I'm baaack!! LOL not in enough time to have made the chat, though, and I'll be eager to read in Journals what you guys did. 8/20 just read it at Helen's you all sounded so relaxed and happy, I'm so glad it went well! Sure wish I had a laptop I would've been able to join in from Asbury Park, a 2-hour trip from home. But I swear, even if I'd had one with me there was so much to do, I doubt I would've stopped long enough to type!! (laughing) Do you mind if I ramble a bit? Let me tell you what Mern and I did:
Marzianne invested in a condo she'd only use on weekends and we all thought "..she be mad!" but she had a method, and I saw all this since yesterday, Saturday. First she picked me up and decided to do a "Thelma and Louise" she goes, "Cath, we're over 18 and I have a credit card!" That set the mood for the whole weekend. We jumped on the GSP - Garden State Parkway - for the 2-hour drive, and set about yammering and giggling like a couple of loonies. We talked about who was doing what in the family, which sib just painted their house lilac, which one bought a little scooter instead of the wheelchair he needs and he's zipping around like a crazed nut. Then the one who's changing his profession of 30 years, in his mid-fifties when you really shouldn't DO that lol then the one who got Lumineers and they're too big, she smiles and her whole face disappears all you see are piano keys. Then there's the "baby" 43-year old Sean, who bought a HOUSE for pete's sake and is planning to rent it out, as an investment. We made mean comments about so-and-so's girlfriend who's a psycho, we laughed at how odd our aunts are acting,...before I knew it, we landed in front of her condo - my eyes popped out!
Asbury Park was once such a depressed, poor town no one thought it would ever rise from the ashes, but like a phoneix, new money pushed it skyward and now you can't live there unless you START with $100,000. Holy canoli. Mern's place was alot bigger than I thought - after all it's her "weekend spot" lol I'm laughing in disbelief but she says, "Mom and Dad left us a nice chunk of money, they want us to ENJOY it, USE it, be smart but be HAPPY!" And she's right. This place was just so beautiful; warm, had very expensive antiques she's chosing out slowly. I noticed there wasn't a TV - of course not. If you're a "weekender" in Asbury, you spent a fortune to do it, and there's so much to see and do, why sit in front of a screen? The little arts and craft shops, the gallerias, the quaint little bistros, we had no time to just lie around: The ocean is only 3 blocks from her door. We're off!
First, antiquing. I bought a few neat rings and Jurc got another little Victorian picture. Back out we go. I'd never been in a "Target" there isn't such a place here in Newark, but "Thelma" says "This is an experience you HAVE to have!" And when I saw it from the outside I had to completely turn around to take it all in. We bought some nice cotton tee-shirts, nice sheets, little things, a Mozart CD for me, I kept staring at all that MERCHANDISE in amazement, they even had a food section (well you probably already know what Target is, imagine never seeing one before). Thelma says "Okay Louise, it's time for Munch." Huh? Turns out it's the name of a little bistro run by some of the local gay men who, in all truth, are responsible for the renaissance of Asbury Park. A host of 20 to 50-year-old mostly gay men from NYC and environs saw potential, had a vision, a plan, and money. They saw all those old, huge Victorian McMansions with wrap-around verandas, the dozens of empty storefronts, little shops just going to waste. They invested, the contractors and developers followed, and now it's just so classy and chic! Anyway Thelma goes, "Loodee order a cheeseburger, it's the size of a steak." "But Mern I don't eat chopped meat, just turkey, chicken, fish..." "Hey Cath, SHUT UP and LIVE! It's only a cheeseburger now GET one!" lol so I did and WOA it was goooood!! Guilty pleasure! I'm used to yogurt and cottage cheese, here I am eating this and feeling no pain. All the wonderful men in town are friendly, open, welcoming and RICH. Eager to build the town into the vision they see for it: like a "North Beach" in the style of Florida's South Beach. Anyway!
Back to the condo, into our swimsuits, slip on the jeans and t-shirts, gather up the towels and umbrella, sunscreen, Thelma and limping Louise are off to the beach. I start for the car, Jurc says, "No Cath, we're walking." Okay I'm thinking, oh nuts with this leg, this cane, can I make it? But I keep my big mouth shut and just follow slowly behind, wouldn't you know I made it?? Intact! And no pain! Something there is about an ocean....
We get on the boardwalk and I see these little "chachkee" places, all that beachy junk they sell like sea-shell star-fish, sea-shell ash trays, sea-shell candlesticks, sea-shell shaped sea shells all stuck together, lamps filled with sea-shells, sea-shell plates and glasses, t-shirts and caps with sea-shells stuck to them, sea-shell sneakers....then I see it: Italian ices served in these huge - guess what.
Walking on the sand for the first time, when you have no feeling in one foot, is like...well like the world is shifting under your feet - it's WEIRD and SCARY at first, especially to feel your trusty cane sink into the sand. I yell out to Mern who's way ahead of me, flipflopping through the sand, manueving like an expert around people, headed toward the ocean, "Wait up, Thelma! I can't figure out how to DO this! Everything's MOVING!" She laughs and keeps going, I figure well - if I fall at least it'll be a soft landing. I fall. And it's soft, and I laugh.
The one thing a person who's "iffy" with walking fears the most is falling. With leg neuropathy you can't get back up - unless someone literally takes both your hands and hauls you onto your feet and it's not easy, you wobble and can't get a "foothold" but it can work. So when I fell over...WOA the sand was warm and soft and giving, broke my fall, and all these 30-something guys playing volleyball and "posing" in their shorts showing off their "medium" tans and chic hair, they came running and scooped me back up! I was floored (bad pun lol) they were so courteous and concerned - hey I'm not USED to this man, I''m thinking! I live in NEWARK for pete's sake but these guys were great- and by now Thelma's setting up the umbrella, not a wit of worry about Louise - somehow she knew I could do it. That's my sis, good ole McGirk.
The umbrella wouldn't stay put. It flew away in the beautiful ocean breeze and hit the only group of women I DID see - but no harm done and the ladies were laughing and Mern says "They're drunk" and I don't see liquor but she goes "See those water bottles they're guzzling? It's gin." Everyone seemed easy-go and only ONE person lit a cigarette. No crowds, no kids, no teenagers, just these young and middle-aged mostly gay men and a few gaggles of gals. I was comfy and happy.
So Mern's about to lay on her towel, and since I can't lay on anything but a very high bed, we suddenly realize we didn't factor that in, how is Cathy going to sit on the sand? She can't, so you won't believe it, these nice GUYS again, they offered me one of their canvas fold-up beach chairs and we're in business. Off go the jeans, on goes the sunscreen, we're ON THE BEACH!! I'm staring out into this incredibly vast expanse of clear deep blue-gray water, the sand is immaculate, hardly even a sea-shell in sight (that store must have em all) and we're in heaven. Remember, Mern only comes here on weekends, and I haven't been to the beach since childhood. HEAVEN I tells ya. Then Mern wants to dip her feet in the tide. I'm thinking, OK I got this far I'm going in. We're Thelma and Louise, after all - taking chances!
Standing at waters' edge with feet planted in the wet sand, we let that cold, sweet Atlantic tide rush in and splash up against our legs, just looking out at the few pleasure boats and what I thought was a kite at first - I look closer and notice the kite had legs. Para-sailing!
We stayed on the beach for a few hours, then packed up and walked back. Now I have my "sand-legs" but the cane kept sinking, still I'm moving along, fell a few times but hey! That sand was embracing.
Back at the condo, showers, change of clothes, call our other sister Karen who lives in Belmar, only 10 minutes away, and Mern orders her to join us for a nice dinner. We all end up at this place with flashing orange and green plastic palm trees, a live band (not bad either, did 80's cover tunes) and ate shrimp, grilled tuna, salads, just pigged out like crazy. Wonderful. Kitschy but comfy.
Karen goes home, we're exhausted and head home too. "Home" being a condo, it's all feeling surreal by now. We slept like happy logs.
This morning over coffee and cereal we dissected the different traits in our siblings, gossiped about each other, made a secret pact never to share certain facts, and got ready for what I thought would be church. Heck no, Louise. It was a HUGE auditorium and hundreds of people were streaming in, all looking happy and dressed casual, not the Roman Catholic way at all - Mern told me in advance this would be more Methodist than Catholic but who cares, God is God and I figured we'd get a chance to "get quiet" inside to talk to Him. Not happening! A fantastically huge choir starts singing, people are applauding, this thing was like a giant revivalist-type gathering, like you see on those Sunday morning TV shows, but without the fakery. A few men took turns at the podium giving their homily then more singing, the whole place was so INVOLVED in the moment! This was no Catholic silent worship time, it was MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE time! I loved it! Didn't know the hymns but caught on fast, left $5 in the basket, smiled like a fool the whole time, which was almost 2 hours. We sat there when it was over, waiting for all those folks to file out, laughing at how much more easy and REAL and closer to God this felt than the retentive, guilt-based Mass we were raised on and used to. I loved it.
"Thelma" drives me all around this town called Ocean Grove, checking out the Victorian McMansions and rainbow flags flying free. Each town is only about a mile or so long and one road takes you through about 4 different ones in no time. We notice a little old fashioned 50's-style marquee saying "Hairspray" at 1:30, it was 12 noon so we decide to pig out a little then check the movie. Off to another little bistro, this time we sit outside in front, looked just like Greenwich Village. It was overcast but still pleasant and we took our time.
At the theater, now get ready: Only $4 a ticket and it had all original furnishings from 1958, sort of small but very comfy and no one's head was blocking the view. Eating "Rainsonettes", Thelma and Louise enjoyed watching John Travola play the heavy-set Mom of the heavy-set sweet girl who becomes a very big deal and it was just an easy, laid-back movie you didn't have to think about to enjoy. A musical! Dancing, singing, and lots of boufant hairdo's, just like I remember from 1962.
By 3:30 when we get outside, it's raining and I'm amazed at the quick-change act the weather did. But no biggie, we head back to the condo and talked awhile before packing up for the ride back. No plan, no schedule, we did the whole thing on a whim and Mern's credit card. I insisted we do this again, she eagerly concurred.
This is the eldest sister, the one we were all told to emulate and listen to, who graduated high school one day and left for Canada seemingly the next, who felt and STILL feels she "abandoned" us all to the chaos we were raised in. She shouldn't, I've assured her many times. She's looking to make-up for all that time we never saw her. Tall order. But Marianne has a knack, something instinctual. She knows when to insist and when to let it ride. If you're on her list, watch it. She abides no deceptive, prevaricating disguises - you must be exactly WHO YOU ARE and if that person is lacking in something essential like acceptable social skills or good personal hygiene, she'll let you know - her way. A very unique, smart woman with specific tastes, she's gradually become more "accessible" especially since moving back home to Jersey after spending close to 40 years in Canada. Mern works for a private Swiss bank, is paid nicely, earns and deserves it. She was hard to like for a long time, but happily for me at least she's taken a special interest in my somewhat quiet life, eager to enrich it in any area she feels it's lacking, and in ways that mean something, not just material junk. I don't NEED things, I need family.
How odd yet wonderful that the one sibling who stayed so distant so long turned out to be a perfect Thelma to my Louise.