Tales from the road, part 865

Flight from Chicago to Denver yesterday morning.  Shoehorned into row 32 of a 767 Cattleliner – one of the WORST for legroom.

In front of me is a short woman of some sort.  All i can see are nicely manicured nails on a feminine hand against the window before take off, and wisps of a few strands of dark hair peeking above the headrest in front of me.

Yay.  Short chicks rarely recline the seatback so no need for me to fish out my Knee Defender set from my backpack.

Tactical error.  As you have certainly guessed by now, Shorty McFuckyou slammed her seat back before we had leveled off out of O’Hare, pushing my seatback tray into my gut.  This led to a rather angry closing of my tray, along with a few shoves to push her seat up enough for me to stow the SkyMall catalog back into the pocket.

Rather than do the professional, adult thing, and ask her to straighten her seat a little to allow me breathing room, i proceeded to tuck in for a nap – with one of my knees wedged against the back of her seat.  With every shift or adjustment i made, she got a nice jolt from behind.

Mature?  You betcha.  But this is life on the road.  And it’s sometimes a full contact sport.  We do what we need to do to balance the need for public order and civility, and the need to keep our aggravation from leaking out of our bodies in the form of aggressive acts delivered onto the faces of fellow travelers.

This is not a “fun” trip.  This is work.  i’m along for the ride as the “management like object”.  Show we care, learn what our folks are up to, meet their collaborators.  Literally, i am “meat in a seat”. 

My travelmates?  Two “nice” colleagues.  One older and seasoned.  One younger and enthusiastic about life, the universe and everything i used to care about.  The elder gent has done a nice job of logistics – i don’t need to worry about driving, logistics, maps, meeting locations, etc.

Meat in a seat.  Getting paid.  While i was playing the “I’ve Got The Armrest, Motherfucker” game with a large, odorous gentleman on my flight this evening, i calculated the amount of time i’ve spent on my ass so far on this trip.

Day 1 – total time on ass: 8 1/2 hours (4 hour meeting)

Day 2 – total time on ass:  11 1/2 hours (3 hour meeting)

Projected Day 3 – total time on ass 20 hours (8 hour meeting plus transcontinental red-eye flight to get me home early on Day 4)

So the next time i get a cushy, “fun” business trip – somewhere lush, exotic and populated with my Dawg Boy posse, i am going to remember this one.  And check my guilt at the first airport gate…

“Lion King” to “Steel Magnolias”

My oldest sister, S, has a long history of ridiculous self-absorption. But she’s come a long way from weeping and wailing in hospital waiting rooms*.   In fact, during one of Mom’s previous procedures, S gave me enough blog fodder for a week….

Mom stayed with me over the weekend, and was moving slow.  She had pain in her legs, and i was pretty sure there was a blockage (or two) in the iliac arteries.  Again.  The angioplasty procedure has been done several times, and at least partially due to her diet**, her arteries have a tendency to continually re-clog. 

i had suggested a call to the cardiologist on Monday, and the lovely and completely edible Dr. Monica didn’t waste time.  She scheduled another angioplasty.  Waking up at the fuzzy, lint-encrusted butt-crack of dawn, i was on duty to pick up Mom and get her to the hospital for the procedure yesterday. 

But Thursday is scuba class, so i needed to have someone else on call to retrieve her, or stay until she was comfortably encamped at the hospital for the night.  S was able to take the afternoon off work, so i was on duty in the morning.  S made arrangements to arrive mid-day, releasing me by 4:00 pm for the hour drive home… in time to make it to class.

With delays and emergency procedures bumping Mom’s fairly routine roto-rooting, we were told that the doc was at least two hours behind schedule.  That meant Mom and i would be stuck in the pre-procedural holding pen from about 11:00 to at least 1:00.  So we both slept…  S arrived around 12:45 and woke us both up…

Low key, relaxed and light conversation followed until Mom was wheeled out at 2:00.  S and i were both hungry, so we hit the hospital cafeteria for a late lunch.  We had a very rational conversation about the need for S to audit the ‘construction’ expenses as her daughter, DQ, drives renovations on Mom’s house.  We discussed the need to keep the drama to a minimum – as in, nobody fuck with sister, T, in Florida… Let the sleeping pit bull lie…

As we reviewed the status of excavations at Mom’s house, i reminded S that if Mom drops dead before the house is done?  There is to be no guilt.  We are doing the right thing, she has chosen this option, and if she dies before it’s done, so be it… S simply nodded her head and said “I don’t think there’s anything we can do to make her happy”.

After lunch, we yakked a bit in the waiting room.  She asked me “Are you happy?”  Wow.  i don’t think anyone in my family has ever said those words to me before… i said “Very.  And thanks for asking.”  The nurse came out to inform us that Mom had a double-punch procedure, two iliac lard-packs blasted away, and she’d probably need to stay overnight at the hospital.

S and i went to see her in recovery, i bid farewell, and S stayed until Mom was settled in her room for the night.  She also stepped up to the retrieval duty upon Mom’s discharge. 

Not sure how it happened, but S seems to have it together.  Maybe it’s the fact that she’s been up to her armpits in raccoon turds in Mom’s attic for the past two weeks.  In any case, my big sister has at least started to grow up…

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* i usually put in links to prior ‘trailer park adventures’ to help some of the newer visitors track the history… but this one has perhaps the best series of comments ever.  loves me some smart-assed comments!  worth a look…  and more on the “we really miss kyknoord” thread…

** After the last angioplasty, i asked the doc if they’d done a biopsy on the plugs near her heart.  Confused the doctor – until i explained that i’d wager they were comprised of sausage gravy, deep-fried chicken livers and bacon fat… which is about what Mom ordered last Sunday for lunch when i was taking her home.

Scratching the surface

How much stuff can be crammed into about 1,000 square feet?  We’re still not sure…  the archeology continues.

Mom was less snippy today.  Last week, when my niece DQ was throwing fuzzy, expired food away from the fridge, Mom said “I’ve had it! I’m going to bash someone in the face…”.  Definitely less theatrics today.  Since i’m just back home, after about 7 hours of excavations, i’m just gonna ‘hoark’ a bit…

Sainthood:  BJ, my niece’s husband, is a hero.  He was laid off from his construction job last week, and used his time off productively.  Spending at least 10 hours a day at the house, he has sorted, organized, hauled and manhandled at least 4,000 pounds of shit.  All the while, he has shown patience that the rest of us can’t muster with Mom.  Reassuring her that all boxes marked “keep” will be kept, and that we won’t throw away anything she needs…  He is a good human.

Hoarding:  i am not confused about this – it’s clearly a form of mental illness.  i remind myself “she can’t help it” when she tells me to “throw out those pickles, but save the jars” as i balance on a broken chair in the garage, up to my armpits in plastic yogurt containers from the 1980’s.  She’s verging on panic when we spread out in different rooms and she can’t watch every move we make.  She wants to touch each item.  Tell us what it is, why she saved it, why it’s valuable. “These newspapers are worth a lot of money – they’re from the start of the Iraq war…”.  Wondering if upping her Xanax might help…

The cost of chaos:  So far, we’ve found a dozen automotive ice scrapers.  She no longer drives.  Multiple boxes of plastic cutlery, some still in the grocery bags with receipts.  Paper napkins – THOUSANDS of decorative napkins – still wrapped, with the “75% off” tags intact.  Unopened cleaning supplies, purchased with the best of intentions, inaccessible under boxes and bags and buckets of ‘stuff’.  As we were working today, she said “I can’t afford to replace all this…”.  Made me sad.  If she’d have bought what she needed, as she needed it, or even FIND it amidst the rabble… But the result is a stockpile for Armegeddon.  She could have probably saved thousands of dollars over the past decade or so…

But of all the tales from the front, this one perhaps best captures the scale of the disaster area that is my mother’s house…

HazMat:  In the 1960’s, feeding a family of six on a tight budget required taking advantage of sales, and buying in bulk.  A chest freezer in the utility room was Mom’s best friend.  When all six of us were there, she was in and out of the freezer on a daily basis.  But as we moved out, and home cooked meals became smaller and less frequent?  It was an albatross.  But a fully loaded albatross. 

The last time we seriously tried to excavate the house – 10 years ago – we considered the logistics of getting the damn thing out of the house.  Not a small appliance – 4′ wide and 6′ long.  i took a stethoscope to it to see if it was still running – a gentle hum said the electrons were flowing, but we had no idea if it was cooling.  Those excavations aborted, the freezer sat for another decade.  Unopened.

Last week, BJ collected a crew of his biggest friends, and they took the side door off the house and hauled that thing out.  It was sloshing, so they knew there was nothing frozen inside.  As they lifted it to get it past a planter, a black, slimy sludge sloshed out – releasing a horrific odor.  One friend puked, another ran off.  Mom’s neighbor had been helping with the final push, and went home to grab a respirator.  He was able to get the freezer sealed up in plastic.  But not before the stench was released….

Now that it was out?  How do you get rid of it?  Can’t take it to a dump (freon), can’t have it picked up on bulk trash day (suffocation hazard).  Never mind that it was loaded with liquefied rancid animal flesh.  Craig’s List Curb Alert?  Why not!  It took a couple hours, but finally a truck showed up.  They wanted the scrap metal, perhaps worth $100.  They knew what was in it, and even spilled a bit of the goo loading it up.  But they took it… 

Un-fucking-believable to me that anyone would voluntarily take a 500 pound metal tank, full of festering rotted meat.  For free.  But this conclusively demonstrates the blessings of scavengers.  Here’s to the buzzards and dung beetles of the world…

We’re not done yet.  Far from it.  But there is access to every window in the house so that measurements can be taken for new windows.  A 20′ long flatbed trailer was filled with trash, to be taken to the dump tomorrow.  Progress…