It’s been five months since I took up permanent residence in Puerto Rico. During that time I’ve been extraordinarily busy restoring my Vieques house in time for winter season rentals. So with my first guests currently at the house for three weeks, I decided it was time for me to take a break. You know: refill the tank, sharpen the saw, charge the batteries.
Since I departed for my stateside trip on Wednesday, though, I’m already missing the relatively predictable peace of Vieques.
For starters, my boarding pass failed to display a group number for my JetBlue flight to JFK, so they made me wait until the last group boarded.
The boarding process was complicated by a brigade of fifteen—yes, I counted—fifteen passengers in wheelchairs. For a moment, I thought I was on a flight to Lourdes.
New York City welcomed me with a wind-chill factor in the twenties and an approaching snowstorm. I had no warm clothes for the north. I was wearing the warmest article of clothing that I had had with me in Vieques: a mesh jacket intended for a cool summer evening.
No problem. I would be safely ensconced in my daughter Wendy’s Madison, CT, house before the blizzard struck.
I stepped from JetBlue’s JFK terminal into a Uber car for the ride over to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. I caught the Metro-North commuter train for the two-hour trip to New Haven, CT, where my daughter, Wendy, would meet me and drive me to her home.
The packed train was through Westchester County and well into Connecticut when the conductor delivered the ominous news over the PA. Power had gone out on the stretch of track between Bridgeport and New Haven. We were to wait in Bridgeport for an hour until a diesel locomotive arrived to lug us the three remaining stops to New Haven.
Wait a minute, I said to myself. Vieques is powered by FEMA emergency generators—and I am stuck on a train with no electricity in la-di-da Connecticut? WTF?
Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven yard went dark.
A slew of quick texts with my two daughters, and we had a plan. One daughter, Julie, would rescue me where the train would terminate in Bridgeport, and the other daughter, Wendy, would drive the forty minutes from her place in Madison to meet us for pizza in nearby Stratford. Afterwards, she would drive me to her home—where I keep a room.
My final text to Julie: “Don’t be late picking me up because I won’t last long outdoors without a coat.”
Daughter Julie rescued me when the rail system's power failed.
As it turned out, dinner at Salerno’s, turned into a belated, impromptu pizza party for my October birthday. Salerno's turns out the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, despite what Pepe’s of New Haven claims. And, would you believe, one of my birthday gifts was a winter jacket? Which I put on immediately!
This Stratford, CT, landmark speaks for itself.
The next day, Thursday, I was in Madison, CT, for what weather.com proclaimed as “Avery: the Northeast’s First Big Winter Storm.” A daughter’s Connecticut home, with a chubby chicken roasting in the oven, is a good place to ride out a snowstorm.
I rode out the storm at Wendy's house with a bit of Grey Goose.
On Friday, yesterday, the roads were clear of snow and ice and I made the two-hour drive to New Jersey. My destination was Holy Cross Cemetery, my wife, Jo Anne’s, resting place, for a prayerful visit that was two weeks short of the third anniversary of her death.
Holy Cross Cemetery is my destination in a more transcendent way as well, because I have a berth waiting for me in the Yaremko crypt. It’s unnerving to see the faceplate with my name and birth year, and a blank space where the year of my death will be inserted someday.
I filled out Friday with dinner with Jo Anne’s sister, Felicia.
This morning, after getting this post uploaded to my website, I’ll drive back to Connecticut with my sis-in-law to help celebrate daughter Wendy’s birthday.
My smiling birthday girl, Wendy.
And tomorrow, Sunday, I’m off to Cape Cod.
Stay tuned to read about further surprises that may lie in wait for me during the week ahead.
Evil exists only if you let it. If you enjoyed reading this, you will like my new novel, Billy of the Tulips, a sensitive boy’s grim engagement with innocence and iniquity, now available in both print and Kindle from Amazon.