Snakes on the Trail

Had a wonderful evening with old/reconnected friends last weekend. My big crush* from 7th grade was in town visiting his twin sister, and she hosted a gathering…

We’re all in our late 40’s / early 50’s. Been there, done that, mostly…

As i was bashing cookies nibbling on crudités in the kitchen, i overheard a conversation between Twin Sister and SC, another 50-something woman.

SC: I’ve never been particularly outdoorsy, but really enjoyed going out backpacking this summer.  Never knew what it was like!  I even walked up on a rattlesnake during one of our hikes! What really got me was that I wasn’t terrified – I just sort of stood there and said “Well. Now what?”

TS: Honey, you’ve raised kids, right? What the hell could that rattlesnake do to you that teenagers didn’t? I’d be standing there saying “A rattle? Seriously? That’s all you got? Bring it, little fella! I’ve raised kids. You got nothin’, mother fucker!”

photo sourced here

* This is the lovely man who had a stroke in 2010.  We’d had a grand time visiting the summer before, when he took me to a weekend music festival, rather than skin me and turn me into a girl suit.  The latest adventure for him?  Heart attack, and bypass surgery just over a month ago.  He spent a week with his twin as part of his rehab, and is doing remarkably well!  Still some issues from the stroke, but his speech is improved post-heart attack. 

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The “Dream Team”

Although it’s become passé, i’ve long been a fan of the Zombie Apocalypse as a practical metaphor for disaster preparedness. Even the stodgy Center for Disease Control built a zombie survival plan to better market the need to take a modicum of responsibility for your own sorry arse when the shit hits the fan…

As we spent time on the gun range recently, and caught up on “stuff”, The Boy appeared to be at least mildly impressed with my interest in shoring up my skills in the survival department.

Backpacking, SCUBA, motorcycling,  Now adding horseback riding lessons to the mix. Already a “one and a half banana” mechanic with machines, rudimentary plumbing and electrical wiring. A master with duct tape. Power tools (including chainsaws) do not intimidate me. i might actually be useful should the undead rise from the dirt.

It bothered me a bit – thinking about The Girl. The Boy is armed, rugged and ruthless. The Girl’s got an amazing brain, is a trained linguist, and has a powerful intellect…

Travel-wise? None better! She escaped a fight in a Turkish brothel, rode trains in India, took an impromptu trip down a Chinese river and survived seven hours on camel-back en route to the Great Pyramids – all before she was 20 years old.

As a kid, she was the least comfortable with our outdoor adventures, and wasn’t a fan of “roughing it”.  Will her Ninja-like travel skills be enough?

i really want her on the team.  “Survival of the Species” and all that shit. When genetic proliferation is at stake, i can’t exactly go back to the drawing board. My two existing spawn are all i’ve got to support my quest for DNA-based immortality.

Recounting my conversation with The Boy to Studley, as he drove us back from our horseback riding lessons, i remembered a moment from a few years back.  And found a glimmer of hope…

[sound bite signifying flashback goes here…]

It was 2004. i was battling mono. Passed out at home, with a fever of 105 F. The Girl was in town for a few days, and had borrowed my car to purchase art supplies from a warehouse in a rough part of town.

In a fever-ravaged haze, i picked up the phone as she called…

The Girl: I hit a curb when i went into the art supply house! I have a flat!

daisyfae: i have a fever and no car. Call the auto club. i can’t do a damn thing to help. Is there a spare tire?

The Girl: Let me check. I’ll call you back.

She called me back within ten minutes.

The Girl: Yes, there’s a spare. I called the auto club – they’ll be here in about an hour.

daisyfae: Wait in the store, or in the car if you don’t feel comfortable.  It’s getting dark.

The Girl: I’m fine. Some creepy dude asked me for change when I was looking for the spare. I told him to fuck off. “Can’t you see I’m having issues here?!?”

She’s on the team…

Another round…

Mom sat in the chair holding her cane with both hands.  As if she needed it for support, even while seated.  Shoulders slumped.  Droopy eyelids completely closed.

Dr. M* looked up from the computer screen, where she was taking electronic notes while doing the quarterly medical assessment.

Dr. M:  Other than the pain in your leg, how are you feeling?

Mom:  My heart… My heart just feels heavy.  The pacemaker keeps it going, but sometimes I just wish it would stop.  I’m so tired…

We’d been focusing on the lung cancer treatment for the first part of the year.  When i took Mom out-of-town on our whirlwind adventure last week, my niece had warned me that Mom had trouble walking, and was having pain in her right leg.  And Mom struggled during our trip.

Pain in her shin has been the consistent indicator that Mom has a blockage in the iliac artery – successfully treated with angioplasty and a stent twice before.  The procedure is only mildly invasive, and has worked wonders.

In addition to that, she had a follow-up visit last week with the pulmonary specialist, looking over the results of her CT scan taken after the radiation treatments, targeted on the cancer nugget in her lung.

Dr. M was pretty sure that the occlusion in the CT scan results was due to bronchial blockage, and that was probably what was making Mom feel so generally crappy.  The body needs oxygen.  If the lungs got gummed up by radiation, oxygen isn’t getting where it needs to get…

i’d taken Mom out for lunch before our visit with the doc.  It was pretty obvious she was feeling crappy**.  So crappy that there wasn’t even much energy in her complaints.  A lot of sighs…

Dr. M confirmed that between the bronchoscopy treatment proposed by the pulmonary doc, and replacement of a failing iliac arterial stent, it was possible that Mom could be feeling much better with only a moderate amount of medical treatment.

But Mom just sighed…

As Mom told the doc about her heavy heart, Dr. M looked up and caught my eye.  She could see mine becoming a little leaky.  And behind those sexy, smart-girl glasses that she wears, i could see that i wasn’t alone…

image from the geniuses at despair

“That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable”

 

* Ridiculously sexy cardiologist.  i’ve written about her beforeHere, and here, too.  And here, in a footnote… The massive “girl crush” i’ve had on her for the past few years has bloomed into “deep love” due to her ability to provide spectacular care as both a cardiologist and integrating physician for my mother – while demonstrating sincere concern for her as a human being.  She is not a doctor.  She is a goddess…

** True to form, however, she was not feeling so crappy that she didn’t race to a table in our favorite pre-cardiology visit restaurant, and then clean her plate of all food molecules prior to leaving…  We are not “wasting away” people.  Far from it.

Teach your children well…

Conversation with The Boy last week, as we prepared to head to the gun range to blast our way through his arsenal… Hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, and we were catching up on details – large and small.

The Boy:  I’m not really looking for a girlfriend.  I won’t settle down until I find a woman smarter than I am.

daisyfae:  Good plan.  My gents are all very intelligent, and smarter than i am in some way or another…

The Boy:  Yeah, but it’s easier for you to find smart men…

daisyfae:

The Boy:  There are just a lot more smart men than smart women!

daisyfae:  Look, dickhead* – do you realize how smart your sister is?  How smart i am?

The Boy:  Calm down!  I know.  That Bell Curve?  You guys are on it…  Yeah.  Definitely.  Right there on it…

As testament to his bravery, it wasn’t an hour later that he was giving me a safety briefing on a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver…  Grrrr…

* He likes to get me riled up.  i don’t want to believe he’s the huge misogynist he pretends to be…

Tales from the grave…

“Each of us has a story to tell.  So do they.  Come hear them speak for themselves…”

And we did.

Loaded Mom, and my cousin, S, into the car and drove a few hundred miles to attend the “Voices of…” living history event, held in the old cemetery in Mom’s hometown.  My cousin, L, had told us about this during our “Cousins Weekend” last August.

A crew of volunteer researchers from the local historical society, some writers, and a cast of performers have pulled this together for the past four years.  The scripts had to be factual.  The individuals must ‘reside’ in the cemetery.  Ten new stories each year.

i’d had to keep this one to an overnight, due to other obligations.  This was a bit aggressive for Mom, not used to such whirlwind travel.  We’d settled into our hotel rooms by mid-afternoon, and managed to take a brief siesta before dinner.

For a woman who constantly complains about her failed vision, and difficulty walking, she can absolutely haul ass when you put her in the parking lot of her favorite barbecue restaurant on earth.  She didn’t have to ask for help reading the fine print on the menu, either…

From dinner, to the cemetery for the main event.

It was pretty brilliant.  We climbed onto the hay wagon that would take us on our tour just as the sun dropped behind the horizon.  Getting my 83-year old Momma on that wagon wasn’t easy, but she was game.

Stopping at the first location, the tractor was silenced.  Two men appeared from the dark, carrying lanterns.  Telling their tales from opposing sides of a skirmish fought during the Civil War.  It was brief, and compelling.

We continued on, hearing more tales.  Well scripted and well told.  Not sure what i’d expected from this small town troupe, but i was blown away.

As our tour came to an end, the narrator riding on our wagon said “None of us will live forever.  Only our stories will live on.  What will yours be?”

From the cemetery, we headed back to the hotel for the night. Lying in bed, i listened to Mom’s light snores underneath the blast of the television – she can only sleep with the television on for company.

She just turned 83.  She’s got a bad ticker, and the respiratory system of a woman who smoked like a fiend for 65 years.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of this year.

We’re at the “Two Minute Warning”.

The next morning, i woke up to the sounds of her snores.  Relieved to hear them, actually. She was getting up and dressed, as i prepared to do my push-ups.  Five sets.  i rest between sets.  Sometimes for many minutes.  She didn’t understand the process.

Mom:  Why are you getting dressed?  I only counted four sets!

daisyfae [tongue clenched between teeth]: i’m resting.  Figured i’d run down to the breakfast bar and get you a bagel before i do the final set…

We had a nice brunch with local family before heading out to drive the 300 miles home.  As my cousin and mother chatted about various bits of family history, i couldn’t help but wonder “How would Mom tell her story?”

to be continued….

Granny Busts A Hip. Again.

Spent a day farting around with Mr. X, my 50-year old gentleman friend who has a fitness addiction, and the physique of a gymnast*.  We are both cyclists, although he’s a bit more serious as both a commuter and a long-distance rider.

He’s currently sporting a boot on his left calf, due to a bone fracture acquired during one of his weekly roller hockey bouts.  Me?  A knee brace, due to a gentle mis-step while dancing on a Honduran bar during a foam party.

Since we were both feeling pretty gimpy, we decided to bag our usual bike ride, and just take in a matinée.  Even giving in to using a car for the five-mile trip…

By the time we were done with a late lunch, the sun had emerged, and it turned into a gorgeous day.  So we played with his bicycle collection!  He’s got a recumbent, a tandem and even a recumbent tandem!  Mostly, though, i wanted to play with his kickbike**.  Taking it out for a spin through the residential street where he lives, i eventually got the hang of it – knee brace notwithstanding!

Decided to try his recumbent bike, too, as i’ve never ridden one.  As i was playing with that, he got on the kickbike to play around a little, too.  With his broken leg in a boot…

We farted around with his entire fleet for a bit – and if anyone had seen us out there, we’d have certainly looked insane…

While yakking with The Girl this morning, i was filling her in on my day out… explaining our varying degrees of decrepit which didn’t quite deter us from farting around on the wheeled toys.

The Girl:  You crazy old folks!  Always*** falling down and breaking bones…

this image, and more happy hippie gear, can be found here

* Six-pack.  And i’m not talking about what’s in his fridge…

** Not entirely a euphemism

*** This is not the first time i’ve been ‘walking wounded’ over a stupid dance-related injury, or worse – being an eeejit on a playground.  The Girl has seen me limping more often than walking…

Moooooove!

“There was a wreck on the island airstrip tonight!”

“What happened?”

“An incoming plane hit a cow.  On the runway.”

D’uh!  Of course it was on the runway!  This became a running joke.  As did references to Honduran hamburger…

We had a grand time Friday night, yukking it up over a cow that had wandered onto the island airstrip.  Fortunately, no one was injured.  Except the cow.  Which was seriously dead.  Possibly serious damage to my liver, as well…

surly bartender

Our final night in Utila, and we were enjoying a barbecue poolside.  Followed by a nekkid pool party.  Well… for some of us…

at the dive shop, the daily sightings board…

As we collected in the lounge the next morning, grabbing breakfast before hopping the pick up trucks that would take us to the airstrip, we realized that perhaps something was amiss.

This is a tiny island.  Eight miles long.  Three miles wide.  It has one airstrip.  There was a dead cow, and a plane that had no landing gear on it.  There is no tow truck.  There were no wheels on the plane.

Our charter flight to the island

But no one whined…

We needed the charter flights to get back to the San Pedro Sula airport – on the mainland – to catch our commercial flights home.  At noon.

But no one complained…. It was pretty clear that there wasn’t much we were going to be able to do about it.

The plane was not moving itself.  The charter flights taking us to the mainland could not get in because of a cow.

Turns out, it was a feral cow.  Seems no one on the island wanted to claim ownership.  Someone was responsible for fixing that plane, and the cow apparently didn’t have insurance.

So we waited.  And we had more coffee.  The resort owner took his backhoe out to the airstrip in an attempt to clear the wrecked plane.

Nope.  Not gonna happen.

It was then that “Plan B” was unveiled.  Always have a “Plan B”, folks!  We were grouped and loaded – luggage and all – onto the small dive boats!  To Roatan!  Another Honduran island, with airports!  The charter flights would meet us there!

One of the “escape” boats, loaded and ready

Two hours, over rather rough seas.  Pissing rain.  A few green passengers, me included.  Racing through swarms of butterflies – migrating through the nasty weather!

Waterspout in progress.  Never touched water.

Comparisons to “The Amazing Race”. With no complaints…

We were met at the docks by transportation – two church buses, prepared to haul us and our luggage to the airport, where the charter flights awaited.  Watching the clock?  We all knew it was almost a lost cause.

What would Jesus drive?

Have i mentioned that the commercial flights from the Honduran mainland only go on Saturday and Thursday?  We pretty much had one shot at getting home, and it was becoming clear that it wasn’t going to happen.
Travel representatives – hired by the resort owner to get us out – met the buses, and explained “Plan C”.  Turns out, it’s also a good idea to have a “Plan C”.  With no time to get back to San Pedro Sula, we would be re-booked on commercial flights from Roatan.

This was not trivial.  There were thirty of us.  As the flights only go on Saturday and Thursday, they were close to filled.  No way in hell there were thirty empty seats.

So we waited.  They just put us all on standby.  Some through Houston, a couple through Dallas.  And about twenty-two of us standby to Atlanta.  It looked grim.

But there were no complaints…

We cheered when the last guy got on the plane!

It is true that you can tell a lot about a person by how he or she reacts to lost luggage, rainy days and travel disruptions.  i will tell you that dive people are fabulous!

Had sent an e-mail to my son, explaining my predicament, and the fact that it was likely i wouldn’t be home as planned.

daisyfae:  We got stuck because of a cow-plane collision.  On the runway.  May not make our flights to Atlanta today.  Will keep you posted.

The Boy:  Assumed it was on the runway.  Unless they have flying cows down there.