Hospital-ity

Renovation to Mom’s house is nearly complete, an occupancy permit has been granted, and after over four years, there is a glimmer of hope that she will get to live in her own home again before she dies! (Plot synopsis here, if you’re new!)

Why, after fourfuckingyears, has this become a priority for my niece, DQ, and her husband, BJ? Progress was sporadic from the start, since BJ needed time off for vacations, deer hunting – not to mention his paying jobs. I had considered several options to increase his motivation over the past few years, but Mom didn’t want to make anyone mad.

The motivation came from an unexpected source – BJ’s parents. When DQ and BJ first married, BJ’s parents bought the house out of foreclosure, offering to rent the house back to them. This arrangement worked fairly well – until September, when BJ’s parents announced their plans to get a divorce. The house must be sold. By Christmas. Essentially, they’re being evicted!

Taking Mom to the cardiologist when this was breaking news, she let me know that DQ had been putting pressure on to change the deed to the house before moving in. For her protection. My reaction was a bit less than enthusiastic…

daisyfae: FUCK THAT!

Mom: I know. I don’t see any reason it can’t wait until after we move in, but she’s worried that the rest of the family will cause trouble and she’ll be homeless.

daisyfae: She has earned compensation for taking care of you!  No one is arguing that! She can always sell the land you gave them. [grinding teeth] You just tell me what you want to do and i’ll make it happen…

Mom: She’s putting pressure on me to set up an appointment with the attorney.

daisyfae: Under no circumstances are you to go to see the attorney to change your will, or the deed to the house, without me present. This will not only protect you, but it will protect DQ should anyone ever think there was coercion.

Mom: That makes sense. I just don’t want her to get upset with me…

daisyfae: Tell her it’s my schedule. i really am busy at work, so taking a day off is going to be tough.

And that’s where we left it…

The message was apparently delivered. A few days later i started getting passive-aggressive pings from DQ about setting up an appointment with the attorney. i was polite – and my schedule really has gotten tough.

This is unpleasant and stressful.  i became engaged in another round of “Trailer Park Mexican Standoff” via e-mail. Trying to take the heat for Mom, without causing any trouble. My instinct is to call bullshit, and be a far more direct, but Mom requested the sideways approach.

It didn’t surprise me to get a call from DQ as i was leaving work last Thursday. Because i was driving, i let it go to voicemail. Just not in the mood to deal with the bullshit. Retrieved the voicemail when i got home.

DQ: Took Granny to the doctor today because her cough has gotten worse, and she’s been very weak. Doctor sent us directly to ER. They’re going to admit her – probable pneumonia. I’ll keep you posted.

Well.

So much for my righteous indignation. When shit hits the fan, DQ does an excellent job taking care of Mom. All squabbles set aside. Priorities firm. We’ll sort out the legal stuff later.

Visited Mom over the weekend, and she took a few minutes to write a note to The Boy. Wished him a happy birthday. Told him she’s proud of him. Didn’t mention her troubles.

hospital-ity

She’s home now, and is doing much better. We came up with a new plan of attack.  We’ll get back to the regularly scheduled bullshit later…

Lessons of old dogs

“Do you think your pup needs to go outside?”

“Nah! i took him out a couple of hours ago! He’s just being a pest!”

Studley and i went on about our project du jour, while my ancient dog continued to try to join the game. He eventually wandered off to the living room and we went on with our adventures. Only to be interrupted a few minutes later by the unmistakable sound of a torrent of urine* being unloaded onto carpet.

Rushing toward intervention i got him hooked to his leash and opened the front door so he could take the remainder out into the bushes. We came back inside, and the poor fella looked rather forlorn, knowing he wasn’t supposed to paint the rug.

Giving him a pat on the head, i assured him that it was ok, as i set about mopping up the mess.

“It’s ok, Buddy! You tried to tell us! Nothing more you could have done!”

i got out the SpotBot to do some extraction.  Mr. Pickles sheepishly wagged his tail and looked a little less grim.

“You know, at his age?  There really isn’t anything he can do to piss me off…”

i stopped dead in my tracks.

“Why don’t i feel the same way about Mom?”

Turns out?  i do.

When i launched the blog back in 2008, one of my primary demons was my relationship with my mother.  i was angry and resentful at her for the way she treated my father.  i was frustrated by her history of ‘one bad damn decision after another’ – primarily in the arena of enabling my siblings to continue to make ‘one bad damn decision after another’.  i could not comprehend her bitterness with life, given that the last half with Dad had been far better than the first half – and she never seemed to demonstrate gratitude for the gifts around her.

But i’ve since realized that her relationship with my father was/is none of my business.  He understood and accepted her.  Who am i to weigh in on that?  Every decision she ever made regarding my siblings was made with love – she wanted to help.  She was born bitter, and will die bitter, and there’s nothing that can change that.  Her heart is generous, it just has a really thick crust on the outside.  She’s done the best she could with what she’s been given.

i can honestly say – “At 84 years old, there is nothing my Mother can do to piss me off.”

mr pickles sez

* My dog has a phenomenal capacity for piss. Through the years, he has developed the ability to hold onto it for many hours.  When he lets go? It’s Victoria Falls. In yellow…

Dog Gone

Mom’s visit to Miami went very well.  My sister, T, and her partner, TK, fussed over her, fed her*, entertained her, and spoiled her for a week.  i went to meet TK and Mom at the airport on Friday, and was expecting to find Mom tired.

TK wheeled Mom up the jetway. When they emerged through the door, Mom was all smiles.  TK was huffing and puffing a little bit, due to the weight of the loaded wheelchair, and the steep incline of the jetway.

We shared hugs and tales of adventure.  i started wheeling Mom to baggage claim.  TK headed to her departure gate for her trip home.

It required a bit of dexterity to roll the checked suitcase, and Mom, out the door and into the parking garage, but i managed.  On the ride back to The Trailer Park, i learned more about the week.

daisyfae:  What did you think of the house?

Mom:  It’s just beautiful!  Easy to get around in, too.  T helped me into the shower, and even helped me wash up my feet.

daisyfae [shuddering at the thought of helping her naked, 84-year-old mother bathe]:  Great!  Did Thanksgiving go well?

Mom:  Oh, they were bickering a lot on Wednesday, but it was a nice meal.  Sorry I had to leave today, though.  I was looking forward to some of those leftovers.  T made us sandwiches for the plane, so I did get more of that ham.

And on it went…  Tales of an escaped cat, a manatee (and baby) near the dock, and feeding turkey bones to the fish.  She enjoyed the visit, appreciated all they did for her, and even said she wouldn’t mind doing it again!

daisyfae:  Well, i’m sure you’re looking forward to getting back home.

Mom:  No.  Not really.

We pulled in the driveway, and i helped Mom out of my car.  She made her way to the door, as i wrangled luggage and the wheelchair from the trunk.  Getting my arms untangled from the folded wheelchair, i was distracted by a commotion on the porch.

One of the three hounds had escaped, and my niece, DQ, her daughter, DQ, Jr. and the 5-year-old, DQ, III, were racing out the door.  Mom dodged them all, and dropped onto the lounge chair on the front porch.  Chaos!

One of their other dogs is a 3-year-old Sharpei.  This dog has had allergies, skin problems, and stinks like swampass most of the time, but she’s a sweet critter.  She’s been getting out of their backyard fence and running the neighborhood.  She joined in the festivities, and went bounding down the street after the other escapee.

i suggested DQ hop in my car, and that we try the old “Road Trip” doggie retrieval method.  We cruised to an adjacent neighborhood, where the dogs had disappeared a few moments earlier.  Gave us a chance to chat.

DQ:  I’m glad she had a good week with T.  I REALLY enjoyed the week off.

daisyfae:  Well, Mom wants to try it again.  We’ll make it happen in March or April if Mom’s up to it.

In the meantime, the dogs had disappeared.  We returned to the homestead, and found the dogs racing up a neighbors driveway.  DQ jumped out of the car, and chased the sprinting animals.  They bounded away, and she turned around – taking a vaudeville-style tumble on the way back.

Nothing broken, but some scrapes on hands and knees. She returned to the house and i continued to chase the dogs.  Using leftover cookie shrapnel from the floor of my car, i was eventually able to get the wayward animal back home.  The smelly Sharpei followed along… i gave her a bit of a cookie, too.

It was a madhouse when i opened the door.  DQ pissed off at the dogs, and wiping her scraped knees with a towel, DQ, III howling in sympathy, offering band aids.  Mom trying to sit, without tripping over the dogs.  Television blasting at “eleven”.

DQ  [referring to the Sharpei] :  I swear, I’m going to have to put that damn dog down!  She’s losing her hair again, smells awful and she just won’t stay inside the fence.  I don’t care if she gets out!  Tired of chasing her!  Maybe if she gets hit, she’ll at least be going on her own terms, you know?

Figuring that the best thing to do at this point was disappear, i hugged Mom, said my goodbyes.  i’ve suggested finding an animal rescue organization before.  There was too much noise to bring it up again.

As i drove away, had to wonder if DQ’s approach to animal care makes Mom a little nervous…

* When she visits me, i give her fresh fruit and a bagel for breakfast.  They were dishing up cooked-to-order omelettes, served by the pool on the lanai.  Show offs…

Operation “WhiteBird”

The plan was hatched last month.  My sister, T, and her partner, TK, finished renovations on their beautiful home in Florida.  They wanted to find a way for Mom to visit, but Mom would not fly alone.

TK is a frequent flier, and needed to rack up a few more segments to maintain her “AssKiss Preferred” traveler status.  She offered to fly up in the morning, pick up Mom, and fly back with her the same day, giving Mom a week in sunny south florida.

My job?  Picking up Mom and delivering her to the airport.  Knowing that i would need a ‘gate access pass’ to get her through security in a wheelchair, i enlisted Studley to help with transport.

Yesterday was the big day!  We had agreed to stay in touch by text, doing group messaging to keep all members of the team on track.  By 7:00 am, T had gotten the ball rolling… With T, her partner TK, and her sister KK in the loop, we made it happen!  Game on!

Follow along and see if you can figure out what was happening.  This went on for about 16 hours!

~~~~~~~

T:  Plan in execution.  TK is Giraffe, KK is Zebra, T is Lion, Mom is
WhiteBird.  Daisyfae is?

T:  Giraffe is at gate.

TK: Giraffe is on plane and ready to take off toward Motherland.

daisyfae: daisyfae is Moose.  Moose is scratching her ass, playing “Angry Birds” and having coffee.

T:  Lion snagged pumpkin pie ice cream for breakfast.

KK:  Zebra just finished morning gallop.  What time is Giraffe’s return flight?

daisyfae:  Giraffe and WhiteBird return 9:40pm.  Moose and Squirrel
(Studley) will update on launch from Motherland.

T:  10-4

TK:  Giraffe has landed in Motherland.  Beautiful day!

T:  Giraffe went to watering hole. Sign says “Dry til 1:00pm”.  Shitty
luck.

TK:  When will Moose arrive with WhiteBird?

daisyfae: Moose and Squirrel inbound to pick up WhiteBird.  Will send
smoke signal on next leg of safari.*

TK:  Roger.  Out.

daisyfae:  Moose and Squirrel have WhiteBird in hand.  Repeat.
WhiteBird inbound! Smoke signal on arrival at aviary to arrange Giraffe
connection.*

daisyfae: At curb.  Squirrel out for recon.

TK:  Giraffe is with Moose, Squirrel and WhiteBird!  Headed to feed.

daisyfae:  Found oasis near aviary.  Negotiating terms of hostage
transport over wings and beer.

TK:  Cleared Checkpoint Charley with WhiteBird and Moose.  Waiting at
gate.

T:  Lion guarding tropical bird nest.

daisyfae:  Moose taking WhiteBird to litter box after Giraffe returns
from provisioning at aviary snack shop.  Squirrel waits in parking lot,
protecting “Angry Birds” from green pigs.

T:  yee-HAW!

daisyfae:  Moose and Squirrel northbound.  Giraffe and WhiteBird
preparing to board magic carpet to Lion.*

TK:  WhiteBird and Giraffe on magic carpet waiting for the rest of the
animals to settle.  Moose and Squirrel did a great job handing over the
goods.

KK:  YOU GUYS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!

T:  Stand by, Zebra.  WhiteBird is about to fly.

TK:  Magic carpet engines ON!  WhiteBird and Giraffe are buckled in
and headed to tropical nest.

T:  Left gate early.  ETA now 9:30pm

KK:  Flight tracker ETA 9:10.  Tailwind.

daisyfae:  Moose and Squirrel back at Northern Command Post.

T:  Zebra with Lion at tropical nest.  Awaiting arrival signal.

TK:  Carpet ride is over.  En route to meet Zebra and Lion after
collecting gear.

KK:  Zebra in motion.

T:  Giraffe – report location

TK:  Still at gate.

T:  Zebra and Lion waiting safely in Ant Hill.  Ready to deploy.

TK:  Have goods.  To curb for retrieval.

KK:  Zebra is moving.

daisyfae:  Moose has vodka tonic.

T:  We have WhiteBird.  Repeat: WhiteBird reunited with Lion!

daisyfae:  Mission Accomplished!

* While i was driving, Studley served as communication officer.  Messages marked with an “*” are all his…

Reunion – Epilogue: Promises were made

Six weeks – and seven posts – after the family reunion, I’ve had time to reflect on what happened that weekend.

BJ:  He’s a 27-year-old working man, taking on the responsibility of a family while still having a lot of “boy” in him.  Raised by a couple of complete nutters – with some crazy siblings for added fun.  He also is pretty heavily medicated for ADHD.  Not always the brightest bulb, but he can work a miracle “cypherin’” the amount of wood planks required to repair a deck.  Last weekend, he took third place at the county fair with his demolition derby car, and is piecing it back together to enter another contest in a few weeks.

He’s done the best he could with what he’s got.

DQ:  Manipulative?  Certainly.  She’s raised it to an art form, always being able to find the angle that maximizes personal gain.  Bad at financial math?  Life-long history of spending money she doesn’t have.  Poor choices of partners?  At least the first few…  Does she take care of Mom?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Perhaps not the way i would want to be cared for, but Mom prefers this to other options.  She may have limitations when it comes to making good decisions in everyday life, but when the shit hits the fan, she can get the job done with ruthless efficiency.  When Dad was dying, she was my first call for help with the ugly shit.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

TK:  Coming from a wealthy family, she had every opportunity to excel – and she has.  Retired from the world of professional golf, she is now gainfully employed within the same community, and works her ass off at her job.  She plays just as hard, often as captain on her boat — generously taking family and friends on deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and diving excursions.  Her demon was falling madly in love with my sister - and it’s been one of the hardest challenges in her life.  Having no experience with mental illness, she’s had to do some reading to compliment her ‘on the job training’.  Has her own therapist now, too.  But she’s willing to try to stay in for the long-haul, and…

She’s doing the best she could with what she’s got.

Hurricane T:  Bipolar disorder, to a degree that would hospitalize many, she is a tenured professor at a large university.  She’s invested well, and worked the real estate market to great advantage – even earning a Real Estate license just to make sure she understood the innerds of the business.  When her body chemistry goes out of whack, she’s dragged the family through some bizarre territory – from cults to gut-wrenching emotional drama.  This has fueled a gigantic rift within the family, as she called “bullshit” on Mom’s living arrangements early and often… and loudly.  She’s had bad luck with partners until recently.  Oh, and she can be funny as hell.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

Mom:  My earliest memories of my Mom involve yelling.  She used to scare the kids in the neighborhood because she was the ‘mean mom’.  If she wrote her life story she said she’d call it “Bitter the Apple“.  But she also tried her damnedest to help us with school projects, volunteered for classroom parties, and hauled our adolescent asses to the skating rink every Friday night.  She has a good heart, and would buy us far too many gifts at Christmas as a way of showing her love – also making up for all of the things she didn’t get as a poor kid.  A classic hoarder from that, too.  She was a ruthless caretaker for Dad, keeping all of his lab work and medical reports in a folder to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.  When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, the prognosis was horrible – and yet she helped keep him alive for another 3 1/2 years.

She’s done the best she could with what she’s got.

daisyfae:  Lumpy, middle-aged, emotionally hardened woman, trying to make good on a death-bed promise to her father.  “You’re it.  You’re ‘Number One Son’.  You need to look out for them…”  Through that reunion weekend, with a good bit of effort and a well-timed snake attack, the familial rift has been patched – at least for now.  Mom talked to Hurricane T – and reassured her that she is ok with her arrangements, even if the house is never finished.  i came to appreciate who DQ and BJ really are – and realized that i should give a bit more slack.  Mom will always be bitter and broken – and the more her body hurts, the crabbier she’s going to be.  Did daisyfae keep that promise to her father?

She’s done the best she could, with what she’s got…

Reunion – Part VII: Eavesdropping

Our final night in Tennessee.  DQ and her troupe had moved into the loft of our cabin.  Mom was already snoring away in the downstairs bedroom. i was sacked out on the sofa.  It had been a rather eventful weekend, and i had a lot of shit to munch over inside my head.  Despite being very tired, i couldn’t sleep.

i didn’t want to eavesdrop.  In fact, i put a pillow over my head at one point to try to block out the sound of the voices drifting down from the upstairs loft.  DQ, BJ and the little critter, DQ, III were camped in the double bed, while DQ, III and Doogie had settled on the twin bed and trundle-bed.  It was almost midnight, and the four-year old was asleep right away.  It was close quarters up there for the five of them.  They were trying to keep their voices down, but the acoustics of the cabin made it impossible for me to stop listening.

At first?  They were horsing around –  BJ giving Doogie grief for ripping a fart, while the rest of them giggled.  DQ complaining that BJ had stolen the sheets.  Some comments i couldn’t hear, followed by more shushed giggles.  They were camping.  This is just what you do in close quarters.

It took a turn for the more serious.  DQ explaining to her seventeen year old daughter that she needed to tone down her posts on facebook.

DQ:  I know you’re crazy about JT, but some of the things you post…  It’s too much!  Do you want to be one of those girls? Everyone can see it.

DQ, III:  It’s not that bad!  I’ve seen a lot worse stuff on facebook.

DQ:  Just because your friends post TMI doesn’t make it right!

BJ:  Tweetering?  Is that what it’s called?  You gotta tweeter that you love him or else he won’t know?  You’re just making sure everyone else knows!

DQ:  We took away your phone and internet before, and if you keep posting that “I love you, Baby-Boy” crap, we can take it away again.

Parenting.  Honest-to-God parenting.  And a family.  A family that enjoys being together.

Maybe not my approach to parenting – and maybe not my priorities.  But they are engaged.  Tracking.  Paying attention.  Being adults.

When we were all packing up after breakfast at the Gathering Cabin, we were sorting out shared costs for the weekend.  i paid for the three cabins in advance.  Once I had the final body count, i did a straight calculation to figure out what folks would need to contribute — and it worked out to $40 per adult per night stayed, with no charge for the kids.  Since the younger cousins (DQ’s generation) tend to have less disposable income, i offered them all a bit of a discount.

DQ said she’d brought cash, and was prepared to pay for Doogie, too.  i told her Doogie was covered – the least i could do for having made a rather serious misjudgment.  Rather than take the discounted rate, she paid me in full.

pic found here

Reunion – Part VI: Mea Culpa

As i’ve mentioned, getting the final body count for the reunion proved to be a massive headache – i didn’t have the final number until the day of arrival.  Needless to say that the following conversation with my Mom the week before didn’t bring me joy.

Mom:  DQ and BJ are planning to bring their friend, Doogie.  Is there going to be room for him?

daisyfae:  WHAT?!?!?  Who the fuck is Doogie?  When did they plan to tell me this?

Mom:  DQ said he’d be fine sleeping on a couch somewhere.  He’s going to be bringing the Razors* down so they can go off-roading while they’re in Tennessee.

daisyfae:  Well, he better bring a damn tent and sleeping bag, too.  i have no idea where to put him!  That’s going to be their problem.

Mom:  He said he’d be fine with that.

daisyfae:  Does Doogie have a J. O. B.?  So he can P. A. Y.?

i was a little stressed out…

Upon arrival, i let DQ know that it was up to her to figure out where to put him, while making sure that all of the cousins had suitable places to sleep. i met Doogie as they moved into their cabin.  Not the tattooed, toothless bubby i was expecting.  Mid-sixties.  Balding.  Quiet.

When we got in the car to drive back to our cabin, i asked Mom about him.

daisyfae:  How did BJ hook up with Doogie?

Mom:  He lived next door to BJ’s parents.  BJ helped him with projects around the house as a teenager.  Doogie’s wife died last year. Ovarian cancer.  It came on pretty quick and she died within a few months. He’s been helping BJ with work on my house ever since.  Needs something to keep him busy I guess…

daisyfae:

Mom:  Oh, and he takes care of his mother-in-law.  She’s got to be in her 90′s.  She was living with them before his wife died.  He’s a real sweet man.  Looks after me, too.  The kids tease us.  They say he’s my boyfriend, because he’s always offering me his arm when he helps me in and out of the car.

At this point, i was feelin’ like a right shitheel.

During the weekend, he tried to stay out of the way – it was awkward for him since it wasn’t his family.  He was literally along for the ride.  But he was looking out for Mom – helping her along the slanted gravel path to the door of the cabin.  He stepped up to be chief photographer when it was time to take group photos with a million cameras.

To deal with sleeping arrangements on Sunday night, we had to make an adjustment.  Since Hurricane T and TK had vacated the loft in NATO HQ, we moved BJ, DQ, DQ, Jr., DQ, III and Doogie in to our cabin.  There was a double bed, and two twin beds up there — i had already claimed the sofa downstairs.

If you’ve ever spent any time outdoors, you know that the best way to collect mosquitoes around your head while trying to sleep at night is to leave a light on.  To minimize the bloodsuckers inside the cabin at night, i had developed an entry protocol - turn off the porch and interior lights BEFORE entering.  A few bugs would get in, but not an unmanageable swarm.  Instructing DQ’s clan in the entry procedures, they managed to unload all of their gear from the car with a minimum of additional multi-legged livestock joining the party.

As they were all getting settled in for the night, Doogie grabbed the fly swatter and proceeded to eradicate nearly every critter in the cabin before he went on to bed.  Turns out, Doogie hates bugs.  Especially spiders.

Not a bad fella at all…

This critter spent the weekend on the front porch of the Gathering Cabin.  Right by the door.  He ate moths, but rarely moved.  We let him live…

*A Razor is an off-road vehicle.  Nice description found here.  They like to run through the mud in these…

Reunion – Part V: Bipolarity

The hardest part of organizing the reunion was getting a headcount - there could be as many as fifty attendees.  It was impossible to pin it down until the final weeks.

Since she’d have to fly into Knoxville to attend, Hurricane T was one of the last to confirm.  Her partner, TK, travels a lot on business, so it wasn’t clear that she’d be able to attend even if Hurricane T decided to go.  Their concerns about making an appearance at a family reunion as an openly gay couple were sitting squarely on top of their decision as well.  She was also waiting to see if DQ and her clan would be there.

DQ, for her part, was waiting to see if any of the cousins of her generation would be attending.  And also waiting to see if Hurricane T would be there — she was willing to defer to Hurricane T if that would allow Mom to have a chance to see her for the first time in two years.Yep.  Another “Trailer Park Mexican Standoff”.

Hurricane T and DQ decided to attend almost simultaneously – and i booked the third cabin shortly thereafter.

Despite her concerns about showing up as a lesbitarian amongst family of indeterminate tolerance, TK decided she had to be there — because Hurricane T needed her.

They’ve been together for about five years.  And been through a lot.  Last year, they did a “soft product rollout” as a couple when they purchased a home together.  It was a rough year – as the renovations to the new place dragged on and on, Hurricane T had a significant bipolar meltdown.  It was gruesome, but TK stayed.

i was blown away by her degree of commitment.  My sister is an extraordinary woman – managing a degree of bipolar disorder that would have most people on full-time disability.  She is not easy to live with, let alone love unconditionally.

And yet TK is there…

On Saturday morning – after the “snake/hospital” incident – i rolled off the sofa around 9:30 am.  Mom was still sleeping in the bedroom, and TK had gone out for a run.  Hurricane T had just gotten up, and was attempting to make coffee as quietly as possible in the kitchen to let me sleep in a little longer.

We filled our mugs.  She asked how BJ was doing.

daisyfae:  It was scary, he was in a good bit of pain, but he’s going to be ok.

Hurricane T:  Damn!  How bizarre!  We weren’t sure what happened – Mom came back and said something about him getting bit by a snake, but she didn’t know what was going on, either.

daisyfae:  Wasn’t his fault.  Filed under “Shit Happens!”

Hurricane T:  How did I do last night?  Did I behave?

daisyfae:  No.  You got pretty drunk and said things in front of DQ that were out of line.

Hurricane T:  SHIT!  I was trying.  But I was really nervous, man!  I haven’t seen these people in decades, and I can’t stand being around DQ.

Just as TK came back from her run, i went through what had happened.  TK backed me up, saying Hurricane T had been rude.

Hurricane T:  I’m sorry.  Should I do something? What can I do to fix this?

daisyfae:  Let it bounce.  And lose the drinking – for the rest of the weekend, we only drink HERE.  This is the bar.  No need to be nervous — everyone’s cool.  Relax and hang out…

She headed for the shower.  TK and i grabbed coffee and went outside to enjoy the rocking chairs and cool morning air.

TK:  Now that T is done with the high-stress job, and the renovations on the house are complete?  She’s bored!  And driving me CRAZY!

daisyfae:  She’s been used to being busy.  Has to be a tough transition for both of you.

TK:  I work from home, and she CONSTANTLY follows me around, wanting an opinion on this or that, or looking for something to do.  I tell you – we’ve been through a lot, but I don’t know if I can take this!

daisyfae:  Is she exercising?  Maybe train her up for another half-marathon?  Find a new hobby?

TK:  She’s going to get SCUBA certified.  My nephew is an instructor, and she can do it in our pool.  And golf lessons.  I need to get her hooked up with a teacher.

Best of times.  Worst of times.

Is it harder to stick around when life is good?

Reunion – Part IV: Intermission

For the first reunion, Cousin S handled logistics.  We rented two large cabins, in an area that was easily reached by probable attendees.  It was beautiful, but there wasn’t much to do there, other than visit together at the cabins.  And eat.

This time, we agreed that having some outdoor activity options would be nice – maybe rafting, hiking or horseback riding.  Since i volunteered to organize this one, i selected the cabins based on a nearby river run and riding stables.

Even with the events Friday night, and three hours sleep, i wanted to press on with the trail ride on Saturday afternoon.  BJ had been admitted to UT Med Center, DQ and her crew were there.  He was going to be fine – probably released in time for dinner. The rest of us couldn’t really do much to help, so there was no reason to cancel our plans.

i’d worked all arrangements for the ride by e-mail and phone.  Given the sporadic mobile phone service at the cabins, it was hard getting in touch with the owner of the stable.  Even so, by 11:00 am Saturday, i’d reached Larry, the stable owner – he knew how many horses to saddle, and told me when to show up.  He was absolutely delightful, and said he’d be happy to work a custom trail ride to meet our needs.

There would only be five riders.  Hurricane T, partner TK, Cousin L, Cousin S and me.  We piled into TK’s rental car – giving my poor Wienermobile a day off - and headed to the stables.

We arrived a few minutes early to find Landon, Larry’s son, getting our Tennessee Walkers into their leathers.  He apologized that his dad couldn’t be there to meet us.  “He’s been down sick all day with a stomach flu.  Sends his regards, and hopes y’all enjoy the ride today.”

Landon wanted to get a better idea of our riding experience to best match us up with the horses.  Cousin L – who harbours a self-described folly regarding the old television show “Bonanza” – went straight for the Pinto.  Although she hasn’t had much experience on horseback, there was no doubt that was going to be her ride.

Cousin S had not been on a horse for 45 years.  She was assigned to one of the steadiest mounts.  TK is an athlete, from a wealthy family. She had “Western” and “English” riding lessons as a child, and is pretty fearless.  She was given one of the more spirited horses.

When asked about her riding experience, my sister, Hurricane T, said “Didn’t we ride horses and shit in Girl Scouts?  I’ve done trail rides.  So yeah, I guess I’ve got experience.”  She got one of the older horses.

Before leaving, i asked Landon about filling out paperwork, paying, or signing liability forms.

Landon:  We could do that if you really want to, but most people don’t bother.  And y’all can pay when you get back.

We shook hands, and i climbed a stepladder to mount a gigantic horse!  And we were off…

Landon led us out of the hot sun, into the cool shade of the trees.  i rode ‘sweep’.  Having been the organizer of the reunion, i felt responsible for safety.  Mostly, i was worried about my 65-year-old Cousin S, who looked pretty unsteady on top of that big damn horse.

By the time we were 30 minutes onto the trail, i started to relax.  Well… Not exactly “relax”. The pucker factor was down.  i was operating on three hours sleep.  But my horse was pretty laid back and had walked the trails a hundred times.  It didn’t require a lot of concentration…

Watching Hurricane T riding in front of me.  Enjoying herself.  Relaxed.  Hearing TK whooping and hollering ahead of her as we got to a stream crossing.  Smiles from Cousins S and L as we stopped at the halfway point to rest our horses. Landon checked our gear to make sure no one was going to slide off on the uphill trail ahead of us.

Halfway through the weekend.  We were out playing.  Not the same sort of play we’d done as children, but playing nonetheless.

For Cousin S?  A chance to try a new adventure!  i’d asked her if she wanted to shorten the ride from the planned two hours and she said “Absolutely not!”  For Cousin L?  Indulging her folly for a few hours.  For Hurricane T and TK?  Activity – they are pretty ‘kinetic’, and for them ‘doing’ is more comfortable than ‘being’.

For me?  i’d gained an appreciation for the way they do business in this part of the world.  Focus on customer service, even when dealing with a stomach bug.  A handshake for a contract.

And some much-needed equine respite care.

Reunion – Part III: Ambulance Chasing

Our cabins were in the wilderness of northern Tennessee, accessible by gravel roads.  It was about 20 minutes to the nearest town – which was a pretty small town.  We were in the proverbial boonies with a fairly urgent medical situation.

Jumped in my car, BJ loaded up, and we were off to town.  It was around 10:30pm.  We had absolutely no idea what we would find when we got there.

i asked him to plug in my GPS to see if he could get it to bring up ‘emergency medical facilities’.  That led us to the county hospital.  Both of us were pretty relieved to see the sign out front for “Emergency”.  That relief vaporized the instant we saw this:

Ceased Operations?  Call 911?  Fuck.

i called 911, and was instructed to “wait right there for the squad to arrive” – and they did within two minutes.  They did triage, as i showed them the pic of the snake on the iPad.  They needed to transport him to the larger regional hospital, another 30 miles away.

Medic [sizing up me - and my ride]:  Can you follow the ambulance?

daisyfae [looking with mild trepidation at 2005 4-cylinder Oscar Mayer Wienermobile]: Absolutely!  Let’s go!

Medic:  I’m going to call ahead to make sure they have the anti-venom on hand.  Stay with us!

Traffic through town at night was light.  We got on the main road toward the interstate.  The ambulance was chewing up pavement, through serious hills and twisties at about 80 mph. On the bigger hills i turned off the air conditioner to avoid compressor drag on the engine.  Otherwise, they’d have shaken me. The Wienermobile held up.

Bootlegged a text to Studley – “Call if you’re awake”.  He called just as my phone battery showed signs of dying.  Gave him the update, mentioned that BJ was uninsured and in need of treatment. He started to work the internet get me information.

Studley [via text]:  Definitely needs emergency care – you made a good call.

Studley [via text]:  Conflicting information.  Between $300 – $1,000 / vial of anti-venom.

Studley [via text]:  Fuck!  Hide your credit card – multiple vials needed.  Can be up to $15,000 to treat!

We were now doing 95 mph down the interstate, but at least i could leave the air conditioner on, since there were fewer hills.  As we passed the exits for the regional medical center, i was pretty sure that we were going straight into Knoxville, to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  According to my GPS – another 30 miles away.

Back at the cabins there was limited mobile phone service.  Of course the clan was anxious for updates.  As i was driving white-knuckled behind a screaming ambulance (it had started to rain, by the way), my phone rang.  It was Mom.  Rather than have her continue to call, i answered…

daisyfae: i’m doing 95 miles an hour behind an ambulance.  Not a good time to talk.  Will call you when i stop. [click]

As we approached the University Hospital, a MedEvac helicopter was landing on the helipad.  It was around 11:30pm. As i walked to the Emergency Room, it struck me that we’d covered about 80 miles in less than an hour…

Checked in at the Emergency desk.  It wasn’t long before they called me back to BJs room.  He was already hooked up to an intravenous line, blood pressure cuff on, and sporting a fairly seriously swollen foot.

He’d been in touch with DQ by text from the ambulance, and was working hard to convince her to stay at the cabin.  i sent her texts assuring her i’d stay as long as needed, and for her to get some sleep.

Trauma doc said “This is the eighth snakebite this week – between the heat and the dry conditions, they’re on the move!  But this one doesn’t look that bad…”.  Needed to do blood work to get an idea of how much venom had been injected - over-treating it can be as bad as getting bitten.  They were thorough and cautious.

At the first opportunity, BJ took off the cuff and hopped out of bed.

BJ:  I was trying to take a leak by the car when I got bit – I never DID get to pee!

He availed himself of the in-room facilities and i reminded him to find a jar, since the doc said they wanted a urine sample as well as blood.  By the time he hopped back in the bed, he was in obvious pain.

Flagged down the nurse, and asked him for pain meds.  BJ had refused them when he first arrived because it wasn’t hurting too badly.  The swelling seemed to be getting a little worse.

We sat and yakked to kill time, as the lab analyzed the body fluids.  He was worried about DQ racing off in the dark.  He didn’t want the kids to worry.  Really wanted to get back to the cabins as soon as possible so he could enjoy the rest of the weekend.

He asked if i’d seen the MedEvac helicopter that was coming in when we arrived.

BJ:  The guy driving the ambulance had a friend up there.  They were racing to see who got in first!  We beat ‘em by six minutes!

daisyfae:  Ummm… So maybe i can hang a ‘first place’ medal on my dead transmission?

He was glad he was the one who got bit.  Not one of the kids.  Not Mom.

Just about everyone on the staff was amazed that he didn’t kill the snake.  We had a picture for identification.  Apparently that emergency room sees a LOT of dead snakes when there are bites.  The nurse told us that one guy even came in with a live one in the pocket of his cargo pants.

BJ:  Not sure what the point of killing it would have been.  It already bit me.  It’s not like I can eat it or anything.

The first dose of anti-venom was administered at 2:30am.  He was hurting.  Never really complained.  They admitted him at 4:00am, fairly heavily medicated by then, and ready to sleep.  As the nurse got him settled, i told him i was heading back.

Back at the cabin around 6:30am, i sent a text to DQ telling her that things were going to be fine, that i was going to sleep a bit, and to text me when she woke up.  TK got up as i was settling onto the sofa to bag some sleep, and asked how he was doing.

daisyfae:  He’s fine.  He’s ok.  Yeah.  He really is…