The Perfect Day

The dog was dying.  His owner decided to give his pet a perfect day.  i’d read this sweet story of how one man prepared for the loss of a beloved companion a few years ago.

Since then, i’ve given this some thought, and have planned to do something similar for my old pup, Mr. Pickles.  Rather than wait, i’ve thrown in elements of ‘perfect days’ for my dog as we go about the business of living – why give him just one?  Three weeks ago on a hot June day, Studley and i decided Mr. P needed to go out for ice cream…

He loved it…

Mr. P gets ice cream

Having a dinner of Mexican food and killer margaritas with my children, Studley, and his daughter, we discussed the elements of Mr. Pickles perfect day.  Discussing all the things he loves, we tried to lay out the things he most loves… Cheese.  Chasing a ball.  Chasing the cat*.  Naps.  Splashing in water.  Riding in the jeep.  Eating his own turds.**

i was interrupted during dinner by a call from my niece, DQ.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital earlier this week with fluid in her lungs.  Stepping out to take the call, i got some fairly grim news.  The lung cancer is probably back, and not treatable.  Mom was feeling rotten, also battling a staph infection in her blood.  We made plans to meet with a counselor from hospice.

Returning to the table, i kept the news to myself for a bit – not wanting to take a steaming shit on a really good time.  i filled my children in on the news from The Park when we got home.

The Boy:  Maybe it’s time to craft a Perfect Day for Granny…

daisyfae:  i’ve already done a bit of that… but yeah, we could do more!

In January, i brought Mom to visit when my sister, T and her partner came to town for a long weekend.  We spoiled Mom with attention, and food and entertainment.  Not to mention blessed quiet, which is in short supply in her current living arrangements.

Last May, i had her up for another fun-filled weekend!  Cooked steaks on the grill on a Friday night, then went to a local women’s league luncheon the next day, where she was showered with attention amidst a great deal of silliness.  Putting on two ridiculous Derby hats that i’d crafted, we went to a bourbon tasting – where she enjoyed a perfect mint julep.  Sunday morning, we brought her to the horse show, where she got to see her “baby” compete in the arena with all the other kids…

The prognosis for Mom isn’t great, but it seems the cancer is slow moving.  She’ll need more in-home skilled nursing care in the future.  But she’s not quite dead yet, and finding ways to give her elements of “The Perfect Day” is deeply embedded in my brain.

Derby Day

 * The Boy thought it would be most fun if we tape the cats back legs together, allowing Mr. Pickles a better chance to “play”.  Although Huey is a team player, i’m not sure i’ll go that far…

** Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Arrivederci Roma

The kid with the tangled mane of hair sprawled across the worn gray carpet in the living room  She’d spent hours working the music box mechanism.  Winding up the platform, where the wooden boy, arm raised confidently, strode toward the train.

get on the train kid

She played a game.  Trying to wind up the music box just enough so that as it slowed, it would end on the final strains of the tune.  Sometimes cheating a little, pushing in the metal button to stop the music at the right place.

Forty five years later, the kid still has hard to manage hair.  She still doesn’t care much what it looks like most of the time.  She was back in that same living room yesterday, bringing her mother home from an appointment with the cardiologist…

Mom is doing ok as she approaches her 86th birthday.  The lung cancer has apparently been radiated into submission.  A pacemaker keeps her heart ticking along.  She moves slowly, with the assistance of a cane.  Usually out of breath, the cardiologist ran another EKG, and ordered some blood work to check for anemia.  Checked her pulse oxygen, which was a reasonable 93% using the finger cuff.

“I’m just so tired.  Sometimes I just think my heart is going to quit.”

Mom has been working through her estate plans.  She is not confused about what she wants to happen when she dies, and has taken the advice of her attorney to get things sorted.  We’d just returned from another visit to the bank to address some of these issues

Going into Mom’s apartment, she brought me to the dresser where she keeps her important papers.  She was showing me where she keeps stock certificates, and other assorted documents.

i was surprised to see the little guy on the music box, still chasing that train…

At the first strains of the tune, i was right back on that worn gray carpet.  A little dusty, it still worked perfectly…

“Your Dad gave me that years ago…”

“i know, Mom.  i remember this well…”  Still able to wind it up just so… Still able to use the metal button to bring the music to a halt at just the right place…

“Do you want it?  Put your name on the bottom of it.  Or just take it home now…”

“No.  i can’t do that…  You still have it out!  It looks perfect right here…”

“Well, you better mark it if you want it because if you don’t it might disappear after i’m gone…”

We had discussed this over lunch.  It is entirely within the realm of the plausible that anything that could potentially be of monetary value will vaporize as soon as she dies.  “The perils of benefactors, the blessings of parasites.”

i left it there, but the melody has been stuck in my head ever since.  Thinking about my father.  Thinking about the man that devoted his life to caring for her, and her children.  Leaving behind friends and family in the northeast, and starting over in his new role…

arrevederci roma

Get on that train, kid.  Don’t look back…

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?