Why I Felt Robin Williams’ Loss So Deeply

A lot of my friends are talking about Robin Williams today.  They’re all talking about the sadness, the loss,the iconic man that he was, a man who made others happy but couldn’t do so for himself.  Many of us are commenting on how this celebrity passing is touching us in a way others haven’t.  Sure, Michael Jackson was a major influence that we all grew up with too; but there’s something about Robin Williams, the depth and breadth of his work and talent that has made us all feel like we’ve lost a family member. 

I feel it too, though quite likely for reasons that very few of my friends would understand, and one that I don’t really ever talk about.  Sure, Dead Poets’ Society is one of my favorite movies, a huge reason why I ended up becoming a teacher (the idea that I could change one, even just one students’ life in the way Mr. Keating did….).  But it wasn’t that movie in Robin Williams’ filmography that made the most impact on me and my life.  It wasn’t Good Will Hunting or Patch Adams or Good Morning Vietnam, although I loved all of those movies. 

It was The Birdcage.

I know, right?  How could that be the most impactful of his entire body of work?  The hilarious comedy about a gay couple and their son and the frantic antics they engage in to pull off the son’s marriage into a conservative family. 

I’ll tell you why.  Because I’m the child of a gay man. 

That’s right.  I don’t say it out loud that much.  It’s not that I am ashamed of it.  It is just that we never, ever really talked about it when I was growing up.  My parents got divorced in 1977.  I was seven.  I found out later it was because my mother, who had long suspected my father was having an affair, had her suspicions confirmed.  He was indeed sleeping with someone else.  Only it wasn’t another woman.  It was a man. 

The world was very, very different in 1977.  My parents never told us that my father was gay.  When my father moved in with another man we were told it was because they were going to be roommates.  They maintained separate bedrooms.  I actually found out about my father from my sister, who let it slip one day while she was talking to a girlfriend within my earshot.  I think I was 12. 

There were no gay people on TV then.  People weren’t talking about gay pride back then (at least not that I knew about).  Gay people were stigmatized.  My father and his partner maintained separate bedrooms all throughout my teens, and while it eventually became clear to my father that we all knew about him and Steve, it was something we simply did not discuss.  They were not “obvious” and Steve hardly ever came to any family functions.  They were both firmly in the closet at their respective jobs.  I didn’t tell anyone but my very closest friends about my father.  It was like a shameful secret.

The Birdcage came out in 1996, the same year I got married.   And in it, for the first time, I saw so much of my life depicted.  The awkwardness of having to explain your father and his “friend”.  The impulse to lie because it just is easier.  The anger and frustration that you feel when you realize people can really just be jerks.  That being a kid of a gay person does not mean you are destined to be gay yourself.  And the slow realization that these two people, these are just people in love just like anyone else.  My father and his partner are more married than many heterosexual couples I know, even though they are not legally allowed to marry. 

The Birdcage took all of the crazy stereotypes that people have about gay couples and truly just turned them on their ears.  Through Robin Williams wit and comedy, that movie made even truly conservative people stop and think about their prejudices about gay people.  By going to the most crazy level of stereotypes about gays and transgenders, he showed that in the end, there are a lot more similarities than differences.  That moment when Calista Flockheart says in a choked voice, “I really would have loved to have been part of your family.”  Because gay or straight, at the end of the day, that three person unit was just that.  A family.   Something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

And now, nearly 20 years later, the world is a very different place.  In 1996, my father’s partner wouldn’t attend my wedding, no matter how much I begged, because he didn’t want to be a spectacle.  Last year, he attended my son’s wedding and my father proudly introduced him as his partner.  The world is changing, for the better.  We still have a long way to go.  But we’re headed in the right direction. 

So when I think of Robin Williams and his direct influence on my life, I think of the Birdcage.  And I thank him for finally showing me and the world that being the child of a gay person isn’t something to keep a secret.  My family may look different than yours, but that doesn’t make it wrong.  It just makes it different.  And if someone can’t accept that? 

To quote Armand Coleman:  Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took me twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that. Fuck the senator, I don’t give a damn what he thinks.”

Rest In Peace Robin Williams.  I hope you find some measure of the peace you were able to give me through your gifts. 

Gratitude

The day before Thanksgiving.  Today is the day before Thanksgiving.

I was going to type in a longish, ranty post about my brother again.  For those keeping score, my brother ended up not cancelling his trip to FL this Christmas, so we will in fact all be together.  He sent me a note asking what my children, my husband and myself would like for gifts.  I think the note was as close as I’ll get to an apology.  But by then I had already moved on from my anger to acceptance.  This is who he is.  Whatever.  I told him to not bother with gifts for us, gave him inexpensive ideas for my kids, and told him what options I was choosing off of his kid’s list.  He responded that they were thinking of getting a laptop for his kid for Christmas, so those would be perfect options.   My sister went ballistic again, but I’d already moved on.  My brother is who he is.  He won’t change.  I’m done trying to hope for it to happen.  It won’t.  Life goes on.

Instead, I am mulling over Thanksgiving.  We are staying at home again this year and I am pushing myself hard to not allow it to be as unsatisfying as it was last year.  Last year, R and I fought silly battles with no big meal or task to distract us from sweating the small stuff.  This year, we won’t even have my eldest home to behave a little better for.  Z is staying in DC this year, spending this Thanksgiving with his fiancee, since they plan on spending Christmas with us down in FL.  I think this marks the first time I’ll have spent this day without him.  Which makes me sad, in a way, but mostly grateful that he is doing so well and happy on his path.

Which is how I am resolving to feel about myself and our Thanksgiving together this year as well.  We are doing well financially this year; my husband’s job continues to be incredibly busy and therefore (we hope) secure.  I am getting enough website work to keep me feeling productive and justify me spending my time this way.  The two younger kids are both doing well in school.  My daughter seems to have mended fences with several of the kids who were causing her trouble at school, and did amazingly well in her role in the school play a few weeks ago.  We are planning our annual trip to Florida for Christmas, which is always a wonderful week of warmth, family and sun (hopefully).   R has worked hard in the last six months to address the needs that I laid out to him in our devastating fight last May.  It’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but I think we have both done a pretty good job at trying hard to appreciate each other and not sweat the small stuff.  We’re talking more, doing more together, and not getting upset with each other when life gets in the way as much.  It’s a nice feeling.

So this Thanksgiving?  I won’t spend it thinking of years past, wondering if I’d chosen this path or that path would my life be better.  This is the path I chose, the present I have, and I am grateful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Family and Frustration (Again)

So, in a very strange turn of events, my brother and my son are getting married in the same calendar year.  I have known this for a while now, as my brother asked his on again/off again (but mostly on lately) to marry him nearly a year ago.

Now, in case you haven’t followed my blog for long, you may not realize that this isn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy relationship I have going on with my brother.  Long story short:  my brother, who has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, reacted badly to my parents’ divorce when I was seven, and I spent several years being his punching bag (not figuratively, but literally his punching bag).  He was institutionalized several times before my father took custody of him when I was 15.   For much of our adult life, his focus on himself above all others has been a constant source of frustration and angst for me.  Click here for far too many posts about how my brother and I go constantly around in circles of either speaking or fighting or not speaking because we recently fought.

All that being said, it’s kind of a miracle that he is getting married, and I am glad that he’s finally found happiness.  The fact that they are still together after nearly a year of living together and being engaged is astounding, and I’d been looking forward to the wedding they planned for next November.

My brother called me a few weeks ago to ask for some addresses for the family for his wedding guest list.  I of course had them on hand from my Christmas card list and told him I’d send them along.  He lamented that his side of the aisle would be kind of light and asked for suggestions on who else he should invite to the affair.

I told him we would likely have the same problem, and that I fully expected that some people from the family would likely be forced to choose which of the two family weddings to attend this year.  I told him that I expected more of the people from great distances to choose his wedding over my son’s.

That’s when he dropped the bombshell.

That he was going to make that choice too.  That he wasn’t going to be present at my son’s wedding.

Now, this shouldn’t have surprised me.  My brother always has time and money for himself and what he finds important in his life.  But, he told me, he was busy saving for his own wedding, and couldn’t sacrifice the money that going to an out of town wedding would take away from his own special day.

If I agreed with him, if I truly felt that he couldn’t afford to do both, I would understand.  I would.  But my brother has a way of making sure he is able to go out for karoake and drinks with his friends once a week, buying the latest technology for himself, and smoking hundreds of dollars of cigarettes a month.  Tightening his belt is a foreign concept.  Why should he sacrifice his fun for a family affair peopled with people he hardly ever sees and doesn’t often get along with?  But he expects us at his own wedding.  He worries the crowd will be “thin” for him.

I think it’s the hypocrisy of it that really grinds my gears.  Well, that, and the fact that my son will be supremely disappointed in his uncle.  He has a firm grasp of the person my brother is, but I don’t think even he imagines that his uncle, who has always talked about how proud he is of my son, would not attend this most important day in his life.  I don’t think it has even entered his head.

So I don’t know what to do, here.  I know from past experience that I never win an argument with my brother.  Conflict is always my fault, always.  When he told me, in fact, I simply said that I was disappointed but would get off of the phone before we both said things we would regret later.  I don’t want to have my father (again) offer to pay for my brother to attend.  My feeling here is that my brother can afford it, if he chooses to make this event an priority.  But there is no way I can make him do that.

Yesterday, my brother sent me, my sister and my father his son’s Christmas list.  It was full of gifts that had a price tag of between $100-$200 each.  He plans on getting “several” of the items on the list himself for his kid.  It brought it all to the forefront to me again, this frustration that I have with him, that he is more important than any of the rest of us.  In a fit of frustration, I sent an email to my father about the situation.  I don’t want him to fix it, I don’t want him to pay for it, I just want some advice from someone who knows both my son and my brother; who they are and how to handle this situation in light of who they are.

I don’t know what he will say.  Probably, my brother will be angry with me for making him “look bad” to our father.  Maybe I’ve made a bad situation worse.  I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Why, Oh Why, Sandy…..

We are back up and running after a harrowing week dealing with Sandy. We live in SW CT, about ten miles from the shoreline.  Our experience with the storm was that it was a wind event for us, with very little flooding since we are inland.  Here is how we experienced the last week.

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We were all home on Monday, as officials had called off school the day before.  I spent the day finishing up laundry, cooking things that would be easily reheated in case of power outage.  It wasn’t even in case, really, we knew it was inevitable.  The whole day was spent watching and waiting for what everyone said was going to be catastrophic.  It was hard to imagine, really.

At first we all thought it wasn’t so bad, that perhaps the storm was tracking far enough south that it wouldn’t impact us.  We had very little rain, and while it was breezy, the winds weren’t terrible.  But around 3pm, the winds started to pick up.  Our anxious dog needed his Thundershirt to calm down as things got noisier outside.

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The power started flickering around 5pm.  I cooked dinner on the stovetop just in case it went out before I was done.  We are very, very fortunate to have a gas stove that works in power outages.  Sure enough, just as I was putting the last touches on dinner, the power went out, at 5:30pm.

The conditions got worse as the night went on.  We could hear things hitting the house outside.  The howling of the wind was like nothing I’d ever heard.  We put the kids to bed and turned on the crank powered radio to hear any sort of news.  The only station we could get was WCBS out of NYC.  The stories we were hearing were simply unimaginable; that water was flowing through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, that the water was rushing over the streets, that there was a horrible fire that no one could put out in Breezy Point.  We finally went to bed around 10pm.

We didn’t sleep much.  The noise of the wind was so unnerving.  Our daughter, who was worried about a tree falling on her in bed, joined us.  We didn’t kick her out, having heard about two boys who died when a tree fell on their bedroom earlier in the evening.  Finally, around 6:30 am, the light was starting to gather outside, and I got up to see what I could see.

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It was still lightly raining outside, and breezy, but it was clear the worst was over.  I took a flashlight outside and the dog to see what I could see.  We were incredibly fortunate that we did not have any trees down in our yard or worse, on our house.  We are surrounded on three sides by trees, so this was amazing.

We still had no power.  There was no question were in for a days’ long outage.  It was time to fire up our new generator.

When we saw the predictions for the storm the week before, I started calling around to get a generator.  I was mostly concerned about water in our basement, which has a sump pump.  I bailed it out by hand last summer, and this storm was predicted to be so much worse.  We got it all hooked up by ten am, and figured out how to snake extension cords around to power the fridge, the power strips to charge devices, and a few lamps.   We tried the TV, but the cable was out, so it wasn’t worth wasting the gasoline in the generator.

Cell service was incredibly spotty, and we weren’t getting a lot of information from our radio.  We knew that the damage to the coast had been bad, but we had no idea how much.  We weren’t sure it was safe to drive anywhere yet, so I put on my sneakers and took the dog for a walk to see what I could find out in the neighborhood.

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Trees were down across the road.

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Trees were down in people’s yards.

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Trees were down everywhere.  This is around the corner from my house.

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Driveways were rendered impassable.

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I saw three separate houses that had trees down on the houses.  It made me realize how incredibly lucky we had made out with just losing power.

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Here’s another one.

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Trees were uprooted, or in this case, completely snapped off of their trunks.

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And all over, trees were laying on power lines.  It was no wonder that 24 hours after the storm, our town was 90% without power.  We offered our family in town to come over to our place.  We didn’t have power, or heat, but we had running water and a few lights, and a fridge thanks to the generator.

So many people in this area have wells for their water.  When you lose power, you lose your running water.  The lucky people that have city water (we are among them) often do not have natural gas in their homes, so when they lose power, they lose the ability to have hot water.  When we bought here, we were so used to having natural gas, it was a factor in our choice of home.  We’d never had a well, didn’t feel comfortable with oil heat, and so we sought out a house that would have city water and natural gas.  We had no idea how beneficial this decision would be during these power outages.  They made a huge difference.

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We had our family in town over our place during the day on Wednesday and Thursday.  The house was growing colder, but we at least had the fridge and a few lights.  They didn’t even have water.  So we were a step up for them. It made the long days without school much more bearable.

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We cooked on our stovetop for each meal.  This was dinner on Wednesday night; sloppy joes with meat that was starting to thaw from our visiting family’s fridge.  Paper plates and plastic cups.

Wednesday was Halloween.  We didn’t celebrate.  It was cancelled in our town.

By Thursday, the house was getting cold.  We haven’t figured out how to make the furnace run on the generator, and I started to worry looking at the forecast for colder temperatures coming our way.  We took the kids to the mall to warm up on Thursday afternoon.  It was like something out of a movie.  Near every plug there were people charging their devices, using the WiFi to work, to get information about what was going on in the rest of the area.  We came home and got ready for church for All Saints’ Day.

As we were putting on our coats, the power came back on.  It was 72 hours almost to the minute since it went off.

That evening, we were able to watch the news.  We sat stunned looking at the images of what had occurred during the storm all around us.  The Connecticut coastline was decimated.  NYC was flooded, still, days after the storm.  The Jersey Shore was unrecognizable.  So many who lost so much.  Once again, we felt relief and gratitude, that our experience wasn’t worse.  We were so lucky.

It Never Stops

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my son has recently become engaged to his girlfriend.  They’ve been dating for a year and a half, and no one is terribly surprised that this next step has been taken.  She’s a lovely girl, we like her parents, they’re both working and college graduates, there’s nothing wrong at all with this picture.

Except.

Well, the guest list.

There are days and even whole weeks that go by when I forget that my son has never met his biological father.  That we parted ways when I was eighteen years old and three months pregnant, never to hear from him again.  He’d actually said those words, they might have been the last ones he ever said to me:  “If that’s the way you want it, you’ll never hear from me again.”  It’s been more than 23 years since that day so long ago.   Ever since then, life was about my young son and trying to build a family for him.

It was a bumpy road.  I lived with my mother, who supported me while I went to college for my teaching degree, until she got sick.  She passed away just a few months after I got my teaching certificate, and then my father moved away six months after that.  It was just me and my little guy against the world, and the world was a lonely place.  It was during that time that I reached out to my son’s father’s family in the hopes that I could build some sort of a bridge for him.

In the meantime, I worked.  I taught in the inner city and built a life for my son.  I had a few relationships, nothing serious, until I met R.  We dated for a year but immediately knew that this was the Real Deal.  We married quickly and started a life together.  After a few years that tested our mettle as a couple, we added a daughter and then a son to our little family.  He got a big job and I downsized mine.  We moved a few times.  Life got busy.  Life was full.  We were a family.   So much so that I kind of forgot to keep up maintenance on the bridge.

When I finally reached back out to Z’s aunt, he was 16.  I thought for sure by then that any worries the family had over me coming to them asking for money or help were long gone.  I explained what life looked like these days, and she was glad to hear it.  However, she was still very clear that there would be no relationship between Z and his biological father.  She stated that if Z wanted to have some sort of connection with her, that would be alright.  It took him years to act on it, but finally Z contacted her and they met in person.  It was hard, very hard for me to watch that relationship build without having any input into it.  But I knew it was the right thing for him, so I stepped aside and allowed it to grow.

And now, here we are.  Z is 23 and wants to be married.  And he expressed to me a desire to invite this aunt to the wedding.

I just want to scream.

It’s not right that these people can’t get their shit together and just let my son into their lives.  The more this aunt communicates with him, the more he wants to know his father, his grandmother, any other family that he has floating around out there.  He loves having that connection, and I get that, but in so many ways it makes it so much harder for him.  He wants to be a part of their lives.  And he has this tenuous connection.  But it’s not enough.  It’ll never be enough.

So he wants to have “someone from that side of the family” there at the wedding.  In my head, I understand.  I am sure he is hoping beyond hope that the aunt will tell his father about the wedding and by some miracle, Joe will show up at the church and somehow the last twenty three years will melt away.  All the questions Z has will be answered.  All the angst, the anger, the lost hope will somehow vanish from his world.

But my heart knows that these things will never happen.  It knows that when Z sends out that invitation, the aunt will likely not only politely decline, but never mention it to Z’s father because he apparently made clear to her long ago that he never intended to be a part of my son’s life.   And Z will be looking over his shoulder all day for something that won’t ever happen, and he’ll be sad on the day that is supposed to be all about him and his joy and his life going forward.

I told him I would support him, no matter what he decides.  I can’t possibly put in my two cents on this one, because all of my emotions will messy up the whole thing.  If he invites the aunt, I will smile and hope for the best.  And if she comes, I will be surprised but pleasant.  And if she doesn’t, I will console him and help him focus on the many people who came who are also his family.  Family who have been there for him, always.

I wonder when this will stop hurting as much as it does.  It’s been 23 years, after all.  I go days, I go weeks (never more than that) sometimes without it hurting.  But then boom.  Here it comes again, raw and red and white hot, all over again.

 

Aging Parents

There is an email from my father in my email box this morning.  It’s full of worry and anxiety about my grandmother.

My dad’s mom is 93 years old.  That in itself is amazing.  She’s been around so long, I think, that everyone has long since taken her presence for granted.  That is, until the last little while.

She had a life threatening infection last year, and was hospitalized.  But miraculously, she recovered.  Her knee replacement, years old, had inexplicably become infected.  It had to be removed, and she lived without a joint for six weeks until all of the infected material was sure to be gone.  Then she had surgery to replace the missing knee joint.

At age 91, that seemed crazy.  And that she wouldn’t pull through.  We all rallied around her bedside.  But she pulled through.

Nearly a year later, she fell in the hallway at home on the way to the bathroom.  It was a few days before Christmas; my family was with my father in Florida.  She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, where her shattered hip was repaired.  After a few weeks at rehab, she was sent home.  No one could believe it.  She pulled through again.

But when I visited a few months later, this past May for Mother’s Day, I wasn’t so sure.  She really didn’t look any better than when I’d last seen her in January, a week after returning home.  She could hardly walk, and needed her walker to do so.  She couldn’t use the bathroom unassisted.  She complained of being tired, so tired.  And she just didn’t seem to have the spunk and the fight that we’d all been so very used to.

I warned my father to be prepared when he went to visit his parents this summer.  That she wasn’t as resilient as he might be thinking based on his phone conversations with her.  That things were headed down a one way road.  And I made plans to visit her again, while he visited.

When I came, just two months after my previous visit, she didn’t know who I was.  When I entered her living room with my two kids in tow, and kissed her cheek, she spoke to me as if I was a kind acquaintance, not a granddaughter who comes around every few months.

It shocked me.  Even though my grandmother certainly is old enough to be losing her memory, it’s the one thing that has always seemed infallible throughout all of her physical troubles these last few years.  Later, she confused me with my sister, and confided to my father that she didn’t remember my visit on Mother’s Day, at all.  She didn’t even know I’d been there.

I sat my father down, before he left to go back home to Florida, and told him that he had to really start making some plans.  It’s an odd thing, to talk to a parent about how to lose their parent.  It’s a conversation I have had now with so many people that I’ve lost count, the inevitable awfulness that comes with illness and approaching death.  But it’s not a conversation that I ever imagined that I’d have with my father.

He seemed lost.  No, they hadn’t made any plans.  No, they hadn’t discussed anyone’s wishes yet with either his mother, his stepfather, or any of his siblings.   Did I really think these uncomfortable conversations had to happen now, or could they wait?  I reminded him of how much my mother prepared for her death, and how that had helped all of us left behind cope.  She’d untangled every difficult thread for us already, so that all we had to do was follow the threads of the plans she made ahead of time.  He seemed to agree that these conversations were necessary, but like most people I’ve had this conversation with, seemed willing to look for reasons to wait on them.

So for now, I continue to get emails like the one I did today.  My dad will do everything he can around the edges of what is emotionally too hard for anyone in the family to face.  He’ll send repairmen to fix up the house, he will keep an eye on the bank accounts from an Internet Explorer window a thousand miles away, and he’ll make plans to visit again in a few months to see if things still look as grim as they did this summer.

It is all he can do, he says.  And for now, he believes it.

 

Trip Diary Part Two

Day 10, Saturday:  Time to leave the coast.  Supposed to be out by ten.  Make it out by 11 am, not too shabby.  Unfortunately, driving up the Magistrala on a Saturday in August is a little like leaving your beach house and making your way up the Garden State Parkway or Delaware Route 1 on same.  We end up driving south on the Scary Mountain Road With No Guard Rails to avoid this, going about an hour out of our way.  Inexplicably, my husband’s father makes plans to meet up with a cousin while on the road.  After much delay we meet him two hours later, only about twenty five kilometers from where our beach house was.  Because we are so late, it is literally a stop on the side of the highway.  Five hours to Zagreb takes seven, and we are tired and unhappy when we reach our destination.

Day 11, Sunday:  The place we rent in Zagreb couldn’t be more different than our ultramodern, well equipped beach apartment.  It has lots of historic charm, but it is also not as luxurious or clean.  Still, we settle in, retrieve my eldest and my husband’s sister from the airport, and gear up for Week Two.  End the evening at a lovely outdoor restaurant, where our drinks, huge platter of assorted sausages and meats, wine and crepe desserts for all comes in at around $100 US.  Nice.

Day 12, Monday:  We head to the large open air market in Zagreb and the central square, leaving hubby’s mother and my youngest back at the ranch.  It is everything you expect and love about Europe.  Snag souvenirs and makings for dinner.  Make a quiet meal at home to rest for our big outing the next day.

Day 13, Tuesday:  Today we head to Plitvice National Park, an amazing place that has dozens of lakes interconnected by waterfalls.  The water is insane shades of blue and turquoise.  It is stunning and breathtaking.  And curiously, their snack bar serves the biggest hamburgers I’ve ever seen (and I think they were some mixture of beef, pork and veal because they tasted divine), roast chicken and “cevaptcici”, which is a sausage dish.  We are well fed and happy.

Day 14:  Wednesday:  This day is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a national holiday in Croatia.  Many use the day off to go to church, and there are festivals all over.  We choose to head to one of them, at the Shrine of Marija Bistrica, up in the mountains outside of Zagreb.  We miss Mass, which is really a blessing because the crowds are just dissipating as we roll into town, having gotten lost on the way.  Everything about the place is beautiful and reverent and huge and old.

Day 15:  Thursday:  We decide we haven’t seen enough churches and decide to go to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Zagreb.  It dominates the city landscape.  My eldest gets impatient waiting for all of the very young and not so young to get their acts together and decides he will walk there, getting to see much of the city along the way.  When he fails to show up at 2pm to our appointed meeting place, I panic and find him just walking up.  He got lost and ended up walking north instead of south, but a bus driver brought him back into town.  End the day meeting six of my husband’s family members and eating yet another pork/veal/sausage meal.  It is at this point I start to wonder if vegetarians could really exist in this part of the world.

Day 16, Friday:  Our last full day in Zagreb.  We want to see the Gornji Grad, or the Upper (Oldest Part of) Town.  There is much to see here, including St. Mark’s Church with its colorful roof, and the Stone Gate which protected the city from invaders.  We end up negotiating with my husband’s father to meet another friend for lunch rather than dinner, since we all want to start getting ready for our trip back the next day.  Lunch ends up being a 2 hour affair at a lovely restaurant called Vinodol.  I have fish for the first time since we left the coast (most of the menu being again the pork/veal/sausage options), which freaks my kids out.  Also, this friend of my father in law’s actually speaks English, which is a refreshing change.  I realize how much I miss hearing English at this point and think, I am ready to go back.

Day 17, Saturday:  While our flight doesn’t leave until 3:30, my eldest son’s leaves earlier so the morning is a whirlwind of packing, eating and worrying about travel.  It is at this point where my youngest loses his shit and has a meltdown.  I am actually grateful, because it has been brewing for days, and I am glad it happened at home and not at the airport.  I cry as I soothe him and calm him down.  At the airport, later, my husband encourages me to have a “Strong Croatian Drink”  (this has been a joke for days as it was the English translation of the spirits section on a restaurant menu), and I do, because there is booze at the gate area.  We arrive in Madrid for our overnight stay.  There is really, unfortunately, only enough time to eat dinner at the hotel and go to sleep since we have a long day ahead tomorrow.  I gulp down three glasses of Chardonnay in the Executive Lounge and try not to stress about the long day tomorrow.

Day 18:, Sunday:  Up at 6:30, Madrid time, to have another go at the 26 Euro breakfast buffet.  I try to fill up on anything I can’t get back in the states:  grilled tomatoes and zucchini, awesome cheeses and proscuitto, even smoked salmon (which I can get at home but doesn’t seem as good, somehow).  I don’t bother with the mimosas in the corner, though I debate with myself for a minute about it.  Just after 9am, we are fed, bags are checked and we have passed through five different passport checks before landing at our gate.  Husband checks at the counter just before boarding to find we have yet again been upgraded to business class.  Hurrah!  Champagne before 11am.   We spend the next eight hours eating and watching movies, even though we should be sleeping.  We land at JFK at 1 in the afternoon.  The worst part of the trip is the drive home on the parkways of New York, which are clogged with Sunday afternoon traffic.  Home is stuffy but welcoming when we get there.

Day 19, Monday:  Not really part of the trip but can’t help but mention it.  Up at 3:30am due to jet lag.   Process photos, have coffee, take poor dog who was locked up at a kennel for our whole trip for a monster 4 mile walk.  Husband goes to work and calls home before 9am:  he has to fly out on a business trip.  Today.  He’ll be home in a few minutes to pack.  Yep, there’s a reason he has all of those points.  Sigh.

Back to reality.

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