Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back to Basics

After an eventful month, I am back.

In fact, it seems like deja vue all over again.

The boys, Ricky and I took the Florida vacation we had scheduled a year ago, before my blurred week of colon cancer diagnosis and surgery forced its cancellation.

The rest of the month has been filled with getting Ricky ready for thirty days in India. In fact, he should be pulling back from the tarmac right now, headed with a group of seventeen educators to catch a fourteen hour flight from Chicago to Delhi. He will leave Chicago about 4:00 pm today and land about 5:30 tomorrow afternoon Indian time. India is ten and a half hours ahead.

A year and a half after we married, I spent three weeks on a business trip to South and Central America - no cell phones, no internet, no employer budget for personal communication. Ricky and I had two prearranged thirty minute phone calls, all we could afford. The following summer he had internships in Texas while I continued to work in Chicago. Without a doubt, that was the longest twelve weeks of my life, even with spending all his summer salary on my plane trips to Texas every other weekend.

Now he's gone again, and I am home, but this time not alone. In the intervening thirty years I've accumulated two dogs, three cats and three kids to help hold down the fort. The fourth child and spouse live nearby.

While I was in South America Ricky grew a beard and moustache. It was so pitiful he shaved it all off before picking me up at O'Hare. I only have pictures. This time he shaved his head before leaving, something I'd seen and admired before. (You can see a picture here.)

Last time we were apart, communication was sketchy. This time, whenever internet is available, we will chat on Skype. We will email and update our blogs. He paid the $8 for ninety days that will allow him to use the internet to call any phone in the United States. The longest we will go without talking will probably be today. He has left his cell phone home, so I won't hear from him until he is settled in his Delhi hotel. The communication blackout may happen again as he moves around the country and stays in less modern hotels, but maybe not. We'll see.

Last time apart we were young adults still learning each other. Now we are marriage veterans able to have extensive conversations with few audible words. Then we filled the empty spaces with worry and perhaps a little jealousy. Now we just rely on each other with confidence. He is going to have a fabulous adventure without family worries and responsibilites. I will get the same adventure by proxy and will make myself do some things with girlfriends usually deferred for family reasons. Ricky gets a month without having to clean up cat messes, put dogs to bed, wake up kids or work on his "honey-do" list. (While he's gone I have farmed out the cat and dog assignments to the kids and will pretend to be childless as much as possible. After all, the youngest is sixteen.)

I have totally enjoyed watching Ricky prepare for this trip. For the past couple of months, anticipating our separation, he has been particularly sweet and attentive. What fun! And I've watched with amusement as he worried over trip details. Ricky wants to KNOW the plan when he's traveling. This is the first time in his adult life he has no control or choice regarding his schedule. He will have no control over home while away, either. He has worried that we won't be able to function without him. He has worried that we will be able to get by without him. Funny man, my now out of control husband.

Thinking about Ricky's worries reminds me of his dad, Jim Balthrop. Jim, a hungry teenage boy during the 1930's depression, ran his adult life around mealtimes. We, his children, mocked him for arranging his meals by clockwork and for setting his travel itineraries by the highway locations of Stucky's and Denny's Restaurants. Ricky has spent the month of June preparing to be hungry in India. Here's the email he sent me a week ago when we got back from Florida:

     With a week to go before I go a half a world away, here are some things that sound good for stocking up my stomach.

          Mexican Inn
         Chicken chunks
         Outback (or other steak place)
         Italian restaurant (either Italy or Cafe Sicilia)
        Barbeque (at least once thats not Spring Creek)
    Those are probably the biggies. Chocolate cake maybe sometime?

Unfortunately for him, I only had a week to "make my weight" at Weight Watcher's, so we didn't get to the lasagne. I remembered Tuesday night to make his favorite chocolate cake and it turned out all right. (Since I weighed in after dropping Ricky off at the airport this morning, I can now have a piece, too!)

His other preparations included shopping, a favored activity barely second to eating. He bought the Ipad he's been pining for and a nice mid-sized camera with lots of zoom we both wanted. He has a new Eddie Bauer backpack and monsoon worthy shoes and lots of beef jerky. So now he and all his preparations are in the air.

What will I do while he's gone that I don't do when he's here? Grocery shop, make my own coffee, decide what and when to eat. (I had Ricky buy ground coffee yesterday so I can keep my coffee bean grinder-free track record intact.) I will have to pay the few bills he could not pay in advance and may actually learn how to use the various TV remote controls. Brian is covering the pool maintenance, I made Wiley learn how to operate our robot floor cleaner, neither of which I have ever done or will do. I'll have to make sure the trash is set out, the cars are gassed and the house is secure when things go bump in the middle of the night. I will have to turn on the bedroom celing fan myself, then turn it off, back on, off, on, ....... (Remember, I'm fifty-something.) And I'll find out how to do all the other things he does without thinking or me noticing.

When the boys and I head to Colorado for a few days in July, I must study the route, book the hotels and make sure we have more than the usual $5 or so of cash I usually carry.

And he's worried we won't notice he's gone? I already said he's a funny man.

If you want to follow his India adventure, he has a blog at