Friday, August 31, 2012

It takes a certain amount of effort to keep an 88-year-old woman and a 18-year-old cat happy.
CatSure? Check. Gin? Check. Dry vermouth? Check. Efferdent? Check. Only one pet store chain carries the cat milk. The local supermarket does not carry my mother's brand of gin. Rite Aid does--but my mom does not like the brand of vermouth they have on their shelves. The Efferdent tablets, I'm happy to say, can be found at both the supermarket and the drug store.

My fancy high tech house is another high maintenance entity (first world problems, I know.) How did we get from buying a TV and bringing it home and plugging it in to a full-scale intervention by the Geek Squad? I have so many wires and cords coming out of my living room wall that it seems like I should be able to communicate with NASA. As a sufferer of anxiety, I don't really enjoy surround sound. It creeps me out, hearing those noises behind me. But today, thinking that enhanced sound might help my mom enjoy TV, and make me more popular with certain people I love during basketball season, I went to Best Buy and bought a receiver that will allow me to stream music and movies from my iPad as well as watch TV and DVDs. It took me a month to work up to this task. I took pictures of all the various connectors and cords. I took pictures of my TV and my VCR and then loaded them onto my iPad and took it to the store with me. That was an ice-breaker. It took about two hours with the very chatty clerk to pick out a receiver, and schedule a consultation with the Geeks. Mind you, the actual install will require a second visit. I will also be able to wirelessly communicate with the receiver with my iPad. I may never get up off the couch. The booze and the special cat milk will have to be delivered to my door.  
I also bought a one-button remote that will turn on the TV, the cable box, the receiver, and select either surround sound or simply stereo based on the program being watched all with just the touch of a single button--so my mom can watch the morning news and the Ellen Degeneres show if I am out searching for her favorite brand of Vermouth--which she can't remember the name of although it comes in a green bottle--but not the brand in the green bottle that I bought today. If I can press that damn button and automatically feed the cat and uncork a bottle of Cabernet, life will be beyond perfect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Clouds in the Water

I sleep with my window shades only partially closed. I want that first peak at the day as I open my eyes.     I crave that instant shot of beauty.

My mother has told me a half-dozen times already how much she likes my "color scheme." My counter-top appliances are red. My kitchen walls are yellow. The afghan her sister crocheted sits on the back of my sofa, each square a blast of color that's echoed in my living room rug.

Today at the doctor's office, her eyes opened wide when the nurse gave her a rose pink paper gown to put on for her EKG. "Things used to be so drab," my mother said. "Not like this."

I savor the red wine in the crystal glass. The way the sun shines through my orange patio umbrella nearly setting it afire. The contrast of the melon in the green glass bowl.

"Oooh, gorgeous," my mother said when I showed her the plumeria cuttings the man who loves me sent from his sister's trees. "They're blooming," she said.

Things used to be so drab. Not like this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

iPads and Ass Hats

I've been showing my mom how to read the L.A. Times on the iPad. She gets it.

She's been telling me about things that happened long ago. Tonight as I prepared our mushroom and broccoli quiche for dinner, she told me about St. Anthony's school where she went until 5th grade "when the nuns kicked us out." Her parents could no longer pay the tuition. But, showing a more generous side, the nuns also took my mom and her siblings into the convent kitchen and fed them when their mother had nothing to pack them for lunch. "Two of the richest kids in Dubuque went to that school," she said. "They were delivered by a  chauffeur." She told me how another rich girl often wanted to trade lunches with her and her twin. Jelly sandwiches for sausage--which must have seemed like caviar. But I'll bet my grandmother's jelly was homemade and pretty damn fabulous.

My mom told me how her first grade nun was a terror. I'd heard some of these stories before. How she caught your tears in a bowl to humiliate you if you cried. How she'd put you under her desk and kick you. She put my mom over her knee and spanked her once, but my mom says she doesn't remember what she did to deserve it. Her older sister ran home to tell their mother, and their mother came running. "Our mom showed that nun where her hat was at!" my mom said. I'd never heard that expression before, and the Google gods have not revealed its origins. It could be that it was martini-inspired. Or maybe one of my currently favorite pejoratives,"ass hat," bears some relationship to it. But I guess if you're an ass hat, you know where your hat is.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Miracles, Mean Bulls, Mexican Food & Random Musings

"Where'd you get the cowbells?" my mom asked as she exited my side door for a cigarette, and the rope of bells I've tied to the door knob jangled.
"They're goat bells from Greece," I said.
"They remind me of the bells my grandfather put on the bull," she said. "We kids weren't allowed in that pasture, but I saw that bull run my uncles up the windmill more than once," she said.
There's an image for you.

So....Miracle Ear was kind of a miracle. The broken hearing aid will be repaired at no cost. The technician was sweet and seemingly knowledgeable and spoke directly to my mom without assuming I would be the go-between. We go back for a follow-up next week. But why oh why is the place on the 3rd floor and a hefty walk from the elevator? Hearing loss is not solely the province of the elderly, but c'mon. I got a suntan crossing the parking lot, and that was only half-way there.

A snippet from last night's dinner conversation:
"To think that all we had was 300 & some dollars per month and the house payment was 150.00, and there were taxes besides." This was my mom describing our destitution after my dad died and we were getting by on Social Security Survivor benefits. I saw M's eyes open a bit wider. My mom went on to describe how my brothers' summer jobs paid for their high school tuition. I was in college then and scraping by in a similar fashion. I'm liking the 3-generation vibe a lot. My mom brings things up that I haven't ever thought to tell my daughters.

The three of us have been wondering about my other daughter C who has not made contact in a while. She and her husband are professional sailors and do not always have access to phones or social media. Through Facebook, we've pinned down their travel dates. The two of them are vacationing in Costa Rica. My mom keeps asking if we've heard from them. I made an executive decision not to share with her that Costa Rica was under a tsunami watch this morning. Tonight she asked about them again. M and I were cooking---I, hovering over a pan of fajita veggies, M over the quesadillas. "Probably, Mom," I said, "They've unplugged." I went on to explain that in my daughters' generation, people are so connected that sometimes they have to disconnect. She was sitting at the bar with her martini, and she gestured thumbs up. "I'm in favor of that," she said.

A snippet from tonight's dinner: "Mexican food confuses me," she says, staring at the bowl of steaming veggies, the plate of avocado slices, the rice, the quesadillas, and the salsa. M was constructing her dinner one way, and I was arranging mine another. I gave my mom a couple of options, and she ran with it. "Very good," she said, a few bites in. I breathed a sigh of relief. The whole things looked a little too similar to last night's Asian stir-fry. Whew. Saved by fajita seasoning.

Tomorrow is the first visit to my mom's new primary care physician. The office is just across the water from my patio. As the heron flies, the trip would take just a few seconds. By land it's a bit farther. We're going to try and walk there. There are benches where we can sit along the way. At least we won't have to climb a windmill to save ourselves from a charging bull.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Location of my Head: Above Water

Here at the end of week one, where the citi-states of Margaritaville and Martiniville have merged, I am happy to report that my mother and I seem to be compatible housemates.
I'm doing okay with remembering to turn to face her when we speak--but sometimes there are still misunderstandings. Rhyming is charming if one is reading "Cat in the Hat;" it's less charming when words sound alike, and you are struggling to decipher them because your expensive hearing aids are not living up to expectations. Tomorrow we are going to Miracle Ear. Allow me to channel my mother's demeanor here: there'd damn well better be a miracle.

Cooking for my mother every evening is making me eat better. We've consumed a boat-load of veggies this week and enough fish to oil our brains. So far this week we've eaten two boxes of greens, carrots, red and green peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peas, tomatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes, and two containers of hummus. Now if I can just get some  extra calories in her. She says she'd like to gain 20 pounds. I'd be happy with any progress at all. I've set out cookies and encouraged a middle of the night bowl of ice cream if she wakes. Butter seems to be the key, though. She eats it like cheese, sliced thick, as she says her grandfather did. She detests margarine and the memory of squeezing the orange packet of dye into the lard during the depression as a butter substitute. She's not ever going to eat that shit again, she says.

My mother is great at helping out with household chores. She folds laundry and empties the dishwasher. She's already figured out where things go. She feeds the cat in the morning. She makes her bed every day.

There's still (involuntary?) moaning, groaning, and growling, but it doesn't bother me the way it did immediately following her surgery three years ago. It does rule our certain activities though--like going to the theatre which she enjoyed immensely when we'd go to New York several years back. I'm hoping she'll growl ferociously when the boys on the noisy motorized scooter speed by on the walking path.

It seems that there's been a scaling back of the martinis. One instead of two. This began on night #3 when I encouraged her to have a glass of wine for dinner instead of a second martini. This slightly more temperate atmosphere makes for better story telling. Tonight I learned that her final job at John Deere was fork-lift driver. So easy compared to working on the assembly line that it was like sleeping, she said.

M has been with us this week. Always a beam of sunshine and ready laugher. Hoping my head remains above water when I am on my own with my mom in the coming week.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Whirl

I'm sitting on the couch with my daughter M and the man who loves me. She with her banjo. He with his guitar. We've had dinner--which was a pleasant flurry. TMWLM's train was delayed and we had to buy the bread and the sweet potatoes and the fish while my mom was at home alone starting her martini. So before the gin caught up with my mom we cooked on high speed.

Now my mom has come back out from her room in her pink flannel pajamas.  She loves music.  But her hearing aids are giving her trouble tonight. The man who loves me shrinks from none of this.  Earlier there was Tai Chi on the patio. She told him when she'd had enough. He connects with her. Doesn't patonize.

Now she's in the laundry room, just coming in from the side door from having a smoke. She's talking to my 18-yr-old cat. Don't cry, she says. Go to bed. I'm going to bed, too, she says.

I love my life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Caution! Side Effects May Include Growling

4:00 a.m.
I hear growling.
It takes a minute and the smell of cigarette smoke wafting up into my bedroom window before I'm awake enough to realize it's my mother. She's gone out the side door to smoke. My mom has vocalized almost non-stop since her surgery in 2009. Moans. Groans. Growls. In addition, she talks to herself. Sometimes she yells at herself. Sometimes it's more of a gentle reprimand. "Come on, Ethel," is one of her favorites.
Thank God the neighbors on that side use their house only as an occasional week-end retreat. Groggy, I roll through a scenario where someone hears the noise and calls animal control, and the neighborhood is bathed in searchlights. I have to answer the door in my pink tiger-striped pajamas to explain. But I know the neighbors are not at home, and with my pillow over my head, I eventually go back to sleep.

In the morning over coffee, I tell my mother she sounded like a bear, and we laugh. She apologizes.
The next mini-drama is over her pills. "I know I take five pills in the morning," she says. "Why are there six in my pillbox?" I get out the list my brother's girlfriend has prepared. I get out the plastic box with the prescription bottles. I compare the list to the bottles and the pills in the bottles to the pills in the box. There's an extra one, and no corresponding pill bottle to be found. I go online to I.D. it, and tell my mom that I think it's a pill for heartburn and excess stomach acid, and that it's actually the same as a different-looking pill in her box. One is oval, the other is round. One of them is probably a name-brand pill and the other a generic. "I don't have heartburn," she says. But  I know she suffered from GERD after her surgery. "I'll go to the pharmacy and ask the pharmacist if the pill is really a duplicate," I say. My  fantasy is that the pharmacist will tell me she should stop this medication immediately because the side effects cause growling. Yes, it turns out the pills are the same.

Sometimes my mother is fully herself. She hears what I say completely and accurately. Other times her hearing aids fail her. Once in a while she forgets what I just said even though she heard it. I find that I'm really not at all impatient with her. (It's day 3 of this living together business.) It's not so hard to imagine what it would be like to have arthritis. To hobble around on sore feet. To guess at what is being said. To learn my way around a new house in a new time zone and a new climate.

"Winter coat, winter coat," she grumbles as she heads out to the patio to smoke after dinner. I don't let her smoke in the house, but I take her a fleecy sweatshirt and a portable radiator. The ocean air is cool.

"Grandma needs her own YouTube channel," M says from the couch. It does seem a little like a reality show around here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Life is a Basketball Game Or Apologies to the lovely Joshua tree and The San Bernardino National Forest

As M and I loaded my mother's stuff into the car at the hotel in Las Vegas yesterday, M said she felt like we'd made it to the top of the 4th quarter. I said, "Yeah, I think we're up by 15 points." But my mother had to take her Lasix pill because her feet were swelling. Lasix went about its business then of ridding my mom's body of extra fluid. After the 3rd stop to pee, M and I concluded that our lead had eroded. After I freaked out about having to exit for a fourth time rather suddenly through two lanes of trucks on a precipitous slope, I said we were down by two.

The I-15 between Las Vegas and L.A. is my least favorite stretch of road in the universe. Even the pristine parts, where it seems that herds of camels might appear at any moment, are set against a background of smog. But we made it through this infernal inferno, weaving through lanes of chugging trucks and BMW-driving maniacs. When I pulled into the driveway at my new house, M flung open her door and yelled,"I can smell the ocean!" Aaahh.

We crossed no rivers yesterday. Just two cracked gouges in the dry earth labeled, "Sheep Ditch" and "Case Ditch."

Last night's dinner menu: seared ahi tuna, sweet potatoes, tossed green salad. Little squares of white chocolate with blueberry bits served as dessert.

Beverages: red wine, margaritas, and martinis.

Basketball score update: Game over. Our teams wins by 30.

My favorite part of the day? When I had to almost immediately hop back into the car to pick the Man Who Loves Me up at the train station.

My second favorite part of the evening: Listening to M and the MWLM discuss the prospects for a hot new Laker season.

We're home, everyone. Come visit.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Flow Chart for Traveling with My Mother

My mother has smoked since she was 14. She's 88 now, and quitting is a tired subject. In addition, she's somewhat frail and needs a walk-in or roll-in shower with a shower seat. She walks very slowly, and really can't walk very far unassisted. I tried sleeping in her room (non-smoking) the first night on the road. I would get up when she got up and walk her down the hall and around the corner to the smoking courtyard, I thought. At 3:30 a.m. she stood up and shouted and waved her arms around. I think she was asleep. She shouted again a couple of times an hour later--still asleep and dreaming, no doubt. My daughter M, who has traveled with her grandmother prior to this this trip, said, "Yes, she does that every night around 3:00 or 4:00." Thus, my enthusiasm for sharing a room with my mother waned.

The second night we got my mom a room with a door that opened to the outside. I slept in the other room with my daughter. My mom could then quite ably walk herself outside for a smoke without much risk of taking a fall. In the morning I was a new person.

The third night was more difficult. The door to the outside in my mom's room was heavy and hard for her to open. Utah state law required that she smoke 30 feet away which meant a stumbly path into the parking lot. M borrowed a plastic chair from our balcony and set it around the far corner of the motel just a few feet away from my mom's door where she could light up out of sight. Still the doorway had an awkward sill that we worried about. Hence the flow chart.

And so tonight, our last on the road, with thanks to the fact that Las Vegas is apparently a mecca for smokers, my mom has a smoking room on the first floor with a roll-in shower. I won't tell you about the crazy part. About how I accidentally made the reservation through Expedia instead of directly with the hotel. Or how Expedia fucked it up. I will just say that a wonderful desk clerk named David fixed everything that Expedia botched.

Now, on a less mundane note, the west is full of wonders.

Rivers crossed today: Green River, San Rafael, Virgin (several times,) Muddy

Most disconcerting sign: CAUTION! BRIDGE DECKS AHEAD!
Ensuing dialogue: "Google that for me, M."
                              "Sorry, Mom, no 3G."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I see in front of me/What I see behind me

Yesterday, driving west on I-80 through Nebraska, the white lines between lanes were obliterated by the afternoon glare. I used the seam in the pavement to orient me, noticing that when I looked in the rearview mirror, the lines were there behind me, clear and distinct. What I'm heading towards as I travel across country with my just shy of 88-year-old mother is hazy like those lines. Yes, she's coming to live with me in California, but what does life have in store for the two of us? The past is clear-- like those lines in the rear view mirror, through memory has its own way of obscuring things sometimes. The afternoon drive today was a similar mirage. A ghost landscape against a distant sky that sometimes appeared as white as the haze shrouding the mountains and mesas.

We made our target destination for the drive today--Green River, Utah--but we all feel weary tonight as if the hot dust from the landscape has coated our enthusiasm. The desk clerk told us that it's been over 100 for the past 90 days. Tomorrow our goal is Vegas or somewhere near. It will be scorching there, too. The alpine scenery of the Rockies and the Colorado River with its banana-colored kayaks seems like a mirage in this dry place with its closed up storefronts and sandy streets.

Rivers crossed today: Kiowa Creek, Clear Creek (twice,) Eagle River (three times--at least,) Colorado River (numerous times,) Plateau Creek.

There was a strand of weird town names in Colorado--Silt, Rifle, Parachute.

Favorite road sign: WE BUY ANTLERS

In Utah on I-70 there was exit after exit that read "No Services." Western Nebraska is big and wide. That wide open countryside and Eastern Colorado seem to be made for grazing. Stretched out herds of cattle and fields of hay bales--some like lego blocks stacked into sturdy piles, some cylindrical, and even a few old-style haystacks like in a Van Gogh painting. The landscape in Colorado changes abruptly. Sage brush and cragginess and then, as if a page in a picture book has been turned to a new chapter, lush evergreens sprout toward the sky. The part of Utah that we drove through today makes Nebraska and Colorado look like the intersection of the Tigris and the Euphrates. It seems full of mystery. If someone exits at one of the "No Services" exits, where do they go?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Good-bye Nebraska/Hello Colorado

This is Nebraska.

This is a coffee break.

This is a rest stop.

This is Colorado.

This is the unexpected beauty you sometimes find while traveling.

Rivers crossed today:
The Platte (at least 5 times), S'Bra Middle Creek, Blue, South Branch of the Crooked Creek, Deer Creek, Beaver Creek (3 times) Spring Creek, South Platte River.

Junk food eaten (by me): Coca-cola, a Snickers protein bar, a Starbucks scone, Planters trail mix.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Report from the Road or A Lot of Water Under the Bridge

When I uttered the words, "three generation road trip" during a conversation at my brother's kitchen table a few days ago, my mom said, "Gee, that makes me feel old!" Tonight at dinner in Omaha after our first day, I explained to my ex-sister-in law and my niece that my mom had already been driven from Maryland to Iowa by her sister, that I had flown to the Twin Cities from California, rented a car, and driven to Iowa, then back to St. Paul where I met my daughter, and the two of us got into her car and drove back to Iowa where we picked up my mom in my hometown and the three of us began the long drive to California. Somewhere in the middle of this conversation, I felt old. Fossil old. Cooling crust of the earth old. Dirt and dinosaur old. All of those miles already and today just the beginning of the 30-hour, three generation road trip?!

Here are the rivers I've crossed since I drove out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport:
Minnesota, Straight, Shell Rock, Cedar, Maquoketa, Wapsipinicon, Mississippi, Iowa, Des Moines, Racoon, Middle Racoon, Middle River, East Nishnbotna, West Nishnabotna, Missouri, Little Papillion Creek.

Here we are having an organic lunch on a farm near a little town outside Des Moines. Just as M. and I began to bemoan the narrow prospects of road food, I saw a sign that read, "Organic Farm Restaurant."

It was fabulous. It was started by a doctor--who's now a farmer, I guess.

Now all four of us (that includes my mom's oxygen machine--I call him Mr. O because he rides in the back buckled in like a person) are safely tucked in for the night.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Weather Report from Iowa

Riding in the back of my brother's minivan to and from his three-year-old granddaughter's birthday party, the tassels on the cornfields were spun into gold by the late afternoon sunlight. Each farmplace was a micro-metropolis as it rose out of the molten glow. Skylines of silos, grain bins, and an occasional windmill towered above barns, houses, machine sheds, and a scattering of outbuildings--each farm isolated from the next by a moat of rolling fields.

The drought has not been completely devastating here in this part of Iowa, but some farmers are chopping their corn earlier than usual. The empty fields might be a harbinger of early fall, the days already unseasonably cool; the mosquitos perhaps departed for warmer, sweatier places where there's more bare skin. Of course, everything can shift with the slightest whisper of notice. Too hot, too cold, too dry too wet, too good to last is what farmers say about the weather.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Graveyards and My Long Dead Past

I buried my past.

The summer after my freshman year of college I returned to my hometown because my mother was in the hospital, but that was my final summer in the town where I grew up. Six months later I came back again for my father's funeral. After that there were a few scattered  Christmases. Some hurried stops on summer vacations.

No one recognizes me now. The raven waist-length tresses and apple cheeks are gone. Both my maiden name and the married name that some might have heard of are now erased. I call myself by my maternal grandmother's maiden name, and it would take a certain amount of explaining to make people understand why I required this self-made rebaptism. 

Sometimes I feel as worn and askew as the grave markers in the old town cemetary when I think of the water that's coursed beneath my personal bridge. Many of these monuments are almost 200 hundred years old, and the names they once bore have been scoured into oblivion. The town's founding father merits a shiny new tombstone, but I was disappointed to find no trace of the original stone that marked his grave.

Presumably his bones still lie beneath the earth, but the headstone feels to me like an impostor. I ask myself if I'm an impostor, too, but it's more complicated than that.

After all these years if I somehow met my past self, I would take her by the hand and lead her into the present. I barely remember you, I'd tell her. But we have some catching up to do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear Grammar Girl, This is What I Had for Supper Last Night

Even by itself, a BLT is not what most would consider "lighter evening fare".  I love you Grammar Girl, but here in Iowa, "supper" is a colloquial word for what might be called "dinner" in most urban areas. It's not about quantity. Heck, no.  My BLT supper at my brother's house last night was accompanied by potato chips, his homemade pickles, watermelon--and there would have been two kinds of pasta salad, too, but we devoured all that for lunch--which, by the way, back when I was growing up here in the 1960s was called "dinner," even though we didn't live on a farm.  Nowadays, from what I hear, most people do say "lunch" instead of "dinner," but dinner is still "supper."

And it's worth noting that soda here is called "pop." If you order soda, people might ask if you want scotch with that--or if you mean you want just plain seltzer water--or if you mean you want an ice cream soda.

And if there's been difficulty, and people are hoping to get something accomplished, you might hear them say, "God willin' and the crick don't rise." Yup. The body of water that runs through my hometown is the "crick." Not "creek."

And I've heard some folks say, "zinc" when they mean "sink." But I think that's a little old-timey. I'll be listening for more Iowa-speak while I'm hear watching the corn grow. I'll get back to you on that, if God's willin' and the crick don't rise.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm Just Sitting Here Watching the Corn Grow

The view from my brother's front door:

The view from my brother's back door:

We are swimming in a sea of corn. If you haven't seen it, you probably can't really imagine how much corn there is here. My brother drove my mom and me around town today. One of the sights was the new ethanol plant on the edge of town where there used to be nothing but cornfields. Now trucks  blaze down the road with load after load of corn where it will be processed into fuel. 

Corn. I remember the feel of it. Sharp leaves slashing bare arms. The silk of the tassels, husking it. The pop of sweet kernels coated with salt and butter against my teeth. 

A Whale of a Week, A Whale of a Love Affair, A Whale of a Visit, A Whale of a Trip, and Just Plain Whales

The last excursion of the "granddaughter week" was a whale watching trip. "I can't promise you we'll see whales," I told the girl who's been to Sea World twice. Ha. We were mugged by Humpbacks, which is whale watching boat parlance for being so surrounded that the boat can't move. Take that, Sea World. We saw Blue Whales, too. It's not a small event---seeing the world's largest animal--but it was the breathing of the Humpbacks, so close to us, so like immense human sighs, that surprised me.

And the dolphins again--this time a nursery pod with babies, hundreds of them the size of footballs. I love the things the guides tell us on these boat rides. The Common Dolphin cannot survive in captivity, they said. Without their family group, they perish in five days, they said. They loose their ability to echolocate.

Location can be everything in a love affair. The Man Who Loves Me, who I thought for a few days might not weather my change of location, was at the train station when the kid and I got off the boat. Immense human sigh.

Instead of driving halfway to Phoenix to hand off the granddaughter, her mom and her auntie came with the other kids to stay for three days and then take her home. They were good sports and did their own thing while I hung out waiting for plumbers and contractors to do this or that in my final push to finish up jobs at the house before I bring my mom to live with me.

Who am I when I'm with you? Are all of us changing our spots, doing the chameleon thing? The little girl/deep thinking budding psychologist turned into a less-than-charming martinet once the little brother and sister were back on the scene. Ah, well. Little human sigh. This just reinforces my plan to take those kids one at a time.

And so, with barely time to pack, I was back in the arms of The Man Who Loves Me. Echolocation working fine, thank you. Then onto a plane 12 hours later, and into a rental car, and driving for five hours, and then into my home town, which cannot be visited without a plunge into the past. See other blog, and peruse while thinking about the Common Dolphin. And imagine these steeples rising above the cornfields, rising above everything, visible from five miles or so away as you drive down the highway. And weird, how the photo won't load properly. But there it is--the fractured picture of a particular church that I thought might crumple and crush me, like Samson in the temple in the movie "The Ten Commandments," as I sat through dozens of masses as a secretly pregnant 16/17-year-old.

And so here I am, struggling a bit with my echolocation, in my hometown. But my mother is here, and next week, after a thirty-hour drive spread over an as yet undetermined number of days, I will return with her  to the land of the whales where I will listen for their sighs.