Monday, April 28, 2014

What happens when a geezerette tries to multi-task?

Things that are supposed to be done don’t quite get done. Sometimes what has failed not to get done is not that important -- the pile of trash that has been swept up is still sitting in the middle of the floor an hour later -- but sometimes there can be “dire consequences” and yelling, or otherwise loud conversations and recriminations might be involved, and one feels as though one is going to loose 10 years off her life.

I am supposed to take my cell phone with me when I leave the house to take the dog for a walk anywhere away from the immediate yard or when I go to town.

On the morning of the aerobics class, this is what I thought had happened: I attached the phone to the waistband of my jeans, checked my computer to see what the new e-mail was about, got the dog ready to go, and then left for the aerobics class.

Before the 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics begins, the routine involves weight lifting, and then about 15 minutes of stretching exercises that I do not like. Instead, I leave from the side door and take the dog for a walk. I have it timed well, and I usually arrive back before the aerobic exercises have started. If it is too hot or too cold for the dog to sit in the car for 30 minutes, then she joins the class (and behaves herself).

The other morning, we had almost finished with the walk when I felt for the mobile phone. It was not there. I did drop the phone once when I was at the post office (and miracle of miracles, someone I go to church with found it and turned it in), and so I am nervous about loosing it.

Not there
. I got that “feeling” in the pit my stomach. The phone has about 2,000 prepaid minutes on it.

I went to the exercise room and borrowed Judy’s phone to call Richard and ask him to check to see if my phone was there. He did not answer, so I left a totally incoherent message on the answering machine.

I told Judy that I needed to retrace my steps to make sure the phone had not somehow become detached from the waistband of my jeans and was on the ground somewhere, and she said she was going to come with me.

We talked about various and sundry things as we walked along, and found a glove and a sock and a few other items, but not my phone. I called Richard again, and I left another incoherent message on the answering machine. I figured he had probably decided to take a walk himself.

When we returned to the Y, I promised Judy I would send her an e-mail to tell her the end of the story, picked up the mail at the post office and went home.

And the story had a happy ending. I passed Richard, so I was able to delete the two messages I left on the answering machine before he listened to them.

My phone was not lost. It was sitting next to the computer monitor, where I had put it instead of following through and attaching it to my waistband.

Lessons learned from this escapade: I need to insist that I complete one task before I start another. I used to be able to think about – and do – two different things at once (or at least I thought I was able to). Now, though, I am being reminded more and more that the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be…

Monday, April 14, 2014

May you have an interesting…. flight

Urban legend has it that there is a Chinese curse that goes something like

 “May you live in interesting times…

I suppose one can look at this from several angles, but what strikes me is that “interesting” can often be very complicated and fraught with adventures that perhaps one would rather not have.

As it happens, one of the three books I took with me to read during a glorious week of no work was Terry Pratchett’s novel...
...which is a delightful tale of the bumbling wizard Rincewind who does indeed find himself in “interesting times” and having all sorts of adventures, as does his Luggage, which has hundreds of little feet and seems to be alive and always seems to be able to find Rincewind no matter where he ends up.

I had an interesting time on the journey home. Of course I was not alone on this adventure, many travelers were also having an adventure right along with me.

Many times we are not bailed out of difficult situations, but instead are given the grace to go through it. In this case, the grace was a lovely woman, Ann, who also happened to be waiting at the gate for the same flight to Dallas-Ft Worth and who was also expecting to board the same plane to Springfield as I was after we got there. Having that little blessing of someone to be with made all the difference in the world as the hours crawled by and the adventure unfolded. 

Enough time has passed now that I can look rather calmly at the first Thursday and Friday in the month of April and be very grateful that everything actually did come out all right in the end, although perhaps being awake for most of 36 hours is a bit harder to do when one is on the far side of 60 than when one is oh, say 20…

All airplanes that take off from Los Angeles International fly out over the ocean and then, depending on their ultimate destination, make a sweeping turn or go straight. Airplanes heading to Dallas-Ft Worth turn left and follow the coast for a while as they gain altitude before completing the U-turn and heading inland over the California desert and then across Arizona, New Mexico, and on into Texas.

The arrival of the plane that was to take us to DFW was delayed about 2 hours because of mechanical problems, and when it finally did arrive and we were all on board the plane, our take off was further delayed because they couldn’t get the door to shut properly. But, once we were in the air, and everyone breathing a sigh of relief, I had an opportunity to watch the coastline pass by and remember with lovely nostalgia the Saturdays my father took us and our friends to the beach during the summer. 
 And then the plane was passing the harbor complex at San Pedro, where Dad loved to take us to watch boats being unloaded and sometimes to tour ships that were docked, and where I had just taken him a few days before. 
Ann and I calculated the plane should arrive in D-FW in time for us to make the new connection to the later flight to Springfield that we had rebooked at LAX. But the weather conspired against us. Severe storms over D-FW meant we had to turn around and land in Lubbock and spend 2 hours on the ground. By the time we got to D-FW, all of the connecting flights had been cancelled. The airline had rebooked both of us on flights to Springfield later the next day, but we put ourselves on the standby list for the first flight to Springfield Friday morning.

We ate, got some blankets that the airport provided (the cots were all gone by this time), and found some lounge chairs and put them together and made beds for ourselves and pretended to doze through the night, but of course neither of us slept much at all.

The following morning, we were high enough up on the standby list that we both got on the first flight to Springfield. I was not very hopeful that my luggage would arrive with me. My luggage does not have hundreds of little legs and cannot follow me, but much to my amazement, the airline had indeed managed to get it on the same plane as I was, and there it was. I had to wait a while for Richard to arrive -- it takes longer to drive from our house to the airport in Springfield than it does for the plane to fly from D-FW to Springfield, but that was OK. I was safe, my luggage was safe, and my honey was coming.

My sister will probably plan a party for my dad’s 90th birthday in the fall. There is no question but that I will go So, I’ll have a few months to become very philosophical about what might or might not happen when I hop on the airplane for that event.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Goin’ to the chapel… The earth moved under our feet… I can see clearly now…

Funny how it seems too easy to use song lyrics to summarize events, but sometimes it just works…

The initial reason I went to Los Angeles for a week was to attend her wedding at the end of March.

She is my brother’s daughter, and the last grandchild to get married. This will very likely be the last wedding in my immediate family for quite a long time. It was indeed a very special and very happy occasion.

Often parents sit horrified as they watch their child go through a ceremony that will officially begin a relationship with someone they view as the worst possible choice in a partner.

No one was worried that the girl would make a bad choice. She had very high standards. In fact, when my mother was alive, she worried the girl would not be able to find the right man to be her husband, but my mother was wrong. She has found a wonderful man.

Her mother and father are delighted.

We are all delighted

It was an evening wedding, and they had a simple dessert reception rather than a meal. It was quite fun…

...especially a few minutes after 9 p.m., when an earthquake hit on a fault not that far from the venue. It was one of those rolling type of quakes that seemed to last for quite a while, and almost immediately people were heard singing the opening lyrics to the Carole King song. The earth did indeed move under our feet.

The only noticeable change at my Dad’s house was that the quake had stopped the pendulum in the grandfather clock in the living room, so we knew exactly when the quake occurred.

And then unplanned, but coinciding providentially with my trip, the ophthalmologist who takes care of my father decided that the cataract in the eye in which he still has some vision (he is blind in one eye) would be removed a few days after the wedding. The eye drops (two different kinds, four times a day) needed to be started 3 days before the operation, so I was there to supervise that and to help take care of him after the operation, when he then had to put in three different eye drops four times a day.

My younger brother drove us to the hospital, and when we saw the other patients who were having cataracts removed that day (the doctor schedules all of these operations on the same day) coming out of the surgery with gauze pads over their eye, we were a bit concerned. It would not do at all for our father to have his good eye covered, which would basically leave him blind. But we needn’t have worried. The doctor put a clear cup over the eye.

That evening my sister and my other brother, the father of the bride (who brought his dog Rosie), came to see how Dad was doing, and we hung out in the den watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. We always guess what color dress will Vanna White will be wearing. We all guessed wrong.

My sister worked on my Dad’s toenails, which were in dire need of being trimmed (I didn’t realize how hard it is for elderly folk to trim their toenails), and he got to love-on Rosie a little bit.

The next morning when my dad got up and sat down to watch the morning news, the first words out of his mouth were “Wow, this is great. It is really clear!”

I started to get a little angry. Why did they wait until the man was 89 years old to do this? Why didn’t they do this much earlier, before the cataract got so big? Well, no point in getting worked up about it. The fact that he can see clearly now after who knows how many years in the fog is indeed a blessing.

Monday, April 07, 2014

I'll do it myself...

Years ago, when his sisters came with their children to visit Pater (which is what they called their father), my dad had a knack for entertaining his nieces and nephews by making funny faces.

I was very happy, when I saw him at the end of March, that he was feeling lively enough to give me an encore performance when I began taking his picture.

 It brought back many wonderful memories of boisterous gatherings in the living room with aunts and cousins laughing at his antics.

And on this particular morning, as he does on most mornings, he begins by eating a bowl of homemade yogurt, which he makes himself and has done for probably 30 years or more,  topped with a variety of fresh (bananas), canned (pineapple), and stewed (prunes) fruit. Nearly every day he also eats eggs and bacon, which he has cooked himself and has done since my earliest memories of him. He has no sign of cardiovascular disease. Go figure.

On this particular morning, I watch as he struggles to open a can of pineapple with a hand-operated can opener – the sort that you clamp down on the can and then turn the knob. He will be having cataract surgery in a few days, and I expect his difficulty is partly because he can’t see too well.

Would you like me to help?
Nah. I can get this, he says.

I restrain myself from grabbing the can and the can opener and leave the kitchen to do some cleanup in the bathroom.

When I return, he has indeed opened the can the old-fashioned way, the way they used to do it, before the second-generation of can openers was invented. He has used a “church key” to punch holes around the edge and has grabbed pliers from the junk drawer to pull up the lid enough to shake out the pineapple. He has managed to do this without cutting himself. Whew!

I understand how important it is not to try to take over doing the few things that he is still able to do for himself. My sister suggested that I not leap up to do the dishes after breakfast. Let him take care of it, she says. So I don't. I also leave the drainer full of air-dried dishes so that he can put them away himself. In the first few days of cleaning up after myself, I put a few things away where they did not belong. He has come behind me and rearranged the knives in the knife holder, and I have put the containers that are used for leftovers in the wrong spot.

We made some major mistakes in trying to control what Richard’s father did when he came to live with us. I don’t see my father very often, but I am determined not to make similar mistakes when I do.