Saturday morning, 42 degrees. Kept the wood stove going all night long. It will be a weekend of Tupperware meals, two grandkids playing hockey in two different places, my son-in-law off to be with his battalion in the N.J. National Guard. They were assigned Long Beach Island where we vacation. They were trained for water purification. As if that's what he was supposed to go to Iraq for, which didn't happen quite as planned. I asked him to try to check the house and he said he would. Many of us hit by the hurricane are still dealing with the aftermath. My heart breaks at some of the photographs and interviews, stories of people so traumatized by loss. Talk about a cosmic reminder to be grateful for the small things and family or friends. Seems like each year Thanksgiving takes on an added significance, or perhaps I'm just getting old and maudlin.

The homeowner's rep arrived Monday, looking haggard and unshaven. I had waited to let others with worse damage call first. Our main problem was from a large tree down and a wooden fence broken beyond recognition, some roof and possible chimney damage, food spoilage. Nothing earth-shattering, but we've been paying for homeowner's insurance and my husband can no longer fix everything, although he likes to try.

He came home from his daughter's in Colorado, having lost another 9 lbs. and will probably need more iron infusions since she's a vegetarian and he's accustomed to meat three or four times a day. She bought him tofu sausages and I'm trying so hard not to be angry about it. Two real BEEF hamburgers in two weeks, he had to be driven somewhere to buy them himself. Hugging him at the airport arrivals was like hugging a skeleton. This may seem trivial, but to me it's not.

And then there was yesterday, taking him to register for a clinical trial for lung cancer. I've learned over the years, when in a hospital or doctor's office setting, it's better for all involved to be polite, courteous, and make a few people laugh. Makes for a softer landing if there is bad news and you never know what other people are dealing with in their lives. Unless you ask, even if all you ask them is if they would like a drink of water.

Dear Anne,

This morning there was a knock at the door. An old woman with a big basket of doilies told me she was a real Romani gypsy. I bought one of her "handmade" doilies and she let me make a snapshot of her. A little while later, I heard a hand bell clanging. It was being rung by a man standing the back of a lorrie riding slowly down the street with a stenciled sign across the side, "Scrap Metal Wanted." I think they and the old woman are Travellers.

How have you been? I haven't heard from you since two weeks ago. It's not a long time, but it seems like a long time.

A flautist and pianist performed at the museum last week. Much better than last time, except a couple brought their 2-year-old who was a little distracting. Why do they think this is a good idea, to bring their babies to concerts and movies? Anyway, it was wonderful music: "Six Pieces" by Fikret Amirov (German and Russian influences), "Sonata" by Erwin Schuloff, and "In Ireland" by Hamilton Harty (very Celtic-folk).

Things have been bleak at work. I'm not happy with my current digs either. I have one more year, but before long I may have to decide whether to stay three more after that. I would rather plan my escape, as you often say. You made your last one just seven months ago, remember?

Hoping to hear from you sooner or later,

T. B. F.

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