a bit of respite at lake winnipesaukee

Thursday, July 10:  I have met some of the nicest people through blogging.  I first got acquainted with Ron through his son Spencer, a young man I worked with at the University of Nizwa.  Ron isn’t a blogger, but because I wrote my blog, a nomad in the land of nizwa, providing an insight into what Spencer’s life in Oman might be like, he followed my blog, often leaving encouraging comments.  At one point he mentioned he had a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and said I should come up to visit this summer.  At the end of June, he wrote: “The cottage is open and waiting for you.”

Needing a break from the stress of watching the decline of my mother-in-law, and knowing I wouldn’t have time later as I prepare to go to China, I responded by email to get the details about the cottage.  We planned that I’d come up right after my class on Thursday, July 10 and would stay through Monday, July 14.  As Mike and Adam were working and couldn’t take time off, Alex and I decided to take the long drive to New Hampshire on our own.

The MapQuest says it will be about a 10 hour drive.  Alex and I leave immediately after my class at around noon.  It’s a long and thankless drive all the way up I-95, through Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, then on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, then through New York (right around rush hour!).  We cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, a cantilever bridge in New York crossing the Hudson River at one of its widest points.

The Tappan Zee Bridge
The Tappan Zee Bridge

We stop for a leisurely dinner in Danbury, Connecticut after being stuck on I-84 for nearly an hour in a traffic jam caused by a car accident.  At this point, we are desperate just to get out of the car.  As Alex and I are taking turns driving every two hours, I have a Corona at dinner along with some delicious chicken and dumplings.

Alex drives the next two hours through Massachusetts and into New Hampshire.  Finally I drive the last two hours into New Hampshire, arriving in Gilford at midnight.

Ron has been patiently awaiting our arrival, taking a dip in the lake to pass the time.  He comes to the road to greet us as he sees our headlights go past the cottage and turn around.  We greet one another and he tells us he and his wife Betty will be by for lunch on the cottage porch the next day.  Their house is two miles away, not directly on the lake, so they spend most of their summer days at the cottage, having lunch and dinner on the porch, working on the cottage, or swimming in the lake.

Friday, July 11:  We haven’t brought any food with us, so the first order of business is to go out for breakfast at a local diner.  At the diner, I greet a lone man walking in at the same time as me.  “It’s a beautiful day!”  He harrumphs, “I guess.” I say, “Compared to northern Virginia, it’s beautiful.  It’s so humid at this time of year in Virginia.”  He says, “It gets pretty humid here too.”  I say, “Well, it’s beautiful today.  I love New Hampshire.”  He says, “I’ve been through Virginia often, and it’s beautiful there too.”

Ok, I can see I’m getting nowhere fast with this man.  I part ways with him and join Alex at the table where he’s been seated.  We enjoy a breakfast of pancakes, omelets, eggs, hash browns, and coffee.  Then we head to Shaw’s grocery store where we load up on breakfast and lunch makings.  At the cottage, we put all our groceries away and Alex heads out into the lake with the kayak.

the kitchen of the cottage
the kitchen of the cottage
the living room at the cottage
the living room at the cottage

I change into my walking clothes and head out for my 3 mile walk.  As I walk out, I meet Betty, Ron’s wife, who has just parked her shiny red convertible.  I introduce myself and tell her I’m going for a walk:  “I’m always fighting my weight, so I need to try to walk every day.”  She says that she and Ron changed their diet to a Mediterranean diet and lost 30-40 pounds in a couple of months.  She says, “I used to be like you.” Ouch. I know I’ve gained weight, yes, and so I walk a little harder and faster after we part ways.

Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee
Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee
the lake
the lake

When I return to the cottage, we sit on the porch with Ron and Betty.  They have finished their lunch. Alex and I make some sandwiches too.  Ron tells us stories galore about his life when he was younger and the adventures he’s been on.  He shows us some pictures from his past.  I change into my bathing suit, and Alex and I take out the kayaks for a paddle on the lake.  It’s a gorgeous day, with a cool breeze and no humidity.  How I love New England!

Looking toward the yacht club
Looking toward the yacht club

Ron and Betty invite us to have dinner with them tonight on the porch.  He says Friday nights they usually get fish dinners at Sawyer’s and eat them on the porch with a mixture of red and white wine.

Looking from the dock to the cottage
Looking from the dock to the cottage

After they leave, we have a little time to relax.  I shower and read my book, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, a novel that takes place in the courtesan houses of China in the early 1900s.  At about 4:30, Ron and Betty come back to the cottage and sit on the dock, enjoying the lake.  I sit on the porch and read, something I love to do on vacation.

Alex and Ron head out to Sawyer’s to pick up the fish dinners, and then we enjoy wine and baked haddock dinners on the porch.  It’s a lovely evening.  After dinner, Ron and Betty take us for a drive in the convertible to get the lay of the land and to indulge in some ice cream.  I order a scoop of lemon meringue with hot fudge at a cute ice cream shop beside the lake.

It’s a lovely evening, but a little cold in the convertible.  Not having brought any warm clothes, and wimps that we are, Alex and I ask if they would mind closing the convertible top.  We’re freezing!  Ron and Betty must be used to the cold night air, which is refreshing and would be fine if we had proper attire!

Blue hour on Sanders Bay
Blue hour on Sanders Bay

After our nice day on the lake today, Alex and I decide that we’ll drive up to the White Mountains tomorrow.  We’ll travel on the Kancamagus Highway and go on some short hikes.

in search of a “happy” 4th of july

Friday, July 4:  This year I didn’t get to celebrate our country’s independence, or much of anything else.  No fireworks, no barbecue, no parties. Things started falling apart on Monday of this week.  While I was at work, Mike texted me that his mother had been admitted to the hospital with a bad cough.  She is very frail already, and on oxygen.  In the hospital, she weighed in at a wispy 83 pounds.  She’s also very confused, talking non-stop about things that simply don’t make any sense.

Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
Grove Avenue
Grove Avenue

On Tuesday, I got the sad news that Christine, fellow blogger of DADIRRIDREAMING, had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  Christine was a lovely and spiritual woman.  When I was stressed out after returning home to Virginia from Oman, she sent me an hour-long guided meditation, in her voice, which I listen to when I need to relax.  I’m happy to have a bit of her voice to keep with me forever.

a lone bicycle in the Fan
a lone bicycle in the Fan
Fan District
Fan District
Hanover St.
Hanover St.

On Wednesday, my daughter Sarah got a ride up from Richmond and we went to visit her Nana in the hospital.  We were afraid she didn’t have long to live. The doctors decided on Thursday to release her to go home, under the care of hospice. They say there’s nothing else they can do for her.

the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown shops
Carytown shops

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, my sister called to tell me that my dad had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  It turns out the surgery fixed the problem and he was sent home on Thursday.  I called to ask if he’d like a visitor. He sounded like he’d appreciate it.

Carytown in Richmond
Carytown in Richmond
Cupcakes
Cupcakes
All decked out for 4th of July
All decked out for 4th of July

On Thursday, after Nana was settled in at her home in a bed set up by hospice in her family room, with a view of her beloved garden, Sarah shared this video with her grandmother, hoping to cheer her up.  It’s a rendition of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song, filmed in Richmond.

All Thursday afternoon, and over the next couple of days, Nana replayed the video repeatedly. I was happy that it seemed to make her happy.  Later, I found out the reason.  She told one of the around-the-clock caregivers that her granddaughter was in the video.  I said, “Nana, no, Sarah’s not in the video, she just likes it.”  But Nana insisted that her granddaughter was in the video, and continued to watch it non-stop.  Later, I heard she told another caregiver that all three of her grandchildren were in the video.

At another time, I heard her tell a friend who phoned, in an agitated voice: “I need to go now so I can get the cushions so I can get to Richmond.” Somehow, Richmond and her grandchildren and the urgency of her getting to them are all tied up together in her mind. Sweet, but sad.

Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Vintage Clothing
Vintage Clothing

Sarah had to go back to Richmond for work, so we got on the road at 5 a.m. on the 4th and drove 2 hours to Richmond, where I went for a walk and she for a run.  I then showered and headed another hour south to visit my father.  He seems to be okay; he’s just having a little trouble getting around because of the incision.  I visited for a couple of hours, then got in the car and drove 3 hours back to northern Virginia, where I was too exhausted from the stressful week to do any kind of celebrating.

Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Portrait House
Portrait House
Street Art
Street Art
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

We spent a lot of time with family over the last week: my kids, Mike, his mom and sister, my dad and his wife.  It was a week of connecting, with the sad awareness that ties could be cut at any moment.

I had a lovely walk around Richmond on the most beautiful Fourth of July, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in Virginia. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and humid, and generally miserable in July. I realized that Richmond holds a lot of memories for our family.  I used to live here, and Mike’s first wife, who died of breast cancer, lived here.  I met Mike in Richmond.  Sarah lives here now, working and going to school at VCU.  It’s truly my favorite Virginia city.

The Fan
The Fan
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe's Inn, who passed away
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe’s Inn, who passed away
Street art at Joe's Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Street art at Joe’s Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Vespa Love
Vespa Love

When I drove home from my dad’s on Route 17, a mostly deserted highway that runs nearly parallel to the dreaded I-95, the setting sun cast a glowing light over dancing cornfields, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and changing nature of our world.