Tuesday, September 7, 2010
If you are sensitive to superstition, then you should know that this is a sad story, albeit one with a happy ending. Yesterday, September 6, 2010, marked Robrt's and my thirteenth anniversary. Traditionally, we have spent our anniversary away from home. For the first ten years, we drove to places such as Sedona, Bisbee, Jerome, and Greer to spend the night in a little bed-and-breakfast. On our eleventh anniversary, we hopped on a plane and went to Ohio and did a driving tour of the small towns surrounding the Niles/Warren/Youngstown area. Last year, we managed a getaway to France, and drove to Italy, stopping in Sirmione and Venice for our twelfth anniversary (I strongly recommend Venice as an anniversary destination, in case you are asking). This year, however, we decided to stay in Phoenix for our anniversary. The timing didn't seem quite right to get out of town. So we got ourselves psyched up for a "staycation" at home. Robrt was going to make breakfast, I was going to handle lunch, and then we were taking ourselves out to dinner at the Royal Palms. Here begins our tale:
UNLUCKY: On Sunday, September 5, we drive up to A.J.'s to get the supplies we need for the next day's meals, and return home to find that the air conditioner is slowly, but surely, giving up. The temperature in the house is at 85 (if you know Robrt, then you know he has a melting point of 75 degrees) and it clearly is not getting any cooler. LUCKY: Our home warranty kicks in and they manage to schedule a repairman for Labor Day afternoon, but until then we adjust our anniversary plans a bit: We'll have breakfast in the house (how hot could it be at 7:30 in the morning?) and then I'll make lunch at Robrt's parents' house. LUCKY: In a serendipitous moment, I have been marinating steaks to put on the grill for dinner on the evening of the 5th. I had recently unearthed the grill from the garage after a long summer of not grilling ("not grilling" being an activity); therefore, we didn't have to needlessly add to the temperature in the house. UNLUCKY: We set up some fans at the dining room table and proceed to eat a lovely meal of grilled ribeye and grilled brussels sprouts (remind me to elaborate on those - tasty!). Everything is going swimmingly until Robrt tips his wine glass over (a 1994 French vintage). Messy. Winey. Robrt, being the lesser-known Queen of Clean and his mother's son, is compelled to immediately wash and dry the tablecloth, so despite our best efforts to maintain the internal temperature of the house, we now have the dryer running, contributing to the sweltering interior climate. LUCKY: After dinner, we grab the mattress from our bed and schlep it up the stairs to the library, where we have a small window a/c unit that effectively cools that room. We don't knock a single picture off of the stairwell wall, despite our best efforts, and nobody pulls a muscle in the process. We sleep well and comfortably in the cooler upstairs room.
September 6, 2010: LUCKY: We wake up. We are alive. That's pretty lucky. Everyone should be happy to wake up alive. UNLUCKY: Robrt has his heart set on making breakfast, which he must do over an open flame in a kitchen with an average temperature of 90 degrees. LUCKY: Robrt makes homemade blintzes (sort of - I mean, they are homemade, but in an effort to avoid lighting the oven, he forgoes the baking part by eliminating the egg in the filling). They are really lovely - kind of like having cheesecake for breakfast (which, if you are following my other blog, Fat or Fiction, you know what a treat this is for me. Check it out:
LUCKY: As mentioned, a repairman is coming to fix our a/c unit. UNLUCKY: His window for arrival is between 9:00 a.m. and noon, and he doesn't actually show up until 1:00, so my plan for making lunch at Robert's folks is put on the proverbial back burner. LUCKY: The a/c unit requires a one and a half hour repair, and we are free to go out to lunch. UNLUCKY: Every restaurant is closed on Labor Day, at least for lunch. LUCKY: We finally locate a restaurant and have a cozy lunch at America's Taco Shop on 7th Avenue and Highland (which, incidentally, was packed, so pay attention restaurant owners - people do like to eat on Labor Day). This restaurant is a converted bungalow, and our table is a little two-top stuck into what used to be a closet. You may insert your own punchlines here. I'll wait... UNLUCKY: There is a woman who can best be described as a "smokin' gal" with a booming, nicotine-ravaged voice sitting nearby. Her conversation topics run the gamut from disdain for showering outdoors to mononucleosis, and she sounds as if she travels with her own stadium-ready sound crew. LUCKY: We leave the restaurant, and as far as we know, we are free of mononucleosis, making us luckier than some of the others in the restaurant. LUCKY: We have time to nap prior to our dinner reservation at T.Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort. UNLUCKY: We are just old enough and together long enough to consider napping a suitable anniversary activity. LUCKY: We arrive in a safe and timely manner at the Royal Palms, wait for a romantic table to be set up, complete with candles and champagne (during the wait we notice a handmade knitted shawl on a customer who is also waiting for the maitre d'hotel and impress her with our skill at correctly identifying the brand and style of yarn she used - this is a rare skill, which can be considered both lucky and unlucky, depending on how you choose to look at it). LUCKY: We toast to our good fortune and order some really lovely food. UNLUCKY: I spill my glass of wine all over the table and Robrt's dinner jacket, and give his escargot a nice Syrah shower as well for good measure. LUCKY: We make it through the rest of the meal without injury or damages. We joke with our server about our bad luck and she promises to deliver dessert by stepping on every crack on the way to the table, serving it under a ladder, and running a black cat across our table (she actually has the dessert chef draw a chocolate black cat on the plate). LUCKY: We make it home, our bodies and vehicle intact. The time is 11:15 p.m. and the house is cooling down nicely. UNLUCKY: There is still time left in our thirteenth year. I use some of this time to kneel on the boxspring (exposed due to the fact that our mattress is still upstairs) and crack it in two places. If you must know, I was attempting to get a cat toy in order to play with Ernie. LUCKY: Robrt has made me a really lovely gift for our anniversary (a piece of art! I'll blog about this soon) and after exchanging gifts, we retire to the sofa for the remaining three minutes of our anniversary. UNLUCKY: Robrt bangs his foot on the coffee table. LUCKY: Midnight strikes. Bad luck seems to end.
It is now the first day of our fourteenth year together, and, knock on wood, everything is going well.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I'd like to say that I've been busy. I'd really like to say that I've been traveling the globe and have some thrilling adventures to share with you. I'd be elated to tell you about the time spent touring the Italian Riviera on my yacht. But those stories will have to wait (at least until I have a yacht). Instead, I'll have to tell you about how I've been landlocked in Phoenix all summer. Well, actually, there it is. Not much more to tell. I've stayed indoors as much as possible. To occupy my time, I spent approximately 15 hours painting a portrait of Lindsay Wagner of Bionic Woman (a.k.a. Jaime Sommers) and Sleep Number fame. A friend of mine is obsessed with her. He has a Jaime Sommers styling head, which is like the Barbie styling head, except that the Barbie styling head actually looks like Barbie, and the Jaime Sommers styling head looks nothing like Lindsay Wagner. So, for his 50th birthday, rather than treat him to a hypothetical cruise on the Italian Riviera, I painted him this miniature watercolor portrait of his television idol. The entire piece is about 2 x 3 inches and the detail above is approximately the size of a pickle chip. Luckily, the portrait looks more like Lindsay Wagner than the styling head does, and it doesn't even remotely resemble a pickle chip.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
If you've been following my thrilling adventures (you shouldn't be - there must be things on your "To Do" list that have been languishing), you know that a good part of my day is spent playing cards with Mary, my mother-not-really-but-sort-of-in-law, who is living with Alzheimer's disease. It is one of the few activities that amuses her, and she really excels at this game. If I had more of a gambling spirit, I would pack an overnight bag, throw Mary in a car and hustle up to Vegas. She has lady luck in spades. I used to think I had to let Mary win in order to preserve her self-esteem. This, of course, is ridiculous, since Mary can't remember winning or losing. I soon realized that, with no effort on my part, Mary was winning more than she was losing, which started to affect my self-esteem. So I started developing a cut-throat, card shark attitude. I formulated strategies that I thought would ensure my winning. I counted cards and held back ones that would assist her victories. I kept chicken-scratch tallies of games won by each of us (I listed her as "Mean Mary" and myself as "Tearful Todd" since she, it turns out, was more successfully competitive than me). And then, one day, my ego suffered a crushing blow.
We were playing a rousing game, and I looked up from my handful of cards to find that Mary had just one card left to discard, which typically meant she would be out in the next turn or two. But the game continued, and I desperately grabbed cards in an effort to secure this most unlikely win over my fierce opponent. "Not so lucky now, are you Mary?" I muttered to her. She just smiled back, with a pitying look. Finally, I drew a card that depleted my hand. I grabbed the pencil and proudly marked another win under my name.
"That was amazing," I said. "I can't believe I won that hand. You always go out when you have one card left."
"Oh well," she said. "You did it!"
Something wasn't right. She didn't look convinced.
"What card did you have left, Mary? I can't believe you couldn't go out."
"Nothing," she said demurely, pulling her one card towards her chest. "I didn't have anything..."
"Let me see," I said, reaching across the breakfast bar and turning her one remaining card over.
It was a deuce! The wild card. A card she could have put down at any time during the course of the game. Mary had (and this is hard to admit) LET ME WIN. A woman with no memory had surmised that I needed a victory to maintain relevance in this life and had purposely let me win.
"I can't believe it, Mary," I whined. "You let me win?"
She hesitated, a hurt look spreading across her face. "Was that so terrible?" she said, consumed with the suspicion that she had done something wrong.
I looked up, suddenly aware that, in her eyes, I was criticizing her behavior. I went over my potential responses and their ramifications. Finally, and without irony, I responded:
"Yes, Mary. That is terrible."
And we both laughed.
The rules for Mary's Rummy game are provided in a sidebar on this blog.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I was going through some old photos the other night, and among many frightening reminders of the past (who let us go out in public in some of the clothes we wore?) were some really sweet photos that made me stop and think about the more pleasant moments in the past. More pleasant, at least, than wearing Spandex mini shorts to a restaurant, or thinking that eyebrows the size of Snickers bars were flattering. I came across a photo of my faithful companion of 15 years, Buck. Buck was, I can safely say, one of the most beautiful dalmatians I've ever seen. He was also one of the most intelligent dogs I've ever met (and I've met quite a few). Unfortunately, he was also one of the most annoying creatures ever to grace the planet. He stole food from strangers when they weren't looking. He ruined furniture. He shed so much that nearly a decade after his passing, I'll occasionally find one of his hairs embedded in a piece of memorabilia. He was notorious for his room-clearing farts. Perhaps most annoying was his refusal to shake hands. It's probably just me, but I love a dog that will shake on command. Buck, despite learning other tricks and following complex verbal commands, particularly when food was involved (i.e. "the treat is in the side yard behind the pecan tree resting on the garden gnome's hand") would simply look to the side, embarrassed, when I would ask him to indulge me and give me his paw. Mind you, he never once did it in his fifteen years with me. Not once. It really pissed me off. It became the ultimate anti-trick. Everyone talks to dalmatians, and everyone asks dogs to shake. And he never willingly put his paw in a person's hand. He had a real superiority complex.
Despite all of these less-than-desirable qualities, he was also great company. He took an active co-pilot position in the passenger seat of my car. He never needed to be on a leash, even in a busy city setting (he was very respectful of all traffic laws). He loved infants and old people. He was really fun at a beach or at a pool party. He even smiled when he saw people he knew and liked (which was everyone except for homeless people and a few acquaintances towards which he held a grudge). I will never have another dog. And I will never stop missing Buck.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Tonight, for the first time ever, I played the game of Life. You begin by choosing a car. Apparently life begins once you get your driver's license. You start out alone. You randomly choose a career. I chose "Teacher" which begins with a starting salary of zero dollars - you have to wait until everyone else has collected a salary, and then you get whatever salary is left over. After a short while, you trade in your teaching position for a real job that pays a bit more. You spin and pretty soon you are married. You choose a partner that is either the same color as you (blue or pink) or the opposite color. Apparently, anyone can get married in this game of Life. You set out on a path that eventually leads to you making some money, having children (even if you don't want them), paying taxes, and buying a house that will either gain or lose value. Life seems like it takes forever, despite the fact that you only have to get through the game board one time. When, exhausted, you reach the end of the game, you choose between two retirement facilities - one in which you gamble your life savings away, and one in which you get to keep what you have but have no option of making any more money. And you win the game of Life, by having the most money. I happened to finish in last place - I had the least amount of money, my house lost value, and I was in a sucky nursing home. But I played happily, and I had a lot of friends around me in the retirement center. And I still had my car. So I considered it a success despite what my bank account said.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Take a good look at this photo while it's here. I'm pretty sure Robrt will ask me to take it down as soon as he sees it. He insists on being photographed through gauze or a sheet of linoleum (depending on how much sleep he has gotten) and his reaction to looking like anything more than two black dots (eyes) with a moustache is extreme (as he would say "insert retching sounds here"). But hopefully, the photo will remain up long enough to remind everyone that Robrt will be reading selections from his writings about his mother, his childhood, and his experiences as an Alzheimer's caregiver on Friday, July 2nd, at Willo North Gallery. His readings will give you insight into the childhood of this great big sissy and how he has grown into a man with an endless ability to love and care for the people who raised him. You'll also get to see him in the flesh so please remember to tell him how young he looks in person, or I'll be forced to slather Vaseline over your eyeballs in an effort to soft focus your vision.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I'm relatively certain that blog posts should be light and airy, meant only to entertain and delight the reader, who most likely is eating a grilled cheese sandwich and attempting to not spill Sprite onto the keyboard. Unfortunately, I'm not that blogger. At least not this week. So instead I'm going to wax geriatric for a moment. My father-in-law (I'm going to take the liberty of using "in-law" as I see fit, despite the government's refusal to recognize my relationship in any legal manner) has recently been experiencing some health problems and is being treated in a local hospital. This, in itself, wouldn't be problematic, except that my mother-in-law has alzheimer's and can't be left alone. So I find myself spending some really long days playing cards with and answering the questions of this really lovely woman who gave birth to my spouse (who's spending his days at the hospital and his nights in his childhood bedroom). I haven't slept very much. In fact, the bags under my eyes practically require a support garment (do they make Spanx for eyes?). I've answered the same questions about a thousand times (scintillating questions such as "Where are you from?" "How old is your car?" and "Where's my husband?"). I've played the same card game so many times that I actually have developed a card counting strategy and fancy myself a shark at this hybrid version of rummy that we made up. I've done a lot more dishes and laundry than I ever do at my own home, and I'm thinking of writing a cookbook devoted to interesting meals for the elderly. In short, I'm exhausted, and my next blog post might be weeks away. That said, I wouldn't trade the time I've had with Mary, my mother-in-law, for anything. She's gracious, charming, and funny. The amount of gratitude she shows me with a smile, a laugh, or an earnest plea for an answer that will make sense to her makes this time well-spent. It's strange, because I think I'm pretty lazy and and self-centered most of the time. But it's nice to find out that I'm capable of rising above myself.