For the past 25 weeks we've been touring the "State of Anxiety," and living in its capital, "Frustration." Here's what's been happening to us on this long and tortuous detour.
Windows of Opportunity . . .
The people who were going to rent our house changed their minds, which is good in a way, because we've found that the house needs eight new windows and new woodwork. We rationalize that it's better to have this happen now --without occupants in the house -- than to have water-soaked tenants harking us back from the road and dampening our fun. It also gives us a place to stay while we finish remodeling the trailer, i.e., ripping out the front living room and installing a high-tech mobile office. (Even though we've had the trailer since October, we haven't actually lived in it yet because we stayed with friends or relatives throughout our tour of New England.) Another benefit of this unexpected detour is that it gives us an opportunity to celebrate Christmas with loved ones before separating from them for an entire year.
Christmas was not very merry as we tried to squeeze good tidings into a bad situation of living out of boxes in a house under the assault of construction noises, drafts, sawdust and various stages of old windows going out and new windows coming in. Although it was nice to be with our families, we're glad the holidays are over and we can concentrate on getting back on the road, which means . . . finding a new truck and finding out what's wrong with our bright and shiny-new powerbook computer (it keeps corrupting files).
Trucks, Tenants and Technology . . .
Been shopping around for health insurance and responded to a direct mail flyer from a national self-employment association. A friendly, back-slapping sales rep comes out and hurriedly describes the benefits of the plan, boasting that this small insurance company in Texas is better than the more well-known companies because it doesn't use the compromising language of "allowable" fees. And it offers free vision care and disabilities insurance to boot. The rep tells us about the 400,000 members who are enjoying the benefits of this insurance, which is " tailor-made for independent individuals" like us. We are convinced this is a better plan for a better price and make the change from our True Blue insurance to this new aggressive company. Since we'll be on the road and mail will be erratic, we sign up for direct payment from our checking account. We are both relieved that insurance is taken care of. We feel safe. Protected. And part of a large, nationwide family of self-employed people.
Still no tenants. A sweet young couple from Texas come to look at the house. We like them instantly and hope they decide to live here. Only problem: they want an unfurnished house. (Oh no!) That means packing up everything. Everything. Even Ken's workshop in the basement and all his tools. Even the washer and dryer. Everything must go. This is a job for Superman, not Ken. Or Bewitched with her twitchy-witchy nose, not me. But since no one is responding to our ads for a furnished house with all its trimmings, we brace ourselves for the backbreaking, stomach-wrenching, muscle-pulling task ahead.
Next on our mile-long "To-Do" list is to shop for a new truck. But at this time of year, New England does not have the 4 x 2 diesel truck with the specialized equipment we need to tow our new "house on wheels." We had already decided on a Ford because our independent research revealed Ford as the best choice. (The research included stopping at construction sites and asking workers what's the best truck to pull a 30-ft. trailer. Unanimously the answer was, "To tow, go with Ford."). We searched all dealers in the northeast and beyond. Called dealers in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. A dealer in New York found a truck for us, at last, but even they had to have it shipped from Ohio. We buy the truck, sight unseen, over the phone. No deals. Full price. Truck should be arriving in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, back at the desktop, the powerbook computer is turning into Godzilla. Neither the tech support help line nor our local computer dealer can solve the problem. Luckily, Ken still has his PowerMac 8100 computer and I still have my trusty Macintosh IIci. Have had that baby for seven years now, never a problem.
Get a call from the local dealer. Logic board and hard drive in new powerbook are replaced. Come pick it up. Go to New Hampshire to pick it up. Take it home. Turn it on. Same problem. Also, the nagging little problems we had since Day One reappear like little gremlins. For example, the computer leg, which was supposed to have been repaired, shoots out like a bullet and ricochets around the kitchen. Boing! Boing! Boing! Almost rips off my eyelid in its flight. The rear panel door is still broken, too. Minor issues, yes, by psychologically enervating. Feel hopeless about mobile technology.
Bad news. Never heard back from the Texas couple. Good news. Get a call from a single guy named Michael who wants the house but needs to find a roommate first. (Uh-huh. Like that might happen.) But at least someone is calling.
Good news. Couple from Texas sends Email asking if house is still available. Get excited.
Red Trucks, Red Hearts and Pink Lines . . .
Got the truck. A Big Red Truck. A metallic Red Giant that growls with the full fury of a diesel engine. Tried to register it. Seems simple enough. But no. First of all, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (a.k.a. RMV) is almost impossible to find. When I finally locate the building, I see a long line of people snaking out the door. Before I queue up, however, I want to make sure I'm in the right line. I ask the man at the tail end. Yup. This is the line EVERYONE must get into as it's the line to get a number that allows you to wait in line again. "You mean I'm standing in line to get a number to wait in line again?" I ask incredulously. "That's right lady," bites back the unshaven man in the scrappy jacket and oversized jeans that don't quite cover his bum. He seems angry at my ignorance. Or maybe just peeved in general. Who knows? So I fall in line and keep my mouth shut. I finally reach the Central Desk and am denied a number because the dealer in New York didn't fill out the paperwork correctly. "So I have to come back and stand in line again.?" I moan. The clerk shows no mercy. "That's correct," she affirms. "Next," she calls over my shoulder.
Go home. Call the dealer in New York. We FedEx the paperwork overnight to New York. Paperwork is corrected and FedExed back to us. Three days later I find myself again at the RMV in line to get a number to wait in line again. This time I take the paperwork to get the trailer registered as well. But no. Two transactions on the same ticket are not allowed. I must do the truck first and get back in line again. I decide to come back another day to do the trailer. The paperwork for the truck passes inspection, but, I'm told I must pay sales tax on the entire amount of the purchase price, i.e., $29,000 instead of the adjusted purchase price of $23,000 ($29,000 less the trade-in value of Ken's old Ford). When Ken bought the truck, the dealer's accountant had told him that we would only have to pay sales tax on the $23,000, citing some kind of IRS ruling that goes back to horse trading days. Well, at a 5% sales tax rate, that's a difference of about $300, which represents a lot of money to two people who haven't worked since September. So I push back on the RMV. Yes, the RMV is aware of the horse-trading/auto trade-in IRS ruling but tells us the reason we must pay full price, regardless of the trade-in, is because the New York dealer is not on the Massachusetts List of Accepted Dealers. To get on this list the dealer must fill out a one-page form, pay $10 and submit it to the State of Massachusetts. I relinquish my space in line and go home to see if we can get the New York dealer to submit the form and save us $300.
Ken calls the dealer and explains the situation, volunteering to pay the $10 fee if the dealer will submit the form to Massachusetts. Manager at the dealership says no. Seems their accountant advises against it. Back in the line at the RMV, waiting to get a number to wait in line again. Pay the extra $300 sales tax and finally get beyond the lady at the Central Desk. New plates. New sticker. Truck is legitimately allowed on the road.
During all this bureaucratic turmoil I have not been feeling very well. Tired all the time. Can't get through dinner. Head is heavy like a bowling ball. In bed by nine o'clock. Notice I haven't had my period in a while. Figure it's all due to stress. Confide in a friend. "Better get an Early Pregnancy Test. At least rule that out," she wisely advises. Buy the EPT kit, go home. Wake up early next morning, about five o'clock. Do the test. Two pink lines appear. What does that mean? Booklet says two pink lines mean test is positive. But one line is dark pink the other is light pink. Booklet is unclear on shadings. Stunned, I sit on the sofa staring at the early morning clouds and listening to the deadly silence of a world not yet awake. Remain in a crouched position on the sofa till Ken comes down the stairs two hours later. "Hi." He says cheerfully. I drop the news. "It's positive," I say. Ken stops mid-step. "Really?"
Pregnancy is confirmed by official hospital test. Time to make plans for "Baby on Board" the rig. How can we possibly travel for the next 44 weeks while nursing a 40-week pregnancy? Don't want to see a doctor. Afraid Doctor will say trip is "Unthinkable." Use best strategy that always works well in times of crisis . . . delay.
Now something is wrong with my seven-year-old Macintosh IIci computer. Ken tells me he's got tech problems, too, with his PowerMac 8100 computer. Evidently it needs a new hard drive. Our "backup" system, (an old powerbook kept in a closet because the plug never stays in) is our only source of computing now. Dust it off and try it out. It, too, won't work.
Go back to the Mass. RMV to register trailer. Get in line to get a number to wait in line again. No good the Central Desk tells me. Trailer not properly insured. Go to sympathetic insurance agent who straightens everything out. Return to RMV same day. Wait in long line to get a number to wait in line again. (RMV decor of battleship gray is starting to get to me, especially in my newly discovered "condition.") Get to Central Desk, pass paperwork inspection. Time to pay sales tax. The purchase price of the trailer was $17,800. Sales tax should be about $900. No. Sales Tax is $1047! Why? Must pay a penalty for taking so long to register trailer. Disgusted with Massachusetts.
Read the new insurance policy from the self-employment association I joined earlier this year. Discover to my dismay that normal pregnancies are not covered by this insurance company. (Interesting, though, the policy DOES cover termination of pregnancies!) Alarmed, I call the 800 number. Eddy on the other end of the line tells me that this is normally true, but because I live in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts insists that pregnancies be treated like any other illness, I have a rider that will cover the hospital bill. Decide I don't hate Massachusetts' bureaucracy anymore.
Still no word from the couple from Texas. But Michael, the single guy, calls again to tell us he found a potential roommate, Ken (another Ken), and is sending him over to check out the house. They both want to move in. It's set that they will move in and we will move out on March 1st. But Ken (the new tenant) wants to move in earlier cuz he's staying in a hotel and paying $100 a day. We reluctantly agree, even though it will make our move that much more chaotic, especially for this moody pregnant lady.
After several calls to tech help line, we are advised to take our new powerbook back to the dealer again. Dealer has it four days. Calls and says, "nothing wrong." Nothing wrong?! This time Ken is significantly peeved. He goes to the dealer to verify the computer does, in fact, work as they claim. Ken will not leave the premises until the technician sits down with him and demonstrates its performance. Computer fails the test ignobly. It continues to exhibit the same problems at the dealer's shop that occur at home when we are alone with the monster. Powerbook stays with the embarrassed dealer. Ken drives home, vindicated. But we are still without a working computer. Have not been online for two weeks now. Have no idea how many e-mail messages we have. Have no idea if the website is even working. Feel very out of touch.
Bite the bullet and call a doctor to see how I can handle this pregnancy on the road. Afraid the Doc will say "no way." Friend calls to recommend a doctor who saved her sister's life and remarked that he likes "challenging cases." Oh good. That's the doctor for me. First visit is with the nurse practitioner who is also pregnant. Tell her all about Postcards from America trip. Instead of pointing a scolding finger at me, as I expected, she is delighted, says, "Of course you can go!" She calls the doctor at home before he leaves for a Florida vacation and reports back that he is thrilled. Yes, he can manage this pregnancy while we are on the road. He has many associates all over the country. A network of doctors are mobilized to tackle the necessary tests and monitoring until the Big Day. (Put this baby on wheels.) Relieved, I go home and rearrange our yearlong journey to accommodate a pregnancy. How can we fly to Alaska if I'm eight months pregnant? Hmm. Will have to move Alaska up on the schedule. Can we fly to Hawaii (our last state) with a newborn? How can I repack my clothes to accommodate not only four seasons, but three stages of a constantly changing body . . . and how will everything fit into a 13-inch closest? Where will the baby and all baby paraphernalia go? (Sigh . . . all these details to consider. )
New tenant, Ken, moves in. Very awkward. Three people in the house and two are named Ken. A bit confusing. Also, what is the relationship here? What is the proper protocol? Do we treat him as a guest? So far, we just try not to bump into
Start thinking of names for baby. If a girl, Regina Victoria. If a boy, Robert Victor. That way, baby can be called "RV" for short. (Just kidding. That's just too mean.)
Get a notice in the mail that insurance is in "grace period" because I have not paid my bill. Not paid my bill? I signed up for automatic deductions from my checking account! I rifle through my files. Sure enough, there is the copy of the original form I signed with a copy of the sample check they required. I call the company. They have no record of this. I tell them never mind. I'll put a check in the mail for the entire amount. I NEED TO BE COVERED! (This is scary. I've heard it can cost as much as $10,000-$20,000 to have a baby.)
Storing some things at Ken's sister's house. She is five months pregnant. While there, I brazenly ask her the most personal questions. Feel deceitful not telling her why I'm asking so many questions about her pregnancy. Gaze at her basketball sized belly . . . in just five months! Egad! Going home, I climb into our huge truck and try to imagine climbing in with a basketball belly attached. Figure I'll never get through this trip with my sanity in tact.
Doctor's office sets up an appointment for an ultrasound. Doc wants a base picture established before we leave. Get the ultrasound and the ultrasound doctor says bad news. Baby stopped developing. (What does that mean? ) I am advised that I need to have a D&C. Return to regular doctor. He sets up appointment for D&C next day. Tells me to call my insurance company to make sure it's okay. Meanwhile, tells me that because I have Rh-Negative blood, I need a shot of Rhogam in case I get pregnant again. Then he adds, "I hope you are going to try again." Before I can reply, he launches into a tale of the joys and wonders of parenthood, what a delight children add to one's life. I sit quietly listening, hoping that in the still silence of this tiny room he will hear the sound of his own words echo back to him and will realize that the "joys of parenthood" message is not the appropriate message for a woman carrying a dead fetus.
Go home and tell Ken the sad news. Hospital calls and interrupts our intimate talk. Says my insurance company will not cover the D&C because I am in a "grace period." I cannot believe this! I sent them a check for the entire amount for a whole year's coverage! This company's repeated ineptitude jolts me out of my sadness. I'm furious. The company makes a series of administrative mistakes and I'm the one who pays! Now I am humiliated in front of the hospital and my doctor who probably think I'm some kind of deadbeat. This is the worst insurance company I have ever seen! By far, the worst!
I call the hospital and ask how much the D&C will cost. Estimated amount is $3,500 to 4,000. Meanwhile doctor calls. He is very sympathetic. He offers some very comforting words and adds, "You know, people think insurance companies are here to process claims, but they're not. They're here to NOT process claims." (Suddenly a vision of all the big, glamorous insurance buildings parade through my mind. Of course he's right.) Doc then gingerly suggests that I can have the same procedure done at a clinic down the street for about $350. He assures me the staff is very good. He'll call to set things up for tomorrow. When I hang up the phone, Ken asks, "Where do they cut costs? How can they do as good a job for ten percent of what the hospital charges?"
RINNNNNNG! Telephone bell rips through our intense discussion and stabs my aching heart. Pick up the phone. It is the clinic. The woman at the other end of the phone is so sweet, so kind, so tender about my situation. It feels good to hear a gentle, caring voice. She tries to set up the appointment for tomorrow but no room. Has to be Saturday. First thing Saturday morning: 7:15 AM. All set. "Oh, there's just one thing," she adds cautiously. "On Saturday there will be . . . (pause) . . . protesters." The word reverberates through the phone line like its falling down a well. "P r o t e s t e r s." (So that's it. It's an abortion clinic!) She continues softly, "Now don't talk to them. Don't pay any attention to them. Just come inside as quickly as possible. And when you get inside . . . (pause) . . . don't be alarmed. You'll have to be buzzed in . . . (pause) . . . and a guard will search you. You cannot bring in any bags. Only a small purse. See you Saturday."
That night I can't sleep. Usually when I can't sleep I go downstairs to the living room to read, but no can do . . . our new tenant, Ken, is sleeping on the sofa. He's a nice guy, a real nice guy, but under these circumstances, we wish we were alone. It's so awkward going through all this with a stranger in the house.
Saturday morning Ken and I drive silently to the clinic. It's so early on a Saturday morning that the sidewalk is being tread by only one protester: a bearded man holding a portrait of the Virgin Mary. (Actually, a very pretty portrait. Like you see in museums.) We are the first in the parking lot. We are so close to the man on the sidewalk. So close. He is saying something to me. I try not to listen. But wait. I think it's a prayer he's reciting, not epithets. It all feels so unreal. We walk/run inside the building. It takes a while to find the room we want. We are flushed. We are hurried. We are snapping at each other, as we go down hall after hall, nervously looking for the right room. Suddenly we see a woman and man talking into a speaker, announcing their 7:15 appointment. They are buzzed in. This must be the place. It's my turn to get buzzed in. We are admitted into a foyer with a guard stationed behind a bullet-proof glass booth. He comes out, waves a metal detector around us and lets us in. It's so odd. I never thought I'd ever find myself in an abortion clinic. Isn't life strange? I suddenly recall something a friend once said to me, "Never say never, because you never know . . ."
We shyly enter the waiting room where two other couples are ahead of us. There are forms to fill out. Payment up front. MasterCard is accepted. Forms completed and turned in, I take my seat next to Ken and watch the people around me. The women are staring at nothing, fixed gaze, dead straight ahead; their male companions look around awkwardly, their eyes dart about at nothing in particular. The stillness in the room is thick with suppressed emotions. No one wants to make eye contact. The waiting room fills up. Now a young woman with her mother. Now a young girl with her girlfriend. Another woman and her sister. They all file in with the same expressions on their faces. Every woman here with the same look on her face but with a different sad story behind it. Everyone in shock. Everyone looking at their feet, like in a hushed elevator. Do not make eye contact. Do not make eye contact. Just get through this. JUST GET THROUGH IT.
"Priscilla!" The sound of my name being called makes my heart constrict. Ken and I look at each other, startled and frightened. I am the first to go in. It's a tiny room. The size of a closet. Oh. This is only a blood test. Prick my finger. Finger gets Band-Aid. I am out in the waiting room again. Embarrassed to be back so soon among my fellow patients. Sit down next to Ken. Notice the room is much more crowded. Two young girls are talking. They are making plans for this afternoon, after this is over. They plan to go shopping and then to visit a friend. They call the friend on their cell phone. Talk about plans for the day. Plans? Like it's a regular Saturday. Two other women are giggling. Gallows humor I presume. Like laughing at a funeral. No explanation. It just comes out. This waiting room is so eerie. Please, when will it be over?
"Priscilla!" Name called again. It echoes through the thick, silent room. Ken and I look at each other again. This is it. "Would your husband like to come with you?" I'm asked by the woman who looks like Today Show host Katie Couric. "No." I reply for Ken. (Why, in the world would he want to come with me? I don't even want to go.) Go into another small room with just a desk and a chair. Oh. So this isn't it either. This is just a counseling session. The dangers are explained to me. The risks. The sedative I will be given. The necessary convalescing time. No lifting for two weeks. Two weeks? But I'm moving. Going away for a whole year. No lifting. That's firm. I am sent back out to that awful waiting room again. Again everyone looks up at me, examines my gait as I walk back to my seat beside Ken. "No she still hasn't had it done it yet," their eyes seem to say as they look up from their magazines. I sit next to Ken. Look for a magazine to hide behind but no more magazines; no more seats either. All are taken by overbooked patients. Overhear the guard tell an employee signing in, "Tough day today. Forty patients." The employee moans as she takes off her coat. (So I am one of forty I note to myself. Forty other women are going through the same thing as I am today. And I'll bet there are forty different reasons why.) I look around at the faces in the waiting room. Every race, every age, every economic class is represented.
"Priscilla!" My name being called again pierces my thoughts, and my heart once again, tightens. My breathing stops. This must be it. THIS IS IT. I am met by a very kind, pale and fragile looking woman who gently ushers me down a white, narrow hall. I smell fresh brewed coffee as I pass one of the rooms. "Mmm . . .coffee smells good," I say. Just then a robust and jovial black woman pops out from another room, "Oh, I'm sorry," she cries. (Why is she sorry? It's only coffee.) She takes my arm from the fragile woman and walks me into the operating room. Gives me a johnny to put on. I like this woman. She is so kind. So friendly. There is a mixture of steady confidence and a happy radiance about her that is surprisingly calming to me.. I really like her. Can't explain why. Wait. I know why. She is like the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol." My favorite spirit in that story because he loves Life for what it is. That `s what this woman is like. She seems to love life. Every part of it -- good and bad. Well, that's what it seems to me anyway. She is my Ghost of Christmas Present. And I like her. I'm glad she's my nurse.
I don the johnny and hop on the table. Get a needle in the arm and an IV is inserted. Two seconds later, I feel real good. Mellow. Doctor comes in. She looks too young to be a doctor. Looks more like a fashion model. Asks me a few questions. I try to answer but the sedative is making me wobbly. Asks me the name of my doctor. Can't recall doctor's name. Tell her he looks like Governor Weld. She nods. Smiles. Knows exactly who I mean. She leaves the room and I assume she forgot an instrument and will be right back. But nurse takes IV out. It's over. What? Over. So soon?
I am put in a Recovery Room. It is a room lined with big, brown, fake leather Lazy Boy chairs. I recognize the other women from the waiting room. We each sit sadly in our oversized Lazy Boy chairs, feet dangling in mid air. We are all sad at once. All together. We look at each other. All with sorry faces. Each one of us has pain in her eyes. We are all hurting silently. Heavily. Only the eyes tell the pain. Death is hovering above the ceiling, looking down at us. I am cloaked in an overwhelming sadness, sympathy, and love for each woman in that room.
Nurse comes to my Lazy Boy. Gives me the necessary Rhogam shot. Another Band-Aid. It is time to go. A white, rubber basket is handed to me. It contains my belongings. I recognize the clothes I wore this morning, but they seem foreign somehow, like they belong to a different person. I get dressed and am ushered out the door, past the sad faces in the Lazy Boy chairs, and into the anxious faces in the waiting room. The door opens. Everyone jumps at the sound of the creaking door. Ken is the only one who jumps to standing position. He takes my other arm. We leave.
The ordeal is not over yet. It is now 9 o'clock. Surely there are more protesters now. I do not want to see them. We descend the stairs slowly and I can see the bearded man with the Virgin Mary portrait is still at his post. He has accumulated a crowd with him. Other placards. Other visual aids. I ask Ken to get the car and meet me at the door so that I won't have to make that long walk in front of all these people. But even the walk from the door to the car causes a lump in my throat and my chest to contract. The protesters on the sidewalk all stop talking among themselves and turn their eyes on me. It seems like everyone stops breathing. It is unearthly quiet for an instant. I am hated at full volume. They think I killed my baby. But I didn't. Nature did. Words are yelled to me. I try to ignore the attention. Inside the car I have the urge to lock my door. We stop at the corner to check oncoming traffic before turning. I keep my eyes down, staring intently at my shoes. I can feel all eyes on me. Do not look up. Do not look up. Whatever you do, Priscilla, do not look up. What's taking so long? Why are we not moving yet? I look up and see a woman carrying a placard picturing an infant in a womb. The woman is staring at me with cold, hard eyes. Why did I look up? Why didn't I keep my eyes down? Ken is protective of me and angry. I am torn.
Time Flies . . . and so do TV's!
Today is the day we test the truck's ability to pull the trailer and test our own ability to maneuver both. Can this truck really pull a ranch house on wheels? And if so, can we manage it? We've named the truck "Ruby" because of it's Ruby-red exterior. The trailer is named "Harvey the RV." Our plan is to go to a campsite in New Hampshire and see what Ruby and Harvey and me and Ken are made of. It's do or die time. We have never even spent so much as a weekend in a trailer, so this is all new, all foreign, all frightful. Last summer I read three books on trailer life. Every book had a section entitled something like "How to Give Backup Directions without Getting a Divorce." Naturally, this becomes my big dread as we head out this afternoon, especially since I've never been very good at giving directions.
The plan is thus: since we bought the trailer at Campers Inn in New Hampshire, we plan to camp nearby to make sure the rig runs as the brochures so happily proclaim. If not, we can just haul it over and get it fixed. At this time of year, the only place open, or with sites available is the "Friendly Beaver" in New Boston, so that is our destination today, and our home for the next few days.
Since Ken and I are both nervous about the backup situation, we plan to stop at Campers Inn on the way and have our nice RV salesman, Nat, give Ken some driving instructions. But, we are running late and don't get out of the driveway until 5PM. By the time we reach Camper's Inn, the lights are out. "You're on your own" the dark building seems to say. We continue driving, a bit nervously, as the road narrows and the fog thickens. Of course we get lost and have to . . . (ugh!) . . . turn the rig around. I make the suggestion of turning into a church parking lot that looks big to me, but, of course, I've been driving a small sportscar for the past six years. We pull in, hopeful. Forty-five minutes later we pull out, leaving a trail of bad feelings in our wake. Now to go back to that turn we missed.
We drive up a darker, narrower, more ominous road. The grade is steep. The fog is thick. The mood in the cab is damp. Since we left without lunch or dinner, our stomachs growl, while we each nurse our own private headache. Chugging along, I catch a tiny, oblong sign that I think says, "Friendly Beaver." Can that be it? (But there is supposed to be a big beaver on the sign. ) Too late. We miss the turn and there is no possible way to turn back on this narrow road. No way.
We continue driving farther up the mountain and deeper into our despair. Arrive at a crossroad. Take a right turn hoping that the road goes back to town. But pavement ends. We are now frozen in fear that this tiny dirt road will come to a humiliating end at the top of a mountain peak in the middle of nowhere. But we are in luck, there is a fork in the road, allowing us to do a three-point turn and go back. We succeed -- barely missing a farm fence -- but succeed nonetheless.
Head back to the Friendly Beaver sign, take the turn, and find ourselves on a hellish road. We are dipping in a rut on the left, now on the right, waddling down this road, bouncing up and down as we hit mud-moguls that send us flying from our luxurious Captain's seats (glad now we didn't buy bench seats.) We find the camp. It's almost 9PM. We are hungry, angry, tired, flattened. Ken parks the RV and we go inside to see what damage has been done. Office is fine. Kitchen fine. Bedroom in rear, not so good. The two night stands are smashed like jigsaw puzzle pieces. The walls are all blackened by something. What the heck happened? Then we see it. The little 13-inch TV sitting passively, innocently, in the center of the Queen sized bed. Evidently we had neglected to put it on the floor before leaving. The thing has been bouncing off the bed like a cannonball on a trampoline, smashing everything in its path. Also, we discover my clothes in the lower closet are soaked. We've got a leak! Too tired to deal with it. Make dinner. Eat in painful silence. Walk the muddy roads to the Restrooms to do dishes and brush teeth. Go to bed. Don't care about anything but sleep.
Except for the flying TV, the trial run is a success. We are happy with Ruby and Harvey. The RV is warm and cozy and the kitchen is super-fun to cook in. At Camper's Inn, we drop off the trailer, our home, at the service department. They assure us they will seal the leak. Everyone at Camper's Inn is very friendly. But more important, they are very competent. We pick out some clothes and other necessities and head to Ken's sister's house. She kindly invited us to stay with her and her husband while our home is "in the shop."
Ken's sister and her husband are very gracious. Very understanding as our proposed stay extends from a few days to a few weeks. Although Camper's Inn fixed the leak in less than a day, we still have not solved our computer problems. That is what is now holding us up. It is a constant routine of bringing the machines in for repair, then waiting a few days till we get the call to pick them up. Then picking 'em up, taking 'em home, discovering they still don't work. Take them in again and the process repeats. In frustration, Ken is now trying to fix one of the computers himself. In the meantime, we have not been able to check our website for three weeks. Don't know what's happening.
I often think of this trip as a voyage. Like any voyager, there is only so much control one has over the events destined to happen. For a control-freak like me (or like I used to be anyway) this detour is the most difficult part of the journey. I think it's Tom Petty who sings, "the waiting is the hardest part." It's true. For the past four months we've waited for others to come through for us. Now we are waiting for our computers to come back to us. It's like being in a sailboat with no wind. Just a dead calm. Nothing to do but wait for Divine Providence to intervene.
Luckily, I still have pencil and paper to continue writing the old-fashioned way. . . graphite against pulp. It's odd, but I've almost lost the patience to write this way as my thoughts rush on faster than my pencil-gripped hand can keep up. My penmanship is crude and sloppy. Yet, there is something consoling in this process. I love the sound the lead of the pencil makes as I scratch down my thoughts on crispy paper.
I'm fortunate, too, that my sister-in-law and her husband have a wonderful library. Lots of old books to read. Lots of thoughts to jot down. Emerson is on my agenda right now. In his essay on Self-Reliance he says that all MEN set themselves to improve society, yet no MAN improves. He writes:
"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other . . . for everything that is given, something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts . . .
Man has his carriage, but loses the use of his feet
He has his fine Geneva watch, but loses his ability to tell the hour by the sun
He has a nautical almanac, but does not know a star in the sky.
The solstice he does not observe; the equinox he knows as little.
His notebooks impair his memory . . . "
This makes me wonder: what have we lost since Emerson's time with such things as the invention of the telephone? What have we lost with the use of automobiles? What is television taking from us? And what instinct is the computer stealing from us?
We now have one computer working, the PowerMac 8100, which Ken repaired himself. While we wait for our "backup" laptop computers to come back from the shop, Ken is using the time to create all the Email postage stamps for all the postcards. Every postcard has it's own unique Email postage stamp that depicts either the state bird, the state flower, the state tree, the state flag, or a famous person from the state we are visiting. So that's five stamps per state times 50 states . . . 250 stamps for Ken to design, hand color and create a border and a typeface that will highlight the image. He just finished doing all the state birds and to see them on the computer screen all on one page, like in a stamp-collector's book, is really impressive. So he's having fun with plenty of work to keep him busy while waiting for the computer experts to get back to us. But I'm lost. I guess I'll go read back to reading Emerson's essays.
My bank statement arrives in the mail today. I am shocked to see that the health insurance company (who claimed they never received my paperwork for automatic deductions) has suddenly found my checking account number and has boldly deducted a monthly premium from my checking account. Amazing. I canceled the policy on February 20th and on February 25th I see they made the deduction. I calmly call them to make the correction. My voice is steady at first, but I end up screaming at them in the end. I am assured that a refund will go out in the mail. We'll see . . .
In a last-ditch effort, Ken goes over the head of the manager at the NY car dealership and calls the owner directly to ask him to fill out the Massachusetts dealership form so we can appeal to the State of Massachusetts for an abatement of the extra $300 we paid in sales tax on the truck. The owner says to send him the form , he'll see what he can do. We'll see . . .
The final insult . . . I am in line again at the Massachusetts RMV. This time Ken is with me, though, as both our driver's licenses are due to expire in August, and since we will be far, far away at that time, (we hope) we must renew now. It's not so bad in line when one has a companion to joke with. Occasionally a stranger approaches me to ask if this is the correct line. I explain the absurd procedure to the newcomer and watch him assimilate himself into the process. Once again I am at liberty to study the dreary gray walls, the coffee-stained carpet and the florescent lights that cast a ghastly shade of green on the patron's faces as they wait obediently in line for their assigned number. It seems like an Edvard Munch painting. I want to scream. But of course, I don't. I just wait my turn like everybody else.
The "Cruelest Month" . . .
Some famous writer once said April is the "cruelest month" of the year. It sure seems that way. On April 1st, April Fool's Day, the computer gremlins reappeared to once again prove their pernicious power. The one computer we got working made a big *BANG!* as loud as a gunshot, and the screen went black. Suddenly the sounds of screeching tires, a collision, and busted glass came blaring from the blackened screen. Great! Now what? Geez, did we lose all the postage stamps done so far? Please, no. Quick, call someone. After some phone calls and some deductive reasoning, Ken, our self-appointed computer surgeon, declares the computer monitor dead. It cannot be resuscitated. Need to order a new one. Four hundred dollars and four days later we can have a new one delivered to our door. Okay, wrap it up.
With the news of this most recent delay, I go and made a cup of tea and open up the book on Emerson's Essays again. The page I open to speaks directly to me. It reads:
"You are preparing with eagerness to go and render a service to which your talent and taste invite you. . . .Has it not occurred to you that you have no right to go unless you are equally willing to be prevented from going?"
Our next target date to hit the road is April 29th. That is, of course, if all goes well . . .
We did hit the road on April 29th, but only to drive from Ken's sister's house in North Andover to Ken's brother's house in Wellesley. (I guess we're going to inch our way out of Massachusetts). But the move, short as it was, still required all the same trailer -packing procedures necessary as if we were going to another state. Good practice I guess for our State-A-Week schedule and an opportunity for me to marvel at Ken's amazing adaptation to this newfound lifestyle. I am in awe of his skill at getting Ruby and Harvey hitched so quickly and driving Ruby so skillfully as he navigates around the sharp corners of these narrow streets in this thickly settled neighborhood. And he's got the RV backup situation totally under control, too. He backed the 30-foot RV neatly into his brother's driveway --perfectly straight -- and within inches of the house, leaving the other side of the of the two-car driveway still usable. When Ken finished backing up we heard applause coming from the sky. We looked up to see a group of workmen repairing a roof at a neighbor's house. Evidently they had been watching Ken's maneuvering of the RV and were driven to applause when he finished his task so masterfully. That's a good feeling -- darned good -- considering all we've been through with this rig. Ken and I bask in the temporary glory of this unexpected reception and beam in the warm sunshine with hope that maybe May will be the month our luck turns around. So now Harvey is our home as it sits in this residential driveway while we sit at the phone still trying to solve the computer problems. Desperate to continue to look on the bright side of things, I tell myself that at least I'll be here for Mother's Day.
My mother is our Number One fan. No matter what Ken and I go through she remains locked in her belief that we persevere with this problem-fraught trip. "Don't give up," she urges us. "This is the right thing to do, I just know it is," she persists. "Follow your dream, kids, before your body is too old to follow it," she sadly warns us.
So this delay allows me to spend Mother's Day with my mother, the loveliest person I know. "Mums," as I like to call her, never wants us to give her gifts on Mother's Day. She doesn't want our presents, she says, just our presence. Every year she scolds me for having bought her a gift. And every year she reminds me that Mother's Day used to be a day to honor one's mother by simply wearing a red carnation if your mother is alive and a white carnation if she is not. Every Mother's Day when she tells me this, I feel like I've swallowed a brick as I dread the future Mother's Day when I will have to wear a white carnation. I hope it doesn't happen until I'm a white haired old lady, myself, preferably a bit "airy in the attic" as well, so I won't feel the loss so deeply.
Looks like we're leaving tomorrow for New York. (Is it a coincidence that Ken's only other sibling lives in New York? I pray that we won 't have problems again, forcing us to park in yet another sibling's driveway . . . oh, perish the thought!)
Since all problems are supposed to be learning experiences, I thought I'd sit down and think about what I've learned from this detour:
1. HAVE NO HOPE . . . Hope only sets one up for disappointment. And it is a lack of faith by forcing my will over God's. If I truly trust that God's plan is better than mine, then I should go with the flow and see where it leads, not try to bend events to my liking. I either trust God or I don't. Hope tells me I don't trust God. So from hear on in I shall have no hope.
2. HAVE NO FEAR . . . I've heard that one's mind attracts whatever fear one holds. If you fear disease, for example, you will contract the very disease you fear. If you fear losing money, you will lose money. If you fear losing love, your love will be lost, etc. Well, my big fear when planning this trip was the technology. My fear manifested itself over and over and over again and grew larger and more powerful every day. So my advice to myself from now on is "fear not."
3. HATE NOTHING . . . Hate only hurts the hater. (I had to re-learn this one.) My hating the technology problems only hurt me, not the inanimate products.
4. LIVE HERE . . . Live in the here and now. The only time one has is the minute in one's hand right now. How many minutes have I squandered minutes and hours hoping for outcomes I cannot control? No more time-traveling.