hunk, was of course able to figure it out and send me on my merry way with three perfect copies of my resume (which I didn’t end up needing).

The interview, three hours long, went spectacularly. I was more concerned about getting distracted by the pretty view of Cambridge and fun d├ęcor of the office than whether or not I would be able to answer the questions correctly. There were a few points I stumbled on, but overall I must have impressed everyone, because they offered me the job in person by the end of the interview. The terms are perfect, the job is perfect, the location is perfect, and I’m perfect for it all. There is no way around it.

So now, I Boston/Cambridge bound in less than two weeks, to begin working a brand new job, in a brand new place, in which I can count the people I know on one hand.

There is definitely no way I could have planned this, but boy am I happy that everything seems to be falling into place.

I did have a bit of a freak out moment (one could say a freak out day… or two) when everything set in. Immediately I began trying to plan every minute of the next two weeks, money, transportation, time with people I needed to see, what it would be like when I got up there… it was all a bit overwhelming, stressful, and took the fun and excitement out of getting the job and the move.

Just long enough for me to remember all this thinking about planning and preparedness I’ve been doing.

Because as I frantically searched for affordable temporary housing, a friend’s home opened to me. And as I worried about working too much or too little and money, my work graciously allowed me an open schedule to pick up and take off when I wanted and needed. As I began feeling saddened about leaving friends and family I wanted more time with, I found them all reaching out to me, helping me, and making time to see me before I leave.

Once again, the plans (or attempt) weren’t even necessary… all I seem to need is a bit of preparedness for the good, the bad, and the somewhere in between.