New England: A Needed Change of Pace and Place

October 17, 2018 (by Angela)

It’s been a month since I’ve had time to think about writing, and quite a bit has happened since then.

While Jim continued his commute by truck, plane, and rental car to the job site in northern Massachusetts, I, like George Bailey (from It’s a Wonderful Life), fought the battle at home. On September 21st, with recommendations from her medical care professionals, Mom entered a skilled nursing facility. After evaluation, it was determined that this would be a permanent placement. One of the main concerns addressed first was her rapid weight loss from not eating (or drinking) enough. Her weight has stabilized. Therapy has her able to walk some, but she still fell twice in the last 2 weeks. I’ve been there with Mom for up to two hours in a day, and she would sleep all but perhaps 20 minutes. Conversation has been mostly one-sided. Mom hasn’t been able to complete an entire thought in conversation with me in over a month. This is sad; unfortunately, it is the nature of the disease. We have her as comfortable as she can be, surrounded by many of her own things from home. This was an emotional experience for me, even though I knew it was the best for her. While our family saw this coming “someday,” it happened much earlier than expected.

Dealing with what is left at Mom’s home is very hard and stresses relationships; however, it is something that must be tackled in earnest in the coming weeks. I meet with my brother to form a plan on Friday and most likely will work at Mom’s house next week.

After spending 13 months almost completely within driving distance to help Mom (hence the reason Jim has flown to client sites) and then for two and a half months spending nearly every day as a hands-on caregiver in some form, I needed a break; I needed time with my husband; I needed fun and relaxation. In early summer, before we knew our daughter-in-law would have a C-section and before Mom took such a downward spiral, Jim and I planned for me to meet him for a long New England weekend; it was for the weekend just past. He and I decided to keep to our plans since we’ve had so little time together in the last year. While nothing is ever perfect, despite some frustrations and ill-timed events, I thoroughly enjoyed our extended time together. The best part was being with my husband!

Friday, after Jim finished work he had to do, we had a half a day to explore Salem, Massachusetts. I was pumped. We knew going in that October is THE month folks want to visit Salem, but I’d hoped a Friday early in the month wouldn’t be too busy. Well, let’s just say it took quite a bit of driving around to find parking; even parking garages were full. Fate led us to our first stop, which happened to be at the top of the “want to do” list: The House of the Seven Gables. This was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name. Even though it was the most expensive of the attractions we visited, it was well worth it. You get double your money as the birthplace home of Nathaniel Hawthorne was moved to the property about 60 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the trip for you, but I have two phrases to associate with each house. Seven Gables house: secret passage way; Hawthorne house: “hanging judge” legacy. After the tours there, we enjoyed a marvelous meal in a farm-to-table restaurant named Scratch Kitchen. Everything there is made from scratch and/or sourced locally, including the condiments. Again, this is another strong recommendation.

We then found other parking on the other side of Salem and walked around the historic downtown area. I wanted to visit both the Witch Trials Memorial and the Old Burying Point Cemetery, so Jim and I did that. I’d recommend both. Be aware that in order to be respectful and preserve the cemetery, it is hard to get close enough to many of the old tombstones to read them. Next, Jim and I visited the Witch History Museum, our one and only true regret. This isn’t worth the money in our opinion, though the photos in the presentation room are interesting if you are limited on time in town. We wrapped up our afternoon with dinner at the Olde Main Street Pub; it was convenient but just okay. Last, but not least, we went to The Witch Museum. Though it was a little cheesy, and the second part was rushed, it was still informative and worth seeing. If you can go at a time when crowds are not so huge (not in October), then you may be able to take more time to read the information downstairs.  All in all, it was a good day.

The plan for Saturday was to take in American history and American literary history from Lexington to Concord, Massachusetts. Jim had work stuff that had to be done, so we got started about 2 hours later than hoped. The weather was rainy, and the traffic much worse than expected. Add all to the fact that we were navigationally challenged, it made for a more stress-filled day than would have been ideal. Everything seemed to take longer than expected, and we kept missing what we had hoped to do (like a 90-minute historical trolley ride) by only minutes.

Our food for lunch at The Lexx was tasty and well prepared, but the service a bit slow and lacking. Jim and I were finally able to do something productive at 2:00 p.m. After missing the 1:30 showing by 4 or 5 minutes, we watched the Road to Revolution in the Lexington National Park visitor’s center. He and I really enjoyed the presentation. Then, we did our own driving tour, trying to view and learn as much as we could on our own. Many attractions closed between 4 and 5 in the afternoon, so our tour was mostly read the brochure and make pictures from the outside as we traveled. We ended the afternoon at the old North Bridge in Concord where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. We were on time for the ranger’s talk about that day, April 19, 1775. Again, it was informative and enjoyable for us.

Along the route, we had seen where Paul Revere was arrested, visited the historical Hartwell Tavern (with folks in period dress educating visitors), found homes owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts (as in Louisa May Alcott). “Orchard House” is where Louisa May lived when writing Little Women, and it served as the novel’s setting, also. The house the Alcotts owned before “Orchard House” was purchased by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Named “Hillside” by the Alcotts, Hawthorne renamed the home “Wayside.” Jim and I also saw the museum in which the old lantern is housed that was hung in the church tower in Boston that fateful night of April 18,1775, but the museum was closed for renovations. We only got to drive around Walden’s Pond, made famous by Thoreau.  While we’d not done as much touring or gleaned as much information as we had hoped, it certainly was not a total bust. Jim and I enjoyed the afternoon once things got rolling, and we both learned things we didn’t know.

Sunday, Jim was mine all day long, doing no work. I took advantage of that. Leaving the hotel about 9:15 in the morning, he and I drove to the coast and up to Portland, Maine. It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning. Near Portsmouth, NH, we stopped and bought some amazingly good homemade hot chocolate. Jim and I sipped the warm goodness as we enjoyed the sights of sparking sea, big, beautiful homes, and colored leaves kissed by the warmth of the sun. In Portland, we went to the wharf area where Jim enjoyed a seafood platter. I couldn’t take him to the coast without my seafood-loving husband enjoying a fresh meal.

From Portland, we turned inland and headed for the White Mountains. Every curve elicited another “ooh” or “ahh” or “how gorgeous” from one or both of us. The only downside to the day was the unexpected delay in returning. About 12 miles from Lincoln, NH, as we made our way west on the Kancamagas Highway, the traffic slowed to a stop-and-start crawl. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to go those 12 miles. Then, once on the Interstate headed south, we ran into two slowdowns resulting from traffic accidents, that along with construction points, put us behind another hour plus. Still, it had been an amazing day even if we did get back too late to enjoy pizza at one of Jim’s favorite spots near his home away from home, his hotel. There are no captions on the photos below; just enjoy them.

I’m so very happy that I had this amazing Fall weekend with my sweet hubby. It makes me long for our more usual routine of traveling to work sites and staying and playing there together. Hopefully, when this job is done, Jim and I will be back to life on the road with each other again.

 

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