a life well lived

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

88 years ago today (a marathon epistle) 04/22/00

(Mom wasn't kidding - seriously long.  But special!)

Today is Pete's birthday.  He was the first born in his family and the only child to survive longer than a day or so.  His mother was RH negative.  I understand that they can do things now days to counterbalance the effect of the RH negative factor, but 88 years ago a woman with the RH factor was lucky to have any children at all.

I wonder what Pete would think about my life over the past 26 years.  It seems hard to believe I have actually been to Australia seven times, to Hawaii and even Tahiti.  Easter weekend always puts me in mind of my last - and final - trip Down Under, back in 1995.

It was very exciting.  Scott and I were to fly down together, basically straight through, which I had never done before.  We'd get there in time for Christmas, then Scott would return to college in BA after new year.  Elsa planned on coming down in April to help celebrate Mike & Kerry's 25th wedding anniversary and see me home.

Close to the time Scott & I were supposed to take off, we discovered that due to changes in the Medicare law, neither Medicare nor my supplemental health insurance would cover me outside of the country.  I was set to call the whole thing off, but Mike was able to arrange health insurance for me, so off we flew.

The one time I went down without health care coverage was, of course, the one time I needed it.  

A longtime non-functioning kidney up & decided to become inflamed.  Up here in the USA, it would not be considered a pre-existing condition (where "pre-existing" is a condition active within the past 12 months).  This problem hadn't bothered me in well over fifty years.  To make a long story short, the Australian company holding the policy gave coverage a thumbs down.

I faced a dilemma - have surgery to remove the kidney down there or put it off until I got back to the USA, where Medicare et al would pick up the bill.  I'd already run up a $7,000 (Australian) bill for the preliminary work and I hated the thought of saddling Mike & Kerry – who had promised me and pledged to the Australian government they'd cover any health care costs, should I need care – with more expenses.  This left me in a pickle.

I thought about it and thought about it and decided I would put myself in training and have the surgery back in the States, which is exactly what I did.  My plan was to fly to California, where Elsa would meet me (rather than going all the way down to Australia, then turning around to head back home), take a few days R&R, then fly home to BA and surgery at Holy Redeemer.

Knowing me as well as she does, Elsa strongly suggested changing my destination from Los Angeles to San Francisco, where I have far more ties and special memories.  As is her style, Elsa researched various places to stay, then gave me a choice - a quiet inn on Half Moon Bay or a small hotel in the City, just off Union Square. 

Elsa assumed I would opt for Half Moon Bay, but there was never a question in my mind - San Francisco. Once I made my choice, a steady stream of clippings about things to do arrived in the mail.  Reading them kept my spirits up, even if we would not be able to do any of them.  

Ever the practical one, Elsa found a cozy hotel just around the corner from Borders' Union Square book store, so she could have some time to herself while I rested back in the hotel.

To get in shape, I walked back and forth and back and forth on the deck of Mike & Kerry's  house and up and down and up and down their stairs.  By departure time - the Thursday before Easter - I was in acceptable shape. 

Never will I forget realizing we were standing in the wrong line as we stood at the airport, waiting to check in.  There we were - Kerry and Karen and myself – somehow standing in the line for lushy-plushy Connisseur class line, rather than Tourist.  When I realized the error, I tried to head over to right (long) line, but Kerry said we should not go to more fuss than need be.  When we got to the head of the line, I explained to the person behind the counter that I had goofed and we were in the wrong line, that I needed to head over to Tourist.  The person checked the list and said, no, that I was down for Connisseur.  There must be a mistake, I protested.  No, said the woman, quite firmly - - a nice lady had arranged it. 

I looked around at Kerry and there she was, with a big cheeky grin on her face.  What I liked the most was what happened next - Karen asked her, "Mum, why did you do that?"  A good question, since it must have cost a pretty penny.  Kerry replied, and I will always remember, "Because your Nan is so wonderful."

Well, I could have flown home on those words alone! 

Connisseur class was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.  There is no comparison between it and Tourist.  Normally, the last six hours in the air are something to be borne as well as you can.  I could not believe it when they said that we would be touching down at San Francisco International in 45 minutes!  And the meals are served in courses, on china with real glassware.  The service cannot be beat.  I thought that I would be completely worn out when we touched down, but I almost felt refreshed.

It was wonderful to see Elsa's face as an attendant wheeled me out of the Custom's "holding pen."  Kerry had prepared her that I was a shadow of my former self, so she was startled to find me fairly fit and in good spirits. (More about good spirits later.)

I was so surprised to open the door to our hotel room and find the pillow of my bed covered with some stuffies from home.  Elsa thought they would perk up my spirits.  They did, oh they did.  I settled down around 11:00 a.m. for a long nap and Elsa headed out for a browse at Borders.

When I got up, we headed down to the afternoon tea being held in the lobby.  When Elsa asked what I wanted to do next, head back for some more rest, lounge around the lobby, or head out, I jumped at heading out.  To Elsa's amazement, I skipped the taxi and insisted on taking a cable car (I hadn't been in one since that last fateful trip with Pete) up to the Fairmount and the Tonga Room.

The Tonga Room, as described in a clipping Elsa sent, was much like the Kona Kai in Philadelphia, a favorite spot in the '50s and '60s.  It was decked out South Seas-style and had an ersatz "tropical storm" every 15 minutes.  I loved it - and ordered my first "good spirits" of the day - bourbon on the rocks, with a splash of water. 

Next up - the Fairmount's Crown Room, at the top of the hotel, overlooks the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge (“Golden Gate” describes  the land formation, not the bridge.  The first time I was in San Francisco, there was a Golden Gate, but no bridge!), and out to the Pacific.  It was around 7:15 p.m. by the time I finished off my 2nd "good spirits" of the day and my question,  “What’s next?”  

Elsa looked concerned and strongly suggesting heading back to our hotel for me to get some rest.  “Where did you plan for us to have dinner?” I pushed.  She ‘fessed up to having made 8:00 p.m. reservations at The Fog City Diner, but protested that she had thought that we should pack it in for the day. 

As Elsa would say, no how, no way I was heading back to our hotel and what she considered my well-earned rest.   

The door man grabbed us a cab and off we went to Embarcadero and the Fog City Diner.  Mind you, it is nothing like the typical diner, nothing like Daddypop’s in Hatboro or even The Classic Diner in Fraser.  It is a world famous, top notch establishment.  We had a wonderful dinner and I enjoyed my 3rd 'good spirits'  of the day.

The evening was capped off with a stroll from the Fog City Diner at the tip of the Embarcadero to the Grand Hyatt at the southern end, where we judiciously had a strong cup of good black coffee, sitting in stunned admiration in the hotel’s soaring atrium, before flagging a

cab home. 

Not bad for someone who had flown in from Sydney just that morning.   (I can hear my s-i-l joshing, “Gee, your arms must be sore.”)

The next day I slept late, then we took a long, lingering walk. We gloried in the displays at the Flower Show at Macy's Union Square and the fantastic $$$ merchandise at Neiman- Marcus, which had a special display of Bunnies By the Bay (the bay referred to is in Washington State).

The super whimsical Bunnies By the Bay display featured at least a dozen exquisitely dressed, stuffed bunnies.  In their dress and gentility, they looked like Jane Austin merged with Beatrix Potter.  The largest was around 18” high, with the smallest considerably smaller.  The charming sight set us off on spinning a tail - oops, tale - about how all of these bunnies had gathered at their tea party to honor Aunt March, a bunny back at our hotel room. 

We had a lovely day, going out, then back for a snooze, then out again for dinner at a terrific seafood restaurant (I love seafood) called The Half Shell. 

I went to bed a happy lady.

The next day was Easter.  Elsa was up early.  With my blessing, she headed out on her own.  By 7:15 a.m., she was on a cable car heading up Nob Hill then down to Aquatic Park.  She wanted to snap some photos of a few of our stuffies.  While she was positioning them in a small tree with the bay as backdrop, a man tapped her shoulder and asked if she could step back so he and his wife could get their own photo of the irresistible models.  I understand completely how they felt!

Elsa knew that the Buena Vista, a restaurant Mike had loved back in the late ‘60s during his S.F. days,  was near Aquatic Park, but she was surprised to discover that it served breakfast.  Around 9:00ish, she rang to see if I was interested in heading over.  Was I ever!  I leaped out of bed and was ready just about the time she arrived back, then we were back on a cable car and off to the Buena Vista. 

The restaurant that had been practically deserted when Elsa got there was bustling when we arrived.  People were sharing tables, which I thought would be special  fun.  Guess where the couple at our table hailed from?  Warminster, 15 minutes up the road from our home.

Easter dinner was at The Acorn Tea & Griddle.  I remember wonderful smoked salmon. 

Both Elsa & I wanted to do something special for supper, since we were leaving the next morning.  We had planned on heading back to the Buena Vista, but the city that had been practically deserted on Friday night and Saturday was brimming over with people by Sunday night. 

We managed to wangle our way onto a packed cable car, but getting off near the Fairmount was another matter.  One man finally said, "Lady, you just have to push your way through."  Elsa said she practically collapsed when I said in my most genteel voice - "Sir, I was not raised that way."  And a path immediately opened up to let me pass through and two gentlemen stepped down to help us off!

Our hopes of going back to the Crown Room, which I had thoroughly enjoyed, were dashed when we saw people waiting 12-deep around the one elevator.   

Neither of us wanted our evening to end on a whimper, but it was looking like that might be the case when Elsa remembered a restaurant down in the bowels of the hotel.  

We headed down to Belle Vocce and - surprise - there were no crowds, just a very attractive hostess waiting by the door.  Elsa and I were both stunned when she caught sight of Elsa and, grinning from ear to ear, said with complete delight, "You DID bring your mother!"   Seems that Elsa had stopped by very briefly on Thursday morning checking out places I might like and had taken a quick look around. The young woman remembered!

Well, after a reception like that, we knew we had struck pay dirt.  The food was great and it turned out that the service staff doubled as opera singers, so we had the ultimate floor show.   It seemed like all the waiters and waitresses stopped by to meet me and fuss over me and I had my picture taken with the hostess (who was a fabulous contralto) which hangs right outside my bedroom door.  I felt like a celebrity.  

No wonder we chose to walk back to our hotel; I think our feet hardly touched the pavement, we were so happy.

On this grey, raw Easter weekend, it pleases this old Grammie to remember a sunny, bright and warm Easter weekend in my beloved City by the Bay.

Am pretty groggy after this marathon session.  Am up the wooden hill and so to bed!

Just wondering - is there a city that YOU have special fondness for?  If you do, I would love to hear about it.

Love to all - CyberGram

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