Friday, December 18, 2009

Living, Blogging, Blogging, Living: Notes from the Front

If my postings have seemed unfocused this week (and they have been), there’s a reason—and I apologize for the lack of focus. Two of my nephews, Luke and Patrick, moved last week a block away from us, and I’ve spent the last week or so shifting from avuncular mode to in loco parentis mode. Emphasis on the loco.

In between pulling pans of Christmas cookies out of the oven, wrapping gifts, and trying to pursue a thread of thought for a posting here, I’ve also been doing parental duty most days, as the doorbell or phone rings, and I learn of the crisis du jour. We have hot water in the bathroom but not the kitchen. Where’s the valve for the kitchen? And where’s the water heater?

Now we don’t have any water at all. Were we supposed to tell the city to turn it on in our name? How do we flush the toilet, make coffee, shower? We’re glad you and Steve are just a block away!

How do we hang a pegboard in the kitchen? Can you fix the broken dowel on our great-grandfather’s kitchen note-paper roller? May I come and have a shower this morning?

And then when I say that, of course, you’re always welcome, and stumble bleary-eyed to the door in my pajamas and robe, I discover that Luke’s girlfriend, who arrived the night before from Dallas and whom I’ve never met, is also part of the visiting delegation. Those batches of Christmas cookies will come in handy with the pot of coffee I’ve just made.

And so it goes, the past several days—good days, full of activity and opportunities to make myself useful, though I’m the world’s worst fix-it person and most of those requests end up on Steve’s already overburdened desk. And it’s certainly not that my brother and sister-in-law are shirking their parental responsibilities. Philip has been at the apartment daily, scrubbing, hanging curtains, arranging furniture and hanging pictures. It’s just that it takes a village when so many crises need to be handled all at once, while one new tenant finishes exams for the semester and the other undertakes a new job.

And the heightened activities and responsibilities bring new gifts for me as well. Pat has introduced me to his new passion, Tariq Ali, who was, I’m ashamed to admit, only a name for me until I had the (somewhat staged) opportunity several days this week to listen to one lecture after another by him online. An interesting, engaged thinker and passionate critic of the corporatist absolutist imperialism now wreaking havoc with cultures worldwide, one whose work I will definitely read.

Meanwhile, though I am trying to keep up with several important stories—the health care debacle, the Ugandan situation, what’s happening with Afghanistan—my concentration and focus have been scattered, and may remain scattered for some days to come. If the postings I’ve been uploading here seem discombobulated, it’s because they are. With my apologies and appeal for understanding . . . .