I am on a train returning from New York, a journey that began yesterday morning.
I have repeatedly reached out to my middle daughter, Sarah, who lives in Brooklyn. On Monday I asked if she was free Tuesday night and she said sure! Yay.
Tuesday, I arrived at Union Station around 8:30 for my 11:30AM departure via Bolt Bus. I acknowledged my trip anxiety, arriving early which enabled me to relax and perhaps even write a bit.
In Union Station, I holed up at the communal table inside Le Pan Quotidian. It was was empty until a young mother with three boys, one three, and two twins no more than eighteen-months old sat down at the other end of the rough-hewn, long, wooden table.
One of the twins grabbed a decorative squash blossom and began a loud, extended drum solo on the table that would have made Ringo proud.
Later, I met a young woman who just published a book of poetry and we had a lovely conversation.
Once upon a time, I’d look back at the conversation as proof I was broken since I can only have meaningful conversations with complete strangers. Those for whom I care most are the most distant for me to reach.
I’m over that. I know I’m not broken. A work in progress, but not broken.
At 11:15 I boarded the Bolt Bus.
I settled into a cramped seat, no tray table upon which to type, the air unpleasant. The man sitting next to me popped bubbles on his cellphone for three hours, a restroom I won’t describe. I bought a return ticket from Amtrak less than an hour after departing DC.
From the bus drop-off I walked to my AirBnB off Union Square, a mile away. The apartment was perfect. A studio, tastefully decorated and comfortable. When I realized the bed was an actual Murphy Bed, it took every bit of willpower not to flip it up.
We had 6:30 reservations. I had meditated on the bus, so I just tried to chill.
I made my way to the restaurant, arriving early. I didn’t go to the bar. On my walk there, I didn’t stop at a bar. I didn’t want to sabotage the moment.
Dinner went well. No angry moments. Sarah was was a bit tentative. No surprise.
I apologized for the pain I caused when in my bad place. Sarah thanked me, but not in a heartfelt way.
I told Sarah about my writing. My walking. My interest in Buddhism. Sarah was supportive but ultimately skeptical.
She asked if mom and I had made progress toward reconciliation. That broke my heart. I reiterated my commitment to change and talked about how Caroline recently said, “you’re not your best with me and I’m not my best with you.”
I think one of the few moments we truly connected was when I said, “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you and your sisters. Your whole world turned upside down.” I could see the pain in Sarah’s eyes.
We were done by 7:30. We said goodbye. I began walking. I ended up in a watering hole off Washington Square where I limited myself to two Manhattans.
This morning I left the city earlier than planned. I walked a little over two miles to Penn Station and boarded the 9:30AM train home.
Reviewing the dinner, I am okay with how it went.
I was compassionate. I took mindful pauses. I hope Sarah saw that, despite her skepticism. What hurts most is how much the dinner reminds me how far I have to go in rebuilding the relationships with those who are most meaningful to me.
In the meanwhile, I’ll depend on the kindness of strangers.
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. Sort of obvious…