November 15, 2005

I thought when I moved back into the house and got my life re-established the way I wanted it that the madness was over and a smooth road of open, happy highway trails in front of me.  Sure, I was taking some knocks from the family, but I pretty much expected that. 

Harvest came in beautifully, despite the fact that I wasn't able to get it into the ground until May.  The last of it is tucked away and the fields are barren again.  I gave a lot of it away to friends and family.  I kept enough for myself to take care of me for a year.

As many of you can recall, two years ago, my mom announced that she was going to start traveling from kid to kid, spending a few months with each because she knew she was going to die on a particular date.  That pretty much threw my life as I had known it to that point into turmoil with a lot of adjustments to be made and, as it turned out, lessons to be learned and life experiences to be had.

After a rocky last connection with my family back in July which ended in me just leaving the house and coming back home without saying anything, I didn't expect to hear much from them... and I didn't.  Then, all of a sudden, on Friday, October 29th, people started showing up at my house.  By Sunday, October 30th, all of my family except for Kye and Vince, who have evidently fallen off the map after overstaying their welcome with one of the sisters, had converged on my home, unannounced and uninvited.  I was, as you can imagine, agog.  The overall explanation was, "Well, were else would we go but the 'family' home?"  I have to make some allowances for them since my father actually did build the house himself before I was born and we were all raised here.  Even though my name is on the deed and I live here, it truly is the home of our family and it's hard for all of us to get past that idea, so I just indulge it. 

Mom showed up last with Sal and Marji and made a queen's entrance, all dolled up for her birthday the following day and what, if her prediction was correct, would also be her death day.  We all went out to dinner together on Sunday night at a really nice place and came home and enjoyed a few bottles of wine together.  It was as though none of the bad stuff happened, with the exception of Kye and Vince's absence, and the time we all spent together was lovely.  It was especially good to see Natalie and Ginger, who stood by me the whole time through the past few years.  They are still going strong and seem very happy together. 

Everyone was strewn all over the house, on couches and air mattresses and in beds in the spare rooms.  Mom was in her old room, just not in a hospital bed.  She seems better than she has in a long time, happy and refreshed and peaceful.  It's hard to believe she's the same woman who was so riddled by dementia.  Medication is her friend (and oxygen).  She still has the tank to drag around and takes a lot of meds, but whatever her mix is, it seems to be working.

I woke up Monday morning, Halloween, with a bit of a headache.  I'm just not used to drinking wine any more.  The sun was bright, which didn't help my head even a little bit.  Even with the sun coming in the windows, I was the first one up and went downstairs to put on the gallons of coffee we'd need.  Everyone left kids at home this time, which surprised me with the holiday at hand.  We always make a big deal of Halloween and I was sorry that the kids would not be here to take trick-or-treating. 

We were set up to have the actual birthday party for Mom that afternoon around 2pm since she doesn't stay up very late any more.  One thing I have to say that I really appreciate very much is that the girls cooked almost nonstop while they were here.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and lots of leftovers were all yummy.  It's nice to have someone cook for me for a change. 

I was sitting in the big chair with an equally big cup of coffee for the morning when Cammie came in and told us that Mom was gone.  At first, I thought she meant that Mom had physically left the house, but no, she mean that as predicted, Mom had died.  We all circled in around the bed, in the room that had been hers for so long.  She was so quiet and still and we just spent time with her there.  I noticed that her oxygen tank was on, so I went up to the bed and shut it off.  A little bit of her white hair had fallen over her forehead in her sleep, so instinctively, I reached over and pushed it back.  As I did so, she gasped a little and opened her eyes and I pulled a Leo DuPres, screamed like a girl and nearly fell over my own feet jumping back out of my own way. 

We all were immobilized for seconds as she looked around at us.  "What are all of you doing in my room?" she asked and reached over for her glasses like nothing had happened.  "And who turned off my tank??  Can't a person get any sleep around here without being bothered?  Do I smell coffee?"  We all shifted our stare to Cammie, whose eyes were bigger than ours, and gave her the "WTF?" look.

She insisted that Mom had no pulse and wasn't breathing when she checked on her.  Natalie was evidently the only one who could move and she went to the kitchen and brought Mom a cup of coffee.  She sat up in bed and started drinking it, then shooed us out of the room so she could get dressed.  Like little kids, we all shuffled back out to the living room, confused and fairly messed up.  I threw some Bailey's in my coffee and offered it to Ginger, who passed the bottle around the room.  We all drank in silence until she came out a few minutes later.   We all looked at her and she got this goofy sort of Mae West look on her face and said, "Well, I didn't say I was going to STAY dead."  Rosie had the presence of mind to ask if we should take her to the doctor since heaven knows how long she was not breathing.  Dale said, "She's walking, isn't she?  Just leave well enough alone." 

It was not even 10am and my head was hurting like mad, so I ate some aspirin and went to my room for a couple of hours to pound out my spoiler commentary column, getting lost in a fictional world for a while. 

I emerged a couple of hours later and it seemed as though the whole thing was a dream.  Friends of Mom's from around the neighborhood would be coming over for the party, so the rest of the family was busy cooking and setting up tables.  Fortunately, it was a decent day, so we could set up outside in the privacy fence, on the deck and around and about. 

It was lovely.  Mom was in her glory and there were easily 50 people there throughout the afternoon at different times, neighbors, friends, people the girls knew in school.  The word really must have spread.  When I found out about the party on Friday, I called Colin and he drove down to see her as well (he used to be her home nurse).  He only stayed for a couple of hours and it was clear that it is getting awkward for us to be around one another and not be a couple.  I have no regrets and I don't think he does either.  Our lives have just moved on. 

Kurt and Maxine were there and were kind to my family, despite their wonderful loyalty to me.  I honestly could never ask for better friends.  I'd gone through the boxes of photos left in the attic and along with some of the ones from the photo albums, and made a book that was a retrospective of Mom's life to give to her as a gift.  I felt kind of silly giving her her own photos, but I put some cut out newspaper clippings, bits of poetry and such along with it.  She seemed to enjoy it.  Kurt played his 12-string guitar and people sang old classic rock and folk songs.

Everyone left around 5-5:30 pm and by 6pm, Mom and I were in our old places on the front porch to give out candy to the neighborhood kids.  Mom always makes them do a trick to get their treat, so they'll sing or say a poem or spell a hard word and then mom gives them candy according to the quality of their performance.  I'd been prepared to carry on the tradition, so I had purchased tons of little candies, then mini-candy bars and then full sized candy bars.  By 8pm, we were completely out of candy (boo hooo!!).  She turned in not long after that and the rest of us sat in the living room contemplating the obvious question.  Where was Mom going to live?  We were all, yes even hard-hearted old Sage, open to taking a turn with her care, but as we were discussing it, she yelled out from the room (hers is the only one downstairs), saying, "I can HEAR you, you know!"  She called us into her room and handed us all a brochure.  She'd already booked herself into a very nice care home for older folks, set up so that nursing care is available, but not in an intrusive way.   It is designed mostly for ambulatory, self-sufficient seniors, but they have call buttons all over the apartments and each resident has a call button they can wear as a bracelet or necklace.  There is a very nice pool and jacuzzi, as well as an indoor whirlpool for onsite physical therapy.  It looks more like a resort or health spa than an old folks home.  It's fairly centrally located to all of us except for Marji and Sal, who are the ones who can most afford to travel to see her.  She was very clear that in her entire life, she'd never lived completely alone and she wanted to give it a try.  Then she ordered us out of her room to let her sleep.

So with that issue was resolved, I went into my room and polished off the rest of a bottle of Captain Morgans and went to sleep, stunned by how much my life had changed in less than a week when in actuality, nothing had really changed other than my perception.

Everyone left out in a whirlwind on the 1st, all through the day at different times.  By 6pm, I was alone.  The house felt big and empty and my fridge and freezer were filled with leftovers of all kinds of scrumptious foods.  Mom left with Ginger and Natalie, who would drop her off at her new home on the way and help her get settled in.  She left a list of items that I was to locate from the boxes in the storage sheds to send to her over the next few weeks.  Since her boxes are clearly marked, it shouldn't be very difficult. 

It was hard to let go of my hurt feelings for how I was treated in July.  No acknowledgement was made of it and no apologies were offered, which was hard to swallow.  Everyone seemed to go into "do over" mode, so I felt it was in the best interest of family unity to do the same.  Very little was said about whatever rift was created when Kye and Vince were last seen.  I got the feeling that some of the girls knew a good bit more about it than Rosie, Ginger and I knew, but the opportunity to discuss it did not manifest.  I was worried at first when family just started showing up out of nowhere.  I know they thought if I was forewarned, that I would be resistant to it and I think they were as eager as I was to find a way to make peace.  As it turned out, the best way was to hit the reset button and press on.  The reason I was particularly worried when they started showing up was thinking I was going to have to deal with the lectures again or worse, thinking I was going to have to deal with Kye and Vince and their little beastie girls.  Once I knew they weren't coming and that no one was going to be in my grill about my "mistreatment" of them, I was pretty much OK, especially on Tuesday night after everyone left, when my house was again my own and I was in my hot tub with fragrant incense rising up around me and a drinky poo in my hand.

As many of you know, the Head was last seen when Kurt stowed it away in my toilet and scared me out of my mind in mid-pee.  It was a first of the morning pee too.  Definitely not a time to mess with a guy, so I knew that when I got him back, it had to be a good one.  I didn't expect it to take on a life of its own as it did, but I wanted to give it ever advantage to really freak him out in addition to the underlying mission of conveying the Head back to his possession.

Some of Kurt's family members own a winery that does pretty good business and as a result, Kurt fancies himself a sort of urban plantation owner, even on his little one acre plot.  He's horrible at it and it knows it.  He tries each year to grow the little spindly grapevines and each year, he gets these little raisiny looking bitches that are hardly good for anything.  Still, I have to admire his determination, his persistence and his tenacity. 

Later that week (after everyone left and I was recovered from the events of Halloween weekend) around 2am and knowing he sleeps like the dead, I crept out to his 100 sq foot vineyard with my flashlight, jammed an old broom handle in the ground and made a scarecrow for him with, you guessed it, The Head as the head, under a nice, big straw hat.  Just before Halloween, I found a gorgeous big fake raven at a Michael's store and I stuck that up on the scarecrow's shoulder.  I'm thinking there is on way he's going to look out his back yard and not see this thing.  I go home and wait for the phone call.   (See, the rules say you HAVE to acknowledge that you have received the Head and been completely p0WNd)

FINALLY, he called me around 11pm the next night.  As usual, my creativity turned out to be a lot more of a drama than it should have.  Kurt, who is a complete pacifist, looked outside his kitchen window a couple of hours earlier and saw the scarecrow in the askance of the security light of his neighbor's house.  He yelled out at it, thinking it was an intruder.  He ordered it off its property once.  Then twice.  Then he shot it.

He must have hit the stick just right, because it fell over.  He swears he saw it move after he yelled at it the first time.  Mr Scaredy Ass was afraid to go out and see what he shot, so he called the police and frantically told them that he'd shot someone who was an intruder on his property.  Within a few minutes, they were there with an ambulance and everyone ran out to tend the wounded trespasser.  Oh man, Kurt was so damned pissed off.  I have known him almost his whole life and I have NEVER heard him that mad.  The cops and paramedics were laughing so hard they couldn't stand up.  By the time he called me, the brouhaha was over, but he was still mad.  Maxine came home when the cops and everyone were there and although she was scared at first, as anyone would be, she was laughing her ass off when she heard what happened. 

The only real damage is to The Head, which now has a good sized hole blown through it (I guess ol' Kurt means business with trespassers) and to our bank accounts.  Kurt is set to receive a bill for the ambulance call, which I offered to split with him.  I may have been responsible, but he was the dumbass who shot the scarecrow and called the police. 

The Head has successfully changed hands, but I may have screwed myself because I know that he's really going to get me this time.

House is back to normal.  Life is quiet and peaceful.  All is right in my world.

I hope it is in yours.

All the best,


Prior Off-topic Columns

August 15, 2005

June 2, 2005

May 19, 2005