123Valerie Strikes Again

Unprecedented Self-Indulgence.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Port of Call

"Half of the time we're gone but we don't know where, and we don't know where." The Only Living Boy In New York

Here in Cleveland, we enjoyed our three days of sunshine for the year. Oh, I kid -- we actually get about 45 solidly sunny days, which is still abysmally low compared to … well, anywhere else.

But we make the most of them, like Amish teens' during their Rumspringa -- when it gets warm after so many months of sedative cold and snow, we go flipping crazy up in here. Behold:

That's right, son. Sun tea next to a giant tea cup full of herbs I just planted. What what! (Giant tea cup courtesy of Kirstin's good taste in birthday gifts.)

Eh, I think I'm growing up, my pretties. A few years back, I would've celebrated the advent of summer with a tube top and drinking so hard that when said tube top would fall down, I wouldn't even care. Now? I make tea and grow things.

I'm all right with it, the transition. I think. I mean, there's no rule I can't wear a tube top while planting things.

I guess I'm in a little bit of a crummy mood because I got some bad news. I just found out that a woman I used to volunteer with, Jude, died late last year.

A few years ago, I came across an organization that provides grocery shopping for people who can still cook and feed themselves but who have trouble getting out of the house. I signed on to be a personal shopper volunteer because it was, like, the most-perfect position for me EVER.

The agency paired me with Jude who, at the time, was suffering from edema and severe obesity. I don't recall how big she was exactly but suffice to say that upon meeting her, I immediately understood why it was difficult for her to leave the house.

The director of the agency said she'd had a revolving door with Jude, but it wasn't Jude's personality -- it's just that neither she, nor her home, smelled very pleasant. Jude's housekeeping strategy was to not do it and, best as I could tell, her bathtub doubled as a storage area for VHS tapes.

Plus, Jude eventually opened up to me that when you're a large person with limited mobility, there are certain facts of life you have to deal with, including that sometimes you can't make it to the bathroom in time.

Now, if I'm painting a sad portrait of this woman's life, let me assure you that, yes, it was. But, the reason that I visited and shopped for Jude for more than a year was that she was full of moxie. She was whip-smart and had a sassy mouth.

She was from upstate New York, a point she liked to make often. "They can't fool me; I'm from upstate, OK?"

Jude loved to debate politics and, whenever I came to her with a story about a no-good boy or a professor who was giving me guff, she always had the perfect retort. I get the sense, though, that she was someone who spent a lifetime thinking about the things she should have said but didn't.

After I'd been shopping for her about six months, she told me that she'd looked up an old boyfriend on the Internet and contacted him. It'd been 30 years, she said. Now he was working at the statehouse or something -- a rising politician.

"There's nothing worse," she said. "I can't believe I used to love him."

She told me that he was surprised to hear from her, but his reply e-mail was pleasant enough.

"I ought to send him a fake picture of a beautiful woman just because," she told me.

That deflated my heart -- I'm sure I'm murmured something about how she was lovely in her own way. At least I hope I did.

In any case, I had to part ways with Jude when I moved to Maryland, but she sent me e-cards every now and again. In one, she told me she'd been approved for gastric bypass and was looking forward to becoming who she was meant to be. I was thrilled for her.

Then I got a change of address card -- she was making a fresh, clean start, she said. New digs. I was overjoyed.

And then … nothing. I assumed she had settled into her happy, new life. I was so majorly bummed to learn she had actually settled into death. So, yes, the sunshine has definitely left me today.

Well, that's not quite true -- this news has me thinking about how I spend my time. And where I spend my time. My dear boss recently quit and took a position that brought her to the beach, and I think a similar change of scenery would do wonders for me. I'm thinking I might summer in Portland, Maine -- any closet Portland readers out there?

In a completely unrelated note, the sunshine spurred me to cover Billy Ocean's When the Going Gets Tough. I told ya'll the heat makes us crazy.

In the Comments section, tell me where you'd like to summer and/or if you're a Portland peep.

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