My computer has been out of commission for several days while I switched back to Verizon, having the usual problems I seem to encounter when making changes. Anyway, back to the trip:
Lisa and I left Elizabeth's early Sunday morning and drove uneventfully to New Hampshire. I remembered the way to Thelma's and we arrived there around 10:30. Thelma greeted us warmly, supported by her walker and tethered to her oxygen tank. Despite the encumbrances, she looked the same as always, though smaller. She has lost a lot of weight. We showed her our paintings from the workshop, which she appreciated in a way that no one else will. Her experience with the workshop and Betty Lou gives her special insight into their creation. I gave Lisa a tour of the condo to show her the extensive collection of paintings Thelma has. Lisa went for a walk while Thelma and I visited, we had lunch, and shortly thereafter waved good-bye as we took off for Carrie and Gabe's. I wish I could have spent more time. I'm wondering when I will see Thelma again, and if our days of painting together may be over. I don't want to think that is the case. Those days, those experiences, are so precious to me. I have spent so many hours in the passenger seat of Thelma's car, happily talking and watching the scenery, on our way to some painting spot, or some restaurant, or some beautiful view. Those have been times of pure contentment when I ceased to have a care in the world. Thelma was my trusted and loved companion and all was right with the world.
A short time later we arrived at Carrie's house, missing the reportedly obvious intersection where we were to turn left the first time through. Realizing our mistake fairly quickly, we turned around and corrected the mistake. I recognized the house from a picture I had seen once. It's a very nice split level kind of place on a beautiful lot in suburbia. I felt a little awed by the fact that my daughter lived in a place I had come to expect from my somewhat well-to-do friends.
After showing us around and introducing us to their five cats, Carrie and Gabe opened the very belated Christmas presents I had brought. We sat at the old Parkview Avenue dining table and talked for a few hours and then went out to eat at a Thai restaurant. It was a delicious meal and they treated us. I feel self-consciously grateful at times like that. It seems that I should be treating them, but Carrie sloughed that idea off by saying, "You took care of me for 23 years." There could never be a sweeter person than she is.
The next morning we had breakfast before they had to go to work and Carrie gave us cinnamon rolls she had made to take along when we left. They were a lot like the ones I used to make for her and Jesse. As we talked at the kitchen table, Carrie showed me and then Lisa, a booklet she had made for one of her classes at school about her family life and current events that influenced her as she grew up. If I had been alone, I would have cried when I read it. As it was, it was all I could do to stay dry-eyed. It was a beautiful piece of art, for one thing, and for another it showed me her view of her own life in a way I could never have imagined. It is a priceless piece. My mind crowded with memories of the baby on the delivery table, blinking in the bright light she had never seen before, the pony-tailed little girl climbing the steps of the schoolbus, the beautiful teen-ager ready for the senior prom, the woman smiling from her wedding picture. I saw her holding the teddy bear and balloons I sent her for her graduation from graduate school. The documents that define her life marched through my brain: birth certificate to master's degree. For both of us it has been an amazing journey.
Again, I was reluctant to leave, but it was our goal to get home by dinnertime, so we packed up and set out for Maine. Already nostalgic for our adventures, we focused on the future and anticipation filled the air as we rolled up the ramp onto 95 and the Piscataqua Bridge.