Category Archives: travel

Vacation, eh?

So I can FINALLY tell you that I’m up in Canada this week, a trip that’s been months in the making. My family has a cottage on Lake Erie about an hour north of Buffalo, NY, and every year some portion of us makes the trip for a week or two to enjoy the beach life. The Squab family hasn’t been for the last couple of years, because I don’t know if you know this but toddlers and babies are CRAP travelling companions, but this year Mr. Squab decided it would be fun to surprise my mom by showing up even though she thought we couldn’t make it. So we rented a whole ‘nother cottage (that way we can have a baby-friendly shut-up-at-8pm kind of space and an adult-friendly stay-up-and-drink-and-play-cards kind of space), and rented a van, and loaded it up, and drove out the entire 18 hour trip. With a four-year-old and a one-year-old. I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little out of my mind anxious about it. We took the trip in two days, driving a whopping 13 hours (thanks, rush hour in Chicago) the first day, and a jaunty 5 1/2 hours the second, and I have to say, the kids were total troupers about the whole thing. And it was really, really fun to see the look on Mom’s face when we showed up. It’s a fine line between overwhelmingly surprised and coronary arrest, but we walked it and everyone is good. We’re now ensconsed in our rental cottage with an AMAZING lake view, and the kids have been having the time of their lives playing on the beach. We have absolutely no internet access, so I’m posting this from the public library in town, but I’ll post some pix if I get a chance. Anyway, for all of you whose playdate invitations I’ve ignored, or who’ve moved into new housing with no help and/or housewarming gifts from me, etc, etc, this is why and I’m very sorry. Mom is on Facebook and reads this blog and all so I had to keep it a secret. Right – gotta go hit the beach!

Not so much with the Merry and Bright

The funeral is Friday, so I’ll be flying south tomorrow afternoon, returning Sunday evening. We’ve done some abbreviated Christmas celebrating, with plans to do the rest once everyone is back in town in the New Year. Right now I’m mostly just glad that the Hatchling is so little that she doesn’t really know the difference; she’s just excited to be getting awesome toys and eating so many cookies.

Anyway: posting will be minimal or naught for a bit. Hope you’re all having festive, relaxing, holidays, through which I can live vicariously.

I’m baaaaaaaaaack

Did you miss me? I had a great time in Knoxville; for one thing, the weather was what November is SUPPOSED to be like (40s and 50s, damp, rainy) as opposed to the pre-winter crap we get in this godforsaken state. And for another thing, that baby is CUTE. Hoo. Plus my mom was there, too, so she basically catered to our every need. It was a good trip, and I sure do wish I lived closer to my sis, but it was really, really good to get home. I can’t think of a better way to be greeted at the airport than by an ecstatic tow-headed two-year old running toward you with a mile-wide grin yelling “Mama!! Hi, Mama!! I so gwappa SEE you!” and then giving you a hugey-ginormous hug. That’s just plain good stuff. Mr. Squab had even fixed her hair in a pony tail with barrettes. (Little girl hair-dos are not his strong point. He characterized his first attempt at a pony tail as an “epic fail.”) He’d also done a bunch of laundry, hung the outdoor Christmas lights, cleaned out the back porch, and put insulating plastic on the windows while I was gone. This sort of pisses me off, because hell if *I* have the time or energy to tackle those kinds of projects when I’m singlehandedly responsible for the Hatchling. Where does he get off? But then, I also benefit from his industriousness, so, you know: I keep my mouth shut.

Hope y’all had a good week.

Sweet Sorrow, my ass.

Today was a rough one. Got out to the nursing home this morning to find Mimi in one of the group rooms, playing a game of ring toss with about ten other inmates residents. Some of them looked like they were sort of having fun, but for the rest, including Mimi, it was clearly just one more damn thing to get through in the day. She said she had felt feverish all morning, and she did feel hot, though when the nurse came and took her temp a couple of hours later it registered normal. I don’t know if it was a fever or just the knowledge that we were leaving today, but she was the weakest and most confused I’ve seen her. Couldn’t string a thought together, couldn’t remember names or places or times, didn’t understand what you were talking about when you tried to help her, wouldn’t eat a thing, bit your head off when you tried to get her to eat, and so on, and so on, and so on. It was tough, y’all. We took a break for lunch, and when we came back she was passed-out asleep on her bed. (Peculia was asleep, too, but she looked kind of like she’d just fallen sideways across her bed and decided, what the hell, I’ll just take a nap.) We hated to wake her, but knew she’d want to see us before we had to leave. She was even more disoriented in the afternoon than she had been in the morning, but we tried to chat, and I rubbed her legs and feet, which she loves. Just before we had to go, she told Dad to put his head down next to her so she could “scritch” it. Dad will do just about anything to get his head scritched (like scratching your back, only on the scalp), so he bent over and let her do it, and then afterwards she made him go get her comb so she could get his hair back in order. It’s an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life: this emaciated, sickly, confused old woman so tenderly caressing her son, taking a little care of him after he’d been taking such great care of her.

We told her we had to go, and she said she’d be brave and not let us see her cry. She told us to come back as soon as ever we could and we promised we would. Somehow we made it out of the place without completely breaking down, though I still feel like I could start bawling if someone looked at me cross-eyed. I sure am glad I’ll be home tonight.

Dispatches from Dixie

It’s kind of amazing how quickly two days can go by even when you don’t feel like you’re doing much. It’s equally amazing how tired you can get just sitting with someone, if that someone has dementia. Mimi is … well, my aunt calls her “confused” and I guess that’s as accurate a term as any. If she weren’t my grandmother, and if her current state weren’t such a marked difference from the way she ought to be, it would be kind of fascinating to watch how her brain is trying to work. Being with her is a little like being with Mrs. Dalloway, only Mimi’s stream of consciousness doesn’t tie together too well. She talks almost nonstop, but often it’s difficult to tell if she’s talking TO anyone, or just, you know … talking. She makes valiant attempts to maintain conversational niceties, telling you about her day or how she spent the evening or a story she got reminded of. The problem is, she doesn’t really remember about her day, and she thinks she spent the night in jail on false charges, and she can’t remember the names of anyone in her story. Yesterday she told us she’d been trapped in prison all night long and couldn’t find her witnesses to prove she wasn’t supposed to be there, so she called Aubie (my aunt’s dog, whom Mimi loves and who isn’t allowed in the home) and tied a message to him and told him to go find my aunt and get her out of there. Which … how fucking depressing is THAT? Aubie figures regularly in her stories; the other day she reached over to my dad and patted him on his hand, calling him her “sweet Aubie-poo Robinson Timothy.” She does that a lot, gets started on the wrong track and then kind of tries to veer back around to the right one.

She still has some of her sass and sense of humor. My aunt always used to say that living with Mimi was kind of like living with Lucille Ball, and she wasn’t the only one to make the comparison. If there’s one element that’s a constant on my dad’s side of the family, I guess it’s laughter – we all like to crack jokes and laugh at ourselves and each other. And as much as Mimi could drive you nuts sometimes, she was often the catalyst for the biggest laughs. We still see occasional glimmers of that: she was telling us about how her back doesn’t work anymore, and when she tries to sit up to get out of bed, nothing happens. “I just can’t understand it. I tell that back, ‘Get up!’ and it just will not move. I said to it, ‘What’d I ever do to you? Haven’t I always treated you right?’ Shoot. I’m gonna get up and pop it one of these days.” She was talking about how she’d always tried to be a truthful, good person, and my Dad said “Yeah, and look where THAT got you,” and she came right back with “Ain’t it a crying shame? Next time around I’m gonna be mean, and drink and CUSS.” Sometimes she’ll make fun of us for talking down to her. My aunt was asking her if she had to use the bathroom, and Mimi wasn’t responding so she asked the question louder and louder and finally Mimi looked at her and put on an exaggerated baby voice and said “No, mother, I don’t have to go potty right now.”

But these moments of levity are brief, and they don’t compensate for the prison stories, or the constant paranoia about people taking her things, or the anger about – well, about not being in control of anything, which is enough to make anyone angry. But the confusion is the worst. She often talks about how she feels so funny staying in “this woman’s” house, and she likes the decor but she doesn’t want to be a bother. Or she’ll start a story about something and stop mid-sentence because she’s lost a name or a word or the whole damn narrative, and the look on her face isn’t the kind of vague look you or I might get if we have a brain fart, it’s sheer terror that the world no longer holds together in a meaningful way, and she can’t figure out how to fix it. Her reality is fragmented and constantly shifting; her frames of reference don’t cohere, and she never feels like she knows what’s coming next. I can imagine what this is like just well enough to want to start stockpiling lethal doses of narcotics for myself right now, in case I’m ever in a similar state. It’s no way to live.

But, having said that, she is still living, and she’s still got enough of her mind left to enjoy visitors, even if she doesn’t remember that they came. I’ve been spending time with her doing her nails, or massaging her legs and feet with special lotions, and I know she treasures the time together. We sit and chat or look at photos, while Peculia sits over on her side of the room, taking her wig on and off, over and over again. I leave tomorrow evening, and my dad and stepmom are leaving too, and we’re all a little worried about how that will affect her. She’s already talking about how much she hates us to go, and it’s true that she perks up like a little flower in sun when people come to visit. I’m glad I came down to see her, glad I got to spend what will probably be the last time with her when she knows who I am. But I hope with all my heart that she can be released from this hellish existence soon, and meet the maker she’s believed in so devoutly for so long.

Is that I light I see at the end of this tunnel?

1. A woman at the Atlanta airport kindly patted me on the back, told me my tag was sticking out, and fixed it for me. I’m a sucker for random acts of kindness like that.

2. Unbeknownst to me, that blessed woman who checked me in to my THREE HOUR delayed flight this morning also put me in first class for the leg from Atlanta to Jacksonville. I had never flown first class before, and I was all aflutter.

3. As soon as we got in, we headed right to a down home seafood restaurant where I gorged myself on fried catfish, cheese grits, hushpuppies, slaw, and sweet tea. Can I get an amen?

4. Although I got in too late to visit Mimi today, I did find out something that’s really making me look forward to seeing her tomorrow. She’s in a two person room, and apparently her roommate’s name is … wait for it … Peculia Burg. PECULIA. Y’all, this is why it is so awesome to have a southern heritage. You are NEVER going to meet someone north of the Mason-Dixon line named Peculia.

So things may be looking up.