Am I Losing My Best Friend?

di26

This  photo and a plaque I sent her a few years back, is what we were about.  The pic is real, when she and I were at daddy’s, “working the farm”.  The words on the plaque defined us and were a reminder, that no matter what, she was stuck with me. I think this wall display shows me she was okay with that.  It was apropos too, because in times past, it wasn’t unusual for me to embarrass the heck out of my little sister in one way or another, after all, I’m generally inclined to let it all hang out, so she never knew what to expect.  In my defense, on one occasion, I did so naively,  like when I called her a dildo in public not knowing what the word meant.  I can still see the look on her face, distancing herself from me, hiding behind a clothes rack, and trying to pretend not to know me,  hence the laugh.  She loved me anyway.

Seeing her in the state she was in,  wasn’t what I expected when I flew to Florida to visit her. Actually, I don’t know what I expected, but it didn’t take long for me to realize how badly she’d declined.  A part of me may have suspected some semblance of mom, but not really.

Aside from being greeted by a creepy critter…

di27

and the overwhelming smell of a litterbox  in dire need of cleaning when I walked in,  her apartment was nice.  She even had a corner that celebrates a part of our ancestry.

di24

These apartments are designed for businesses.  The two floors allow a tenant to live upstairs while conducting business below. She used the bottom as her massage room and office. There was everything from accountants, hair weavers, acupuncturists to well, you name it.

When I was told she had a brain tumor, I cried.  I wasn’t ready to lose my sister.  Like a parent, I’m thinking that birth order would dictate departure date and “certainly not any of my kids should go before me” or in this case not a younger sibling.

Well, she’s not going anywhere, at least not physically, but it is a tumor on the pituitary gland and it is having it’s affects. Not cancerous. She kept thinking it was Wednesday or Friday, but could never get the days right.  She repeated the same questions over and over again and it was exhausting.  She did, however, know who I was.  She thought we lived together, so when I said I’d be going home, or mentioned that my hubby, R was in California, she asked “Why, what’s he doing there?” On occasion, she seemed perfectly normal and then seconds later, she would ask an “out of the blue” question as though whatever went on previously had never occurred.

We talked about the tumor and surgery, which got postponed once again. She would promptly forget, but then hours later recall some semblance of our conversation. I talked about it further with her son who had observed the same thing.

Apparently, the kind of tumor she has, is not cancerous, so no one seems to be in a big hurry to operate, which is infuriating.  The doctors at Shand’s keep putting it off as if it is nothing. I guess in their world it isn’t an emergency but in Di’s, it is. She has no sense of time and her ability to function is getting progressively worse.  The neurosurgeon’s at this university hospital are supposedly to be the best. However, it’s the ENT,  that seem’s to be holding up the “show”.

My brother, “M” shows up a few days later and is devastated by the change in her.

Before he arrived, one of her son’s and I took her to the eye doctor, because as I mentioned earlier, what clued us there was something wrong, is that she is losing her sight and it came on suddenly.di22

The eye doctor is great.  We were there a very long time, but he was thorough.  The good thing, and this is important to the surgery, is that the tumor is not impinging upon the optic nerve, not that it isn’t affecting the loss of sight.  However, it lets the surgeons know where to go to remove it or better yet, where they don’t need to go.  The ophthalmologist believes some of her sight will return and what doesn’t, he believes, he can remedy, at least in part.  So, the good news is she won’t be completely blind.

A question her son had for me was, could Nonie (our mom) have had the same thing?! As I observe my sister’s symptoms, I begin to wonder too. This tumor causes depression, affects hormones and can display itself in many ways. The first diagnosis told us it was genetic.  Then one of the links her son sent  with information on Craniopharyngioma, does not indicate that. I’m not sure I have the right one because this link does not mention it as hereditary. The original doctor had said it was, which is why we wondered about mom.

The procedure is called an endoscopic pituitary surgery, transphenoidal …  anyway, I’ve included the technical but interesting information.  Again, this is info sent by the sons.  Since some of this information differs from what I was originally told, I guess we will wait and see.  Supposedly, she should be fine once the procedure is done.

Right now, she is tired and sleeps a great deal.  She has all the symptoms of dementia and the Alzheimer’s mother was diagnosed with, with the exception of the tiredness.  Mother was constantly mobile, but again, according to the initial information sent, each person develops unique symptoms.

My sister is craving mostly Coke  and hamburgers, but this can include any carbonated drink . . . when she’s not sleeping.  She was never a big meat eater, so this is unique to her.   She gets tired easily and gets cranky when she’s at that point.

Di did not remember any of her doctor visits, so present time events are easily forgotten, but then surprisingly surfaces later as an event that took place long ago.

One of the first things I did when I arrived was liven up the place with Halloween decorations, which she got excited about.  When we lived together, we would always dress up for the kids, like I still do, so you can imagine her disappointment when I said I wouldn’t be there, but. . . that was quickly forgotten moments later.  The upstairs windows were decorated with fall leaves only.di23

ROAD TRIP

“M”, having arrived a few days later, and I decide to take her to visit family in Alabama, especially our other sister “S”,  who does not have the resources to travel.  Both sisters liked that.  I think “S” was on the verge of auctioning off her firstborn to get the funds to come down. She was understandably concerned, so you can imagine her delight when she learned we were coming to her.  That, was an adventure in of itself.  When we arrived, the GPS screen showed us this and announces, “you are there”, and that was pretty much what we saw initially,  we laughed.  Actually, there was a two story barn to our left and further up, also on the left was a nice modular.di18

Di walked some of the property (but not all 18 acres) with us as my brother marveled at how nice it was, but after about an hour or two she asked to lie down. She slept the remainder of the visit. Fortunately, she was awake long enough for us to get a nice photo of us girls and “S”s two twin grandkids.

di17

On our way to see “S”,  we stopped off  in Atlanta to visit my daughter, the actor.  Di, surprisingly was awake for a good part of that leg of the trip, but dosed a little before we arrived.

.d30

From big city to the country.

After leaving “S” we stayed the night in our home town of Attalla and had a nice dinner. Mine was the catfish, Di had the “hamburger” and steak was “M’s.  Of course, another must have while in the south and what you don’t see with our meals is the plate of fried pickles on the right, which as you can see were gone by the time our food arrived.

 

 

Since our trip was going to be very short,  I posted to our family and church friends that we were passing through and those that got the message in time came out to meet us at a Noccolula Falls Park.  We knew Di could never handle stopping off at more than one place, so we had them come to us. I picked the Falls because I knew, that was a landmark that despite our being away so long, would not move.  More friends arrived but unfortunately we got to talking and socializing so much, I forgot to keep taking pictures. We got countless texts later from those who had not seen my post in time.  Again after about two hours, she had to retire to the truck, but all in all, she did fairly well. We stopped at a “Jack’s” for a hamburger and she then slept all the way home. di14di13

The trip had tired her and the next day she shooed us off. We had suggested heading to St. Augustine, but she said she was too tired.  “M” and I,  went ahead and went, had lunch and walked on the beach for awhile then headed back home.

 

 

 

 

We had wanted to visit the Alligator Farm but didn’t want to stay away too long.  We were gone a little over 3 hours which is her normal nap time length. When we arrived, she was still asleep, but awoke a little later, saying she was looking forward to going to the beach tomorrow. OMG!   “M” and I looked at each other and chuckled.  Instead, we told her that would be a great idea and asked her if she’d ever been to the Alligator Farm… so we went.

 

 

d32

We would have lunch with her at Sweetberries back in Gainesville and then a dinner with her son and his family on our last day.

 

 

We convinced “M” to take one of her cats, which she’d not had for long, especially since her son is making room to move her into his home with his family.  They have never had pets due to allergies and they are making the concession for Thomas.

Thomas is going nowhere but with her, since she’d found him starving 10 years agodi21

as a kitten hiding under our house. He had helped her get through helping me care for mother, so there’s a lot of history with those two.  In the meantime, Priscilla has settled nicely with “M” in San Antonio.di25

Pre-op is due on the 20th of November, so hopefully soon, we will get our sister back.

I took my flight back home on Alaska, and happened to end up in premium class, which was phenomenal. 

d31

 

 

Senseless Deaths

I have recently had two deaths in the family.  I am still working through them, but not for the reasons you might think.

Yes, I am sorry they are gone, but I’ve accepted that already. I cried a little but my grief is mixed with anger, so I know I will eventually have to work through that.

One I will miss terribly.  The other, I will always wonder how I could have made a bigger difference in his life.

Death number 1:

The first death was my cousin’s.  My cousin was fantabulous.  I didn’t grow up with him.  I babysat him. He was considerably younger and so I never really was around when he was a teen or growing up.

The visits to our Mexican side of the family had been few and far between, by then I was a mom and responsible parent.  My young cousins seemed wild and we all worried and wondered if they belonged to gangs. One visit in particular, I remembered seeing gunshot holes in a straight line along all the cars across the street from their house.  My aunt and uncle moved from there shortly thereafter wanting to get the kids to a better neighborhood. Given the circumstances of his death, my brother’s response to the news is, how grateful he is, we didn’t grow up in that environment. Mother kept us away.  Mother may not have been quite sane, but she still had a mother’s protective instinct. I thought for a long time she was ashamed of her family, but perhaps not.

Still, they are family and for that reason, I’ve since tried to get to know them better.

For 30 years, I lived out of state and hadn’t seen them in quite a long time even though I stayed in touch by phone and mostly just with my aunt, their mother.  When I returned four years ago, I started visiting them again.  All grown up now, “RA” (not his real name) and I became buddies.  During my time away, he’d had four kids and they’d had kids. He was no longer with either of their mothers and now lived next door to my aunt, his mom.

On m first visit, I drove up in my “dirty” car.  I’d just washed it either a couple of days before or the day before.  He insisted, he’d detail it.  In short order he had all his buddies washing and buffing every inch of it.  Before long it looked brand new!!!  I didn’t realize that washing alone doesn’t cut it. A good waxing and buffing makes a world of difference!  Spit spot.

I offered to give him something for it but he always refused.  When my son got his new, used car, he taught him how to take care of it and when they were done his car now looked spanking new.  That particular time, because he had worked on two of our cars and quite laboriously, I might add, I once again offered him a sizable amount of cash for helping out.  That time he took it.  I think he went to the casino afterwards. I was, of course, disappointed and vowed to not do that again.  Instead, I thought I’d give him something in trade, perhaps.  I’m a first born.

On some afternoons, we would talk and occasionally have a beer together. He was warm and kind. I did get around to asking him if he’d belonged to a gang and he said, No, never.  We would talk about everything and I saw nothing but a good guy.

He was also quite artistic and gifted me a Betty Boop clock that I knew my airline pilot brother would be envious of and he was. Betty Boop

On that first visit, when I was in LA for a screenwriters workshop, I told him of my screenwriting desires.  He had gotten so excited about my screenplays.  It was neat, he looked up to me for all he thought I’d achieved, even though a part of me was so afraid to disappoint. He was interested in what I’d written and even hooked me up with a guy who had once been in law enforcement who might help my research. My story centered on a kidnapping and a woman’s unknown connection to the cartel.  Later he would tell me, “Cuz, don’t do it.”  He was quite serious. I didn’t understand his change of heart, but even though he said it sounded great, he reiterated, “don’t do it”. He said, it was dangerous.  It never made sense to me since lots of writers write about the cartel.  In fact, there are so many cartel stories out there, how would one more make a difference?  I said, it’s fiction after all and my queries were non specific, plus I told him, most everything I had, I got off the internet, the rest was made up. Nevertheless, I let it go because it wasn’t developing the way I wanted it to anyway.  Unfortunately, there was also one about a kidnapping that came out soon after.  Plus that year, so many cartel movies began to surface that I would be hard pressed to sell it anyway, even with revisions.

On my aunts property, she had fruit trees. RA would harvest giant grapefruit and from her tall avocado trees, avocados.  She would sell them to the neighbors or passersby that would stop and ask.  Of course, that was frequent since RA made her a big sign inviting them to buy.   “RA” would also be the one to climb this tall ladder to harvest the fruit so his mom  could sell them for a little cash (like 10 for $1 or so), mostly so they wouldn’t go to waste.  When I was there, I’d hold the ladder for him as he’d tie it and himself in before he’d get to work some 20+ feet up.  Between him and his brother they took good care of his mom and did things for her all the time.

A few weeks ago, he was shot, assassination style.  The news said that, except for his age, 63,  it had all the markings of a gangland “hit”.  But what got me is that it was a story that got snuffed almost immediately. It was weeks before his body would be released to the family.  Am I overstepping my bounds in saying so?  I hope not.

It was around 2 AM.  He was riding his bicycle home, after visiting a “friend”, after said friend called him over.  Was it a set up?  We still have no answers and pictures are sparse for a reason.

At first, I thought perhaps, because I knew he liked to gamble, that maybe he’d gotten in debt with the wrong person.  But that was just a guess.  No one else seemed to have a clue.

I’ve since learned the FBI is investigating.  The FBI?  Hmmmm

The story gets curiouser and curiouser.

Death Number  2 –

Last weekend, we deposited my ex son-in-law’s ashes at sea.  My daughter and granddaughter came out for the services.  She was his first and I believe his only legal wife. His mom, sister and ex football jock friends from high school were there and all his homeless “crew” were there.  The contrast disconcerting.

The homeless sat or stood on one side and the country clubbers on the other.  How did this once good looking guy go astray?

I knew he had an alcohol problem when he married my daughter and I only suspected the drugs.  One time, when I visited them, I had observed him stepping out momentarily with something in his hands and then returning moments later, but I was naive to those matters at the time. Was it a drug deal?

What I didn’t know is that he had once used my daughter, while she was pregnant with our grand daughter as a drug mule. So, his addiction and her love caused them both to make some unwise choices. I never knew.  Drugs and alcohol, for me anyway, have never been a temptation, for which I’m grateful.

We talked them into moving to Colorado to live with us hoping that away from his druggy friends, that he’d kick the habit.  They were there for six or seven months.  We employed him at our bicycle business and kept him busy, but he was miserable.  He didn’t have his drugs, that we knew of, but he still had access to alcohol.

While cleaning one day, I found a stash of alcohol, several bottles of vodka, whiskey or whatever.  I went back to check later and those were gone and several others had taken their place. Where and when was he getting these? One day, I asked him to run to the store for me, so he borrowed my bike and took off.  After more than an hour, I went looking for him on my son’s bike. (the store was nearby) I found him sitting on the bridge, downing cans of beer and tossing the empties into the Colorado River!!!  I took the cans from him and we had a chat.  When the chat was over he hugged me, thanked me and then closed in for a kiss.  I pushed him away and told him, he was drunk and I’m his mother in law, for Pete’s sake!  He was only 21.

I wasn’t angry at him because I recognized only too well that this young man had a serious problem. (My ex had been an alcoholic, but a good natured one such as BAC, (not his name). He was a teddy bear… a gorgeous, handsome, charismatic hunk (at the time).  Women had trouble not forgiving him. Instead of getting angry, they forgive and forgive, which was a disservice to him. Some time later, the kids announced they were moving back to CA. We were not happy.

They got their tax return and he was going to go on ahead, get a place and send for the girls.  We never saw him again.  My daughter, after waiting awhile, learned he had moved in with her former roommate.  She filed a divorce in absentia.  I’m not sure if that’s the correct term.  She would later marry a guy who became the only dad, my grand daughter would recognize as dad.  He and his family love her to pieces.

BAC didn’t show up in her life again until he learned she’d had a son. His mom, sister and brother were always in Becca’s life, so it wasn’t as if he was totally unknown to her, but he wasn’t dad and she’d never met him.  She finally agreed to meet him.  By then, he’d been in and out of prison, lost an eye in a fight and was living on the streets.  He’d stolen from friends, and abused his friendships. He was a mess, but despite that she says philosophically, “he lived life on his terms.”  She doesn’t hate or admire him.

My daughter met his “wife” and she told her that he stayed away as much as possible because, he said regarding his daughter, “she was the only good thing I ever did” and didn’t want to ruin that. She was the only child he would ever have.

Now, here he was, at 48, in a box. (His mom gave permission to use his pic on this blog.)

The program had a picture of him when he was young and the way my daughter remembered him when they first met.  She lost it.  She never expected that hurt to spring up after 26 years.

The homeless people laid out a spread you would not believe, but no one, except the homeless ate anything that they’d prepared. Even then, they didn’t eat until most everyone had left. We drank water and dipped only what our own hands touched.  There was a pork loin (several, in fact) that were on the barbecue, but when I saw this guy slicing it up with his filthy hands… well.

My grand daughter and I made an attempt to talk to them, but discovered that most of them seriously suffered mentally and from their addictions. They did say, he talked about us often.  It was difficult to watch. We learned that some of these folks had, at one time, had come from good homes. Some were well educated and talented. I learned they  are provided phones and other resources by family and friends, who have not abandoned them completely, but don’t know what else to do for them. There was among this older group, one young man, who is probably not unlike BAC was at one time and it saddened my heart to see and wonder where he would end up. It was sad all the way around in so many ways.

BAC died peacefully I hear.  He got up one day and sat down at the table and that was it.  He died where he sat.

My daughter said, she believed it started when his father died while he was still in high school.  He never got over it. I think people are more aware of the impact of traumatic events these days, but perhaps not so much then. No two people suffer the same and for some, it is deeply hidden and surfaces subtly.

His high school jock friends turned out. They went to college and he went to drugs, but they were there anyway.  Some were childhood friends and others he’d grown up with later and they came.  Two of his friends went out on their boards to deposit his ashes.  None of his homeless friends except for his wife, would walk that far (one block) to the beach for his send off.  For me, it was so evident who his true friends were.

 

When his friend had paddled the required 1/4 mile to deposit the ashes, he said that once the ashes got wet, they felt like 50 pounds on his back.  The sea was not in his favor and he returned exhausted.  That’s friendship.

Bret sendoff

 

The Ladies of Burlesque

Queen Bees

Sometimes I wonder what it is that makes anyone, male or female want to take their clothes off in front of others. I’ve given it some thought, but no way in hell would I do it.  Now, if I were ten years younger and had a rockin’ body…?  Well… Uh, No!  At least I don’t think so.

In a way, I wish I could be so bold but I never was or have been.  Heck! I wanted to try out for cheerleader in high school but when it came to my turn, I looked out at the crowd and high tailed it out of there.  I never regretted anything more in my life. Now if you asked me to rock climb or slide down a mountain on ice with only an ice ax to break my fall, well that’s different and I’ve done that. I ran a half marathos and won a cycling race in my age category, I’ve done a century ride (100 miles in a day), climbed mountain peaks… well, you’ve read my stories.  Oh, and I’m scheduled to go sky diving soon, weather permitting, but that’s different.

I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation for that.

Queen Bee’s is a small theater in the North Park area, in San Diego. I went to a Burlesque show and last night I witnessed the most tremendous array of bodies in all sizes, shapes, ages and… ethnicity do just that.  They were simply amazing.  I was in fact impressed and jealous that these women had the guts to do what they did and they did so with gusto and grace.

Backstory:  This was my second time attending and I was sooooo reluctant to go the first time and found so many excuses not to attend again from there on.  Truly.

I – DID – NOT – WANT – TO – GO!!!

But, my sister, who is in the show, insisted.  My hub, said “No way,  I don’t want to see your sister naked!  You go, if you want to!”

I didn’t “want to” but, when Sherene said, “I don’t have anyone in my family I can share this with, except Brian…”  Brian, her husband goes to all of her shows.  Well, once her son J.C. went, but not to see her, but because a friend of his was in the show and invited him. Otherwise, oooh, ick no way!

For my across the globe, across the country, conservative friends, hang on. <Big Smile>

I totally get it.

I also get and would so much like to have someone I could share my screenwriting with, someone that actually gets it and won’t get all hot and bothered when I kill someone off or get upset that a sympathetic character dies or  heaven forbid has sex, or whatever.  My writer sister didn’t want anyone to die, have sex or use “swear” words,  she writes for children so her mind thinks only “G” material and not of the string variety.  I let her read my work once and she “G’d’ it immediately.  What? I’m supposed to use marshmallow guns?  No one dies?  I explained to her that it’s called  an “inciting incident” and a necessary “evil” is a must.  No, no she cried.  That’s not you!   That was the end of that.

Even though, Sherene can’t reciprocate, I do understand the importance of family support.

So, off I go…

I pick Brian up, because he’d had hip surgery and couldn’t drive, but we’re early, so we grab a bite to eat in an old timey diner next to the theater.  Yummy onion rings.

 

We wait in line for the doors to open and once in, I get a gin and tonic and sit in my seat facing forward wondering what in the hell I’m doing there.  I text my husband and ask him “it’s party time, except for me. I feel like such a stick in the mud!  When did I get so old?”, I ask.  He responds, “Sorry, Me too.”  I turn to Brian.

Brian is busy talking to some lady across the aisle from him and it’s loud and I am so unconnected.  A bunch of rowdy women seated behind me catch my eye and ask me if I had someone in the show.

“My sister”, I replied.

“Our Zumba instructor”, they said.  They’d never been and were giggling like school girls. We made friends and suddenly I find myself forced into having a good time.

The Emcee (is that what she’s called?) is a voluptuous redhead with ivory skin in a black corset and silver pointy nails. She never strips.

Burkesque queen

She announces that these girls have been working very hard and are pretty much all beginners and her expectations of the audience was for tear down the wall cheers and clapping.  She  said the audience were all invitees, family and friends of the performers with the exception (she jokingly says) of possibly a “perv” or two in the mix who might have snuck in. “You know who you are”.  Everyone of course laughs.  It was then, I realize she is right.  These were all family and friends of those who would be performing.  A non hostile crowd.  Hmmmm

This is not the strip joint type crowd. It was a small but humble theater. There are two young men sitting in front of me, perhaps in their mid thirties. One had a green Mohawk, but he was well dressed and clean cut looking otherwise. Green though? he was a looker too, quite handsome.  The other young man seemed to be more conservative and equally good looking.  A young lady sits between them, but it appears they are all together.  The crowd was mostly well dressed people and some more so, like they were attending a gala.  There were young (over twenty one because everyone was carded) and old alike. All were quite friendly. In fact, I gathered many were of the artsy types,  so why am I being a snob?  I got over it.

When the show began, it started with two solo routines with rather large women. The women came in all sizes  (boobs and bodies), ages (my sister is in her 60’s) and what surprised me,  varied ethnicity.  I was slightly embarrassed for them (?), not sure, but they were fantastic. There were routines with and without clothes, like hip hop, one with bare minimum, which was a shocker and a ballet spoof at the end. There were young ladies who were extremely fit and more experienced and poised and then there were the moms.  With bodies like any one of us. They obviously had to be fit to do the routines they did, splits, twirls and kicks plus dance but they jiggled in the usual places they might not have when they were young, yet fit.

One especially large gal, strutted her stuff and made sexy moves like she was flirting with her man and him alone.  She went through the whole song, fully dressed and put out more sexuality than most women would scantily dressed.  She smiled and flirted and shook her booty, until the very last. And then, in the last few seconds, she took it off to briefly show her stuff and the crowd roared!!!  I laughed so hard and cheered ……………..  Way to go girl!!!

 

Bees cast 1

They jiggled and they jogged and gave it their all.  Throughout, I watched the conservative young man in front of me, who never yelled but would nod his approval and on occasion stood up and clapped at the exquisite routines, especially of the big gals.  It wasn’t like he knew them but more like he admired them for having the chutzpah to get up there and be proud.

My brother in law Brian, leans into me and said it’s “woman empowerment”.

 

Yes, I could see that.  It wasn’t about showing off your body so much as, this is my body and I’m okay with it!

Pictures were not allowed of the performances, but we did get a group with their teachers. The man in the middle, teaches hip hop and his wife the rest.

Bee's cast

I still can’t figure how they get those “things” to jiggle like they do?

Do they sell that stuff at WalMart?

 

Sherene and I

I’ve had a cold and it sorta shows here. Lookin’ tired. It was way past my bedtime.

Graduation Trip (part 2)

Weeeell, After what felt like a near death experience with the flu which I thought I’d never get over, I did and none too soon because my oldest “child” was graduating college at 51 years of age!!

Tina got married at 17,

and traveled with her hubby some. Knowing he would one day inherit the bicycle business started by his father, he learned German and Italian, since those were the primary manufacturing locations of their products. So, of course they got to go to Europe several times. Not having children yet, she was able to accompany him on these trips.  For some time, we never thought she’d ever start her family.

When she was in her late 20’s, the business was sold and they did begin their family. At age 29 her firstborn child was born, on the same date my eldest boy was  born. After that came son number two…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and sometime after that came son number three.  It appeared that once the ball started to roll, they couldn’t get it stopped.  Suddenly, she found herself pregnant once again.  I asked her if she wished for a girl, but she said, No! “B—‘s only make boys,  (her brother in law has four boys) besides if I had a girl, I don’t know what I’d do with her,  I know what to do with boys.”  Guess what? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She had a girl.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go well for her.  Postpartum depression set in and sadly ruined the momentous occasion.  When she confided in me how she believed she should be happy, but wasn’t, I suggested she see her doctor.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the first person to tell her that.  Her mid-wife gave her a referral and in time, she improved.

By now she was 38.

Five years ago, she decided to finish school and go to college.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that she chose nursing  given  her own previous experience, but I was.  Her whole life, she had been more into holistic healing and the organic approach to health. Yet nursing it was.

Little by little other pieces as to why have fallen into place, giving me clues as to how she came to her decision.

You see her goal is to eventually become a travel nurse.  Her kids are all but gone and she’s seen the need in her travels. She’d been to Nepal for a mission trip some years back, so yes, there is definitely a need. She just returned from Tahiti with her father (a graduation gift) and she was told there was a need there.  There’s always a need, regardless of her age anywhere in the world.

THE PINNING:

First came the pinning and everyone was there.  Little Ally was in a wheelchair and on pain meds still since her trampoline accident had just occurred a few days earlier.

With her family’s support she completed her schooling, so of course her family was thereto support and cheer her on, with the exception of one brother.  He came out earlier for his grandfather’s funeral, which took place during Spring break while his wife was on hers from teaching.  As foster parents, getting away doesn’t come easy, so it was the best they could do. He did bring his oldest son with him, so it was a good visit.

We get to meet her classmates and some “bestie’s” she made while there.  She made a point of not giving away her age at first, not that it ended up mattering. They loved her.

And finally graduation day:

tina

And more family –

And then it finished off with a party at her house, which for some reason was just us… at first.  It seems the graduates make a circuit run of all their friends and stopped in later.  For some reason, probably because it was way past my bedtime, I didn’t get pictures. Oooops!   Yea!!! She graduated with honors and much thanks to the whole family for their support.

The Hero of the House?

The word “House” is impersonal. It is nothing more than wood and stone.  A “Home”, on the other hand  denotes warmth and love. It is a place where you would feel safe and secure.

I don’t remember having a “Home” growing up.  Just a house.  It was a place with airspace we inhabited and that was pretty much it. I always wanted a “home”, somewhere safe to go to. A place to hide.  A place of fond memories. We had few.

I do have memories, but not of any nuances of the house or perhaps they were and I just don’t have a complete grasp of what a nuance is. I have few memories of the structure but mostly those are of me helping Dad nail shingles on the roof and Mom waxing the vinyl floors and us kids sliding across them to buff them up. So, I guess there are a couple of good memories, but that was much later.

Before all that, I remember the hole where the septic tank was to be and where our little ducklings fell into and we had to rescue them. There was nothing there but a big hole, no tank yet. I also remember us kids on our bellies watching as daddy fished them out. There had been a two by four dipping down into the hole and apparently they (the ducklings) walked down it but couldn’t figure out how to walk back up it.

I remember the outhouse out back that served as our toilet until the house was completed. I only once remember mother cooking on a two burner kerosene stove in our one room shack that had once been a chicken coop.  There were possibly only two beds as there wouldn’t have been room for more and we kids often shared one bed, two on each end facing away one from one another. Why not? We were little.

What I remember most of the kerosene stove was the stench of the fumes it gave off when she cooked. The one night I remember her cooking on that stove, it was raining hard outside and at that time we were still in the one room. We kids were laying on one of the two beds in the room,  I was about six, which then made my siblings, 5, 3 & 1 or thereabout.  There was nothing much to do on a night like this except watch mother cook, so there we were all in a row like the three wise monkeys plus one. I’m sure my job was to keep the smallest out of her way.  There wasn’t much wiggle room and cooking can be risky business.

What reminded me of it, is that it’s been raining outside this morning.

So, on a day like today we were making do when suddenly the stove burst into flames!  The flames flew up so high that they touched the ceiling. We all screamed as mother used her dishcloth to try and put the fire out. Bad idea. It was getting away from her, so she yelled at me.
yh4She yelled at me again before I realized that I had to go for help. I may have been frozen or was going around in circles panicking before making it out the door in the DARK, I don’t know, but I made it out. The last I’d seen was mom grabbing the baby. Outside, I struggled with leaving at all.  I was so afraid. Afraid of the night, the rain and to leave the others alone but… they needed help. My help.  I started running and running, tears fell as fast as the rain. I had to be the hero and in my head, I felt like one. Yet as my little legs carried me further away, the DARK got darker. It hardly ever rains in California, but it was raining now. There was so much rain I could hardly see and my hair was matted down over my eyes as I slipped and trudged through gooey mud. It was cold.

It couldn’t have been more pitch BLACK out there and I couldn’t see a thing. Was I afraid of the dark? Yes, what if something else gets me? This is wrong, what if they die and I’m out here all alone I’m thinking, but I don’t look back. My heart is pounding in my chest like it will pop out at any given moment.  I slip again. There had been a tumble down fence between our two homes and most of the time if we went next door, no problem. I was an expert at separating and maneuvering through the wires but tonight I can’t find them and it was so DARK. Suddenly, there I am tangled in a mesh of barbed wire and I can’t get out. No, NO! I gotta get out. I gotta get out, I gotta save them!

Finally, I break free and make it to the house next door and my little fists pound and pound away but it feels like nothing on their door. Can’t they hear me?  So, I scream but nothing comes out. There’s no sound or maybe I just can’t hear for the noise of the rain. Weakly, I keep pounding.

Finally a light switches on and the door opens and I fall through. I barely get the words out “a fire!” and Mrs. Lopez’ 20 boys hit the dirt flying out the door. Me? I fall limp and someone carries me to this massive dining table where I’d seen Mrs. Lopez feed her ginormous family and I’m situated in a chair. I sit there as her daughter, Ernestine quickly mixes me a concoction of sugar water to drink. I think someone says she’s a nurse.  I don’t understand how it works but she says something about how it would calm me. Perhaps it was an old folklore remedy or just a distraction but it worked as I sat there slumped and worried. I think  there are other people around, but I can’t be sure. She, or maybe it was Mrs. Lopez dries me off, then cleans and bandages my wounds.

The fire department did come out, someone across Hwy 5 had seen the blaze and called but I think the Lopez boys had pretty much gotten it under control before they arrived. The important thing is the fire was extinguished and my siblings and mom were all safe.  Where they went while it was burning, I don’t know. I would later return home to a tarp being put over a gaping hole in the ceiling, which did not prevent periodic drips seeping through and plaguing us the rest of the night. THAT is all I remember. I would like to say I was praised for my heroic flight, but I wasn’t, at least I don’t remember. It was actually quite anticlimactic. I even tried sharing my adventure but no one cared. The only thing anyone was worried about was the house.

The place was a mess, Dad had arrived home and that was it. I don’t remember if we ate or much of anything else after that. There were no McDonald’s in those days, but that wouldn’t have mattered. Dad would never have sprung for anything so extravagant.

The rain subsided and the tarp sufficed until the rest of the house was built. This room would later become mom and dad’s bedroom I think, minus the charred wood. Why it hadn’t burned to the ground, I don’t know. Perhaps it was the rain. I would later recall vaguely remembering being a little sorry I’d missed all the excitement.

The next day, I went out to the yard and noticed where I’d traveled, but what had seemed like a hundred miles the night before was only a a couple hundred feet. Not far. It was no wonder no one cared about my adventure. Some hero.

Dad would later incorporate this as part of our house, a U shape structure with a courtyard in the middle. Mom would put a garden out back and I would wander the hills. I didn’t stay home much, because “home” wasn’t safe, unless I was left alone to read a book.

I still long to be coddled, but that’s just a dream. I am glad for what I do have. My hubby loves me, sticks up for me and keeps me safe. We are not rich, but it’s a coddling of sorts. I wonder though, did I ever give my kids a home?  Did they ever feel coddled and nurtured?  Or, was that something I didn’t know how to do or do well?

I know they know I love them like life itself. They know I’d give my life for them if need be, so I hope that’s enough. They often tell me I was a good mom, and sometimes it comes with a qualifier… considering where I came from and where I’d been. We laugh about that. They do know.

 

 

 

Cousin Jack

Here it is the wee hours of the morning and I can’t sleep. I seldom have that problem any more but here it is.

I got to thinkin’ about cousin Jack.

Cousin Jack was an old farm boy from Alabama. Actually, his real name was Israel but we all called him Jack. He spent most of his youth in the army, retired Air Force, so the first time I remembered meeting him, he was already an adult with a family and all. (pic on left) I think I was in my twenties then, with two girls of my own.

I remember Jack hoisting my little city girls up on the fence to watch the hog that had just given birth to a whole bunch of piglets scrambling for a teat. His two boys were older and like their dad, loved riding the girls around the farm on their four wheeler’s.

Jack was older than I but halfway in age between daddy and me. All I know is that he was actually  daddy’s first cousin which made him my second cousin but we were still cousins.

I didn’t see him again for a good many years.  What I learned about him though was that he was hard working and enterprising.  I remember daddy driving us through his land on what seemed like miles of corn fields. It was amazing to see row upon row of fresh corn. That was all his, daddy said. What I remember was that he was always accumulatin’, but mostly land and cows.  I would later add to my opinion of his persona, “hot tempered and opinionated”, after all he was a southerner. A redneck through and through.

It seemed that Jack took a dislikin’ to my Uncle Tracy for “some reason” and felt compelled to compete.  If Uncle Tracy bought a parcel of land, Jack would out do him. If cousin Bill bought a bunch of cattle or more land, he’d out do him. (Cousin Bill was uncle Tracy’s son in law).

You see my great grandma had 12 kids and out of those only 8 or 9 of them lived. I could be wrong on that. But Uncle Tracy and my grandpa were from the same litter, only grandpa was on the older end of the scale and Uncle Tracy was closer to Daddy’s age. Cousin Jacks Poppa was Pervie also near the bottom rung and I heard tell his momma was mean as hell, but I don’t remember her. The pic below shows some of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Back: Grandpa Orlie, Uncle’s: Tracy, Fitzhugh, Pervie – Front: Aunt’s: Ada, Omie, great grandma, and Vergie

How one family could have kids on opposite ends of the social spectrum, is beyond me. I can only guess the younger ones benefited from the older ones working by getting more education, therefore more advantages. One thing for sure, they were all a hard working bunch. Uncle Fitzhugh also had a Jack who would move to Texas; his sons were younger and fully educated and classier.

Cousin Jack was decent folk, steady and far brighter than he let on to be. Being in the military he got to see the world and was well traveled, but daddy doesn’t know how he survived being so bull headed as he was and all, but he did. Calling him bull headed, well that was like the pot callin’ the kettle black, as if dad could talk.

When I visited Daddy once, Jack noticed the tires on my car were going bald, so he sent me to this tire place in town. Beings as I was from Colorado, I was a bit shy on going to a business I didn’t know for fear of being taken advantage of.  For one, I am a woman and…two, considered a “Yankee” to boot.

He tells me to tell them that “Jack B of Walnut Grove” sent me.  He says, “They know me there”. “They know I got a big mouth and if they don’t treat you right, the whole damn county’ll hear about it!” They gave me a great deal and I was in and out in no time.

Daddy said, that’s how he was. He had a big mouth and at times could be downright offensive, but one thing for sure, if he likes you, he likes you and you couldn’t ask for a more honest dealin’ man around. You always knew where you stood with him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Jack with my grandson Jack – It tickled him to when my little guy jumped on the Kodiak

After I moved there I found that to be true. People either loved him or hated him and that would all depend on what kind of person you were or how you’d dealt with him or one of his kin and/or friends.  That’s what happened to Uncle Tracy. You see Uncle Tracy  had taken advantage of daddy once a long time ago and basically absconded with over 360 acres of good timber land, leaving daddy with only 20 acres. Daddy and grandpa got like $5,000 for all of it, perhaps less.   Truth is, it was grandpa’s and daddy’s temper that interfered with their judgment that lost the land, none the less they all blamed Tracy for taking advantage of a known flaw in their personalities. Daddy never forgot that and of course Jack didn’t either. Loyal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Our former dam and creek” that daddy always wanted to build a house nearby.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tracy cleared the trees and put in cattle but the land goes as far as you can see.

Jack, like us, started out land poor.  I don’t know how but there was quite a bit of land in the family and each started out with a chunk of it. I used to tell people we owned the town. My husband didn’t believe me until his first visit and he spotted a street named after us. Actually, there were several but that’s all we had. No money. Just land.

Now Jack was different. He may have looked like a hick, but he was sharp. He not only gained more land adding thousands of acres but he had hundreds of cattle, pigs, llamas and for a time raised corn to boot. So, he did right well for himself. He also knew how to handle money, and he knew how to save and multiply it. He put his boys through college and they too did well as engineers and accountants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Jack and his truck & tractor.

Daddy liked him because he said, he wasn’t uppity, he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, that was how he was. He did get in Dad’s face at times and was always bugging dad to get his affairs in order and take care of us kids, but daddy wouldn’t listen. Jack was trying to look out for us to no avail. I respected him for that.

That’s why, when he popped off spit firin’ mad at some politician or some injustice, callin’ them names ya hadn’t oughta repeat, ya let him go because it was “his way”. One thing for sure, there was never a doubt in your mind about what he thought. There were times you’d cringe at the stuff that came out of his mouth. The more I was around him, the more I could see right through his prattle as he’d spew.  I was to discover that it was just talk. There was a heart of gold in there. Half the time I think he was just tryin’ to get folks riled and he did it well. He didn’t mince words and he could get ya to thinkin’.

One day, I’m at work and one of my coworkers tells me he’s dead, killed in a wreck or maybe daddy called and told me, I don’t remember. For sure it was my coworker that told me how. Some big trucker fell asleep or was drunk and went over to the other side. Her husband was on his motorcycle and saw it. Saw Jack. Jack had been decapitated. Killed on the spot. He died in 2007 at the age of 73. His obit states:

“Mr. — was retired from the U.S. Air Force and the United States Department of Agriculture. He entered the military at the age of 17. He served in the U.S. Armed Forces as a Ranger when they occupied Germany after World War II. He also served in the Korean War and saw combat duty during the Vietnam War. At present, Mr. — was a cattle farmer.” 

Daddy missed him most. A lot in fact. He was his best friend. But even he said, “sometimes Jack could be an ass hole” and I said “yeah… but he was our ass hole.”

What made me think of Jack is the elections comin’ up. Yeah, we got a couple of them.

The thing of it is,  there are people in life like Jack. They can be a bit hard to take sometime, because it’s all out there for the whole world to see, flawed and imperfect. Even so, I never heard him demean a woman like daddy would and did.  He was a good man. I never heard him say an unkind thing about someone based on color alone so much as work ethics and it was a sorry thing if they were one and the same, regardless. He didn’t pick and choose. You work hard, you get treated fairly. Period.

Daddy said that sometimes he was harder on his boys. I believe it. My boys got to work the farm once one summer and one liked him, the other didn’t so much. He treated them as his own. My sweet nerd was not at all the out door type, so he didn’t quite toe the line and farming is hard. Manual labor was not up his alley but it was good for him. He learned and never held it against Jack. For all his abrasive ways, when the chips were down, Jack was a good fair person and could always be counted on to give you the shirt off his back to help you.

Despite daddy’s ill treatment of us kids, I took care of him when he was sick and Jack liked that. He liked me and yes, I liked him too. I wish he could have been around when daddy passed away,  but he’d been gone nearly four years by then. It would have been nice to get his advice on a few things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Tell them Jack sent you!”

 

 

 

Autumn Tag

Hello friends!

First of all I’d like to give credit and honor to the creator : https://ilmondodishioren.wordpress.com/ for divising this entertaining blog to pass on.  It is the season. Then also to https://theguywhosaidalwaysno.com/2016/10/06/autumn-tag/ for nominating me to pass this request on. Check out his blog for some great food fare. Yum!

After all it is Autumn, one of my favorite seasons.  I like Spring and fall because they are the periods of transition. We bud and grow in spring  but in Autumn we morph.

So let’s start!

The rules are quite simple, you must first:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Attalla House in Fall
  • I love the color changes all around and the drifting leaves as they fall

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    Fall on the farm in Gallant

 

  • I love the cozy feeling you get when the air first starts to chill and the leaves are gone.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My family busy prepping for Thanksgiving and having fun.
  • I love that it’s the prelude to Halloween and Thanksgiving when family comes together.

And now your turn!

My fifteen:

https://joseyphina.wordpress.com/

https://moviejoltz.com/

https://thatssojacob.wordpress.com/

http://bunkaryudo.com/

http://badfish2.com/

https://tobedamit.com/

https://robertapimentel.com/

https://booboosoo.wordpress.com/

https://jansdoodlesv2.wordpress.com/

https://sistersreachout.com/

https://thegirlwithcoffe.wordpress.com/

https://deepakdheer.wordpress.com/

https://appreviewindia.wordpress.com/

https://jaycolby.com/

https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/

https://bennbell.com/