Stonehenge: England Part III

photo 3Turns out Stonehenge is a convenient drive from Bath. Admittedly, all of England (not including Ireland and Scotland) is smaller than the state of Michigan, and can be traversed easily in one day. But the ancient site was less than an hour away and we arrived in England with tickets already purchased. On the appointed day, we rented a car and, with Maggie riding shotgun with her iPhone GPS, we wended our way through the countryside.

Things I noticed about England:

  1. Very picturesque everything.
  2. Lots of sheep.
  3. Few if any forests, woods, or even that many stands of trees. They’ve all been cut down long since.
  4. No wooden houses (see 3).
  5. More hours of daylight (is this a latitude thing?).
  6. Unbelievably helpful, friendly people.
  7. Fantastic tea no matter where you are (I maybe should have put this as number 1).
  8. No disposable plates or cups – even museum cafes serve on ceramic plates and tea comes steeped in cunning little pots.

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But I digress. I only wanted to make the point that the drive took us past many sheep, stone and brick houses, grassy fields abutting more grassy fields, or maybe cultivated fields, or fields about to be cultivated, without benefit of trees. Except for the strategically placed picturesque trees that managed to charm us from various spots along the way.

Upon parking in the lot at Stonehenge, and acknowledging that Stonehenge and parking lot are truly paradoxical concepts, we retrieved our audio tour thingies, hopped on a trolley and headed to the fantastically old site that promised to be so drenched in history, energy, and spiritual magic that I was already trembling inside, under my breastbone.

At first we forgot about the “proper” path to take and the audio tour. Maggie and I clutched one another’s hands (she’d been once before with her program but there is no “getting used to” the place) and walked to the nearest spot we could get to the monolithic stones. I teared up, feeling awesomely moved, and flooded with the spirit of the place. The tourists there that day faded rather quickly into the recesses of my awareness.

We collected ourselves after a time, and the three of us went to the first station on the audio tour (I fell in love with audio tours at the Baths and the one at Stonehenge did not disappoint). History geeks, we loved hearing all the details about the stones, their origins, the engineering that has been figured out that was mastered by the pre-Celtic folk who built Stonehenge 4500 years ago.

We were there.

We were there.

Rising out of the English landscape the way they do, massive and organized, precise yet rough hewn, there is a feeling of inevitability to the stones. They clearly belong there, though they originated many miles away. The astronomy, the engineering, the ancient religion, the very real energy field that surrounds the site, all of it creates awe. Awesome is a word that meant something real that day.

My favorite stones. Maybe not as elegant as some more smoothly hewn, these just did something for me.

My favorite stones. Maybe not as elegant as some more smoothly hewn, these just did something for me.

We tried to find a quiet spot to settle as near to them as we could get. We spoke to the spirits who reside there, made an offering, left behind words of intention and gratitude. photo 1

 

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For my Mother

My mother at the peak of her advertising career. Mid-1970s (she was in her mid-40s) before the decline into mental illness.

My mother at the peak of her advertising career. Mid-1970s (she was in her mid-40s) before the decline into mental illness.

I wrote the following 9 years ago — one year after my mother’s death. Today on Mother’s Day I remember this account and offer it here. 

For years I was steeled for her death.  I never knew, when the phone rang, if it would be news that she had died, alone in some city, or if hers would be the voice I’d hear.  Either the harsh accusations or the begging born of anguished paranoia.  The urgent instructions to call this corporate giant or that estranged relative in order to vindicate her once and for all.  Sometimes it was the kind of call that ran the gamut from invective, to sobbing desperation to sinuous manipulation.  I was to drive 400 miles, tonight, and take her home to live with me, in her rightful place, because surely I owed her that.  Didn’t I owe her my life?  She never hesitated to remind me. And the gift of life meant I owed her everything she could demand of me, any sacrifice, my family, my job, my very self.

The manipulation-through-guilt was always hardest to take.  I had spent most of my life, even as a tiny child, believing that her fate was somehow in my hands, and that any unhappiness, or dissatisfaction, or mere discomfort was somehow about me: my fault.  If only I could do just the right thing I could fix it.  I alone could keep her from falling into the subway’s path.  I alone could keep her from loneliness late at night when her work was done. So, as an adult, I had to live day to day knowing that she was miserable beyond my own conception of misery, and that there was nothing I could do about it. The darkness in her mind made a reality that was almost too much for me to think about.  Years of therapy eased me to the brink of understanding that I could not protect her, and harder yet to believe, that I never could. I certainly could not keep her alive when half the time I had no idea where she was. And besides, she was consumed by madness, totally lost in her own irrational maze, cluttered, it seemed, with doors she could slam, but absolutely no exits.  As a grown daughter, uncertainty and helplessness defined my role.  However, I believed I was prepared, at least, for news of her death.

The five years that she was back in my world, living peacefully and safely, medicated and fairly stable, were so much better.  I had her back, at least a version of her.  She was not really identifiable as the mother of my childhood, though.  The spark and the laughter were gone.  The need was huge.  Her fears had abated to simmer just below the surface.  We could “chat,” and stroll through Wal-Mart shopping for blouses and selecting underwear with an invisible panty-line.  Each time I picked her up to go have coffee, or stop at CVS for moisturizer, she always made a point of asking about my husband and the children.  Because she had missed 20 years of news, I spent some time filling her in about the state of the world.  She had missed the presidencies of Bush Sr. and Clinton.  She did not recall ever hearing the term “gay rights,” nor did she realize the rainforest was at risk.  She asked innocent, childlike questions.  She thought Republicans still stood for small government.  The state of things confused her. Our roles had fully reversed.  I worried about her living situation, and worked to develop a rapport with the staffs at the two assisted living facilities where she lived during that time.

Meanwhile, I ached to actually look forward to our visits.  I wanted desperately to love our time together, but the time was painful, a chore, a fact which in turn haunted me with guilt.  She demanded much, and gave little in return.  Unlike a child, whose delight in life fills your heart even as you do and do and do for them, my mother’s primary emotion was dissatisfaction, seconded only by deep sorrow.  She mourned things she knew she’d lost and even things she could not remember ever having.  All she knew was that her life was empty.  I felt the terrible burden of being the only thing to fill it.

At this point, my preparedness for her death waned.  I became sure that she’d outlive people decades her senior.  Her mind was unstable, but her body, as always, was strong.  And now that she was housed, fed, saw the doctor, what would stand in the way of the tremendous longevity I imagined?  The weeks and months and years passed.  My life was full and busy and rich; my children grew, my job fulfilled me, my husband loved me and completed the circle of our family.  On the edges, never quite knowing how to be included, was my mother, who really wanted only me.  The sight of me pricked her longing for the way things used to be.  She saw in me her only hope of recapturing the past, her glorious past when she was beautiful, strong, lucid, admired, and had a trophy daughter worthy of her.  The life I now lived, as mommy, wife and schoolteacher, did not fit her dream vision.  She tried to care about it, but couldn’t really. She dutifully asked about the children.  She enjoyed hearing tales of their brilliance and accomplishments, because she could be reminded of when I was a brilliant and accomplished child. But always it was me, and only me, that she wanted.  For my part, I was willing, glad really, to tether her to life, be her tie to any shred of happiness or pleasure.  I imagined this role carrying me into my sixties, long after my children left home and into a time when I could give her more of myself, as she aged.

But all that changed.  Despite a move from a brief but unpleasant assisted living situation to a warm and supportive nursing home in Great Barrington, she sank deeper into depression. At that point, even I was hard pressed to provide her with so much as a glimmer of pleasure.  Enjoyment of any kind was out of her reach.  She was withdrawing further and further into a death in life, as she spent every minute of every day lying in a dark room on her bed, her cardigan pulled up over her shoulders.  Her dignity, you see, never faded.  She would not allow herself to languish in her nightgown, under the covers all day.  She got up, dressed, combed her hair, and lay back down on top of the made bed to doze her life away in the cradle of deep depression.  And then she got sick.

Her hospitalization and emergency surgery just after Christmas brought her quickly to the brink of death.  Post-surgical pneumonia prompted the doctors to call me at work to ask for a suspension of her DNR order.  They believed that she could come through this infection with treatment.  What do you want to do?  If we don’t intubate, she will die.  Soon.

I wasn’t ready.  I was pretty sure she wasn’t ready.  She and I had spoken several years before, when she prepared her living will.  She did not want a life on machines, but this was different.  She could come through this. And I still did not know the results of the lab tests on the mass removed from her colon.  We had no real diagnosis.  I stood in the hallway outside my classroom, the phone cord stretched taut, and cried to the doctors:  “Am I condemning her or saving her?  Can she live?”  I suspended the DNR and rushed to Pittsfield to see her.

There she lay in the ICU, a frail, pale woman breathing on a machine, an innocent Darth Vader, with air pumped in and out on a timer. She was, essentially, not there.  She could barely register my existence.  If this was going to be goodbye, it sucked. There it was again.  The guilt.  It was at this point that the surgeon finally told me the lab results: cancer.  The massive tumor he had removed from her colon was as malignant as they come.  If she lived through this pneumonia, what would she face?  Another kind of death, this one slow and painful? But would we both be ready then?

Three days in the ICU on penicillin and her pneumonia was cured.  She was healing amazingly well from the abdominal surgery.  She got out of the ICU and within three hours was making me laugh.  Who was this woman?  She was drugged and in pain, exhausted and confused, so her witty comeback to a comment I made to the nurse stunned me. Not to mention the fact that she had neither laughed at my amusing comments nor made any of her own for about twenty years.

Back at the nursing home, she was a woman reborn.  Though fragile and thin, with no appetite for food, suddenly my mother found her appetite for life and experience.  She sat up in bed and eagerly visited when I came.  She began to tell stories of her childhood, and share memories of mine.  My children came to see her and it was as if they were meeting their grandmother for the first time.  My daughter, Maggie, listened to stories of the horses on the Bauman farm, and tales of the retired polo pony, Johnny-Boy. She was delighted with this new grandmother with horsey stories to tell. As we left the room at the end of that first post-near-death visit, Maggie took my hand and said, “Mommy, she’s nice.”

I had a mother.  I wasn’t sure how I’d gotten her, but there she was.  She had complete amnesia about all the years of hardship, vitriol, anger, anguish, sorrow and emptiness.  Her forgetfulness sparked in me an ability to live only in the present, with this woman who was my mother, and memories of a mother I once had, and to forget the madwoman who haunted so much of my adult life.  This mother did not make impossible demands. My desire to do whatever I could for her increased with every passing day.

Months before her death, she came out of a decades long battle with paranoia and delusion and just "was."

Months before her death, she came out of a decades long battle with paranoia and delusion and just “was.”

Somehow, I recognized this woman.  Once luscious and full breasted, she had become skeletally frail. On the once beautiful face, her gaunt smile had become a rictus. Her touch on my skin was cold.  But still, she was familiar.  I felt like a daughter again.  And I remembered something.  I loved her.  Even though I’d been saying the words to her for years, they had always made me sad, because I could not feel that they were true.  Last year, as I watched my mother’s rebirth and death, my love for her tapped me on the shoulder and said, I’m still here, you know.  That love, it must have been standing in my blind spot for a time.

I had about a month before she began the active process of dying.  Although she could not fathom it, her days were numbered.  I thought:  I am not ready, but I can be.  I believed that I only needed some time.  Time with her.  Time to part.  To help her leave.  To forgive her.  To forgive myself.  To love us both enough to say goodbye.

Take it from me. We’re never ready.  But the parting is still important. I crammed twenty years of togetherness into a 12 day bedside vigil.  I never tired.  Never chafed.  I could not bring myself to leave her side.  Every tender massage of her feet or hands was an opportunity for me. Every offer of a sip of juice was a way of loving her.  The music I played for her, well, it made me feel better anyway.

My world shrank to a fifteen square foot space.  Once again, as we had for the first twelve years of my life, we shared a room.  Two twin beds, mother and daughter.

My few childhood memories of my mother as a nurturer are from when I was sick, my skin hot, my throat sore.  Even though she had to go to work during the day, when she came home she sat beside me and laid her hand, cool from the winter air outside, on my face.  This time, in her last days, it was my hand on her brow.  My soothing talk, her restless sleep.  My bustling, her gratitude.

I lived every day of that last week in a state of awe.  Every sense was tuned.  When we bathed her body, childlike in its state of advanced starvation, its beauty made me cry.  Her skin, like silk flowers, encased her once strong bones.  Her face, smooth-skinned even at seventy-five, could occupy my eyes for hours.  Much of the time I sat and read, or graded papers, or recited memories.  Many hours passed without my being aware of what had transpired.

I watched her watching the guest who spent those final days in the room with us, invisible to all but my mother.  She stared fixedly at a spot beyond me, murmured, “I need more time,” and yet reached out her arms.  She kept a vigil just as I did.  She seemed never to sleep.  At other times, she watched me intently.  We exchanged gazes.

Though she did not have enough fluid with which to make tears, I soaked the pillow by her head as I lay my face beside hers and grieved.  In those last days, my mother gave me the gift of her mothering.  Although she was busy strong-arming death to gain another hour or day of life, she found the wherewithal to wrap her bony arm around me as I cried on the pillow, to stroke my hair, to gentle me towards her eventual, regrettable leaving.

I yearned to crawl into the bed with her and wrap her up with my body, hold her and ease her way, but I couldn’t. She was so aching and sore in the last days that she could not tolerate any touch but the brush of my lips on her brow, or my open palm cushioning her hand.

She lived seven days past the day the nurses said she could not possibly make it another twenty-four hours.  During those timeless days, I forgave her and asked for her forgiveness.  I told her I would write about her.  I told her I loved her.  I said, “Give my love to Aunt Thelma and Uncle Mike.”  I told her she could go.  I told her she had to let herself go.  I said, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll see you again.”

She waited till my husband Dan could be with me before she took her last breath.  She had teased me, though, into believing that though she was dying, she would never really die.  I was in the bathroom, washing up, when Dan called out, “Vanessa, I think this is it.”  I rushed to her bed.  She was staring, wide eyed, right at me.  The quiet in the room was deafening.  The strained sound of her breathing, the accompaniment to my days and nights, was agonizingly, horribly silenced.  After weeks of watching her inch her way out the door of life, when the door finally closed behind her, I was left absolutely stunned and bereft.  “Is this really the way it is? Is she gone?” I wailed.  Her leaving was so permanent; a trapdoor opened in my chest.  But: she was still there with me.  I could feel her beside me, around me, waiting for my last goodbye.

At last I could crawl under the covers with her, wrap her in my arms and hold that body one last time.  The one that gave me life. I owed that to myself.

Publicity shot from when my mother had a TV show out in California, mid-1950s before I was a gleam in her eye.

Publicity shot from when my mother had a TV show out in California, mid-1950s before I was a gleam in her eye.

The Roman Baths: England Part II

photo (4)After the drama of the first installment of “Dream Come True: England,” we landed at Heathrow. Just writing that word –Heathrow –is thrilling.  Heathrow of Love Actually fame…. I was a little disappointed not to see oceans of people hugging and kissing everywhere, but that’s okay. I knew I’d get a big hug once I got to Bath, where Maggie is living this spring.

Jet lag began in the form of my body and brain saying, “Wait, why is the sun out? Why is everyone drinking coffee? Why aren’t we in bed? It’s 2:30 in the morning!”  But sure enough, the day was in full swing in London, England, where it was (after customs and baggage claim) 9:30 a.m. The effects of a prolonged flu, a horrible day of mass transit combined with codeine induced vomiting, a seemingly endless interlude in terminal 4 of JFK, and a restless, leg cramped, neck twisting 5 hours on a plane during which I slept about 3, in spurts, well, let’s just say they were taking their toll.

Countering all that, however, was my over-the-top excitement and happiness to be on foreign soil, to be seeing Maggie in her new temporary home, and to be at the beginning of 8 days stretching in front of me. 8 English days.

Accessing public transport from Heathrow was quite easy. Trains, busses, cabs, all are handy options. We caught a bus to Reading, about 45 minutes away, where we were dropped at the train station. There we caught a train to Bath, with not much wait time. After a blurry hour on the train that passed lots of sheep and stone cottages, during which time I dozed and clutched a ticket no one ever took from me, we arrived in the prettiest, quaintest city I’ve ever seen. Bath looked delicious upon first glance and only got better as the days passed.

Phone contact is a challenge when you have not gotten an English SIM card with which to call anyone on English soil. So I needed Wi-Fi in order to text or call Maggie using Viber (the coolest internet based phone system ever). We found an internet café and paid royally for the privilege of logging on and texting Maggie. We walked away from the train station, she walked towards it, and we met within minutes (Bath is not so big). She literally ran/skipped all the way down the street to us. A little verklempt, I was rather teary by the time she threw herself into my arms.

After we checked into the hotel, the afternoon is a blur of old architecture, the Avon river, a late lunch at a cunning little place largely wasted on us (well not wasted on Maggie as she was not a zombie), finding a store to swap out my SIM card, and a late afternoon cocktail at a bar right on the river. In bed by 8, I slept 10 hours and the next day felt myself becoming human again after all the sick and all the travel.

The Avon River runs through Bath. Everything looks old, and most of it is.

The Avon River runs through Bath. Everything looks old, and most of it is.

View from the riverside bar that is downstairs from Maggie's flat.

View from the riverside bar that is downstairs from Maggie’s flat.

Brilliant blue skies, chilly breezes, warm sun and eternally blossoming trees and flowers – that’s what I remember about all the days of Bath. Some trees had been in blossom when Maggie arrived in early February, and by mid-April, the whole landscape was green dashed with color.

We had tickets to see the Roman baths, right in the center of town. We spent over four hours wandering the spaces within the superbly restored complex, which included not only many spa rooms – from the main pool to a caldarium to a “cold plunge” room – but a temple, too. The caldarium was a sauna room where fires would be lit beneath the raised floor. Visitors in ancient times would wear wooden sandals to keep their feet from burning.

The temple was in honor of the Roman goddess Minerva, as well as the Celtic goddess Sulis. I love this tidbit: apparently when the Romans arrived in Bath and found out about the healing waters of the hot spring, they knew the site was sacred. The learned of Sulis, the goddess who resided there. She reminded them of Minerva. I can hear them now, “Oh, cool. Sulis is like your version of Minerva, so that’s awesome. Let’s call her Sulis Minerva now.”

And so they did. Sulis Minerva was revered and favors were sought. Maggie and I definitely asked her for some recognition as we whispered her name, our gratitude, and our requests, and made an offering to her in one of the pools.

The main "pool" in the baths. Originally this was under a high vaulted ceiling but is now open to the sky. This would be where women and men could hang out together and relax.

The main “pool” in the baths. Originally this was under a high vaulted ceiling but is now open to the sky. This would be where women and men could hang out together and relax.

Benevolent Gorgon's face in partially reconstructed frieze. Very iconic image for this site.

Benevolent Gorgon’s face in partially reconstructed frieze. Very iconic image for this site.

I have been at an ancient site once before – Poverty Point in Louisiana. An early native site, thousands of years old, and thousands of years older than the native peoples we learn about in school. It is a sequence of massive earth works, majestic and awesome, with energy swirling over the land. But the Roman baths and temple were my first experience with such a volume of artifacts and an extensively excavated site. The engineering feat alone – how they created drains and diverted the flow of water as they wished, from this pool to this one, and the giant vaulted ceiling over the main bath (no longer there)—were mind blowing. Also, long colonnades from end to end of the massive site. Breathtaking.

Only intact Roman colonnade in Britain. It stretches the entire length of the baths.

Only intact Roman colonnade in Britain. It stretches the entire length of the baths.

Outside the baths is a small square onto which various shops open, some restaurants, and the eastern aspect of the huge medieval Bath Abbey. So God and the goddess are neighbors. The Christian history of England meets the Roman history and the Celtic history all in that single city, in that square, in the timelessness of no-time. We can walk back to 1000 AD or 100 BCE by entering this church, or that temple, walking on an ancient road, or crossing a historic bridge. This was a feeling that struck me again and again during my time in England as magical, indescribable, and very moving.

The doorway to the Bath Abbey is just feet from the doors to the old baths and temple.

The doorway to the Bath Abbey is just feet from the doors to the old baths and temple.

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From the top of the abbey one can look down upon the baths. The house of God and the temple of the goddess are friendly neighbors in Bath, England.

Dream Come True: England Part I

Virgin aloftWarning, I don’t get to England in this installment, but bear with me.)

I don’t usually start writing anything by coming up with a title, but today I am picking my title (Dream Come True) and sticking with it. Corny, sentimental, trite… yeah yeah yeah. But it just so happens to be true in this particular case.

Looking back at my ENTIRE ADULT LIFE, during which I wanted one thing – to travel –I wonder what kept me home? Well, I have a pretty good idea. I got sucked into the poverty mentality that so imbued my family of origin and then my family of choice. I also gave up all control over my own decisions, in some really strange ways that no one casually looking on would have realized since I seemed so strong, determined, and “together.” (Refer to my last blog!) But I viewed partnership as a non-negotiable situation where every decision I made had to be “approved of” by my spouse. Not the little decisions like what color to paint the bathroom (he didn’t care) or what to make for dinner (he liked everything), but anything that was about me and for me. (We were lucky that we saw eye to eye about virtually all child-related decisions.) This was a collaborative delusion, but I take most of the responsibility for imposing that insane stricture upon myself.

I also did not have financial autonomy. I mean you never really do if you are splitting the bills with someone. But outside the running of our lives, it wasn’t till I was 25 years into the marriage that it occurred to me to have my own savings account. And now that I have my own everything account, I am truly liberated. No matter what comes my way in life, I will never, ever have a joint bank account again. With anyone. For any reason.

So, when my daughter was about to head off to England for a semester, suddenly my lifelong “wanting to go to England” became a very real “going to Europe.” To visit her during her semester abroad experience became the most normal of expectations, and her father Dan and I planned to take the trip together in mid-April.

Prior to flying, my body decided to see just how determined and tough I actually am. I came down with an epic, unprecedented flu. We’re talking 102+ fevers daily, body aches, wracking cough, and orders from the doctor: “don’t mess around, go to bed, and don’t get up until further notice.” He knew I was flying five days later. Four days later, he called. That means he was concerned. He’s been my doctor for 24 years and I’ve never actually seen him concerned before. (Except the time he had to put my son in the hospital for croup but that’s another story.)

The day of my flight, I had to head to JFK on my own with all the luggage because Dan was going to be making it totally last minute after work as he got a ride to the airport during rush hour traffic. I spent the car/bus/train/bus ride from my house, into the city, and out to JFK having a violent reaction to my codeine cough medicine… in the form of uncontrollable vomiting. Ever so fun while in a car. And bus. And train. My primary thought for much of that journey was: “Can someone shoot me now?”

Yes, body, universe, anyone who is paying attention: I’M VERY TOUGH, VERY STUBBORN, and at that particular point in time, VERY DETERMINED TO GET TO ENGLAND.

JFK terminal 4.

JFK terminal 4.

I finally arrived at JFK, dragging a suitcase, my shoulders dangling with various bags, terminal 4 – Virgin Atlantic. (I’ve never understood why so many airlines have the word virgin in their names—is there something about a virgin that makes us feel we’re in good hands as we hurtle through the air 30,000 feet above the earth? What?) Trying not to cough and give myself away, literally bent over with exhaustion (it was now 3:30 p.m. and I got out of bed for the first time in 5 days 7 long hours ago), I dragged myself to the counter and the charming, red-clad, smiling Virgin Atlantic employee. She looked at my passport and heard me tell her “flight 45” and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. That plane is still grounded in London and we are not sure when, or if, it will take off today.”

I did not really hear her, because I was trying to focus on taking my next breath. “What?” I asked.

She went on: “If it doesn’t take off by 1:30, we’ll cancel it and put you up in a local hotel.”

“1:30 AM?” I asked, confused. And HORRIFIED.

“Yes.”

“Can I at least give you my bag?” At that point getting rid of that bag was all I could think about. The idea of schlepping the huge suitcase around JFK terminal 4 all afternoon and evening made me want to lie down on the floor and doze off on the spot.

“You may need it if….”

“No. I won’t. I have what I need in here.” I wiggled the shoulder from which dangled my carry on, replete with contact solution, glasses, toothbrush, pair of clean underwear and a few other necessaries. And a book.

I ditched the suitcase – I mean checked it, then sat in the supremely noisy, uncomfortable arrivals waiting room for an hour and a half until she would be able to tell me more. I literally slept in an upright position, arms twined in knots among the various straps of my bags. Nowhere to lean my head, nowhere to put my bags, I became a marble statue of exhaustion. Every 15 minutes or so I cracked open one eye to peer at the wall clock and see the time inching forward. If only, I thought, the next time I look an hour will have passed. Never happened.

Finally it was time to visit my cherry-red pal at the counter. “Good news!” she said when she saw me. (She remembered me. Pretty impressive, but I am sure I was memorable to her for how AWFUL I looked and how PATHETIC I was.)

Skeptical, I asked, “What is it?”

“The flight is in the air from London and we anticipate it will turn around by 1:00 a.m. at the latest.” (7 hours late.)

At this point I’d have been grateful for a crappy airport hotel to just lie down in, but realizing I’d still get to England at some point on Saturday after all perked me up a bit. I headed to the gate, at last, and called Dan. He was en route, and we both realized that had we known all this in time I could have just driven down with him. Oh well.

Eventually 1:00 a.m. became 9:30 p.m. They had the super awesome idea of using a different plane, instead of waiting for the one coming from England. We were impressed with this strategic thinking that got a shit-ton of frustrated, exhausted travelers out of the terminal and into the air.

Dan arrived, we ate a highly unsatisfactory meal served by incompetent servers at a JFK version of an Irish pub. I removed my contact lenses, bought a pillow from Hudson News, and we waited. Boarded. Settled (in different rows). Slept.

Next thing I knew I was being served truly delicious tea – yes, on an airplane – and that’s when I knew for sure I was headed for England. I opened the shade next to my seat and saw the dawn flooding through it. Grainy eyed, stiff, pretty much beaten-up by a helluva 24 hours, I smiled. This was joy, for sure.

To be continued.

Dawn, heading into the sun, England a mere hour away....

Dawn, heading into the sun, England a mere hour away….