Monday, December 15, 2008

Death needs to take a holiday.

Well, it was an adventurous trip downstate, to be sure.

Thursday morning, I had to go lecture at an undergraduate director's class at the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) School of Film and Animation, which was something that had been planned about 2 weeks prior. It went very well, and I have been asked back for next semester.

I went home, and finished packing for the trip down, but realized that I had to stop at work first to drop off some paperwork related to my health care coverage for next year. While getting all this together, I was listening to the weather report, and to my concern, kept hearing the words "ice storm" in the forecast. Great. Just what I need.

I logged on to the Weather Channel, and it looked as though this ice storm was barreling right up through Pennsylvania, and was going to cut through the southern tier of NY, right where I was going to be traveling. Sizing up my options, I decided that my usual route down I-390 might be worse than heading across the Thruway, and then going south down I-81 past Syracuse. As it turned out, you couldn't get there from here no matter what road you took. The ride to Syracuse went just fine, and then about 10-15 minutes past it, all hell broke loose.

A snowy blast that started as a trickle came down on me as I traveled further south. While I was able to keep driving the speed limit for a fair distance, I had to eventually slow it down, as more of the road went the way of the dodo. The snow became thicker, and it became obvious that there was ice building up. How did I know? Well, the number of vehicles I began seeing in the ditch on the left, or into the right guard rail began increasing exponentially.

I was going about 25 mph, with idiots still passing me doing 50, when I started fishtailing. The old emergency vehicle operation responses kicked in, but the car was having none of it. I started to pull out of it, but then the rear of the car got away from me, and I started doing a 180. Somehow, I didn't hit anyone or anything, and just pulled myself out of the spin in time to have the rear wheel of the car perched about a foot from the ditch at the left shoulder.

I took a deep breath, made sure that no one was barreling down on me, and pulled away, just happening to notice that there was another person that had glanced the guard rail on the right shoulder. He seemed to be okay, we waved at each other, and I continued on my way.

Things finally started letting up, the snow changed to rain, and I pulled into the gas station in Binghamton that I had been using as a stopping point since I started going to college in Buffalo in 1981. I called up my friend Sherri who lives in the Catskills. I was going to have to follow Route 17 through it to get home. The word was not good. Ice. Lots of it. I decided that staying put was a better option, but getting a room was going to be interesting. After the $142 rate at the Fairfield Inn made me wince, I found a recently renovated Super 8. It was clean, didn't appear to have any denizens lurking about, so I plopped down $50 (on plastic), and settled in for the night.

I made some phone calls home, and mom was especially relieved that I decided to abort the trip for now. Of course, it meant getting up at oh-dark-thirty to hit the road in order to make the funeral at 10:45. The bed was fairly comfortable, the room warm, so at least one thing on the trip worked out okay.

I hit the road at a very dark 6 am, and made it down to my friend's home in White Plains at 9:30. Slugging down a cup of coffee, we carpooled with another friend down to the Castle Hill Funeral Home in the Bronx. My friend was there, putting on a very brave face, very happy to see me. She had flown in from Arizona the day before, and must have been mentally and physically exhausted.

My friend's dad was a very well respected and liked man, as was evident by the turnout at his funeral. The service lasted about 30 minutes, and we followed the procession out to the cemetery in New Jersey. This was the hardest part of all, for my friend, her mom, and the rest of their family. This was an Orthodox Jewish burial, and as such, the family was expected to begin the burying of the coffin just to the top of it. I did put in a few shovel fulls, but it only made me more determined to make sure I am cremated. This is not what I want for myself, with people gathered around, already in shock, having to bury my body. my feeling? Burn me, spread my ashes (in a place to be determined) and have a party.

Personally, I think the Irish go about it the right way. Celebrate the person's life, and get drunk in the process.

I went to the shiva call Sat. night, (you can't sit shiva on Shabbos) after spending the day with my neice, who is gorwing up so fast, and while the circumstances were not he best, it was a reunion of sorts with some old friends that I have known for 30 years. Hopefully, we will all meet again under far better circumstances. I started for home Sunday morning, with just over a dozen bagels in tow, and heading back west on Route 17, came across beauty on the side of the road:
Branches encased in melting glass, the sun casting prism broken light onto the road. I pulled over, and just wanted to get the moment. Fortunately, it stayed off the pavement, and made the trip home easy.

Exhausted, I had little time to unpack, and then I had to work.

While scanning my e-mails, I went to reactivate my e-mails for the liver disease support group that I hang on, and while doing so, almost fell out of my chair. One of the members of this group for 10 years was found dead the day before. I helped start this group, and Joe had come on board not long after it was started. He battled Hep C, got transplanted, survived the Hep C combo therapy that rid his body of the virus, only to be brought down by what appears to be lung cancer. Joe and I were not close, and at times, were down right adversarial. Over the past few years however, we communicated privately more, and had developed a respect for one another.

This has been a true hell week for me. I think I need a holiday. Death can stay home and bother someone else for a change.


AnneDroid said...

I'm sorry about your further loss, Mr N.

Interesting to hear about the Jewish funeral traditions - I know nothing about them.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I thought about you when I saw the news about the ice storm. I'm glad to hear you came through safely and hoping for a better week for you. Hugs BG x

battlemaiden said...

What a week. Sounds like quite an adventure, and not in the good way. Hang in there.

Peter said...

Oh my, that was one hell of a bumpy ride.

Funerals are bad enough, but I saw the icy rain in the US North-Eastern states on Belgian cable TV and wondered if it would hit anywhere near your area.

Glad to read you're safe and let's hope the week running up to Christmas will be slightly more seasonal.

Mr. Nighttime said...

I appreciate everyone's good thoughts. Keep the coming, as more fun today.

A friend from work went batshit crazy on me, I had to call 9-1-1 on her, and get her committed. Long story and too tired to tell it. Suffice to say she has mental health issues, and really needs some intense therapy. I hope she gets it.

Jay said...

Well, my friend, you certainly are going through a tough time right now. Hang in there. It's well known that the season of peace and good cheer brings more death and mental illness than any other, but hopefully you have had your share now and things will settle down a bit for you.

I'm glad you survived the journey - doesn't sound like any fun at all - and even found a little beauty to refresh the spirit on the way home. :)