A Mild Case of Fernweh

Fernweh:  an ache for distant places, the craving for travel.  I’ll just get that definition out of the way in case anyone besides me needs it.

I learned this word this morning, as I sat drinking coffee preparing for my first day back at work.  It’s just a couple of meetings and a hot desire to cover up my bulletin boards, but it’s work.  And it signals the end of waking in the mornings and offhandedly deciding what to do with my day.

This makes me want to travel.

Because travel is waking up every day and deciding what to do with your day.  It’s the beach before 8am or dinner after 10.  It’s whatever you want when you’ve got nowhere you have to be, and no one telling you to be there.  Yes, it’s also seeing amazing things you could otherwise only see and do online, like taking communion at Notre Dame or having fish nibble the dead skin off your feet.  I have done both of those things, and what connects me strongest to those memories is that we stumbled upon both.  No planning.  Just hey, look!  They’re giving out crackers! and Fish!  That eat your FEET!  and off we went.

I want that.  I want that every day of my life.

I could, if it would please the audience, turn this little blog entry into a a realization that, in fact I can have that every day of my life if I just appreciate the weeks of freedom I’ve had in summer, and if I just find the … beauty in the dishsoap, if you will… but I’m not going to.  Do I have to shout about how grateful I am for my summer in Maine and about how much I love my job for anyone to come around to understanding my … my … fernweh?

It is this:

When traveling, my life is my own.

When home, my life is obligation.

Traveling is my own lack of obligation.  That’s it.

I want that.



In Sickness

Our wedding vows did not include the actual words “in sickness and in health” because, for Guy and me,  it’s assumed.  Likewise, he didn’t have to say “you can always have the side of the bed that’s closest to the bathroom” and I didn’t have to say “you can use 1/3 of the kitchen counter space as a desk even though you have a den with a desk in it” – we just know it’s better that way.  It’s the “sacrifices” everyone told us about.

When I’m sick, Guy deals with every other thing in life I normally deal with, getting kids where they need to be, cooking meals, ensuring homework is done —  and that is the best thing he can do for me.  Being alone in a quiet room is nirvana when I have a migraine, am nauseous, or have a cold.  If he were to try to rub my back or talk soothingly or something equally torturous he might lose an eye.

When he’s sick I stand on the sideline like a relief pitcher waiting for the phone to ring.  Which happened recently when he discovered he had (another) kidney stone. Two, this time, actually. One that seemed to pass relatively easily, if by that we can agree I mean more of a 4 pound baby than a 10 pounder.  Both are damned hard to do.  The other, still taking its sweet time as I write this, is a 14.8 pound baby, if you will.  When I receive the call, I’m sprinting to the mound.  I’m giving him the once-over, patting his shoulder, and telling him to hit the dugout.  Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play.

Lots of things in marriage eventually become ‘the way things are’ and taking care of a partner when they’re sick is one of those things.  You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because it’s the only thing you can do, and because you can’t outright take pain or sickness away from another person and take it upon yourself (unless you are John Coffee from The Green Mile, and that is difficult work indeed.)

Kidney stones, I have learned, cause a person (80% of the time a man) to want to cut out parts of himself he might be needing later; parts like his ureter, his lower back or his lower abdomen.  I’m no doctor, but I’m thinking this might cause some problems the next time he wants to, say, stay alive.  Since said man cannot, in fact, cut the stone out of his own body, he must simply wait for it to pass through of its own volition.

While waiting, kidney stones force a man to do the kidney stone dance, whereby he wiggles his torso back and forth, , as if moving away from the pain in every direction, only to realize it’s following him – when he then tries leaning into it instead, with hand firmly planted into wherever the pain is, at that moment, emanating from.  When that does not alleviate the pain, and it won’t, he might bend his knees like Jason Varitek ready to catch a fast ball, or bend from the middle like Johnny Damon stretching his hamstrings.  A deep sigh follows these movements, and then, soon after, they begin again.  On and on.  Pacing is an acceptable part of the kidney stone dance, and, I proudly declare, Guy is particularly good at that part.  It’s the only dancing I’ve seen my husband do in seventeen years of marriage, so I praise what I can.

Meanwhile, drinking more water than a camel planning to cross the desert seems to help, along with pain medications that would bring that same camel to its knees.  He says some silly things on these meds, and I’m writing them all down for a time I can’t yet see clearly, when the stone is gone and we can laugh about that time the kidney stone just about killed him.

It can’t come soon enough.






So I Took Five Teenaged Boys Shopping

Just a few days ago I willingly packed a handful of young men, all vibrant, friendly, funny, interesting guys – into the mini van (that sexy beast) – and went on a road trip to Bangor.

I can still hear the sound of the bass on Maroon 5’s “Sugar (yes, please!)” pounding in my head, can still see myself in slow motion trying to prevent the lemonade from spilling all over the table at Buffalo Wild Wings, am still walking purposefully away from the impromptu floor hockey game going on in the aisle at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and still picking out ties for each of them to wear during basketball season.

I was laughing in my sleep this morning dreaming about the code they created to find me in Kohl’s.  Ppsssssst!  they’d whisper, and I was supposed to whisper back what? with an emphasis on the “t”.  But every time they tried it, I’d forgotten, and didn’t answer correctly, or was caught (yelling maybe) a clear and hearty “yeah?” — and they’d playfully repeat the rules.  Silly mom.

There are no rules for taking teenaged boys shopping. There are no rules, in fact, for most of anything I do with my first born — I’m just floundering around and figuring things out as we go.  Sometimes the floundering is painful, as when he earns a 55 on a quiz covering information he’s going to need in order to drive a car properly, like, next week. Other times, like when shopping, it’s fun floundering.  Just making our way from store to store, him and his buddies trying to figure out what’s cool, what’s not — what’s definitely not — in the ridiculous world of fashion.

I swear, the whole time, I was just happy they didn’t mind me being along.  And I know that when I see one of them all dressed up I’ll be recognizing a tie or two.  I absolutely love that.




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