Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Never Rains in California

Every time I visit the kids and we hug goodbye, it breaks me up.

Last night I took a red-eye from Los Angeles to Chicago so I could see Sunday appointments as usual. FD stayed on a half day more because he hadn't joined me in L.A. in December when I ran away for a long weekend with the first degrees. So he needed a little more time to get his fill.

We were in Miami only a few short weeks ago for barely a weekend to see the other side of the sandwich, my parents. It's hard saying goodbye to them, too.

If you know me by now, then you know I like life uneventful. I'm not so big on excitement. I like things to happen on time, people to be accountable, and days to unfold as predicted, within reason. So yeah, I get disappointed a lot.

But do you remember that song about rain in California? It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya'. It pours, man it pours. . .

I got off that plane Thursday afternoon and dragged my beat-up carry-on outside to the curb where FD would be pulling up any minute with my grandsons in a rented PT Cruiser (a funny looking car that reminds me of the old Pacers, if any of you remember those). He hadn't rented it. Empath Daught's car was in the shop.

And sure. It's drizzling.

In a couple of minutes I see my grandsons making faces at me from the windows of that funny-looking red Pacer wanna' be. I pile in with my stuff and contort those uncomfortable greetings you ply when you're in the front seat and the people you're dying to hug are in the back seat. (FD is all business when he's driving airport traffic, no hugging him).

Within minutes the boys, 3 and 5, decide to be thirsty. This is a state of being for little kids. It's one of those binomial things. They're either hungry or they're thirsty when in an automobile. With adults it's all about the bathroom.

I whip out my phone to call Rac to set up a time to see my granddaughter, another thing necessary to keep me whole.

OMG, Rac cries. It's POURING here. POURING.


This is an event in Los Angeles, pouring. Not on the order of an earthquake, but it's huge. Rain is still unusual. There aren't any basements to flood, so it's hard for some of us to be truly empathetic, but they do have mud-slides and no one seems to know quite how to drive. Can I take the canyon? Dare I take the canyon?

We swing over to the K-Mart to buy a bottle of water and some cups to hydrate the boys. And a package of Tupperware. I had a bunch of small gifts, plastic frogs, bugs, that sort of thing, and want to prevent Empath Daught from stepping on them for days on end if I don't supply the containers. And I can't bare to see them strewn around in a morass of toys in the toybox. The boys actually take care of their toys if they have a method. I find this true of most kids.

The bottle of water, of course, is too warm.

We pick up Empath Daught, and as always, I'm overwhelmed at how well she looks. She could have walked out of Vogue. I say as much and she says, Well, you know how it is. I look kind of young, so if I wear anything but a nice, tailored look, they don't take me seriously at work. They treat me like I'm sixteen.

She's not sixteen. So although every other designer in Los Angeles works in jeans, sweats, or pajamas, my kid does not. She's dressed. And yes, given the chance, she's dressing me, too.

We have a great weekend and the sun comes out on Saturday for about 3 hours. I see the whole thing. The kids play all kinds of games outside (in January!) despite my insistance that these are not appropriate games. They like games like Hit the Orange with the Baseball Bat, Smash the Orange on the Side-walk With Your Shoe, and Whack the Tangarine on the Tree. Let's not forget Putt the Lemon. (Sure, I exaggerate. They only smashed two juice oranges with their shoes on the sidewalk and whiffed at the ones on the trees, missing completely.)

By Saturday evening the boys are worn out and my granddaughter blissfully exhausted. My son has scored some Garth Brooks tickets (GARTH!) for Rac, his deeply Southern spouse, who simply can't wait to get their little girl to bed so that she can get ready to see the true love of her life. I can hardly hug Rac goodby since The Controller has those little arms clinging tightly to her neck.

And it has started to rain again.

Y, my son-in-law, asks if I mind if he takes me to the airport. Do I have any special need for E-Daught to make that run? The weather's SO bad. Or FD, perhaps? Do I want FD to drive me?

No, Y. Any time to talk with you is a good time. The plane's delayed. After all, it is RAINING. The kids are in bed, so the four of us eat our fifty-seventh snack of the day, moussaka and Parmesan, you can't have too much of that, and gradually wind down the visit. When it's time to go, I hug my daughter goodbye.

FD catches the mist in my eyes. She hugs hard and well, one of those amazingly satisfying hugs you get when you've been apart too long and you're not sure, really, when you'll hug again. FD asks me for the third time if I have my boarding pass and my driver's license, and why am I taking this red-eye flight, anyway, past midnight?

Y takes me to the airport and repeats, at least a dozen times, I've never had to drive in this much rain before. I'm so glad your daughter didn't drive you.

Me, too. She should get some special time with her daddy. I think of the two of them together, the boys asleep, and feel good.

The flight's really late, of course. How could a flight crew possibly find their way to the airport in this weather, and so late at night at that? I'm sitting at the gate typing away at something and I hear my name called over the loud speaker.

There's this mixture of excitement and fear when that happens, you know.

I gather my stuff. They want me to change seats so a child can sit with her mother. Sure, I say. What am I supposed to say, No? Then I correct myself. Uh, how far back, um, am I going?

You still have your window seat and you're moving up a couple of rows, actually.

Actually, I'm sitting behind a crying baby and am effectively blocked from ever leaving my freezing seat at the window because two enormous men in blue jeans from Oklahoma are in Seats C and D.

I smile at them and remind myself that I'm flying a red-eye to see the Big Dipper from the window of Row 8, and to catch a sunrise peaking over a sleeping, yet dazzlingly lit major metropolitan city. And I want to see my usual Sunday morning suspects-- on time.

Despite the crying baby I'm asleep within minutes and wake up only to catch a glimpse of those stars (you can touch them), then go back to sleep. But before I do that, I think back on that goodbye in the valley.

It wasn't always like this. No trouble saying goodbye when they left for summer camp. No trouble when they left for Israel straight out of high school for a year, or two, or three of seminary/yeshiva. We visited.

No trouble when they left for college, and not all that much, really, when they married. As long as one was around things were okay.

And now we have two, perhaps soon, even more. So why now?

Oh, who are we kidding? It's not a now thing. But as I age, it does seem that I'm getting a little more vulnerable, a little more emotionally reactive. I know I've seen the phenomenon in my practice with other people, patients, even colleagues. Especially colleagues! But nobody ever warned me about it, really. I don't think I read anything about it in a textbook or a journal, and it seems that I never needed to know about this, particularly.
Am I generalizing?

So I did a little research. It seems that older people are actually happy. As we age, we have to learn to regulate our emotions. It's that or feel totally out of control. Our social circles get smaller and smaller (attrition) and we value the relationships we've got. So we either (1) reappraise the situations that make us angry, anxious or depressed (the stuff of cognitive therapy minus the expense of professionals) OR we (2) suppress the thoughts that bring us down.

Suppression is thought to be the least optimal solution, and is associated with memory loss, something none of us even want to think about.

All of this emotional work begins in late-middle age, supposedly.

I'm supposed to be getting a grip on my emotional reactivity. On the other hand, what if I like it? What if I think it's rich? What then?

My guess is that those of you with small children don't have to worry about this stuff for quite awhile. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Tonight I picked up FD at Ohare, Terminal 3, Baggage Claim 6. We took off our coats and he looked at my sweater a little curiously, a sweater that our daughter had insisted I wear home.

It looks so GOOD on you, she said, But it needs a good cleaning. Do you ever wear the white jacket I gave you?

Wore it all the time in Miami.

Good. Take this sweater. Please.

Honey, I don't need it.

Take it, please. Just take it. Besides, you paid for it.


Sure. When I lived in New York, remember how I bought all those clothes, just charged them to your credit card? You were so nice to let me do that. This is one of the sweaters I bought when I was away at college.

You never spent that much. You bought this while you were at Parsons?

Uh, huh! And it's perfect for you. Tell them to get those little fuzzy things off, those pills, at the cleaners. They can do that, you know.

See? Things do have a way of coming home again.



Curiosity Killer said...

Aww. This is such an endearing post, doc.

Jack Steiner said...

I think back on that goodbye in the valley.,

That is because the Valley is the best place in LA to be. Of course I am biased about that.

We did receive quite a bit of rain this weekend. It always makes life more interesting.


My mother hates to say goodbye to her grandchildren. My father, the rock, the king of stoics has been known to get a little misty over these things as well.

All I know is that as a father I watch my children work their magic upon people who never were swayed by the same arguments when presented by myself and my siblings.

therapydoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
therapydoc said...

Not too maudlin?

therapydoc said...

And you can run into Britney at Blockbuster.

Anonymous said...

I may not be a good judge because I'm well into middle age, but I don't think it's too maudlin. I thought it was beautifully done. It sure resonated with me.

Anonymous said...

I'm 50 and a disabled doc. My 19 year old daughter just brought unexpected tears as she mentioned possibly cancelling her trip home next weekend. I consider myself independent and capable, and I try not to burden her with reactions like that, but I think you are right. Age does bring further vulnerability without the automatic "bad things won't happen to us" mentality that was so protective in earlier decades. This was not maudlin. It was truth.

therapydoc said...

Right, it's that huge chip in the denial that brings 'em on.

shrink on the couch said...

I don't want to think about my kids living plane-distance away. If it were my post in same situation, maudlin it would unquestionably be. But yes, "truth," as essiewb said. And bravo for truth. It's good to be sad in these situations. It means we love.

shrink on the couch said...

Love the name of your blog, by the way. (Speaking of truth)

therapydoc said...

SEE why people avoid intimacy?

Anonymous said...

It was really good to see you. The house feels empty now. :(

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MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Wow, what a beautiful post!

What's Going to Be with Our Kids?