I’ve just always thought this was funny. I’m waiting for the light in the “S” to go out…
We got word early last week that Howard, my sister’s best friend for fifteen years, had passed suddenly and without much warning. I shuffled some things around and hit the road Thursday evening to make his funeral mass Friday morning. From what I’m told the viewing was packed with friends, and the mass was no exception. At one point the priest in charge of the service leaned in to ask the older gentleman sitting next to me (one of the elders) if someone could go locate enough host to use for communion.
Renie had written a eulogy for Howard, and it was funny, touching, authentic, and moving. I was proud of both her words and her poise.
After the service, we drove over to the firehouse, where the reception was being held, and found ourselves sitting with several of Howard’s friends from Ithaca. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me, who mentioned he was from Thailand, and we started talking about travel and food. Within a half an hour he was inviting the family to come and eat at his restaurant (one of Howard’s favorite haunts) and we made plans.
At the table, he set us up with four glasses of Proseco, and things got progressively better from there. Starting with two types of Thai soup (Tom Kha and Tom Yung), we worked our way through four appetizers, stopped for a bottle of red wine, and then worked through five (!) entrees. The restaurant is pan-Asian, so the menu ranges from Thai to Indian, and the mixture of curry, lemongrass, and chili powder was outstanding together. After our entrees, he insisted we try the dessert menu, but not before a glass of grappa or Yuzo (lemon infused sake) to clear our palates. We wound up sitting for four hours enjoying the time together, raising a glass to Howard, and savoring every bite.
Saturday it just so happened there was a party planned for Grampy, who turns 98 this year, so I decided to stick around and celebrate with everyone. He just got moved back into his house from my uncle’s, and a couple of cousins spent the last few weeks painting and cleaning and getting things ready for him. He’s now installed in the middle room (the family room from my younger days) with a palace-sized chair and a hospital bed in front of a flat screen TV. He looks better than I’ve seen him in years, and I could see the spark in his eyes the whole time I was there.
Being able to visit with everyone was great, and once again I ate way too much.
Sunday morning I hit the road and made it back to Baltimore by 3, just in time to sharpen the mower blade and attack the lawn while Finn played on the swing. Jen got the rear bed weeded, and after some work with the edger the house doesn’t look like it’s been foreclosed upon anymore.
Jen and I scheduled a party with some of our neighbors for Saturday night. Which, in our family, means we use the occasion as an excuse for a massive spring cleaning. We’d started doing some preliminary work this past week, but as anyone who does a major overhaul knows, progress made only lasts for minutes.
I started by going out for breakfast and hitting neighborhood yard sales on my way home, where I scored four satellite speakers, an unopened hiking compass, five Xbox games and a Playmobil pirate ship for Finn. After eating, the girls got started at the house while I went across the street to the church playground, where I’d volunteered several weeks ago to help with spring cleanup. A nice man named Rich and I shoveled and moved three tons of playground sand (which, after the rain, weighed in at more like six) to the sandbox and and helped level wood chips under all the equipment. Thankfully, there were donuts and coffee to keep us moving.
On my way back to the house I stopped to see the neighbor’s new C5 Corvette, which he bought through a family friend for a fraction of its book value. It’s black and sleek and in really good shape for its age. We spent about a half an hour poking around at it, and then I headed home to throw myself into housecleaning. We cleaned corners and under couches and all the places that haven’t seen the light of day since November. Bathrooms got scrubbed, floors mopped, and even the basement got a sweep (if guests are going to the kegerator, it can’t look like the dungeon from Silence of the Lambs down there).
At 5:30 we were scrubbed and ready for guests, just barely. Four kinds of cheese were laid out. Dinner burbled quietly in the crock pot. Music wafted in from the den. The house was pristine for about a half an hour and then kids arrived and EVERY SINGLE TOY HIT THE FLOOR. What followed was a wonderful night with friends; there was great conversation. There was homebrew, vodka, white wine and sake. There was delicious cajun shrimp and sausage gumbo. There was a cake from Sugarbakers. At some point I built a fire. The kids got along great. Everybody called it at about 10:30 or so, and we staggered up to bed tired but happy.
This morning, despite my hangover, I hit the ground running. Well, not exactly. I hit the couch sleeping after Finn came in at 7, and rested there until 9:30 while she took in some PBS Kids. After a BE&C and some strong coffee my head quieted down and Finn and I hit the Home Depot for some lumber and supplies. Back at the house, I disassembled an ancient workbench in the garage to make way for shelving to maximize storage space, which took up a good chunk of the afternoon. Because the whole structure leans to the east, the shelves aren’t square, but they’re all 2″ wide and they hold four times as much stuff. I moved a lot of Scout stuff around and freed up the back of the building for a homemade hoist to store the traveltop, which went in at about 5:30.
Right now I’m typing this quietly in Finn’s room as she tries to fall asleep. Mama is downstairs watching Game of Thrones. I have a half a glass of beer and a slice of cake waiting for me. My back and legs are going to be singing to me tomorrow, but what I got done was definitely worth it.