Tag: Sarah

Tough Decisions

I probably shouldn’t try to write this, because I probably won’t finish it.  But, foolishly, here I go anyway.

Sarah has had enough. Enough with her current job, enough with having Lyme, enough with living in her childhood bedroom, and, like all of us, enough with the pandemic.  In her mind, she is stuck in neutral, and she would like to pop her life into drive.  I don’t blame her.  She’s been very responsible during this pandemic, avoiding travel, parties, and even smaller social interactions.  She has worried that she would either bring the virus to the patients she works with at the eye doctor or she’d bring the virus from work to her friends.  

She had applied to a lot of schools to become a physician assistant, but hasn’t gotten any acceptances.  It has been a discouraging experience.  Likewise, living with Lyme for this past year has been both painful and frustrating.  She has headaches, muscle aches, and numbness, and those symptoms come and go, switch locations, and vary in severity.  She’s never missed work, but she has had days where it has been really hard push through.  She’s had a variety of different treatments prescribed, and none have worked thus far.  Now she sees a doctor in NYC, who has seemed very knowledgeable, but to this point, she hasn’t seen much of a change. It is, as one might imagine, affecting her spirit and her mental health.

So, when she applied for a new job on Thursday, and got immediate calls the next morning, when she was able to schedule two interviews for that evening, and when she then got two job offers within an hour, she was feeling pretty pumped for the first time in a long time.  

But there was a hitch.

The job offers were for jobs in Oregon.  That’s a mere 3000 miles from where we live.  On top of that, the job she really liked starts on April 5, and, oh by the way, they need an answer on Monday.  

This wouldn’t allow Sarah much chance to give fair notice to the doctor she works for.  It also would mean she needs to get her car across the country.  It also would mean that she probably needs to find a new doctor.  She’s not sure how common Lyme is on the West Coast.  We know it’s not just a Connecticut thing, but are there specialists there?  She’s only been seeing this current doctor for three months.  She’s worried that if she turns down the jobs, there won’t be other offers. The job market is not exactly terrific right now. She worries that turning it down will mean she’s just sentenced herself to a longer time in her current situation.  

Selfishly, I don’t really want her going all the way across the country.  Neither does my wife. We’re concerned about her health, both physical and emotional. I’m not so sure she’ll like being so far from her friends, most of whom are local or in New York or Washington. 

I’m reminded of the foolish decisions I’ve made, some of which I’ve regretted, and others that turned out much better than I had expected.  As a 15-year-old in my last summer at camp, I turned down a week-long canoe trip  in Canada’s La Verendrye Preserve because I had a bad hunch about the person I was going to be stuck in a canoe with.  I skipped the trip. Those who went still talk about it. That was a regrettable move. 

When I was six-months out of college, I made a decision to move back to my college town without a job lined up. I gave up a boring job in Washington so that I could be nearer to my girlfriend, who wouldn’t graduate for another 6 months. It was a risky move, though my destination was more like 300 miles away and to a place I knew well, not Oregon. It was also not during a pandemic, and I was in good health. Even so, it may not have seemed like a wise move to my parents, but then again, I’m still married to that girl.  I don’t regret that seemingly rash decision. 

More recently, as I wrote this week, my family made an emotional decision (as opposed to a rational one) to get a puppy last March.  It was neither sensible nor practical, but it turned out to save our year.  

It’s hard to counsel a child without injecting your own biases.  The truth is, I don’t know what she should do. My heart says that I don’t want to lose my daughter to the West Coast. I don’t want her to be isolated. I don’t want her to be by herself when she’s sick. On the other hand, some of my experiences say that taking  a risk is what young people need to do.  

I started this post saying, “I probably shouldn’t try to write this, because I probably won’t finish it. ”

“But, foolishly, here I go anyway.”

Post Script: This evening Sarah informed me that she didn’t plan to take the job. She may be a bit more sensible than her father.


Last night we had a conversation with my mom on the Portal.  

We talked for about half an hour, about vaccines and doctor bills and people who act like things are back to normal.  You know, the typical pandemic banter.  It was only after we seemed to have exhausted the usuals that my mom pulled out the sheet and said she was ready. 

Ready?  For what?

Ohhhh.  It turns out Sarah had sent my mom a list of questions that she was going to use for an interview with her grandma.  You see, my mom had gone to a camp for two summers when she was a teenager.  It was run by some teachers from the school she attended in New York.  Many years later, I had gone to the same camp for five summers. And many years after that, Sarah had gone to the same camp and then worked there as a counselor.  

The camp has just turned 100, and some of the recent staffers wanted to do some historic interviews with old timers.  Mom was ready.  Sarah was not.  She had hoped to set up a split screen Zoom production that she could record…but her grandma was ready now.

Mom:  Well, one thing you asked was whether there were any contributions that I was proud of.  There was one in particular.  My friend and I wrote a song my first year.  It was a take-off of a Gilbert and Sullivan song from Pinafore.  We called it “It was a dark cold night at Whippoorwill.”

Sarah:  Yes! I know that song.

Mom:  Right.  Well, when I went back to camp for one of those reunions, I mentioned that song that we wrote, and I was told that they still sing that song at camp.  That’s really something that surprised me. 

Sarah:  Yes!  We do sing it.  In fact, when I found out that you wrote that, I told EVERYONE that my grandmother wrote that song.  After that, every time we sang the song the entire camp turned and stared at me.

Mom:  Well, I’m sure you could sing it better than I did.

Me:  I’d pay big money to see you two sing a duet.

Mom:  Well, I can’t carry a tune, but I could play it on my little keyboard.

Mom shuffles around the dining room table and stands over the piano.  She already has the music out.  In our conversation last week, she had told us that she was going to give the keyboard away.  She really couldn’t play for fun anymore.  Her fingers didn’t move easily and she was so out of practice that nothing sounded right.  It felt more like work.

Now, standing at the keyboard, one hand supporting her weight, she tried to pick out the tune.  

In my dream, she would start slowly and then gradually get the feel for the tune.  She’d get on a roll, like I remember when I was little,  and then Sarah, who has sung in choirs all her life and all the way through college, would join in.  Soon the whole room would spin, the 300 miles and 75 years would disappear, and we’d suddenly find ourselves in the camp’s old red barn.  The crowd would cheer as the lights came up. The stage would be set just like it had been in 1945. 

The upright piano rolls across and stop at center stage.  Mom, now a 15-year old camper,  trots in from the left and seats herself at the keyboard.  Sarah, also somehow 15,  strolls in from the right.  The crowd roars, as if, like me, they know both of them.  Mom taps the first note, which the crowd immediately recognizes.   Sarah, resting an elbow on the back of the piano looks toward Mom and smiles.  Their eyes  meet as they count the beats. Then, Sarah’s voice, clear and sweet, cuts through the noise, and a hush blankets the crowd.  Now Mom joins in.  It turns out she can carry a tune.  As they come to the end of the first verse, Sarah waves for the camp to join in.  Soon the entire barn is belting out “It Was A Dark Cold Night at Whippoorwill.” The roof gradually melts away, and all we see above us is the dark star-filled Adirondack sky.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

Mom: Sorry, that’s not right.  Plink…plinky-plink.  Plink, plink.  It’s a strange tune and rhythm.  Plink.  I can’t really get this.  Plunk.  Sorry.

And Sarah, who has never relished solos, declined the invitation. I wondered, maybe if I hadn’t been there…

Sarah:  Grandma, I wasn’t quite ready for this tonight.  Can we set this up for next weekend?

Mom:  Oh, sure.

Stay tuned.