I had this storyabout shopping for underwear with my dad

… and it seemed funny at the time. I have to admit that having to go shopping for underwear for my 73 year-old dad with my dad could only be faced with humor. But then I didn’t get around to writing about it. And then he went into the hospital and things were really scary. And then the underwear story didn’t seem so funny.

Dad was having serious trouble with his back again. He saw the doctor a week ago Tuesday and was told there was nothing more wrong beyond his existing conditions – arthritis and a degenerative disc. By Thursday, he was in such pain, he could barely move and couldn’t eat. He started running a fever and after calling the doctor, was told to go to the emergency room.

There were blood tests and chest x-rays and I don’t know what else. Dad was admitted to the hospital and continued to go downhill over the next few days. The fever came and went and his blood sugar was running too high. His medical team looked for Congestive Heart Failure and signs of kidney rejection, but found nothing to indicate either was happening. Dad couldn’t seem to fully form thoughts in his mind, much less convey them to us. His speech was very thick and painfully slow. He kept losing his train of thought and many things he talked about were completely off-the-wall. I thought maybe he was on a pain medication that was causing him to hallucinate, but the hospital informed us he wasn’t on any meds other than his usual diabetes, kidney and heart medications. He had a lidocaine patch for the back pain, but nothing that should cause hallucinations.

By Sunday, my mom was really worried. Dad was in bad shape. There was talk of transferring him to a transitional care facility if the fever subsided and possibly testing him for dementia. Dementia! I tried to see Dad on Sunday night but he couldn’t stay awake. He looked at me as if he couldn’t place me and would fall asleep mid-sentence. I talked to his nurse and asked questions and I couldn’t help feeling that she kept giving me this pitying, sympathetic look. My mom and I talked later on and she was worried that this might be the beginning of the end. I slept restlessly on Sunday night, dreaming that the dad I knew was gone for good and there was nothing I could do to get him back.

All this was going on while I was supposed to be getting ready for Mark’s and my first ever winter vacation. I kept thinking that I couldn’t even think about going to Florida with my dad in such bad shape and my mom needing so much support.

Then Monday morning came and suddenly Dad was back to normal. The fever was gone and he knew that the past few days had been strange. He told my mom he needed her help with sorting out what was real in his mind and what wasn’t. The hospital had never found anything conclusive in all of Dad’s tests, but we were relieved that he was back to normal.

Because of the extent of his back issues, Dad was still transferred to transitional care so he could receive physical therapy and return to a point where he could function again at home. I didn’t expect him to be happy about being there, but he handled it pretty well and seemed really motivated to do whatever it took to get back to normal and get back home. I left him last night feeling relieved that he was in a good place, with good caregivers and on his way to recovery.

This morning, Mom called me and said Dad was on his way back to the hospital. His fever was back and so was the confusion and thick speech. There were a few scary hours while we waited for the hospital to run tests. Dad was miserable, shivering with fever and dehydrated. As I sat at work, waiting for my brother or mom to call with any news, I wondered again how I could go on vacation with my parents in such a fragile state. My own head was spinning and I was ready to cry with the frustration of it all. It’s clear to me now that most of us will be lucky to leave this life quietly and with any amount of dignity.

And then unexpectedly, I got good news from Mom. Dad was diagnosed with a bladder infection. I think the reaction in my head, which I had the sense enough not to verbalize to my mom was, “Are you EFFING kidding me?” A bladder infection? That’s what caused all of this craziness? Apparently, it’s true. And at least now Dad can be treated properly and can really get back to recovering.

The underwear story occurred to me again today. Two Sundays ago, my mom needed a break and so I took my dad shopping for new underwear. He had clearly given his underwear a lot of thought. He wanted a specific brand and specific cut which just so happens to have been discontinued. But that didn’t stop Dad from wanting to scour the enormous selection of underwear. I have never studied men’s underwear so thoroughly in my life. And when we didn’t find what Dad was looking for, we had to ask a salesman about the specific style. He went in back to research our request and confirmed it had been discontinued, but may be available online. Before we could leave, we had to contemplate alternate brands. And open up a package of Fruit of the Looms and study a pair of tighty-whities right there in the middle of the store. I had to listen to Dad tell me how and where he likes the waistband to sit when he wears them. And I remember thinking how wrong it was that he put that picture in my head. We finally left the store without any underwear, but some packages of socks and white t-shirts with a chest pocket, because the pocket can be useful at times. Back at home, I showed Dad the wonders of Amazon and online shopping and his new underwear arrived by mail within a few days.

I’m not laughing at Dad. I’m laughing with him. I first thought the whole underwear business was kind of humiliating and ridiculous. But I’ve since decided that sometimes you just have to laugh at life and at yourself. Sometimes I just take things way too seriously. And now I’m really glad that Dad and I had that underwear shopping excursion. It was funny. And I would gladly do it all over again.

Mom and Dad’s Homecoming

ViewThe sun is shining down this morning from a beautiful, clear blue sky. On winter days like this, I can see straight through the bare branches of the maple tree in the front yard to my parents house on the next block. There are no signs of life over there yet, but it’s cold outside in spite of the sun. On warmer days, the garage door might be open and Dad might be seen puttering around on his workbench while Little Bear sits in the driveway, surveying his neighborhood.

Their flight home from Arizona arrived late Wednesday afternoon. My sister and I had prepared the house for their return. The heat was turned up and hot water turned on again. We dusted, vacuumed and scrubbed so the house would be fresh and clean for their arrival. My sister bought groceries as well as Dad’s favorite beer. She shoveled a winter’s worth of snow from the deck so that Little Bear could walk across it. Mark and Jake had been clearing snow from the driveway and sidewalk all winter long so it wouldn’t look so much like no one was home. They sprinkled Ice Melt over the driveway to rid it of any icy patches.

I found out yesterday that Mom is under the weather already, knocked down by another one of her intestinal episodes. It could be blamed on the drastic change in climate. Dad said it was in the seventies and eighties when they left Arizona. But more likely, this illness was brought on by the stress of flying back home from Arizona. There were so many details to attend to with selling their place and making the final move back home to Minnesota, not to mention traveling with a husband and a neurotic little dog who are both demanding of her attention and care. When I came home from work yesterday, Mark had just gotten off the phone with Dad and informed me we needed to go pick up a prescription for him. I knew something was up if my mom had chosen not to make the quick drive to the pharmacy and allowed my dad to ask someone else to go.

When we stopped in to drop off Dad’s meds, mom was curled up on the couch in her pajamas and robe. She looked tired and weak. I felt awful, but this is the kind of thing that makes me glad they’re back home again. They had good neighbors in Arizona. My aunt’s winter home isn’t far away from where their’s was. But I’m not sure how much, if ever, my mom would feel comfortable asking for help when it was really needed. With my dad unable to drive any longer, Mom is responsible for accompanying him everywhere he needs to go. Here at home, her kids and grandkids are close by and able to help and I’m sure Mom is  much less reluctant to ask.

We didn’t stay long at my parents’ house, thanks to me having a head cold. I explained this to them, hoping they wouldn’t be offended that we weren’t staying longer. As I was closing the door, my dad said, “We’ll see you tomorrow!”

I shot a questioning look at Mark. “Are we supposed to be here tomorrow for some reason?”

“Nothing that I know of,” he said.

I just shrugged. When Mom and Dad are home and with them being so close to us, it’s not uncommon that someone in my family ends up stopping by several times a week for one reason or another. That’s probably all Dad meant.

At the grocery store last night, I spotted two bags of Milky Way Caramel fun-size candy bars. They’re my dad’s latest favorite. Just like my grandparents always did, Mom and Dad have a candy dish they keep stocked at all times. Their grandkids (and their kids) love it! Dad had the Milky Ways on the grocery list that my sister shopped from, but she couldn’t find them. She checked three stores to no avail. So when I saw them last night, I grabbed both bags thinking how pleased Dad would be that he would get his favorite candies after all. I guess he was right. He will see me today!

My Parents’ Old Stuff

One thing I noticed about my parents while spending time with them in Arizona – they each tend to discount many things the other says. I suppose this is partly due to being together for so many years. I guess after so much time, people tend to get on each other’s nerves a little bit and argue just for the sake of arguing.

Mom said it was a good thing we “girls” were there to help go through their belongings and decide what to pack and what to throw in preparation for the move home. If she and Dad had to do it on their own, she said, he wouldn’t get rid of anything Mom thought wasn’t worth packing. My sister helped Dad go through his clothing. She kept running from the bedroom to the living room to toss old worn out t-shirts and such in a big trash bag. Mom suggested she just take the trash bag back to the bedroom. Cori whispered conspiratorially, “No way! If the bag is in there for him to see what’s been thrown, he’ll have second thoughts and start rescuing things from the trash again!”

Mom and I agreed she made a good point.

swim trunksThese swim trunks went into the trash. I remember Dad wearing them when we were little kids when he would take us swimming. All these years later, he brought them to Arizona because he thought he might use the community hot tub. Swim trunks were required attire in the hot tub. Dad never did go take a soak in it. Good thing too. The elastic in his swim trunks was brittle! Indecent exposure averted!

We came across other old things too. Mom had brought some of her favorite recipes and cookbooks to Arizona so she could make some of their favorite foods and have a little bit of  home-away-from home.  I’m sure my grandma’s lemon bar recipe has been transferred to many a recipe card over the years. Mom’s version is looking a bit worn.

Lemon Bars

But it still makes delicious lemon bars, especially when those bars are made with the fresh picked lemons that are abundant in Mom and Dad’s Arizona neighborhood.

lemon bars yum

When I tasted these, it brought back memories of family gatherings when Grandma almost always brought her famous lemon bars. Some old stuff is worth hanging on to through the years.

 

 

Four Days in Arizona

011bIt wasn’t exactly what you’d call a vacation. There was too much purpose in our visit. But it was still nice to get away.

Our parents are ready to let go of their little winter home in Arizona. Mom’s health is best described as not likely to improve. She weighs next to nothing. The slightest exertion wears her out. She needs and wants to be near her kids and grandkids. The warmth of Arizona wasn’t enough to compensate for how much she misses her family.

My parents only returned to Arizona last fall with the intention of selling their mobile home in their fifty-five and over community. They were already settled on moving back to Minnesota permanently. There were a few potential buyers over the last couple of months but no offers to buy. Mom finally decided she’d had enough of sticking it out. My sister and I planned to visit for a few days and help pack up the things that weren’t necessary for day-to-day living. Mom said that after we returned home, she and Dad would likely follow shortly afterwards, whether their place was sold or not.

It was a nice four days. Mom and Dad welcomed us as if we were royalty. The fridge was stocked with beer, as promised! It was great to have time to sit and talk together in person, laugh together, cook and eat… and eat… and eat together.

The weather wasn’t fantastic. It was seventy-ish when we arrived on Thursday and it felt great. Thursday was our day to relax. The weather went steadily downhill from there and maybe that was a good thing. It was easier to be stuck inside working knowing we weren’t missing spectacular weather outside.

On Friday, the neighbor, Bill came by with a man who wanted to see the house. John took a look around and seemed to like what he saw. After he left, Mom, Cori and I were cleaning out the closet in the spare bedroom. Suddenly, a strange woman in her pajamas and bathrobe poked her head in the room.

“I’m Mary,” she said. “Don’t mind me. I’m just here to look around.”

And off she went down the hallway. The three of us looked at each other, baffled only for a moment until John appeared again and said, “I brought my wife this time.”

Strange. Very strange.

John and Mary didn’t stay long and soon were on their way again. Mom, Dad, Cori and I spent the next few hours sorting through cupboards, closets and drawers, filling boxes and trash bags until we heard a knock on the door. Dad opened it up and there was Mary again, still in her pajamas and bathrobe. This time she was with her brother, Paul. Mary plopped down on the living room couch and proceeded to chat with us while Paul toured the house and asked questions of Dad.

“Paul’s a talker,” Mary said. We said that was good. Dad is a talker too.

Eventually Dad and Paul found their way back to the living room. Mary and Paul stayed for well over an hour telling us about themselves. When they finally left, we weren’t certain if Mary was interested in buying or if Paul was, or if we’d hear from them again.

On Saturday morning, there came another knock on the door. It was John and Mary once again. Mary was still wearing the same pajamas and bathrobe as the previous day and she seemed not the least bit concerned about it. They wanted to make an offer. It was less than Mom and Dad were asking, but they were so ready to have someone take it off their hands that the offer was accepted. This was a huge relief all around. It was agreed that the new owners could take possession by March 1st. This made our packing so much easier. Mom and Dad kept enough clothing and a few other things to get through a couple more weeks and we packed the rest.

I’m relieved they are coming home. They’ve only been away a few months, but in that short time, it appears to me that Mom seems so much more frail. Dad’s health is good, but with his poor vision, he can no longer drive or do many things requiring clear vision. And I know partly, it’s a generational thing, but Dad does so little for himself or in contribution to the household. I know he could run the vacuum around. But he doesn’t. I know he could get his own juice from the refrigerator. But he doesn’t. He should be able to prepare himself a simple lunch, but it’s always up to Mom to do so.

Dad feels relatively good but he moves so impossibly slowly. He likes to get out of the house and wants to go places. But he needs Mom to drive him around and she’s often simply not up to being away for the amount of time it takes Dad to make his way through the grocery store or pharmacy. And it’s clear that the physical and emotional strain of it all is taking a toll on them. They’re not old. They’re seventy-two. But they seem so much older than their years. They seem to be lacking a sense of contentment and happiness that I wish they could have in their retirement years. Mom has said on more than one occasion that she wishes she didn’t have to ask so much help from her kids. We’re happy to do whatever we can, but I know she expected a better quality of life during these years. Her health has robbed her of that. Quite honestly, it made me sad to see the state of my parents’ lives.

LemonsBut there were plenty of good moments too, the kind that made me realize that it was good to be there. Cori and I got up early each day and took walks around the neighborhoods. We met the neighbors and the neighbor dogs. We picked fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Mmmm, did they taste good!

We took our time cooking – big, tasty, fattening meals. There was shrimp and linguine and garlic cheese bread for dinner one night with a hearty garden salad on the side. There were breakfasts of scrambled eggs with peppers and onions, bacon and hash browns and pancakes. There were homemade lemon bars made from fresh picked lemons. We all agreed that it might be a good thing our visit wouldn’t be longer. We might all get fat.

And there was an afternoon visit to an old mining town. It was overcast and windy that day and we were bundled up nearly like we do at home in the winter. We only spent about an hour, but there were awesome views  and we were able to snap a few photos.

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It was hard to leave, not because I wanted to stay longer. I was missing home and family and my dogs. But Mom cried when I said goodbye and that told me just how badly she wants to get back to home; her real home. Just a couple of more weeks and Mom and Dad will be home again. We will all sleep a little easier then.

Messin’ Up the Kitchen

You know what I’m really bad at? Keeping a regular schedule. Life would probably be so much easier if I just scheduled regular times in the week to do household chores, plan a menu and go to the grocery store, or check in with my parents. I don’t check in on my parents often enough. And how hard could this possibly be? They live on the next block! But I think there’s some flaw in my genetic makeup that contributes to my habit of flying by the seat of my pants. I can’t tell you how many times there will be a thought in the back of my mind to get something taken care of , but I simply choose to ignore it because … I don’t know … because I’m either mentally or physically exhausted or maybe because I’m just that lazy. The flip side of this problem, though, is that I work well under pressure. I get things done best when there’s a sense of urgency.

I have the best of intentions to change my ways. It just hasn’t happened yet. There’s always that sense of guilt that accompanies the knowledge that I’ve sort of dropped the ball again. And I always vow to do better from that point forward. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things that I wish I could.

And so what happened on Friday is so very typical for me.  I was at work when I received a text message from my sister saying that we should probably talk soon, and seriously about our parents. My mom’s ongoing health problems are simply not going to get better. She has bad days and not so bad days, but she never has really good days anymore. Getting a full breath of air is a thing of the past for her. And as a result, she is often dizzy, sick, and utterly fatigued. Running errands, keeping house and cooking can seem like such daunting tasks for her.

My sis and I made a quick agreement to get over to our parents’ house this weekend to help take some of the weight off Mom’s shoulders. I had a quiet weekend ahead anyway, what with the kids back to school again and Lucy Pie healing from her hip surgery. Normally Friday nights are my lazy nights. I usually read or watch a movie and then do chores over the weekend. But since I had just agreed to squeeze in extra activities, I tackled as much housework as I could so as to free up some hours on Saturday.

I was up early on Saturday morning with the Girly Pies. I took them out in the backyard first thing, then passed out meds and treats and filled their food dishes. I did a few more of my own chores then before showering and heading over to Mom and Dad’s house to do whatever was needed there. My sister arrived not long after me and we were able to pare down Mom’s to-do list pretty quickly.

When Mom asked Dad what he wanted for lunch, he asked what the options were. She informed him that there weren’t many. The cupboards were getting bare. I remembered then that I had really been slacking off on my resolution to cook more and make enough to share with my parents. Even cooking on a regular basis is sometimes just too much for my mom.

I ended up running to the local McDonald’s and picking up sandwiches for everyone. Yech! That was motivation for me. As soon as I got back home, I started planning a menu and making a grocery list. It was a dreary, rainy weekend anyway. If I was going to be stuck in the house because of the weather and a recuperating dog, I might as well cook. My parents were my main motivation, but this would benefit my own family as well. Try as I might, I just cannot seem to get into a good routine of cooking. If I manage a home-cooked meal two or three times a week, I’m lucky. So while I doubted I would soon turn over a new leaf and start cooking every night, (I’ve proven myself incapable time and again,) I knew I could do a whole buncha cooking all at once.

I broke out the favorite cookbooks, checked the freezer to see what I already had on hand (lots of ground beef and lots of chicken,) paged through the cookbooks to find the tried and true favorites and whipped out a list. (Go figure. Having a grocery lists makes the shopping so much easier and cheaper!)

I started last evening with the family favorite Sloppy Joe recipe. I made four pounds of this – some for Mom and Dad, some for us, and some for the freezer (at Kacey’s request.) Next I made a big pot of White Chicken Chili, again dividing it into three portions. This morning I made a couple of meat loaves and a big pot of traditional chili and some cornbread muffins. And if my enthusiasm holds out, later on today I’ll make a big pan of lasagna to split with Mom and Dad.

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Yeah, so these aren’t the healthiest of meals, but they’re home-cooked and can be frozen for later use, so that’s half the battle right there. I may have bad habits, but at least I’ve figured out how to capitalize on at least one of them. And we’ll be eating happy this week!

The Week in Cell Phone Photos (and some video!)

It’s been an eventful week!

Miss Lucy Pie got herself a new pool. The story behind this is that I wanted to give her a bath one day when she came in with muddy paws. I tried to put her in the bath tub but she was having nothing to do with it. She leaped out of my arms before I could get her in and took off running as far away as she could get. Later, I had the idea that maybe a kiddie pool was the answer. And it was. On Sunday, after this video was taken, Lucy willingly let Kacey give her a bath in the pool.

Mothers Day and Kacey’s birthday fell on the same day. I’ve pretty much fallen off the cooking bandwagon, but wanted to make a birthday dinner that I knew my baby girl would enjoy. And she did!

Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Yum!

My kids gave me the coolest gift for Mothers Day! A customized cell phone cover. I’ve been looking for a new cover, but couldn’t find one I liked. This one? I love!

Lucy has laid claim to the area under the pine tree in the back yard. She loves to hang out there. It seemed a fitting place to put the garden stone my nephew, Matthew made her for Christmas. (He made one of these for all of the family dogs! Isn’t he creative?)

Lucy Pie’s Lounge

Belinda and I ventured out of the office Tuesday at lunch time. The food trucks travel around downtown St. Paul in the summertime and we walked to Mear’s Park to see what was good to eat. We found Lamb Gyro wraps – basically a gyro in a wrap instead of in flat bread. And they were delicious!

The Cave Cafe – I highly recommend!

And after work on Tuesday, B and I enjoyed a little happy hour with some current and former coworkers! FUN!

Mmmmm…. BEER!

File this one under the not really funny, except it is category. My mom broke her toe and ended up having to wear one of these boots. How did she break her toe? She was helping my dad put on the boot that he’s required to wear for his own foot injury. (Dad’s boot is much bigger than this one.)

The fashion at my parents’ house

And the happiest ending possible to my week … Kacey is home from college for the summer!

Now to figure out where to put it all until next fall!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Dad’s Surgery

My parents stopped over one evening last week. They paid the appropriate amount of attention to the dog first, then got to the point of the visit. Mom asked if I was busy at work.

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, sometimes. One week I’m overwhelmed and the next, not so much.”

Then it occurred to me to be suspicious. “Why?”

“Dad’s having surgery on Friday.”

I looked at my dad. I looked at his foot. He’s been wearing one of those boots for foot injuries lately. (Long story.)

“Not on his foot,” my mom said. “He’s having a parathyroid gland removed.” (Believe it or not, this is related to the foot. Another long story.)

“So,” my dad said, “we were wondering if you could take us to the hospital on Friday for my surgery.”

Details were then shared. It was actually considered a minor surgery. Shouldn’t take long. I could probably be back to work by lunch time. I would have to reschedule a conference call to make it work, but I said I thought I could manage it. My dad said if I couldn’t get out of work, they could ask my brother. Apparently he only works until 10:30 on Friday mornings.

I promised to do my best to work things out and would call them from work the next day. As they left, I wondered two things. Why did they ask me to drive? My mom can drive and she’s familiar with the hospital. And if my brother only works a few hours on Friday anyway, why hadn’t they asked him? But I didn’t ask. My parents had asked me. They must have had their reasons.

I was able to rearrange my work day. Promised my boss I’d be in as soon as I could get my parents back home again and I’d work half a day. I called my parents to let them know. They were happy.

Friday morning, I picked up my parents and we headed downtown, earlier than I usually leave for work. We checked my dad in at 6:45 a.m. Then the checker-inner person said that my dad should go to pre-op and my mom should accompany him. I should go to the surgical waiting room and expect to see my mom in a half hour or so.

Two hours later, my mom joined me and my dad was taken in for surgery. She said they had to do all kinds of things related to all of his various heart and diabetic and kidney conditions. They had to ask him all kinds of questions before he was finally ready for surgery. We didn’t expect it to be very long, but two more hours passed before the surgeon came out to tell my mom that all went well and my dad was in recovery. He said Dad would be in recovery about an hour. The pager they’d assigned us would flash when my dad was moved to a room and it was okay to go join him.

An hour passed and we were not paged. My mom went to check in with the checker-inner desk people. A man there said they were very busy and that my dad had not yet been moved to a room. He said my dad was in line behind one other person, but neither could be moved until some other people were moved out for surgery. I asked if he thought it might be a half hour? An hour? More? He really had no idea. He promised our pager would flash as soon as we could see my dad. I sensed a case of serious surgical over-booking. I emailed work and told them I might not be in at all.

Two and a half hours passed. We were hungry, but avoided going to the cafeteria because we kept thinking, “Any minute now…” We spent the time talking about this, that and everything.

My mom mentioned that she had planned to just take my dad to the hospital on her own, but that Dad had insisted they should ask one of their kids to accompany them. My dad said he wanted to ask me. My mild annoyance at having to rearrange my work schedule melted when I learned this. I half smiled at the realization that Dad had insisted on me. My mom had been perfectly willing to manage this on her own, but my dad had been telling others that Mom wasn’t comfortable driving downtown and that was why they had asked me to drive them. Mom wasn’t thrilled, but I thought it was kind of cute.

“Dad’s always been a sucker when it comes to you,” Mom said.

“Well, he has to be,” I said. “I gave him a body part.”

“Yes, but even before that,” Mom said.

“Has not!

“Yes he has. You were always his little darling.”

I had trouble swallowing this. I guess when I think back to childhood, I tend to remember the tough times, the teenage years when I couldn’t seem to do anything right and when doing wrong meant suffering through one of Dad’s interminable lectures in the kitchen. And believe me, I got my share of lectures. But once I began to think past those times, I told my mom that I did remember Dad giving “horsey” rides on his leg while he sat at the kitchen table. I remember climbing up on his lap and asking for a sip of his beer. He always said yes. I remember him stretched out on the living room couch in the evenings and letting me snuggle up next to him, resting in the crook of his arm while we watched Adam 12 or Emergency!

Maybe he did have a soft-spot for me. Funny how I never believed it. And about this time, it occurred to me to start worrying. My dad’s minor procedure had now taken us long past the point of when we expected to be going home. Mom checked on him again at 2:30 and they finally told us that Dad was in a room and we could go see him.

He didn’t look like he’d just had a minor procedure. He looked like he was in pain. He looked slightly out of it. And he was very nauseous and vomiting frequently. I was worried, but there was a nice nurse there who helped him get comfortable.

At 3:30, it was clear that my dad was not leaving soon. Having eaten only a half a granola bar and a fun-size candy bar all day, I was hungry. I asked my mom if she wanted something to eat. She admitted she was hungry too, so I went to the cafeteria to get us some sandwiches and chips. We left the room again for a bit while the nurse took care of my dad. We ate at a leisurely pace and talked some more. She said she was glad that Dad had insisted on me taking them to the hospital. It would have been a very long day had she been all alone all that time. We saw Dad’s surgeon leaving for the day and he waved goodbye to us as he headed for the elevators. Finally, after 5:00, my dad was released. And while I was happy we could finally go home, I was nervous. My dad insisted on bringing his barf-bag along for the car ride and I prayed all the way home through rush hour traffic that he wouldn’t have to use it because if anyone barfs in my presence, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be joining in the festivities.

Luck was on our side. We got home barf-free and my dad was feeling better by the next day. And I never did make it in to work, but it didn’t really matter to me anymore.

In my Mom’s Kitchen

I love my mom’s kitchen. Not because it’s a fabulous kitchen. It’s pretty basic as far as kitchen’s go. It’s not that big either. You know how whenever you have company, it seems like everyone ends up in the kitchen? I’ve spent many a holiday at my parents’ house, helping prepare the meal while shooing nieces and nephews out to the living room and pushing my big little brothers out of the way. There’s barely room for Mom and her two daughters to work together, much less having to trip over the big feet of the big little brothers.

There’s a pantry in my mom’s kitchen. It’s not much of a pantry. It’s just a closet with some shelves in it. Inside, brown paper grocery bags are stacked on the floor and one paper bag stands open, stuffed with plastic bags. There are boxes of crackers and bags of chips. And there are recipes. My grandma’s recipe boxes are in there and so is the old Betty Crocker cook book that’s been around, probably since before I was born.

In the cupboard, there are liquid measuring cups. They’ve been around since my childhood too and they’ve seen better days. One is plastic – Tupperware. You can see the raised numbers marking the measurements on the side of the cup and if you look closely under good lighting, you can read the numbers. The markings used to be red but the paint has long since worn off. There’s a metal measuring cup too, just like the ones my grandma used to have in her kitchen. I’ve never had a metal measuring cup. They’d come out with those new-fangled Pyrex ones by the time I’d begun to stock my own kitchen.

The cupboards also hold a matching pair of stone wear soup mugs with a chestnut brown finish. The word soup in a darker brown is printed in various sizes and fonts all over each mug. They bring back memories of the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. I loved to fill one of those mugs with steaming tomato soup. There was usually a toasty grilled cheese sandwich right beside that mug.

My sister and I bought kitchen things for Mom at Christmas time. Some of her stuff was well past its prime. I think the old hand-held cheese grater was actually beginning to rust. Mom appreciated the new things. She said having nice kitchen equipment made cooking more enjoyable. But so much of the old stuff still remains.

Mom must have had a burst of energy this week. She invited Mark and I to come have dinner with her and Dad tonight. When my kids were little and Mark was working evenings, Mom would often invite me to come with the kids and have dinner with them. It’s been a lot of years since we’ve done that. It was nice to sit at the table and enjoy a meal in my parents’ kitchen again. Of course, there are holidays when we’re all there – sister, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. It’s been a long time since it was just us, and it was nice.

I helped Mom put the finishing touches on the meal. She’d prepared a pork roast in the crock pot and there were white potatoes boiling on the stove. I offered to mash them, and Mom handed me the electric hand mixer and the small metal mixing bowl. It’s the baby of a set of three and has been the setting for many a homemade icing or sauce or some other concoction over the years. I realized that the hand masher Mom used for potatoes when I was growing up was either no longer around, or had simply been shunned in favor of the electric mixer. I kind of miss the hand-mashed potatoes. I kind of liked a few lumps in my potatoes.

When the asparagus was done cooking, Mom and I  put everything on the table and called the guys in from the living room where they were watching Wheel of Fortune and talking. We sat together, the four of us. We said grace before we ate. The food was delicious and I was full by the time I’d cleaned my plate. After dinner, Mom asked who wanted pie. She’d baked one of those frozen deals on an ancient round baking sheet sort of thing. The years have blackened it, but mom still uses it. She just covers it with aluminum foil before putting any food on it.

I tend to go through my own kitchen cupboards every few years. Cheap, old stuff gets purged as I replace it with newer and better. But maybe I should think twice next time. Maybe I should start working on making my kitchen “vintage” like my mom has done. After all, my kids will soon have kitchens of their own. And when they come back to mine, I want to serve up fond memories, just like my mom does.

Seventy-One

We celebrated my mom’s birthday here yesterday. I’m happy to say that it was a very nice party with a complete lack of family drama. (Okay, maybe one twelve-year old nephew now considers me Mean Old Auntie Terri because I wouldn’t let him catapult off my love seat, torment the dog or eat his dinner in front of a Rob Schneider movie instead of at the table with the rest of the family. But other than that, it was a great party!)

My youngest brother smoked a huge beef roast in his smoker. I made the potatoes and gravy and put together a veggie platter. My sister made glazed carrots and dinner rolls. It was all delicious!

My sister also proved to be an artist in the birthday cake department.

It's a bouquet of flowers! It's a cake! It's the best of both worlds!

And there was picture-taking for posterity’s sake.

Mom and her "baby" and some of the grandkids too

Mom and her favorite (and only) daughters

It was such a successful party, I’m tempted to do it again! But maybe I’ll wait another year! ;-)

Need your DVD player hooked up? Don’t call me.

So my mom called me this evening, not long after I’d come home from work.

“Hi honey! What are you up to?”

“Oh, nothing … ,” I replied. “Why?”

She answered my question with a question. “Who in your house hooks up DVD players and things like that?”

“Usually me, I guess.” I had a feeling I knew what was coming. “Why? What’s up?”

“Well, I was wondering if you could come over here and help us hook up our DVD player.”

My parents haven’t used their DVD player in years. I’m not kidding. It’s been years. The DVD player’s only purpose is to  serve as a base for the Direct TV receiver. There’s been a stack of DVD movies, still wrapped in cellophane, sitting on the shelf of the t.v. stand for about six years. Now my parents decide they want to watch one.

So after dinner, I went over to check things out. Now, I don’t have Direct TV. I have cable t.v. But I assumed things would operate pretty similarly as far as how all of the devices operate together. As it turns out, when I turned on the DVD player, there was a picture, so something was connected. There was just no sound. The DVD player was connected to the Direct TV receiver and apparently this was enough to get a picture but not sound.

So I got behind the big television and knelt down on the floor, in the dust that lives behind big televisions. I found the cord I was looking for, the one with the red and white plugs on each end. I connected one set to the audio out ports on the DVD player and the other to one of the six jillion sets of audio in ports on the television.

And? No sound.

I messed with those plugs and tried every single one of those six jillion audio in ports. And nothing. No sound. I rearranged those plugs in every possible combination. I read portions of the Direct TV manual. I searched through the t.v. menus. Nothing.

My dad offered to call Direct TV and ask the advice of a customer service rep. I said, “Not yet.”

And then when I said, “Okay, Dad. Let’s call Direct TV,” he said, “Wellll…”

So I crawled out from behind the t.v. and I crawled back behind the t.v. and I shined a flashlight on all of the possible connections and decided I was going to give up. Me and my dusty black pants came out from behind the big t.v., defeated. And dusty.

And as much as I hated to admit defeat, I did. I called Mark and said, “Help!”

Mark came over promptly and huffed his chest and said in his most manly-man-to-the-rescue voice, “Let me take a look.”

He hmmmd” and “mmmd” and asked me a question or two and suddenly? There was sound.

“What did you do,” I demanded?

“I plugged the red and white plugs into this audio in port right here,” he said, pointing to one of the very ports I had most certainly tried a hundred thousand times. And he had a very pleased-with-himself grin on his face too.

Sighing, I looked at my mom and said, “Alright. Now that it’s working, which of these movies did you want to watch?”

“Oh, none of them. Not tonight. We just thought we should make sure the DVD player works so that when we do want to watch one, we can.”

“Oh,” I said, biting my tongue. “Alrighty then. I guess we’ll go home then.” And Mark and I walked out the door to my car as I was still biting my tongue. I looked at him as I opened my car door and he burst out laughing.

Yep. That’s my parents. And I love ‘em anyway!