January 3, 2008

New Year’s Update

Well, I’ve been living in interesting times. Less than a month ago, Morgen and I were wondering whether we were going to have a dull Christmas, since our budget was, shall we say, not conducive to travel (or bringing family members here to Paris). We were, however, looking forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as a time to start getting caught up with the many things we’d fallen behind on so that we could begin 2008 with relatively clean slates.

On December 20, my mother called to tell me that my father had died that morning. He had been in the hospital for four months. Without getting into all the details, he’d had major surgery to treat a life-threatening condition in August and initially appeared to be on the road to recovery. In the months that followed he had periods of ups and downs, but then, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to anyone, he abruptly began to deteriorate and died from what amounted to multiple systems failure less than three weeks before his 86th birthday. Morgen and I flew to Pennsylvania for the funeral, which was held on Christmas Eve, and spent a week with my mother before returning to Paris. I’ve had some unusual holidays, but this will surely be remembered as the most cheerless ever.

I’ve been reflecting on our time in Paris—six months now, as of yesterday—and my predominant feeling is that of being mystified as to where all that time went. I don’t just mean that in the usual “time flies” sense. It feels as though I’ve been in a daze most of the time. We were, and are, delighted to be here; we enjoy the views, the vibe, the food, and everything else. But we (or at least I) have been remarkably distracted to the extent that it’s often been hard to appreciate or even be aware of where we are. During the second half of year, apart from the constant worries about my father’s health, I had a relentless succession of Really Big Deadlines (mainly Take Control books and Macworld articles); we had to work through the complex processes of getting our cartes de séjour (long-term French residence cards) and applying to join the French healthcare system; I took driving lessons so that I could get a French driver’s license (a notoriously long and difficult process, even for people who grew up here); we both got sick a few times with cold-like symptoms that hung on far too long; and we endured the usual array of strikes, breakdowns in our building (elevators, water, heat), and administrative challenges with various French bureaucracies.

As a result, a lot of things got put on the proverbial back burner. For example, posts on all our blogs have been few and far between, and it’s been months since we’ve had any new articles on Interesting Thing of the Day. I’m still behind on several important projects for various publishers. And we’ve had precious little time for sightseeing or other leisure activities.

I’m hoping that January will indeed be a fresh start, that I can stay (or get) on top of my various obligations, and that 2008 will be a year with fewer distractions and more fun. My goals for the year include not only writing the usual array of books and articles, but some entirely new and interesting projects, several trips, and a generally lower level of stress and higher levels of sanity and solvency.

Tomorrow morning I’ll take the road test for my driver’s license, and if I pass, that’ll be one more big thing I can cross off my list. (If not, well, I get four more tries…) Then, as long as life isn’t too interesting, I’ll try to go back and fill in some of the many blanks on this blog about how we got where we are now and what lies ahead.

10 Responses to “New Year’s Update”

  1. Arne said:

    Sorry to hear about the death of your dad.

    I hope you’ve been able to have some good quality time the last few years and have some wonderful memories to cherish.

    Life can take some unexpected turns.

    May you know the God’s comfort in your time of loss.

  2. MHA said:

    Well, that really sucks, Joe. Very sorry to hear it. I’m with you, hoping January goes smoothly and marks a good beginning to a good year.

  3. Karen Anderson said:

    Joe, I am so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. My father died four years ago, after a long and debilitating illness, and it’s just been in the past few months that my memories of him have “re-set” so that I now can think of him as the healthy, happy man that he was in his 70s. The haze will, eventually, lift. (And soon you’ll have immunity to all the European cold and flu bugs!)

  4. Darlene said:

    Wow! Joe, I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad!

    What an adventure you two are having!! What an undertaking!!

    When we moved to the bay area, we also thought we would have an abundant amount of time to see all the sights, etc. It’s amazing how life gets in the way. Of course raising a family certainly is time consuming,…but I really thought we’d have more time. I think back on of our life in Calgary, before this, and know that a certain amount of time is required to get the mundane stuff done. Now we live in a very exciting part of the world, and we still have to get the mundane stuff done.

    If we could just be rid of this mundane stuff!!

    It sounds like you already have great stories just trying to get the mundane stuff done!!

    I look forward to reading more about your time in France!!

    Take Care!! Darlene

  5. Louise said:

    Bonjour, Joe. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your dad. I hadn’t checked into your site for awhile since my husband Doug and I have been busy getting ready for our Paris experience, which begins next week on January 10th. Your many responses to my private questions, along with your postings, have been incredibly helpful in guiding us through our own arduous “year abroad” plan. That you were dealing long distance with your father’s illness and subsequent death makes me even more grateful that you took the time to respond to a stranger’s many questions about everything from the long-stay visa to cell phones.

    Please let me know if there’s anything we can bring next week from the good old USA that you may have been too distressed to think about when you returned for your dad’s funeral. I am so sorry for your troubles and hope that 2008 will give you the time, space, and peace to deal with your loss.

    A bientot, Joe. Louise Colligan

  6. Dan said:

    My condolences; regardless of the circumstances, a parent’s death is a real blow. It takes time to get over, so take care of yourself.

  7. Mary said:

    Ditto what Dan said, Joe. Do take care of yourself, because a parent’s death is a blow, and grief is a slow process. I can relate to your story; my mother died suddenly 2 wks. before Christmas several years ago. We were all sort of shell-shocked, and all the Christmas jollies and lights seemed rather surreal. There were times when I thought things would never feel better, but of course they eventually did. I’ll keep you in my thoughts in the months to come. Hang in there–

  8. Ann said:

    Hello Morgen and Joe, Gosh, what a way to say goodbye to 2007! Sounds like it’s time for a new year. Our condolences on the loss of your father, Joe. Also best of luck with that driving test. And to both of you, may 2008 refresh your spirits! We hope to see you in October when we’re passin’ through again… –ann & chris