In Memory Of…

As many of you know,  I left nearly two weeks ago to be by my sister’s side as she was dying.  She passed away on Friday, May 29, 2020. which is Pentecost in the New Testament. I don’t really understand the connection, but her dear friend she celebrated the tradition each year with her, called it to my attention.  Over the years, They embraced and began celebrating many of the Jewish festivals and traditions, as taught by her Christian Jewish friends, so it was fitting that that was the day she would die.

Today, I went through some of her old pictures and I will sprinkle them throughout my story. Click on them for more info.  Her art and some of her stories are in blog posts I’ve done in the past, so if you ever have a chance or time to go back, and some are way back, I encourage you to do so.  I hope you will bear with me, while I share how my trip went and some of the feelings I experienced.

Diana's senior pic
Senior Picture

I went to be at my sisters side because she was at mine when I needed her most.  I have to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It doesn’t even compare to how I felt when my parents died.  Over the years, my blogs  have shared bits and pieces of our childhood and the abuse we endured growing up, so their passing was different.  It was perhaps one of relief.  We knew that mother’s mental illness would be cured and that dad’s judgement for his actions would be in God’s hands.  They were still our parents and we loved them despite themselves. We appreciated their good attributes and tried to focus on those and that part of them that made us who we are today. To be honest our feelings vacillated often. We would often remind ourselves to stay positive. She and I worked as a team to take care of our parents as we felt a Christian should.

 

No, my sister’s death cut deep.  If she had not come up to help me care for our ailing parents, I might not be here to write this blog today.  She was my rock and my lifesaver.  I loved her deeper than I can ever express. Surprisingly, I am composed for the moment as I am sharing this.

I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to share my trip experience which went as follows:

May 19th

When I spoke to my nephews the doctor had stated, she might not live through the weekend.  I was in a quandary because of Covid-19. I vacillated all day.  I did not want to be sitting in such close proximity to people in an enclosed airplane cabin which recycles and blows back air from throughout the cabin.  I didn’t know what their process was or if it would be safe.  I get sick every time I fly, so I know I’m inhaling germs that recirculate.  My daughter reassured me that her flight left seats open between people, so it wasn’t until evening that the decision was made. I asked my friend for buddy passes. She responded instantly.  However, because of Covid, flight schedules were considerably cut and my choices left me with either leaving my house at 4am for a  flight leaving at 6 am and not arriving to my destination until after 9 PM, with a long layover in Seattle or leaving at 11:30am, laying over in Seattle until the next day and arriving the day after that, the same time I would have arrived had I left at 6am, only a day later.  36 hours!  So, I had to explore other options.  Fortunately, I found another carrier with a flight I could afford that would not leave me in Orlando but get me where I needed to be without hiring an Uber for the rest of the way.

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May 20th

I arrive at the airport and I was relieved that it looked pretty empty. My goal was to get to my sister right away.  She was there for me when I needed her so I had to be there for her.  I was early as I wound my way through the terminal and sat down.  Social distancing was not a problem.  Yay!  That, however was short lived as more and more people arrive.  They announce this will be a full flight.  I’m understanding that to mean with the extra seat in between.  WRONG!  It was full.

They announce they will not be serving food but we can pick up a sack on our way in and we are to leave our masks on except to eat.  For real?  The two people in my row take their masks off and I thought I overheard the man next to me say, he’d been in an area that was questionable. UGH!  No way in hell is this mask coming off.  Years ago when I worked at the health department, I was fitted with an N-95 mask specific to me, so I was fairly confident I would be okay. It is not like the ones today but it fit extremely well.  The problem was that it had been in it’s package for six years.  On arrival to Charlotte, one of the straps broke, breaking the seal. I put a spare one on over that and it kept it in place.  To be honest, it was horribly uncomfortable and I hated re-breathing my own air for 8 hours. I was extra careful too because there was a chance I might not get into hospice being from California.  Despite my good intentions, near the end of that flight I looked over at the passengers near me and they were all sleeping with masks on, so I sneak a drink and a couple of bites of pretzels or some nutty thing.  By the time I got to Charlotte, I was parched and hungry.  Not starved, but at my age I never let that happen.  I rationalize to eat when I’m not hungry so I don’t bonk later. Before my next flight I bought a sandwich, found a safe place, ate and drank all my water.

My next leg had delays. This time we each got a row to ourselves. The second officer comes out and tells us there are creaky boards in the back deck and some lights going off.  For real? The girl across the way wasn’t sure she wanted to stay on board.  I’m worried and I’m getting antzy that I’ll never get to my sister in time.   I feel like screaming, “my sister is gonna die before we get there” but I don’t, then I debate telling everyone my mission and starting a prayer vigil, but that’s not my style either, though I sometimes wish it were. I’m sure some of that comes from all those years as a Jehovah’s Witness getting rejected for our door to door ministry that’s made me gun shy.  I do have faith and I do share scripture, but not like others might.  We lift off, finally and I text my nephew with our new ETA.

I was so afraid I wouldn’t get there in time.  I let my nephew know, since he’s picking me up at the airport.  He said, no worries, he’s taking me straight to her, which isn’t far and open 24 hours. I feel better.  My nephew was worried they might not let me in because he’d heard that folks from four states were prohibited.  New York, Washington, California plus Connecticut.  I’m thinking, yeah, I’m from California, but there are no incidences in the area I live in and I don’t go into the denser areas. I hadn’t been anywhere populated in months, so I have my argument ready.

My sister was my go to girl.  She’s the one I talked to and most of the time with no judgement.  Sometimes, my brother and I would roll our eyes though, because she could be at times quite self righteous… no, just coming across that way.  Now my other sister, she uses scripture for everything and talks in scripture, which I find annoying.  Maybe she thinks we’d forgotten everything we ever knew or perhaps she has nothing else to say and finds that a way to connect, which I believe may be the case.

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Her trip to Mexico with the parents but without us. I have no clue who these kids are. Mom’s on the right.

I have step siblings who’ve been very supportive and encouraging as well. One has been surprisingly reasonable and I call attention to it because she can be a little like sister #2. Oddly, for some reason, amid all the updates I send them, they start talking about their cats, or barbecues and recipes.  Let me explain.  I have two major chat groups I’ve formed for getting updates on my sister.  This saves the nephews.  One are the siblings,  the other are my children and one adult grandchild. Then there’s my brother who would go crazy on the group chat. And, one for sister #2, since any news in the group chat would warrant  incessant phone calls.  Sister #2 is on the autism spectrum, so communication is handled differently.

 

My kids on the other hand start joking in a sick sort of way.  They love their aunt very much.  She is their favorite aunt, but when I told them there’s an off chance I might not get in the hospice center because of where I came from, my  daughter, the nurse asks if they have the quick test and then says something like, “they’re all gonna die anyway”.

I exclaim “Tina!”

My son, who tends to be a bit stoic say, “I thought the same thing Tina”

My granddaughter, boy do I love that girl, says “haha, that was funny”  “terrible but funny”

Mr. Stoic follows it with “Robert Heinlein said, “people laugh because it hurts too much to cry”

Yes, its true.  I know my kids meant no disrespect. They are hurting too. They hurt for me, they hurt for Di and for their cousins. I get it and in the next few days, witness it. None of us were ready for this, yet over the past few months we’ve had to make ourselves ready for this eventuality.  I think deep in our gut, we knew.

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With our grandpa on the porch of the cabin he was born in. No longer the Casanova I spoke about.

I was thinking how just a few years ago, Diana and I were each other’s soldier while we cared for our dying parents.  Mom in 2009, Daddy in 2011. It felt like so long ago, another space in time. We parted in 2014, yet we talked nearly every day for the first two years, then it became once or twice a week.  On a rare occasion, we’d skip a week, then we’d pick it up again.

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Bud’s for life.

We tried weaning ourselves of being so dependent on one another.  She was doing a better job of joining groups and making friends than I.  I had a harder time of doing this even though I had always thought of her as the dependent one.   She needed me, but I think I needed her more.  What she had a hard time with is connecting with her kids.  She admired my time and relationship with my kids.  I was more open about their foibles and they had their fair share, but to me her boys were perfect and maybe so did she.  I saw them as successful in their careers, while my kids took longer to get off the ground. She had these two stud muffin, gorgeous sons and she couldn’t get close to them.  She never said, it but I felt it.  For a long time I thought it was them, but it wasn’t all them.  I see how close we’ve become since all this happened and we’ve talked.  I had observed this before.  I remember how when she first came up to live with me and help, there were moments of miscommunication or lack of.  I’m guessing she had moments of feeling unworthy so it makes sense, it was easier for her to chat and make friends with strangers.  No risk there.  She loved her boys and I believe they loved her but I think they had a hard time bringing it all in together.  At first I thought that was why she didn’t get the help she needed in time.  No matter how much I encouraged her to reach out to them,  she didn’t.  Help came when her grand daughter noticed something wasn’t right with her Nana, when she went over to help her with bookkeeping, because her eyesight had started to go.

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I think this is Miami somewhere at a boatyard daddy probably wanted to check out.

So I believed, it passed, she didn’t get the right help at the right time.  In speaking with her son, it appeared that early on if she’d gone for help, it still might have been missed.  As it was, her symptoms may have lead another doctor down a rabbit hole.

The facility she is staying in is immaculate.  I fill out the questionnaire, they take my temperature and I go in. It’s after 11pm.

We go into her room and she is breathing steadily. I marvel at how young her skin looks.  No wrinkles. But she’s gaunt.  There is nice soft spa music playing.  Her son said, someone had brought that in.  It was perfect.  I talk to her, tell her about my trip and all the chaos going on around her.  There is no recognition, just a lifeless body. It is now May 21.  1 AM I tell her I love her and miss her.  Around 2am we leave.

The next day, after little sleep, we go again.  I go over all the fun times we had.  A little past 1PM, we decide to grab a bite.  As we head out to the parking lot, the director runs after us and inquires about the sister from California.  She apologizes for not having gotten back to my nephew right away.  She tells him California, New York, Connecticut and Washington are prohibited. She asks when I would get there. I hesitantly tell her, it’s me. She asks if I’d already been in.  I say, “yes”.  Well, because my sister is so grave, she would make an exception. Uh, I’ve already been in there we’re thinking.

I reassure her that the area I’m from has few cases and I took extra measures myself, given where I planned to be.  So, she’s okay with that.  Perhaps she’s unaware that her forms only ask about foreign travel, exposure to Covid – 19, temperature and cough.  My answers were “No” straight on down. Oh, well.

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One of our last bike rides in Florida a few years back.

Each day from there on out is the same. Every other day a doctor comes in and every other day a NP.  The doctor tells us on Friday the 22nd that she’s hanging on but did not expect her to survive the weekend.  The NP tells us this is her favorite room because of the nice music.  It makes her feel like she’s at a spa.  We tell her Diana was a massage therapist, so it’s perfect for her.  The nurse says no wonder and agrees. The second day I go from sitting by her bed to the couch and notice her birth date just happens to be stamped on her bed. It is a yearly inspection sticker, but…?  I start to say something and her son says, “yeah, we know”.  Huh.

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So here we sit by her bed waiting for her life to end.  I recount stories of our childhood and we share stories of life with Diana.  The teasing her boys used to give her… what is it about boys teasing their mother?  I see hubby doing it to his mom all the time.  He is still doing it as a grown man.  There was so much these boys didn’t know about their mother, but only one is here to hear the stories.

Each day there are minor changes and each day they’d level off.  On Saturday though she starts to gurgle.  I guess they call it the death rattle?  They gave her an injection and we thought this is it.  When it increased, I lost it. When my step mom got it, I thought it was because she’d had emphysema from all those years of heavy smoking, but the nurse explained we might see fluid being released from her lungs even though Diana never smoked a day in her life other than maybe one time behind the house as a teen experimentally.

After awhile, I apologized to the nurse and said we had to leave.  I couldn’t do it.  She understood and reassured me not to worry, I would not be the first nor the last to do so.  That night I didn’t sleep feeling guilty I’d run out on her like that. At the same time, it seemed awful waiting for someone to die.  We expected a call that never came. The next day, the gurgling had gone away.  Then her gaps in breathing increased but Sunday came and went and she was still there.  When the doctor came in Monday, she shook her head and said, she had a strong heart.  They referred to the gaps in breathing as apnea.  I’ve had occasional sleep apnea and that isn’t any fun at all.   My son calls and his little girl, Maggie May wants to talk to her Auntie.  She’s four, doesn’t understand but wants her to get better, so I put the phone to Diana’s ear and Maggie May proceeds to tell her about her unicorns like only a four year old would.  I take the phone up and start to talk to my son, when Diana starts this continuous moan.  I hang up and my niece in law calls the nurse.  She’s given a shot and it subsides. A couple of days later her breathing gaps increase.  The doctor says, she shouldn’t be here and I want to pop her one. In a way, I wish she wasn’t lingering.  It was painful to see how thin she was.

May 26 Tuesday.  Something felt different and I didn’t want her to be alone.  Since I’d been there, three people had come and gone.  The nurses and staff are wonderful.  I decide this is where I want to come to die. The room across the way is now empty.  I let my nephew know I’m not coming home, but they tell me it didn’t matter what time, they would leave the light on in case I change my mind.

When I left my home in California, I really wasn’t anticipating staying away so long.  When I left the weather in Florida was 91, it cooled off a few days later and add the fact that her room was air conditioned, I was freezing to death. My light linen pants and short sleeved shirts weren’t cutting it, so I brought in blankets.  Eventually I bought sweatpants and sweatshirt at Walmart.

That night, they bring someone else in across the way and she is wailing and moaning as well.  That’s when I noticed Diana moaning. I close the door. I call the nurse and tell her, but I hear them saying the person across the way had vomited, so they’re fighting to keep her from aspirating.  It is now night and the staff is lighter.  Even so, someone comes in right away to give Diana her shot.  They are quick, but the nurse across the way calls for help.  Fortunately, there is a male nurse on duty.  Later, when the door is opened briefly, I see them walking a tall, large, (not fat) woman.  There are several interruptions in the night and I’ve not slept hardly at all.  When morning comes I shower and put my same clothes on.

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There she is distracting her siblings as big sister pokes her to straighten up.

At some point, I realize my body feels like it went to war, so I decide to go home.  She’s somewhat stable and my nephew will arrive shortly.  At this point, we have been staggering visits.  I’ve still not seen nephew #2.  I ask if I might see him, but no, he’s too busy with kids and work.  Those words were often my sisters excuse for why she didn’t spend more time with them.  Work and kids.  It always upset me that she wasn’t being included in that dynamic.  Nana’s can watch kids and love spending time with them.  I didn’t know how much of it was her or them.  I learn later, he was struggling over the fact that he had no solutions for her condition. He has a strong science background and a professor at the college, so he was in a quandary over what happened and why.  The thing is, and I knew in my gut this is true, when you “play” with the brain, anything can happen and the why can sometimes be elusive, to never be understood or discovered.  I get it.  He was also hoping for a miracle.  I guess we all were.

Before I left, a new nurse had come in to administer her pain med.  Over the last couple of days, because of the moaning, her meds would be upped.  However, her heart was still strong and her urine clear.  The nurse says it tends to get darker near the end.

I slept a good part of the day.  I just couldn’t get my strength up after my previous night.  I realize that despite my good intentions, I just have to understand my limitations.  So far Diana has disproved every prediction they’ve made. No two people die the same, that was the only verifiable truth.  We all die differently. I wondered how much longer.  My family and husband have been supportive.  Everyone constantly grateful I could represent them.

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On the back of her product label she had this quote, which sums her up pretty good.

At one point on the first Friday I was there, my husband tells me his brother, who had just had a quadruple bypass just before Diana went in for her surgery was having to get four stents in.  His arteries were already calcifying.  I fretted that day that we would lose them both on the same day.  Then, if that happened it could start a chain reaction.  My mother in law would be devastated, her husband at 94 would get upset for her and our whole house could fall.  As it turns out, the stents were put in and he goes back to do two more in a month.  So far, it looks fine.

Thursday May 28, My nephew and his wife stayed with me most of the day.  Even though they only allow two visitors at a time, they gave us a pass.  We apologized to one nurse who sweetly says, “What? I don’t see anything”   We were grateful. I had my reservations about leaving Diana that night, but I knew I couldn’t stay the night again. She was different, but I had to trust.

In the morning on Friday, when I came in, I sorta knew.  Her eyes were veiled and it was like she was already gone but she was still breathing. My nephew came in a little later.  A couple of hours later they changed her position.  My niece in law comes in to switch places with nephew but he doesn’t want to leave.  He feels it too.  When she starts to assure him it’s okay, she doesn’t mind staying, I look over her shoulder and say, “She’s not breathing”.  It takes a moment for that to register.  I look at the clock.  11:37am.  I get the nurse and she verifies that yes, she has passed on.

For ten days, I talked to her. The last two days I prayed over her and told her how much I loved her.  How I didn’t want to see her go but that I knew she’d be okay and better soon.  I asked God to take good care of her as I knew how much she trusted he would.

I did research. I learned that the first to go is the brain, but hers was pretty much already gone.  The last MRI showed her frontal lobe completely dark. Then each major part takes turns. Despite how strong her heart had been and the other parts of her body that hung on for so long, there was no chance of any organ transplant unless they were in the hospital.  Hearing is the last to go. Her urine diminished but never changed color.  The skin on her limbs did mottle hence my biggest clue she was close. When they administered that last dose, she cried out. I asked why. The nurse said, every five days they have to change the portal.  Hers had been changed last night, so yes, she probably felt it initially but only for a moment since they’d given her a pain shot.  She went minutes later.  When her death was confirmed I bawled. My niece in law bawled. Nephew calls his brother who comes running.  He had been visiting most nights after the kiddos were tucked in bed.  I felt bad for his kids, that they would never really know their Nana.  The other grands were in their late teens, his are only two and four. He said his goodbyes.  By then we girls had regained our composure.  Son, #1 had been hugging us both while remaining strong. Son #2 also hugged me, but neither shed a tear.

I remember when parents died, we didn’t cry until two weeks later.  I understood when there were times #1 son wouldn’t respond to my chatter, that it was how he was keeping it together.  Sometimes, I can’t talk either.  Sometimes being alone is hardest.

I rushed to make my return flight home so that I wouldn’t be an added burden to my sweet sisters#1 son, should I completely come unglued.  Our mourning was derailed when we heard on the news about George Floyd and all that mess.  For a moment I thought Diana why couldn’t I have gone with you?  I don’t want to be here anymore.

Oh girl, if you only knew what has been happening while you were sleeping and now are gone.  We would have had so much to talk about and analyze. We still dissect these events and make it all better.  I did talk to her today, but she didn’t answer.

Diana' Mad photo
My favorite picture of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa and Grandma

Attalla, Alabama.

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When you come from a small town, ya gotta watch out, especially when it comes to finding a beau. You never know what you might get. 

Case in point.

I was born in Alabama, but grew up in California. I first moved back to Alabama as an adult in 2005.  Oh, I’d visited on occasion and dad would introduce me to folks here and there but mostly I didn’t remember most of them. When I visited he’d take me and my girls around and introduce me to folks and say “that’s your cousin” and I’d never see them again. I didn’t know most of them, but one time I was sitting in a store waiting on my dad and some lady comes up to me and says “You’re a Brothers, aren’t you?”, I looked around and dad was nowhere in sight, so that wasn’t her clue. I said, “Yes”. She introduced herself as another cousin, who’s name I recognized but had never met. The thing is everyone counts as a “kissin’ cousin” in the south because somewhere down the line, we ARE related. True fact.

When Grandma married grandpa it was frowned upon by her family who were, not so much upper class, as they were from a better batch and considered “refined”. Grandma is the one with hat. My sister Diana reminds me a lot of her sister, Nell.

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She had just the one sister. Nell.  To this day, the Freeman’s will not acknowledge the Brothers side of the family.  Aunt Nell would go on to live considerably longer.

Grandpa, on the other hand was born on the wrong side of the tracks, rough around the edges and a bit crass. He came from a family of like 12 kids, but I believe only 8 survived to adulthood. gp3

He was from the south side of the social spectrum, and like daddy, he could be meaner’n a snake and ya never knew when they’d strike. He was also a womanizing cad.

I’d sure like to know who the woman was next to him. Hmm

Daddy told my sister and I about the time grandma learned about one of his liaisons. It just so happens it was with a lady down the road. Far be it for grandma to take that from anybody (except grandpa). So, she grabbed one of the boy’s baseball bat and hightailed herself down the road and threatened that gal within an inch of her life! I’m sure grandpa just laughed. Heck! We told Daddy, she shoulda taken that bat to grandpa!

Grandma was a stay at home mom. She tended the chickens, milked the cow, churned their own butter and was pretty much in charge of the food. When I was a kid, I remember her cultivating about 1/2 acre of produce that would later be “put up” or canned.    Grandpa would till the soil and she did the rest. Daddy said, they were poor,  but the depression never affected them because of it.

When I was little, she’d send us kids’ out to pick okra, green beans, tomato and corn.  She always made us wear these huge bonnets to keep us from getting too tan.  Ladies weren’t supposed to get a lot of color in those days. There was nothing like grandma’s cooking either. My could she make the best biscuits, slathered in home churned butter and honey or sorghum and her fried okra and sweet corn with a side of fresh, sliced tomatoes with a dollop of mayo were to die for. Chicken was reserved for Sunday dinners. 

When my sister and I moved back there to care for mom and dad, we learned that the house on the right was one grandma bought with her own money.  Grandpa hadn’t bought it, but she had, if you can believe that.  That would have been in the early 50’s. I remember Diana saying “Go grandma!”  Grandma was also one of the first  young women who made the paper when they got a drivers license!  Pretty amazing lady, I’d say.

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Both of them were born in the late 1800’s. 1892 & 95, I believe.  They had four sons, the first one died at the age of two or three.  Prior to them getting married, grandpa, in his twenties served in the Army in France during WWI.  One time while in the attic, we kids found a box of letters from his “fan” club of girls he’d met there. Who knows, we may have “cousins” in France as well.

Grandpa’s native American heritage really shows in the above picture.

I remember once, daddy told me that when grandpa was “Sheriff”, daddy got in trouble with him, so grandpa put him in jail. Jail was very similar to the one Andy Taylor ran, only probably a bit smaller. It was a small town and that jail still exists, though it sits empty now. I mentioned this to daddy before he passed and he tells me he doesn’t remember ever telling us that story.  Did Grandpa take us by there one day and tell us that maybe? Daddy is the kid that looks like he’s full of the dickens, so it’s wouldn’t have been impossible he was in trouble all the time.  I told him, I could imagine him giving his momma a considerable amount of grief.  He didn’t deny it. So, even though the story’s veracity came into question, we still tell it.  The little cutie in the middle there would grow up to be like grandpa, liking the ladies.

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From what I’d heard, Grandpa was known to have jumped around from job to job and was constantly chasing the pie in the sky dreams while doing his womanizing.  One day, when daddy was doing a T.V. repair house call, some guy tells daddy, he was his illegitimate brother.  Daddy did not know him, but at the same time he was not terribly surprised. 

One of grandpa’s later job’s was running oil with my uncle to homes in big tanker trucks.gpoil

Before that he ran coal.  He even had a jack of all trade business card that though inappropriate and offensive to us today, was a sign of the time then.

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Ironically, grandpa, from what daddy said, was fair minded to all his workers black or white and as far as we kids ever saw, this was true.  Grandpa was a hard worker and expected the same of anyone who worked under him, including his kids.

I believe he ran the Woodyard the longest and there’s a good chance the coal business was run simultaneously.  I say this because the sawmill is where daddy, lost part of his foot at the age of 16, it’s also the backdrop of the picture with the three towheads and he was still running it when I was born, some 10 years later. 

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Grandma dodging the camera.

Because the train ran right up to the Woodyard and because that was where I was born and lived the first couple of years of my life, I would always find comfort in the sound of trains going by.

Even though grandpa tended to play around, he wasn’t totally without honor.  When grandma got sick with cancer, the cost of her care was more than he could handle.  He talked to the then sheriff and asked his permission to run a still for the time being and requested said sheriff to look the other way while he raised what he could for her expenses.  The sheriff agreed.  So, grandpa set up a still, tucked away in the woods on the farm a few miles away.  He did this with a partner friend.  Said Sheriff would later come around and ask him if he’d raised what he needed.  Grandpa replied honestly that he had, so the sheriff told him to tear it down then.  Grandpa agreed, but his partner didn’t want to.  Grandpa walked away from it, but his partner would later get arrested.  That’s how things were in those days.

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After grandma died, he married her friend Minnie and when Minnie died, he married, Ada.  Minnie was sweet and everyone liked her.  Ada on the other hand would be the death of grandpa.

I didn’t know grandpa when he was young, so what I remember of him was kind and funny.  I remember him popping his false teeth for us.  He told me once to keep my arm back in the truck, because a passing car could pull it right off.  He proceeded to tell me of how he was driving by and having some fellas arm on the hood of his truck, so I pulled my arm in immediately.  I don’t think I believed him, but I wasn’t gonna take any chances.  I remember he liked to whittle.  He was skinny and looked like a witch in his later years. 

My two girls did get to have some good times with their great grandpa and that’s pretty cool, though they never knew grandma.  She died when I was 13.  

We kids are what remain.

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My Aunt Mildred, Uncle Kenneth, mom and grandma (she probably hated this pic) in back.

My siblings Diana, me, David and Sandra.

 

Getting Connected CoVid-19 Style

My buddy at PhicklePhilly has a great post on his blog site right now and it’s worth reading.  The only reason I didn’t reblog, is I wanted to tie in my two cents worth. As some of you may know, my replies can, at times, be quite lengthy.  So this is kind of it. The tie in to his story, I mean.  All my favorite blog friends know my response can sometimes be a story of their own. What can I say?  I’ve lived a long time and lead a rather full, if not colorful life.  I like all my blogging friends because they almost always have something that triggers a memory for me into a response of some sort and I hope they don’t mind.

Today, though … This hit home, mostly because of last night. Or, errr, by now the night before or I should say Thursday night?

Excerpt from PP:

Monday I went to breakfast, wrote, talked with friends and loved ones, had dinner, and watched my shows. I, for once… had nowhere to be.

Tuesday, pretty much the same.

Wednesday, More of that just living and breathing thing. Daughter came home. I was happy to see her. She went to the supermarket and bought a bunch of food. She cooked dinner for the two of us and we actually sat and ate, and chatted like a real family.

What it triggered is, sure, being house bound sucks in a way, but on the flip side, what a time to get reconnected, to plan and do things you’ve put off doing because you’ve been to busy. Life as we’ve known it has changed and that could be a good thing.  Maybe getting back to basics was a long time coming.  Sure, for some it’s going to be economically hard, but we are survivors. Americans are survivors.

Most of my siblings and kids are not working right now.  I’m not working either.  My hubby doesn’t put his foot down about most things, but he did this.  As an Uber/Lyft driver, he doesn’t want me out there exposed.  Especially since, many of my passengers are generally in the service industry or business people who travel a lot and have contact with a good number of other people; their chances of exposure are exponentially greater. Plus, I am in that at risk age group.

My hubby now works from home, so he’s okay for now, but that could change at any minute. My TX son’s new job got put on hold, so he’s home supervising his kid’s schooling. His wife, a teacher, is out distributing food. My SLC daughter is an RN, so she’s working.
Andrea !

My traveler GA daughter, just got home but even after self quarantining in SLC, won’t be going back to GA to work either.  And, possibly, in time, my SLC granddaughter or My SLC son, both in the hotel industry. They are senior enough, but even their work hours have been cut back. What’s worse, is my SLC RN daughter just closed on a home in December! All of which, she shares expenses with the SLC granddaughter and my SLC son, her brother.  So, the only one with a decent paycheck is her… for now.  Here’s the bunch of them having their last dinner out before the shut downs.Tina and the kids March 18 2020

Even so, we are all in good spirits.

I’ve been chatting BS with siblings, keeping up with nephews and my sister and having long chats with the kids.

Because of our normally hectic work schedules, we seldom get to visit all at once or for any length of time, but last night the kids and I had a great time chatting til late.  It went like this:

6:50 pm Group Text and try to keep up. lol

Me: The governor just announced a total lock down for the state as of tonight… unless seeing a doctor, needing medicine or groceries. I guess those workers are exempt. But… masks are being distributed.

GA (daughter): thanks for the update.

Me: lol he’s such an idiot… then he lists all the thing you can still do. get food, meds, play outside walk the dog, etc. basically what we’re doing now. He predicted 56% will get it with 20% hospitalized.  Ugh!  (my thoughts- How about scaring the shit out of us?)  He did say to be kind to one another.  I told GA, she got out in time.

RN (SLC daughter): Who’s he and where are you…FL or CA?

TX(son): Yikes! I had just landed a new job… now I’m a first grate teacher indefinitely.  All schools here are closed, probably for the rest of the year.

Me: CA and FL (nephew) said they’re next, expecting it soon.

RN: OMG TX!  That sucks!

TX:  I’m ok. Just wish everyone out there would be a little more considerate. I think we were a little too primed by all the apocalyptic entertainment. (laughy face)

RN: lol Hey but we kinda know what to expect in an Apocalypse now!

TX: Yeah… people are starting to buy guns here now because they think they’ll be the next shortage (sad face). I don’t think we’ll EVER have a shortage of guns in TX… or really anywhere in our country.

Me: Yeah, I heard that was happening.

RN: That’s funny, bc I saw a gun store the other day and based on all the shelves at the stores being empty, I actually had a split second thought of… “Hmmm. guns are probably next… should I get one?” But… the next day we had a 5.7 earthquake… so I b like… get the hell out!

Me: I thought that too…

TX: (laugh emoji here)  I have a pig with a hard head. I’ll bet he’d fight an intruder for a burrito and his head would probably stop a bullet. If not… bacon??

Me:  (laugh emoji) I would think your job secure – You still working RN?

RN: Yep

Me: Poor piglet  GA  mute your phone lol ( she just got off her flight from Amsterdan to LA to SLC, so I knew she was tired)

RN:  Hehe… when all you guys are confined to your houses I’ll be able to get in my car and drive straight into the heart of death.. 3 times a week!

TX: He’s not poor, he’s indestructible. (Laugh emoji) He ate a pound of glue and borax with giant pieces of sharp plastic glitter… didn’t even give him indigestion.

Be praying for you RN. Seriously

Me: Yes!

RN: OMG! Def eat the pig… all I have is a cat and I already warned the family  that I’ll eat him if necessary. (oopsy emogi)

Me: Well, when I worked at the health department, I was fitted with a CDC quality face mask specific to me. I’m so glad I kept it!

My cat is sickly and skinny.

TX: It’s all the same after it’s fried.  I’m sure that’s an old proverb of the south… probably

Me: And all my neighbors have lost their dogs in the last few month.  You’re on a roll TX. (You have to understand, this son is the least communicative of all the kids)

RN: I’ve had a fit test bc we have 4 TB rooms on our unit… meaning negative pressure rooms… so we were slated to have COVID pts… until the earthquake.

I’m fattening mine up.

TX:  That sounds pretty serious RN

Definitely need to fatten them up first. Pigs are great for that. Feed them almost anything. They get big fast and they taste great!

Me: No way! Utah has a low COVID rate, so far. Or at least it did.

Better not let the kids hear you!

TX: They can’t hear text (wink emoji) Hunter will pick up on sarcasm from a mile away though.

Me: Well the shelves were bare, so we’ll be eating lost of chili with beans.

RN: Or fried scrawny cat

and so it went.  later my other two and grand daughter would chime in with

GD:  OMG. I went shopping today again. I’ve spent more on this month then I have ever, honestly.  It’s nuts.

TX: Really?  Shockingly, there were a lot of frozen pizzas here. Plenty of chips and dip too. Good excuse to eat unhealthy I suppose.

Me: Our butcher meats were all gone.

RN: Right!? And I thought cereal would be all gone

Me: Nope!

RN: NO!

Me: Ice cream still there.

RN:  EAT HEALTHY BUY VIT A,D,AND C

TX: The Asian markets were the last hit here. Might be some stigma there.  Poor Asians. (Tearful emoji)

RN:  don’t drink… hey Ross (her ex) grab me another beer while you’re out there!  Ooops

LOL

ME:  You’re in GJ? (That’s where her ex lives)

GA: RN  you can always stop by Larry’s when you’re in GJ and grab one of mine.  For free. (She’s referring to her gun broker who was trying to sell some of her guns)

Gun that is … as long as you promise not to aim it at me.

RN:   (to TX) Don’t worry about them, they’re usually healthier than any of us. (to GA) A bit risky (to me) yes.

TX: I’m sure they are. Now I have a hankering for kimchi darn it

Me:  Love it!  Where’s SLC Son?

GA: Haven’t seen the stores yet. Just got to Utah. Not looking forward to tomorrow.

RN:  Ga, if you an J come near the house GD will shoot you before I get a chance! (kidding of course)  They’re quarantining you guys aren’t they?

SLC son: Like 49 cases, 0 deaths so far (referring to SLC)

Me: Wow! big change from last week.

SLC son: Yeah, well that’s exponential growth for you.

RN: UT quite good, but… really we are just behind the curve

SLC son: Exactly

Me: It seems areas impacted worse are those with large international airports and traffic

SLC son: And we tend to have a pretty compliant population with strong community focus.

And Washington is the worst. I’m convinced it’s their lack of adequate sunlight.

RN: That’s one way to put cult followers ( a series of of emoticons with different expressions of laughing)

Me: (laugh emoji) did I bear comedians?  Love it!

Anyway, the ramblings became more nonsensical and crazy but with everyone still somehow knowing which line was directed at them.  It was like we were all together with giddy, silly bantering.

After a bit more and some in between, (I didn’t put it all in) we signed off.

While this was going on, my siblings and I were also enjoying some communications along with a separate one with my nephew in Florida.  We may be in different states but with technology we can still keep in touch and with COVID-19  it was like we were in a room all together, talking over each other as families tend to do and which hasn’t happened in a long time. It’s all good.

States represented last night were

(2) Texas, (1) Colorado, (3) Utah, (4) California, (1) Florida, (1) Georgia, (1)Arizona and (1)Oregon

Like PhicklePhilly says: It can be a good time.

Keep the faith. Be productive.

Stay positive, Stay safe and yes, Be Kind.  It’s a good time to reconnect with family and friends.

My TX son just said, National Guard is coming in. He’s thinking they’re getting ready for a lock down.  Interesting.  I hadn’t heard that anywhere else.  I mean about the National Guard.  Oh well, it is Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Sister and Thomas

As I mentioned some time ago, my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was an unusual tumor that made itself known last year.

She finally had surgery three weeks ago.  When I first posted that information, we were all told it was a genetic, slow moving brain tumor, situated on her pituitary, causing her partial blindness and memory loss.  I was justifiably upset that the “team” of doctors kept delaying the surgery.  I could see she was getting worse. And, they were wrong. It grew way faster than they ever imagined it would.

When my step-brother and I visited in October, she was already quite forgetful, but she was managing.  She could feed herself and care for her basic needs.  To talk to her, she didn’t seem quite that bad.  We both left Florida relying on her boys to keep checking in on her and making sure she was okay, which they did, faithfully,  as did some of her neighbors, so she wasn’t entirely alone.

She and I kept in touch by phone and some of the time, when she could find her phone we would get to chat. Then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t getting through to her, at all.  I then had to rely on communications from her sons. Her sons started having to go by more frequently and then alternating days when they could. The niece in law would clean, do laundry and prep several meals for her, but one day they found the plate from the night before untouched. In fact, some had been wrapped up in paper towels and squirreled away.  She hadn’t been eating!

Her eldest son took his wife with him to pick her up and take her home with them as they had wanted to do before.  Up until then, my sis had not been compliant to go with them since she’d made it clear that she expected them to take all her furniture and “stuff” from her two floor flat and move it into the one bedroom. They explained, they could store these items, for when she was better, but she dug in her heels and did what we call, the “Brothers” thing. That’s our maiden name and our genetics are given to being notoriously obstinate.

Then there was Thomas.  The fact that there was a Thomas didn’t help and the kids knew how much he meant to her so they didn’t force her.

Thomas was her cat.  They are all allergic, so until they found him a home, taking him wasn’t going to happen.  No way, no how, that wasn’t going to happen if she had anything to say about it – period.  So, they were at a standoff.

Thomas O'Mally

He is pretty though.  As it turns out, she wasn’t paying much attention to him and Thomas was becoming quite feral in his own home.

The next day when they came to pick her up, she was lying on the floor in her own urine.  My niece in law showered her and my nephew packed up a few things to take her home.  They figured they could leave Thomas behind and check up on him daily to feed and change his litter box.

As they were headed downstairs, she collapsed.  She was taken to the ER and then admitted to ICU.  The surgery was scheduled but they had to strengthen her and get her vitals up so she could have surgery.  She was there a week before that would happen.  Her neighbor friend left me a message saying she had asked for me, so I flew out there two days later and a few days before surgery.  The evening I came in, she didn’t know who I was, but then the next day when the doc asked her if she knew me, she said, “Yes, that’s my sister Jo”.

Diana and I hosp

After a few days, she actually brightened up, as you can see.

During the few days before the surgery, I’d go and visit.  She really couldn’t carry on a conversation, but I noticed she wasn’t eating yet either, so I started to break down her food and feed her.

I really didn’t know what to do other than sit, so I started to read to her, give her a massage, wash her hair and do whatever I could to make her feel connected.  Her skin was very flaky and dry, so I made an olive and coconut oil concoction, simply because I reasoned, it could possibly give her nutrients to absorb from the outside. I figured, if she’d been half starved then she wasn’t getting the fats her body needed.  My niece in law had been using regular lotions, but they weren’t working.  I figured, if Sophia Loren swears by that stuff for her skin and she looks amazing, then it must work and it did.  In any case, it gave me something to do with her.  I wouldn’t stay long because she tired easily and after awhile I would summarily be dismissed.  Little sisters can be quite bossy.

At home I would take care of things. Clean up a bit, take care of Thomas and sight see.  In the meantime, the kids all asked if I’d seen Thomas and I say, “Not yet” or “Surprisingly, No”.  Thomas had lived with my husband and I up until 5 years ago, so it was kind of odd, he didn’t remember me.  It was almost four days later that I saw him run by.  If it hadn’t been for food disappearing and the litter box needing cleaning each day, you’d never know he was there even though I looked and called for him.

Later, one of the niece in laws make an effort, to talk me into taking him and I said, “No,  I’m not flying a cat all the way to California”, besides if I got another cat I’d want one that cuddles and Thomas doesn’t cuddle, besides Chloe’s health is failing and if he doesn’t remember me then those two won’t remember each other.

Surgery day came and her boys went in to see her first, then one came out and I went in and the delight on her face to see me made my trip all worthwhile.  Keep in mind, she wouldn’t remember day to day things we might have done. Her son admitted he thought I might have wasted my time coming, but when he saw her face light up, he was so glad I had.

My other brother from California and my sister from Alabama came as well.  After surgery it looked like everything would be fine.  Her eyes and expression were alert and welcoming, so we were relieved. By the next day, she was angry and stated quite clearly how she couldn’t breathe and was in pain and asked me to leave and to tell everyone else to stay away.  It was still promising in two ways, one she was able to articulate and express herself clearly, something we’d not seen and two, she was thinking clearly.  Since the surgery had been performed through her nasal passage, we weren’t terribly surprised she’d be upset about her breathing and she’s not a mouth breather.

The day after that, my brother went in to see her and we thought the pain would be better, but…  they were going to have to go back in.  She was having major clotting and some had blocked breathing.  We thought it had dropped into her lungs, as she was put on a respirator.  It turns out it was lodged in her throat and for two days they would remove clots the size of chicken livers.  I remained outside.  I didn’t see her for three days even though we would all meet daily in the waiting area. All hope had been dashed that I would get my sister back.

That week, she was not eating and they wouldn’t put a feeding tube in her because it could introduce bacteria into her system. So they said. I’d never heard of anything like this. I am as frustrated as hell at some of the decisions these docs have made, but then who am I?  I try to be patient, but I don’t understand.  My nephews too have been frustrated. My daughter, an RN, in SLC and my niece in law, a vet pathologist instructor, both do their best to explain things to us. Even though “S” isn’t a human pathologist, she does understand medical speak.

A few days later, she was a bit more responsive.  I told her I loved her and she said, “I love you too”  I explain to her that I will have to return home and for her to get better and she says ok. I leave.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t.  Days have passed and she’s gotten thinner.  They got her to walk one day, but she’s been off and on nourished through a nasal tube.  Finally they thought to move her into a regular wing, thinking she may have developed a type of hospital depression, so they did for like two day, if that.  They wanted to move her to rehab, so to do so, she had to be eating or on a feeding tube, so they put a direct line to her stomach.  I’m fuming because why in the hell, didn’t they do that in the first place?

They were giving her hormones to compensate for the pituitary but said, they hadn’t quite got the right combination yet.  I kept saying, feed her for Petes’ sake.  How can she respond to anything if she isn’t nourished?!!!

They were still wanting to move her,  but my nephew disapproval was apparent.  The nurse said to him, “You don’t think she should be moved?”  He looked her in the eye and said, “Do you think she looks like she’s in any shape to be moved!”  I think he’d had enough as well.  So, she told him she’d have the doctor call.  Well, they didn’t, but they immediately ordered a bunch of new tests.  Checking for the possibility of meningitis and/or a stroke.  One of the docs (they work in “teams”) finally called to say the nasal passage was clear so she didn’t get meningitis from that.  Tests came back but so far no bacteria was found and nothing fungal yet, which could still show, but probably not. The MRI did show vascular inflammation that could have stemmed from an infection or immune response.  They are giving her antibiotics and it’s still unclear what has happened since surgery, but she still has a vacant look. On Monday she will get another MRI and a full stroke study.  Again, why do they take so long to do thing?

With the COVID-19 a concern, they are limiting visitations.  My siblings and I wanted to go back there again, but until things clear up, we just wait and pray.

I wanted to share some pics of us her and us.

Diana

One of the art exhibits in Birmingham when we were still together.

Diana and Ferg

Di giving my little dog Ferguson a ride.

Diana and I night

She and I on my last visit before six months ago.Diana' news

Looking real good, a couple of years ago. She actually won a ribbon for one of her drawings that trip.

Then there’s the original four.  I’m the tall one, she’s the little one.  We would later acquire my four step siblings and a new little brother.

Us kids.

I want to thank my baby brother, who couldn’t be there,  for paying for my trip to see her and for all the support my step siblings have given me as well.  The rest of us got to be there for her for one week.  Now we wait and see.

As for Thomas, the word got out and there were several offers to take him. He ended up going home with one of the ER nurses, and yes, he’d become quite feral. So much so that when “S” and I tried to round him up, he hissed at us.  This gal and her husband would come two weeks later and corralled him to get a look at him first.  After a bit, they said yes.  The other day, we learned he was sitting on her lap while she watched T.V.  He is obviously happy, because he doesn’t do that for just anyone.

Yesterday, I got to thinking of all that has transpired in the world since she lost touch and so many monumental things no less, and a happy thought flittered by…

Wouldn’t it be great if down the road, when she gets better, we can tell her of all the stuff she “slept through?    My son, says, “Yeah,  “While You Were Sleeping...”

It made me chuckle to myself and then I laughed a little out loud. I told my nephew, I just bet she’d get a kick out of it.  He said and then she’ll have that curious look on her face…and added a laughing emoji.

I, WE can hardly wait!!

 

 

Annie’s Canyon Trail

I went off this past Sunday to do my first lone hike. I needed to expend some energy and do something good for myself, so I thought, why not a hike?  I mentioned this to hubby, who quickly got online, (he obviously thought it was a good idea too) and he found this place called Annie’s Canyon…

Before I get into that, this is what my life has been like the past few months.  As most of you who follow my blog know, my sister was diagnosed with a genetic brain tumor that has recently started acting up, but for some reason, her surgery keeps getting postponed which has been extremely frustrating to all of us. Right now, she displays all the signs of dementia which is disturbing to me.  No one likes having a conversation with someone they care about and moments after you finish your sentence, she retells it to you in the third person, as though she is talking to someone else, about you.  Yeah, it’s a lot to handle.

Then… I had the flu, starting after Thanksgiving and for what lasted forever, so Christmas was pretty much a wash. Even so, we spent it with my in laws, who happen to be atheist. Yeah, I know, you don’t have to say anything because that’s how I feel too.

My father in law is in his 90’s and refuses to die.  Not that he doesn’t want to, he just can’t seem to get there.  He’s miserable, incontinent and hating his life.  My mother in law, can’t do anything or go anywhere because he’s so clingy and she feels trapped.  No, she doesn’t complain. EVER. I only sense it.  It wasn’t until my brother in law’s heart attack  that she opened up at how miserable it has been. She was beside herself, and said she just “can’t do this anymore” and detailed some of what she’s had to do.

Last Monday week my father in law ended up in the hospital, again. BUT, what’s worse is my brother in law had a heart attack on the same day and my mother in law couldn’t go to him!  He ended up in ICU and on a respirator and they couldn’t operate until they stabilized him which took a week. He was operated on yesterday and so far, so good.

What’s unfortunate is, I’m a first born and first born’s want to take care of everything and everyone and when you can’t and or shouldn’t, you take a hike.

ANNIE’S CANYON TRAIL

Annie’s Canyon Trail is tucked away in the middle of suburbia, near the beach and near the Interstate 5 Freeway in San Diego County, California.  The online pictures looked like snapshots of one of the many canyon’s in Utah or Colorado, so of course, I wanted to go. Here’s my photo log.

Excited to be doing my first solo hike, I got off the freeway and to the trailhead to find this:

Annies Trail 18

That’s okay.  I’ll head to the Rios Ave trailhead which was another couple of miles away. Fortunately, that was open.  Not a lot of parking since it’s all residential and many homes have signs against it, but I found a spot.

Annies Trail1

And, it was cold.  I should have thought of that.  The trail starts out on the north side of this “mountain”.  (You’ll have to excuse the quotations, but after having lived in Colorado where there are real mountains, these seem small.) I was in workout leggings, short sleeve shirt with a light flannel over that.  I was grateful I, at least had that. lol

The hike was interesting.

Annies Trail 20Annies Trail 22Annies Trail 19

To the left of the trail is a preservation of salt water marsh and wildlife. You do see the birds right? Parts of the area where the little blue flags are seen were recently replanted with indigenous flora.  As I walked there were a number of memorial benches honoring a lost loved one.  This one especially caught my eye because it had a “no smoking” sticker on it and behind were the charred remains of a slope that had recently seen fire.

Annies Trail

Later there was was a fork in the road. One was for a difficult path, the other more moderate.  I went for the difficult.  People on the trail were all friendly greeting one another with a “good morning” or “beautiful day isn’t it?”, so I was by no means unaccompanied.

I have to chuckle though because on my way there I’d debated taking mace with me since so many of our California canyons are filled with homeless and unfortunate dangerous characters, but as I parked, I could see I had plenty of company from families with children and dog walkers, so no worries.

 

Annies Trail 10

Annies Trail 17Annies Trail 16

My new found friend Levi was right behind me and his mama in the background below. As you can see the climb up that gorge was quite narrow.  I mean he’s a little guy and there’s not a whole lot of room on either side of him.  It was a manual free climb up until the last little bit where a ladder presented itself.

Annies Trail 15

At one point in the narrow gorge there was this tall step up and the soil on it was sandy, so needless to say, I hesitated. Because it was narrow, there wasn’t a lot of room or handholds to place my hands in order to lift myself up.  Levi was patient however, and I ended up relying completely on thigh strength (and a prayer) to push forward and not slip back down onto my little friend.

 

You can see engraved graffiti here, but one gentleman informed me that the whole area had recently been closed down to clean up sections covered with graffiti both painted and carved. Sad, that people will do that, but they do.

Signs and there were signs everywhere, directional and cautionary signs. Signs to warn against trampling areas that could impact wildlife.Annies Trail 12Annies Trail 9

Annies Trail 14

At the top you can see the ocean and salt water marsh.  To the right is the freeway overpass and it’s expansion site although construction crews were not present.

Annies Trail 21

My hubby is always saying how marvelous it is to find these little hidden gems in our heavily congested city.  I couldn’t agree more.

Annie’s Canyon Trail was not a long hike but there were so many little side trails to take to make it a bit more so, that I took them.  The elevation gain was approximately 540 feet, so for the distance, it is quite steep.  For more information, the link will show you areas I did not get to go on because they were closed for construction, but I will go back.

On a humorous note, funny but not funny… you had to see it.

As I was walking out, I saw a little girl of about 5-6 years old pitching a fit, crying, “Daddy, I don’t like this! I don’t like it here!”  He told her they could go back, and her response was, “It’s far, we came a long way!”  I felt sorry for this father and his prima dona daughter. I wanted to give him words of encouragement but had no clue what to say. I hated to think what his future with her would be like.

Funny, I had just been marveling too, at how many families were out  having such a lovely, educational morning together with their children.  It was such  a beautiful day.  I guess the outdoors is not for everyone.

I liked it.

PS I just learned that my brother in law had a quadruple bi-pass and is doing okay for now.  Because their father died of a heart attack at age 34, both sons were checked early on so he has always known he had to be careful. He has been on medication,  watched his diet and all that. Still…  I hope he will be fine now.

 

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.