Family is family and that’s all there is to it. In general, I do not schedule back-to-back trips, but there are times when it can’t be avoided. This is one of those situations. We always spend Thanksgiving in Georgia with my husband’s family, but a crisis with the manuscript (Mystery of the Last Olympian) caused us to have to postpone. We actually intended to go in February and that didn’t work out either. So, even as I was making arrangements to take the unexpected trip to Louisiana last week, my mother-in-law took a bad turn. Although things appear to be under control, my sister-in-law has been doing an incredible amount of work for almost two years now and we needed to come up and at least give some moral support. This also provides us the opportunity to help make some plans for what comes next. I have too recently posted about what we as Baby Boomers should be planning for ourselves, and won’t beat that drum again at this moment.
We will be able to visit with one of the cousins as well and there are a couple of new restaurants opened that we’ve heard are quite good. We popped into Grumpy’s Low Country Seafood Camp last night for catfish. They have a nice, varied menu and several of the restaurants here are not open on Sunday. They also have a very “hoppy” beer that Hubby likes and after the drive, we didn’t want to linger over a meal. Making it an early evening was the best option.
I can’t say that I accomplished a great deal with the trip to Louisiana, but I did capture some old family stories. A little known fact is the amount of rice that’s produced in Arkansas (http://www.farmflavor.com/us-ag/arkansas/top-crops-arkansas/right-as-grain-arkansas-leads-nation-in-rice-production). Papaw Ruffin (my paternal grandfather) started with a small farm in very rural Arkansas with a focus on cotton as did most farmers. Over a period of time, he acquired other acreage, some of which included rice fields. Since most people associate Arkansas with the well-publicized Ozark Mountains, they don’t realize how flat and wet the southeastern area is with multiple rivers that feed into the Mississippi. Anyway, Papaw had no desire to deal with rice fields and always leased that out. His cotton fields weren’t that big, but did provide a cash crop that was supplemented by the lease money from the rice fields. The farm animals (milk cows, pigs, and chickens) were all for personal consumption, although occasionally there would be “extra” that could be sold. With the big garden, they had produce to add to their dairy, eggs, and meat. (We’re talking whole milk, butter milk, and churning butter.) That made a big difference during the Depression. On the other hand, even with four sons, it was a lot of manual labor (a horse-drawn plow) and long-handled hoes. They didn’t have much in the way of mechanical farm equipment. According to Daddy, Papaw wasn’t really surprised when none of the boys wanted the family farm. Papaw leased almost all of his land in his later years, but actively worked different parts of the farm until his mid-eighties when they sold it and moved into town.
I had an early flight out Friday morning, and one of my girlfriends was able to join me for dinner Thursday night. We’re usually able to make that arrangement and it’s always good to see her. She’s one of the small group I reconnected with after our 20th high school reunion and I’ve been much better about staying in touch since then. (Okay, Facebook definitely helps.) A few years ago she told me about the 2 Johns Steakhouse in Bossier City. I did a special post about it and their quality is still excellent as is their ambience and service. It’s an unexpected find, especially considering it’s not located anywhere near the other upper tier of restaurants. I highly recommend it if you’re staying in the area.
It’s funny in a way how we become so accustomed to things that when we travel, it can be disconcerting to not have them. Connectivity being the example for today. Now, I acknowledge part of that is my average (some days less, some days more) ability when it comes to technology. I don’t have the high speed take-it-with-me doo-dad that can find a hotspot just about anywhere. In-room WiFi (preferably free) is one of the criteria I have for booking a room though. That, however, does come with the simple fact that a lot of those systems are definitely not the fastest and sometimes not the most reliable in the world. So, I spend at least part of the time staring at a screen with whatever device I am using not responding in the manner I would like. On the other hand, I suppose I could try to let it teach me patience. (Not that I hold out much hope on that point.)
Anyway, the trip has been successful in the sense of now understanding where we are in this stage of my dad’s life. There are elements of the situation that are better than I expected. His Alzheimer’s is still manageable and he can function well with most things. He seems quite comfortable with the walker. Fortunately, he has never had an issue with hearing and he has regained some vision in the eye that was damaged a few years ago. His short-term memory loss keeps him from reading these days, but he can still enjoy shows like on Travel Channel and National Geographic. I hope we will have some time today to capture a few of the old family stories. Yesterday was filled with other tasks.
This is not exactly a fun trip. I have literally dashed to Louisiana to check on the situation with my dad. At ninety-one, there will be a certain level of slowing down. The assisted living facility he and my stepmother are in is basic, but nice. His Alzheimer’s seems to be as manageable as it can be. He is quite functional with predominantly short term memory issues. It’s distressing for him of course and part of the reason for me coming is to try and help him process through this stage. No, it won’t really help him since he won’t remember, however, I might be able to “impress” a few supportive phrases he can hold to. I am not a practitioner in neural linguistics programming (NLP), but will do what I can. What I can do is capture some of the old stories he has because if you’ve been through this, you know those are often the memory links that become more vivid. It’s always been a source of interest to researchers. Anyway, I’ll get as many of those as I can over the next few days and we’ll take a couple of short outings. Daddy is on a walker now, although moves quite well with it.
The trip itself was fairly smooth – minor delays on both flights. There was a situation out of Atlanta I had not previously encountered (to the best of my knowledge). During the pre-flight inspection, they discovered a small hole in nosecone (I think they said). They patched it, but had to wait for the epoxy to dry and be inspected. Okay, yes, that would be a good thing. Smooth flight after that and on a larger aircraft than I was accustomed to coming to for this route.
This is one of those mornings when the insomnia kicked in at the worst time. Generally, if the 3:00ish a.m. monster awakens me (there’s an old post about that), I can get up for a while, then either go curl up on the loveseat with the TV on or plan to take a nap in the afternoon. This happens to be a day when that schedule doesn’t work because in a couple of hours, I’ll be prepping to go to the TEKDIVE USA show up at FIU North Campus. This will be my first time to attend and also the last dive show where I’m appearing with Richie Kohler for this year. (We have some October events together, but those will be covered in future posts.) Anyway, the reason I’ve never been to TEKDIVE is because it’s a gathering of divers who are at that next level up; some of them incredibly so who go deeper, longer, and use equipment that really was in the science fiction realm when we Baby Boomers were kids. For those who have already read, Mystery of the Last Olympian, Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, (http://mysteryofthelastolympian.com) you read about the extraordinary advances in scuba technology.
I love to dive, but I have no interest in the highly technical side. I rarely venture below eighty feet and quite frankly, don’t particularly want to. I prefer to stay more shallow (sixty and above) and have longer underwater to enjoy myself. Another major drawback is I discovered I can’t deal with being in an “overhead” environment and especially not a cave situation. Let me explain for non-divers. In a shipwreck, you can have “swim-thrus” that are natural or have been prepared if it is a wreck that’s been deliberately sunk as an artificial reef. This means you have a clearly visible entry and exit point while you are inside the wreck and it’s usually not a long swim between the two points. A “regular” diver like me can manage a swim-thru with no problem. If you have an entrance without a clearly visible exit, such as you go down a passageway and come out another hole or you go in for a ways, have to reverse and come back out the way you came in, this is an “overhead environment”. That requires special training and equipment and is one of the factors that puts you into “technical diving”. There is of course some degree of risk with all diving, but it’s minimal as long as you maintain your equipment and follow fundamental safety rules (most of which are commonsense). The same holds true when you do technical diving, but the difference, and this is a big difference, is the equipment becomes far more complicated and when you dive deep (past 130 feet), you get into the whole required decompression stops you have to plan and execute. It isn’t anything that I want to do and in the crowd I’ll be with today, there will be amazing stories told by men and quite a few women, who happily take the proper training, gear up with a lot of extra equipment and say, “Sure, let’s go down 150 (or more) feet to that wreck. It will be fun.” And for them, it is.
I admit to being a picky eater, although there can be definite variations in how that word is applied. In some cases, there are simply flavors I don’t like such as banana. Yes, I know – I am probably one of the few people in the universe who doesn’t like the taste of banana. Texture is what often trips me up, so mushrooms, mollusks, most puddings, and other “squishy” stuff doesn’t work. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that tofu falls into the squishy category. However, my husband loves Alton Brown and a “Good Eats” episode was on the other day that I either hadn’t seen or hadn’t paid much attention to. I do enjoy certain creamy cheeses and in watching Alton do things with the silken tofu, it occurred to me maybe I could play around with that.
I’m thinking I can take some herbs, smoked sea salt, perhaps some grated Italian cheeses and come up with a mixture I could enjoy. I’m not sure if I can get the tofu into a kind of “whipped” state, but it would seem reasonable that I can. So, any ideas for me? Can tofu be treated somewhat like cream cheese?
When I do presentations, I’m often asked the question as to whether I prefer writing fiction or non-fiction. That’s a tough call because each has elements I enjoy. Short stories are another category and I think virtually every writer comes through short stories first. (Yes, there no doubt are some who have penned a book instead.) If you haven’t been in the short story archive on my website, I would encourage you to do so. Now, you will notice that a great many of my stories do take place in bars and they fall generally into the “Chick Lit” genre. In actuality, when I began writing them, that genre had not been defined as such. Most are designed to bring forth smiles and giggles if not outright laughs. A few will bring misty eyes or tears and the word “poignant” has to come to mind.
I go for long stretches without being inspired to write a story – especially when I’m involved with book projects. (I almost always have at least two projects working.) Interestingly, I will frequently begin a short story when I’m traveling. Part of that is because as I move through airports and hear snippets of conversations, that tends to set the brain to working – who are these people?, why are they on their way?, etc. The other part is if I’m visiting with friends or relatives, events in their lives may spark an idea. One advantage of short stories is variable length. I don’t recall when, but at some point, “flash fiction” came about. That’s 1,000 words or less. My initial thoughts were, “How am I going to create and do any sort of character development with any sort of plot in 1,000 words or less?” Then it occurred to me I could key off song lyrics as an example. After all if you can manage Haiku with only seventeen syllables, and sonnets with only fourteen lines, why not fiction in 1,000 words? I don’t do flash fiction as a rule, but it does work once you accept the idea. So, take some time, pop onto the website, wander through my archive, and forgive the editorial mistakes. I’m not as careful as I should be and I’ve made a promise to myself to be more attentive in the future. http://www.charliehudson.net/story
There really is something special about living in a place where orchids are as common as roses in other areas and having mango, and papaya season not long after you have strawberry season is an annual event. If we get fruit this year and can pluck lemons and limes from our trees, we’ll happily use those for as long as they are bearing. On the other hand, the same conditions that allow these wonderful plants to grow means weeds couldn’t be happier. Well, not that weeds have emotions, but you get the idea. I won’t say it’s a never-ending battle, although you really can’t let too many days lapse if you hope to have any type of control. Then there is the matter of certain plants growing so well you look out one day and realize you now have a root-bound plant and the pot is either toppling over because it’s too heavy or it might be cracking from the expansion. Hubby is going to build a new planter to remedy one such situation and if I don’t get out there soon and figure out what to do with the bird of paradise, I’m not entirely sure what will happen to it.
As I’ve explained before in the blog, I’m definitely not a gardener and in attempting to gain at least a little ability, these are the setbacks that make me wonder if there is any chance for me. I do have other interests to keep me occupied. It just seems as if when one has a great environment for plants, one ought to be able to make this work to some degree.
Serious content alert. A friend is mourning the loss of an aunt, another friend has signed the hospice paperwork for her father, and I received notice not long ago of the unexpected death of a high school friend. As Baby Boomers, we look in the mirror and the face we see looking back can startle us at times, or we suddenly realize an event that was important to us actually happened fifty years prior. Fifty years? That’s half a century, for crying out loud. How is that possible? And for those of us who have grandchildren (or great-grandchildren), it hardly seems possible you can be in a crowded room and be the oldest one present. Or you’re at a social event and listen to someone make a comment about dreading their upcoming fortieth birthday. Forty, what’s to worry about forty?
Momentarily setting aside our own aging issues, few of us have much longer with our parents or other relatives and friends who belong to “The Greatest Generation.” It’s a fact we can ignore without for one moment altering the reality of what will happen within the next few years. Yes, there will be those who tick over that century mark, but even with that, many will be diminished in their mental capabilities. The point to this post is one I have made before and was, of course, the foundation of my book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We Want to Avoid. We can no more avoid this stage of our lives than we can tell the sun to not set today or rise in the morning. If there is someone who matters to you who is aging and whom you want to see, talk to, or otherwise contact, do so. If a visit is not possible for whatever reason, pick up the phone, or go buy a card/write a letter. Yes, you can still write letters in this day of email. It doesn’t require a special occasion.
My schedule has been completely jammed since I returned from New Jersey and from what I understand, I “threaded the needle” with my departure. With the dive show ending Sunday afternoon, I had contemplated leaving that evening and decided against. As it turned out, there were apparently terrible problems at the airport with multiple delays due to weather. One of my friends who lives down in Islamorada didn’t make it home until 3:00 a.m. instead of the 9:00 p.m. she’d expected. When I flew out on Monday with no issues other than a cold rain (the slushy snow had abated a couple of hours before), it wasn’t long before an incident occurred that caused one terminal to come to a virtual standstill. If I understood correctly, it was concern over a nearby security issue or it might have been a fire situation. The exact cause got a bit muddled in the telling and I didn’t follow-up about the details. I had great sympathy for both large sets of individuals caught in those circumstances. I think most of us who travel have experienced similar frustrations and there is nothing you can do except wait it out and hope for the best. How about it? Got any favorite, “Let me tell you about this…” stories?