Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And back again

Yes, I made it back in one piece.
The trip went about as well as could be expected. In other words, most of it was good. One part was rotten.
I got into N.O. a little before 1pm on Saturday. My dad and my youngest sister picked me up. We went back to the Quarter, where my middle sister, my uncle, and his lady friend were waiting. Took a walk, picked up muffalettas and po-boys for lunch, ate on the patio. Then we took another walk and got snowcones. After that we went to a patio party, then out for Thai food. Yes, my family is all about the eating. What can I say? We’re Jewish.
After dinner my uncle and his friend wanted to walk Bourbon Street (she’d never been to N.O. before) so my sisters and I went with them. It was amusing, far less crowded than I remember but still a lot of people having a good time.
Sunday morning we got up, got ready, and went to the cemetery. My oldest sister had flown in the night before and was there when we arrived. And that was when the trouble started. Without going into details, she and our dad have had problems for years, and after my mother’s death it got significantly worse. Nor was this one of her better moments. Her attacking him upset my younger sisters but fortunately the rabbi pointed out that this wasn’t a day about relationships between those still living but between each of us and my mother.
The unveiling itself was fine. It was a short service, only the family and a few close friends present. My youngest sister had wanted each of us to say something but none of my sisters was up to it so it wound up just being me. I talked about how my mother had hated events—she always got flustered—but she loved gatherings, and so she would have been happy to have us gathered there that morning. It wasn’t what I’d planned to say but it seemed appropriate—it was certainly true.
After that we went back to the apartment for brunch, and for the difficult task of going through some of my mother’s things. It’s been two years and it’s time we did that, but it wasn’t easy. Most of it was clothing and the girls each selected a few things they wanted to keep. There was some tension there too, and eventually my older sister stormed out. We took my middle sister to the airport shortly after that. Then my youngest sister and I packed up what each of them had decided to keep—we’d decided it would be easier to ship boxes than to struggle to get things into carry-ons.
That afternoon we took a walk again and got beignets, then took my sister and my uncle and his friend to the airport. That just left my dad and I. We nibbled some dinner, took a walk on the river, and relaxed and watched a movie and read.
Monday we took the boxes to the post office and took a walk. Then I went to the airport. Where I waited two hours before finally getting on my plane, which then sat on the runway for another ninety minutes (they had needed the gate). We had been scheduled to depart at 1:45 and land in New York at 5:46. We didn’t leave N.O. until 4:45, which means we left when we should have been landing.
Somehow the pilot managed to do the trip in two hours, however, so we got in at a little before 8 and I was home by 8:30. That was a nice surprise, and my wife and children were gratifyingly thrilled to see me.
We did tour the city while we were down there, including some of the damaged areas. It’s so strange—in some ways it’s like there are two cities at the moment. The Quarter has some hurricane damage, broken windows and battered roofs and downed trees, but is otherwise fine. But large portions of the city are still utterly wrecked. We did see signs of people moving back in and repairing homes, however. I heard that, other than fast food, seventy-five percent of the restaurants are already back and open again, which is great. And most of the streetlights are working again. So it is getting there, slowly. The mayoral race is this weekend and that could have a major effect on the city’s recovery.
It was certainly an odd trip. I knew there would be some headbutting and there was, but the important thing was that we were all there. And, except for that short span Sunday morning, we had a good time together. Which is what my mother would have wanted.


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