*Operation Abduct Grandma*
30 August 2020
My ma and stepdad moved from Griffith, Indiana to Gardnerville, Nevada (just south of Carson City, near Lake Tahoe) about 21 years ago. They're both quite elderly now - my ma is 84 and my stepdad is 91 - and it was time for my stepsister and me to bring them back to the bosom of civilization.
This would have been a fine and pleasant thing if they'd come to this decision voluntarily. Like many people, they were stubborn and insisted they were doing fine where they were. And if that failed, they'd make excuses like "I'd never survive the trip back" and so on.
But events have a way of making decisions for us. My ma's grip on reality has been getting looser over the last year or so. So when she suffered a minor fall on the 4th of July, it ended up turning into an extended hospital-and-rehab facility stay rather than a trip to the quacks and back. Part of the reason for this extended stay was to allow me time to get out there to retrieve her - she's in no shape to look after herself. Neither is my stepdad, though his mind is sound. He'd already been brought back by my stepsister's family to their home in Wisconsin by the time I drove out.
My part involved driving out there, getting my ma out of the rehab facility and staying with her for a while, organizing what we could in the house that my stepsister's family hadn't already packed up, and flying her back so my daughter could drive her to Wisconsin to be with my stepdad. Once the "extraction phase" of "Operation Abduct Grandma" had reached a successful conclusion, I came back to Nevada to finish up at the house and then drive home. I got in around 2300CDT on the night of 11 August.
What follows is a "travel journal" I kept as a running discussion in a private group on Facebook, largely made up of firearm trainers, martial arts trainers, weapon accessory designers, gun writers and those with an affinity for such a group. There are repetitions and inconsistencies, because this was simply my thoughts as the operation ground on. There may be in-group references (eg, the group refers to itself as "The Tribe"), though I did my best to edit out any by-name references and (hopefully) the worst of the salty language. This travel journal was partly therapeutic; and as you'll see the deeper you go into the narrative, I found myself in several "cuss-worthy" situations the farther along I went.
In the 'epilogue,' I discuss why I shared my experiences with this group who, on outward appearance, would seem to have no interest in the topic whatsoever. On the contrary, I'm pleased to say it was very well received. This epilogue is included for the sake of completeness; the importance of elder care ought to be instantly understandable to any Rubie reading it; in fact, many in our community have already gone through this.
Made it safely to "undisclosed location."
Actually, that's not true. My location is somewhere in the vicinity of Omaha, Nebraska, in a crummy little hotel of the type whose clientele consist primarily of itinerant truck stop lot lizards, traveling fake-dog-turd salesmen and money launderers. From the parking lot, it looks like they keep politicians out so at least they run a reputable establishment.
You know the type of place you're staying in when the Hindu lady at the front desk asks you in 2020 if you want a smoking or non-smoking room.
Anyway, I'm not staying up forever, so here's the obligatory nightstand pocket-litter photo; and unlike last time I tried this, I actually have a holster worth photographing
Thoughts on The States I've Driven Through So Far:
I take it as a point of pride that I never got out of my car or left the interstate on the drive through Illinois; and the only reason I didn't wash the dust off my tires when I crossed the Mississippi was because I didn't want to waste the time.
There is a class of industrial food products with B.S. names like "Harvest Acres" or "Wholesome Valley" that have an image of some bucolic, rolling farmland and a barn & silo on it, but the food inside is made out of petroleum byproducts at factories in Newark or Pittsburgh. Iowa is where all those pictures come from.
Nebraska is Indiana with covered wagons and fewer teeth. There's a gas station outside Lincoln off I-80 d.b.a. "FAT DOG" whose sub-text under its sign is "You Are Nowhere." I'm convinced Stephen King is part owner of this gas station. Also, if you're ever near there, don't go there - the price on the sign is not the price at the pump.
Wyoming kinda got it goin' on. It's "clean" in the way only Nature can be "clean." Horses and these little springbok-looking antelope just traipse all over like they own the place. The people there are friendly. As state capitals go, Cheyenne makes a pretty passable county seat. I was never so grateful for the "manual override" feature on my car's gearbox as I was driving through "Emigrant Pass." It's not kind to automatic transmissions OR brakes.
Interstate 76 between Nebraska and Denver is the worst interstate in the Republic, and Coloradans drive like they know their Department of Transportation is doing that to them on purpose.
I had to take the dinosaur picture. We don't have Sinclair filling stations in my region - used to, but no more. I had a stuffed Sinclair dinosaur when I was a boy and I loved it. Looking back on it, it's a pretty ghoulish mascot - the Sinclair dinosaur doesn't stand to strict philosophical scrutiny.
The section of Interstate 80 between Fort Bridger, Wyoming and Salt Lake City is a sort of live-action Mario Kart, which is less fun than it sounds like it ought to be. Like Emigrant Pass, your low gears are your friends.
The Salt Lake City Tourism Board would like to take this opportunity to remind you that it's THEIR city, not your city, get your own city; and if you simply MUST engage paid lodgings, pay close attention to the checkout time.
For my part, I'm not overstaying my welcome. The hotel I landed in makes last night's look Olive-Garden "classy." If you wanna write a cyberpunk dystopian novel set in 2020, you could start it in far worse places than the Ramada Inn on Redwood Road off I-80 in SLC.
Ramada used to have a pretty good rep; then again, so did that nice girl you wish had accepted your invitation to the prom. Like the girl you wish you'd taken to the prom, Ramada has really let itself go. It's the IHOP of hotel franchises.
You know you're in for a night of adventure when the police roll up to the room four doors down from yours 30 seconds after you pull in to your parking spot, and you have to say "OCCUPIED!" in your "NCO Voice" because someone tries your door 5 minutes after you get all your valuables out of your car. This is the first time in my life I've ever considered going to bed with my Hi-Power in Condition Zero.
I love my car. Ever faithful throughout this trip.
Living for three days on Clif Bars, Powerade Zero, Monster Java, peanuts, Twizzlers and Camel Filters is the dietary equivalent of running a machine gun full-cyclic without a spare barrel. It may work *for right-this-second,* but it's not a sustainable solution.
After talking it out with my daughter, I've decided to scrap the cyberpunk dystopian novel. Someone else can have a go at it.
I came to this decision after checking out of my hotel room in SLC and noting that the City's Finest were there again (if they'd ever left - they ought to ask the hotel management's permission to put up a carport), then getting Burger King Breakfast for the road.
The "TA" truck stop about 20 minutes west of the city is, if anything, even better suited to the novel I've just released my claim to. It's an uncanny, almost made-for-movies combination of ultramodern and flimsy, welcoming and despondent, convenient and aggravating. It's got 21st century gas pumps that don't read out of state debit cards. Its front looks made of plexiglass, whitewashed MDF and angle-iron, and the Burger King/Taco Bell "food court" has tasteful interior decor suitable for a fast food place in Midtown Manhattan, in what is essentially a prefab shell fit for the PX compound at a semi-permanent camp in Kuwait. The lady who took my order looked 20 years older than me and is probably in her 30s. She got my order wrong and I only asked for two things. Who knows - maybe God thought I needed French Toast Sticks more than the hash browns I asked for.
Everyone of course has face masks.
You'd be right for thinking this is a cyberpunk dystopia practically writing itself, and >that's my point!< If people want to read about current events, they can go anywhere - right here, actually.
On discussing the matter with my daughter, she thinks I'm more suited to writing steampunk fiction and I tend to incline to her opinion.
Found out where they keep all the good mid-range hotels in SLC, by the way. They're all near the airport in a sort of ghetto that's very much like Itaewon in Seoul. This has forced me to modify my conclusions on Salt Lake City's opinion of travelers: They're glad to have you as long as you plan your trip ahead of time and stay inside the lines; but if you think you're just gonna mosey on in like you own the place well, they have ways of convincing you otherwise.
There's a light rail system in the city which looks like a futuristic version of the pantograph streetcars Warsaw had before the Nazis bombed 'em all to crap. It's kinda charming to see a train wait for a stop light at an intersection.
Tastes differ by region. There's a quik-ee-mart in Elko, Nevada where every snack food on their shelves is FLAMING HOTTT!!!®️ I asked the cashier if they carried FLAMING HOTTTT!!!1!!!!® Skittles. She told me they were out.
Painting the route symbol on the pavement you're exiting to in order to prevent confusion is the most 21st century thing I've seen on this trip. I think every city with a confusing interchange should do it.
Anyway, I'm here in Gardnerville, Nevada, fixin' to see to my ma in a day or two. I'm not sure how much of that story will be published. We as a society need to do a better job of managing the boundary between healthy openness and dignified circumspection.
Spent the day on the phone with Mom's rehab facility. Rather, I spent it mostly with their voicemails. Last time I told their receptionist I wanted to speak with a human present in the building; and if I didn't, the next two entities I talked to would be the Nevada Department of Health & Human Services and the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.
I couldn't set the phone down for all the return calls I got.
Got a couple small jobs done for my boss which is a bigger feat than it sounds like. I'm on a mobile hotspot because my parents don't have internet at their house. They don't have air conditioning either.
Spent the day going through some of my ma's effects. They're mostly my ma's because my stepdad isn't as attached to 'stuff.' Case in point - the closet shelf in one of the unused bedrooms is almost entirely office supplies; but in this case, they're office supplies from about 1978 and earlier, when my grandpa's jewelry/watchmaker shop was still doing a brisk business.
Related to this, I need to find watchmakers back home who would be willing to buy bulk-lots of parts, tools and cabinets. I'm keeping my grandpa's watchmaker's bench - they're good pieces of furniture.
There's a grandfather clock my parents got in the 80s. It doesn't run properly but it's complete and repairable and God bless 'em, they still kept the shipping crate. I'm the guy who assisted my grandfather setting it up in their house in Griffith, and I'm the guy who assisted my stepfather re-boxing it when they moved out here. I don't know if I can box it back up by myself. I don't want it.
As I type, there is a family of Gambel's quails pecking through the unmowed back yard. They don't fly away when spooked but scamper about. Strange birds - we don't have anything like them in Northwest Indiana.
Still haven't got out of this house to do grocery shopping or anything to fix the faucets. Must see to that soon - waiting for a landline to ring is frustrating, yet I had to because my cell phone thinks it's in Siberia.
Mom gets discharged tomorrow afternoon, and there's much left to do.
Talk about your packrats - my ma has my grandmother's tax returns going back to 1986, and bills for the jewelry store going back even further.
People of her generation kept records forever "in case you might need them." Telling such people that the government is uninterested in the financial goings-on of companies that ceased to exist 33 years earlier, or of people who died 25 years earlier, will be instantly met with "But you never know..."
About half of my mom's stuff is in fact the stuff of people who've been dead longer than many of you have been alive. She's why I'm so keen to divest myself of so much now when I'm in good shape. I don't want to have to think about the answer to the question "Do you own your stuff or the other way 'round?" - I wanna be able to answer without hesitation.
Leaving now to go collect my ma. Spare a thought for her please - she is in a place many of us will be, perhaps sooner than we believe.
Bloody basket case. 84 years of unresolved issues with her parents and her sister...
Imagine being in a Jim Jones sermon only Jim Jones spends his 8 hours in barely coherent self-recrimination and lashing out.
The Good News: I have successfully addressed The Ant Problem in my parents' soon-to-be-former house.
The Bad News: I did this with borax and powdered sugar - their kitchen counter looks like Tony Montana's desk.
Mom went to one last pre-flight doctor's appointment today. I didn't take her; her friend-and-total-freaking-superhero-angel-wonder-person Linda did. Linda was my stepdad's visiting nurse after one particular close call. She ended up befriending my parents and it's no exaggeration to say she's saved their lives a couple times at least.
Back to the quacks. Swelling in ankles is normal, and treating it aggressively would cause more problems than it solves. Also got a diagnosis of dementia which my ma doesn't really know about. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it enables me to be my ma's attorney-in-fact for decisions related to the sale of their house (which in a real sense is the money they have to live off of).
Ma is still kicking-and-screaming at the notion that the house is being sold and that she's moving out. "Why wasn't I consulted?!" Well ma, you and Don (stepfather) didn't listen to me and my stepsister for months when we tried to talk you into moving back near us; you were in a hospital and in physical rehab for falling and your 91-year old husband couldn't care for you or himself really well, you can't remember what you had for breakfast fifteen minutes ago and you couldn't figure out what way your pants went on this morning. You might say events forced our hand.
She ain't tryna hear dat.
Years ago my best friend in the Reserves shared a story about how he and the other guards at the Cook County Jail (his day job) had to have training on what it's like to live with schizophrenia. They had this training because a lot of their inmates have shitloads of mental issues (a topic for another time). He told me that one session consisted of him conducting a work performance interview while two people behind his chair shouted things into his ear like 'YOU SUCK,' 'YOU'RE &@$%ING WORTHLESS,' 'SHE'S THE DEVIL, KILL HER!' and so forth.
I found myself thinking about him yesterday. Ma was truly spun up. I was working remotely, doing CAD drafting, while she spent an hour or so mumbling incoherently, then shouting at the top of her lungs, breaking down in crying fits, fidgeting around the kitchen and slamming empty cabinet doors and drawers, all the time saying "OH DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO ME - GO BACK TO DOING YOUR WORK!" Also my boss, who is 2,000 miles away, innocently asking me when the drawing would be completed and would I mind making this one correction to this other drawing before I turn in tonight?
I looked back on what my best friend Jim had said and thought to myself "Have I got a story to tell you, Battle..."
God be praised, she was better today, though only relatively so. We were able to do breakfast, some qi gong which she seems to like, and get ready for the appointment without any hurry because I was herding her around to keep her from fussing too much.
Ma had another one of "those days." Successes for me included getting a 90-day supply of a medication she absolutely needs, and (big deal), finding a piece of jewelry she'd been *extremely* anxious over. Don't judge - she was a watchmaker and jeweler by trade, it means things to her we may not understand.
On the other side of the ledger, she had another one of her long rambling spells. It got so bad with her I had to walk outside and do some qi gong.
Last three years or so I started really understanding what the Chinese mean when they refer to "qi' or "chi." It ain't The Force or "da Schwartz" or any of the mystical mumbo-jumbo that starry-eyed New-Age Hippy-dippie bliss-ninnies or charlatan showmen would have you believe. It's far more mundane, but also more useful. It's simply the sum total of the various kinds of energy (kinetic, chemical, thermal, etc.) that happen to be in the body at any given time.
I've become somewhat attuned to how it feels, how it manifests itself and begun the very early stages of actually manipulating this "internal" energy so as to focus it in punches, kicks, blows, blocks etc. It's noting magic, merely a matter of coordination after shitloads of focused practice.
Anyway, while doing the simplest/most fundamental qi gong, "rising and falling," I became aware of a very strong sensation of energy "backed up" and it was in the hands & arms - like a tingling that *wasn't* numbness. So I did a couple qi gong that my friend and student Joy introduced some time ago, as well as a few slow iterations of "punch with an angry gaze" from the Ba Duan Jin.
It wasn't some weird Yoda thing - I didn't raise any X-wings or Force-choke any rebel captains - and when I went back in to try to sort things out with my ma, I was still angry, tense and off-kilter, but much less so. And the feeling of backed-up energy in my hands was gone.
Earlier this morning, I called my stepsister and told her that while my ma is stable medically (more-or-less), she really needs mental health care as a priority not only for her, but for my stepsister's family's sanity, as she's gonna be living with them for at least a few months. I think she'll listen to me.
I'm sure there are resources for senior mental health that I just don't know about, but no one involved in her care here in Nevada has jumped out and said "Hey, your ma needs such-and-such..." The result is an impression that senior mental health is pretty much summed up as "people go batshit as they get older and why bother doing much - they're gonna die soon anyway." As you can imagine, I don't like this; but I'm not trained in treating mental health issues (my ma doesn't have issues, she has frakking subscriptions), and wouldn't know where to begin. But I think much of her dementia is the result of emotional baggage, and that behavioral therapy could help her let go of a lot of that baggage and be more centered and coherent.
Today started out well and looked to finish half-way decent. That didn't happen. I've been listening to about two hours of an elderly woman who is incapable of understanding what's happening to her but still coherent enough to say some pretty hateful and toxic stuff. I'm dealing with it a bit better now but it's still exhausting.
Back a few years ago [FRIEND A] turned me on to this artist. Going from video to video, I landed on this one which sounds like it was written about my ma.
What an amazing gift to not only be able to see things so clearly through another person's eyes, but to put this vision to music in a way that communicates even more than the words do; and in so doing, help me to see a bit better what my ma's going through and maybe be a bit less insistent on results I could easily expect out of someone of more sound mind.
But it's still exhausting.https://youtu.be/krQ83ZlFQQs
"When the officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight,
So take open order, lie down and sit tight,
And wait for relief like a soldier."
This is the part of the adventure where you just put your head down, shut your mind up and press forward. I know my ma is not being purposely difficult - she's not going out of her way to make everything as agonizing as possible - but if she *were,* it'd still look a hell of a lot like this.
Old age really is a second childhood. My ma is a somewhat more articulate version of a toddler breaking down and throwing a tantrum because the color blue exists. She's getting wound-up over the simplest stuff, making things like putting socks on seem like the end of the world while also trying to be the mom she was when I was 9.
And then there's work. It's a weird sort of dynamic that feels like trying to row a leaking dinghy to shore - time spent bailing is time not spent rowing; the boat will sink if you don't bail, but you'll never get to shore if all you do is bail, etc. etc.
I'd like to care about my ma but at this point all I can do is put my head down, shut my mind up and press forward. We fly her back to civilization on Wednesday. Once that's accomplished I can breathe a bit easier.
The theme today:https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/boots.html
Today's the big day. Flying with my ma to Chicago. Emily will pick her up at the airport and convey her safe & sound to my stepsister's, where her husband (my stepfather) has been anxiously waiting for her. After this I sit around Midway overnight for a flight back on 6 August, arriving in Reno at High-Twelve PDT.
Now, just as I was about to turn my computer off so as to put it in my carry-on, I see I just got an email from the realtor handling the sale of the house. She's okay by me, but she just shared a communication from the title insurance company that leaves me furious to the point of contemplating capital crimes. Petty tyrant!
This just isn't going to end. EVER.
The rehab place sent me on my way with a comfortable quantity of "hydroxyzine" pills. Hydroxyzine sounds like some sort of "truth-serum" from a Roger-Moore-era James Bond movie but it's basically Benadryl. What should have been a VERY emotional goodbye was basically a drowsy sail through a loopy haze.
I feel a bit underhanded about it, because I didn't tell my ma it was to make her calm the heck down and not be an 84-year old toddler on the airplane. What I told her is that it was for motion sickness, which was actually quite true but not the complete truth. I mean, it's not every day I roofie my own ma to get her to behave on a flight.
That said, she *did* behave, didn't say anything boorish to the black or Latino airline employees who helped her, and kept her mask on most of the time in the flying bus. My daughter successfully executed the link-up and extract and, so far as I know, ought to be nearing my stepsister's place as I type.
It's a small victory, but I'll take it.
I stayed overnight in Midway because I didn't want to deal with any potentiality of being stopped by Chicago authorities because I had flown from Nevada and according to the City, i was supposed to be quarantined for 14 days. I reckoned, if the precautions I was taking in order to protect a frail 84-year old - for whom infection would be a death sentence - were insufficient for the City of Chicago, then the problem was with the City of Chicago and not me.
Staying overnight in an airport is one of those activities which separate people into binary categories, and those categories are those who would go "OMG that's insane!" on the one hand and those who would go "Meh, no big deal" on the other.
If you have the experience of managing to get a few hours' sleep on an active flight line with helicopters coming and going, on a military base that occasionally gets attacked with rockets and mortars, I suspect that the pluck necessary to arrive at "Meh, no big deal" is easier to conjure up than if you lack this experience.
Concerning airports, there is a sliding scale between the first-class lounge at Tokyo Narita at the one end, and the Aeroflot terminal in Murmansk at the other. Midway, true to its name, is somewhere between both - no rock gardens OR caged chickens either. Flying is no longer the glamorous excursion it once was - the "jet set" has for a long time been made up of People of Walmart. I lay all the blame on Robin Leach for giving my generation such unrealistic expectations of air travel. A Southwest Airlines 737-800 between Midway and Las Vegas isn't a rickety Antonov AN-2 where you share your seat with livestock, but it's still pretty much a flying bus. To their credit, it seems as though Southwest understands this, and I respect them for that.
Disposable foam earplugs are a must for air travel. Automated public address messages in terminals and departure gates are in their own way worse for sleeping than the roar of Chinook turbines. There comes a point where you start to ignore public address announcements, especially if they're delivered by airport staff who don't know how to properly speak into a microphone. I'm sure someone's done a study on it and I'm just as sure that this study was ignored the instant it was published. Nevada is Mordor. The Eye of Sauron is visible on the flight between Reno and Las Vegas, and there are in fact two of them. The state claims it's a solar energy collection array but I don't trust orcs and ringwraiths and you shouldn't either.
"My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor
It was taller by half than the old man himself
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
And was always his treasure and pride
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died."
Spending two days in airports and airplanes really takes the fun out of air travel, to the degree it has any fun left in it at all. This was the first time I've ever flown without my own checked bags, and it was nice to just breeze past baggage claim with only what I carried on my back. Not nice enough to wish to repeat the procedure - I can't stand air travel - but I'm not complaining.
After I left the airport, the first thing I did was go to a quik-ee-mart and buy a pack of cigarettes and a Monster Java. Nearby the mart was a proper brick-and-mortar surplus store, something I haven't seen in years. I decided that I wanted and deserved some "me time" and went in. Bought a foreign canteen and chatted with the proprietor, who gave me a slight discount as a retiree - basically knocked off the sales tax.
I spoke with my stepsister on the drive home. Hasn't been 24 hours and already she's fed up with my ma. I can't really blame her. If I were anyone other than her son, I wouldn't want anything to do with her in her present condition, something I don't say to my credit. I'll be looking into "memory care" for her when I get back to civilization.
One of the non-parent-related goals for my trip was packing up my parents' grandfather clock - a "floor clock" if you want to be technical (and who doesn't?) - since I knew my stepsister's family weren't going to touch it. And I knew they weren't going to touch it not because they're lazy (they're not - they packed up an astonishing amount of stuff thus far), but because my stepfather wouldn't allow it. He insisted that the clock should only be packed and unpacked by professionals.
He's mostly right. If you buy a grandfather clock and try to set it up yourself, you're likely to screw it up - BADLY. However, I assisted my own grandfather when he installed this clock in my family's house in Griffith, Indiana, back in the 80s (I was like 16 at the time), and I also was the one who took it down with my stepfather when they moved out here in the late 90s. So it naturally fell to me to "march-order" this clock one last time; however, this is the first time I've ever done it by myself with no help.
Putting up or taking down a grandfather clock is NOT a one-man job. At least, it shouldn't be. I was successful, and this was mostly because my parents have never thrown away a shipping crate in their lives - God be praised, the crate was in the garage with all the packing dunnage still very much intact. The only error I made in packing it was in putting it in its crate reversed. But (pace Sigmund Freud) I blame my parents, because they installed it in a place where I couldn't get the crate in the right position.
I knew before I started, but I was still surprised at how heavy its platform is. Grandfather clocks must not be set directly on carpeted floors - they're unsteady that way, and the carpet absorbs the energy of the pendulum - it will never keep good time and will constantly stop. If the home is carpeted, the seller will also sell you a platform that embeds into the floor beneath the carpet. This platform is a frame made of angle-iron with what are basically nails for feet. This iron frame supports a marble oblong that's a bit bigger than the base of the clock itself, and it's incredibly heavy, for obvious reasons. It was more physical work moving the base than it was moving the clock, which is light despite its size, as it's mostly empty space.
It's worth about $1,500 - probably somewhat more since it's in its original shipping crate and therefore more easily transported - and I hope it finds a buyer. For my part, I never want to see that dumb thing again. I certainly don't want to set it up ever again.
Speaking of selling, my ma's present condition means that most of the stuff we were planning to move into an apartment for them just turned into stuff to sell. My stepsister keeps talking about how she thinks my stepdad isn't going to be alive very much longer. He's 91 now. She doesn't think he has more than a year or two left in him. I reminded her that her grandma and many of her relations lived well into their 90s, and that my ma has outlived every member of her family, so she may not want to nail those colors to her mast. My stepsister is just as pigheaded as my stepfather, so I may as well have been talking to the grandfather clock I just boxed up.
The home inspector will be here tomorrow and would prefer I was not in the house. Suits me fine - in my own profession we don't like our clients hovering over us while we do our work, so I can hardly take offense.
HELPFUL TRAVEL TIP:
Despite the similarity in appearance, this is NOT "comfy-bum."
I REPEAT - THIS IS NOT FOR YOUR TUCHUS!
I leave tomorrow morning at whenever-I-feel-like-it-o'clock, but the earlier the better - see below.
I only just now figured out the little knack to make my parents' patio door work flawlessly. Figures.
It was a nice day today - first approximately-normal day I've had in maybe two weeks. Did a good-paying survey for some rich so-and-so in a condo in Chicago. Called my stepsister and while my ma is still nuttier than squirrel droppings, she's starting to adjust and it's making stepsister ease off her own personal freakout. I had a feeling this would happen, though I knew better than to tell her that. Had to decamp for a while so as to allow the building inspector uninterrupted access. Doesn't bother me - my own profession hates it when the client is home. Spent a few hours in a shady park on what is the first "nice weather" day this patch of Mordor has had since before I got here.
When I came back, I loaded up my car with the stuff I'm securing for my ma - stepdad already has the stuff he wanted laid out in the center of the garage. In doing so, I began filling in a memo book with notes to my stepsister's sons as to what I think ought to be moved and in what order, what I want, what I have no interest in and what I think ought to get tossed, along with other notes. I'll mail the notebook to my stepsister on my way out.
One of the things I wrote in the notebook was the phone number to the Douglas County Sheriff's Satellite Office near my parents' house. I told them that the house will be unoccupied as of 8 August and they said they'd pay closer attention to it. The Sheriff's Department here are good people, and have been very kindly & helpful to my parents. They're not orcs.
While looking up the number, I stumbled across an announcement on their website that a planned protest is to take place very near the route I had expected to use to get out of the area. I'm glad I know this - survivalists survive by avoiding survival situations. I know the route to bypass the event, which doesn't sound like it'll amount to much.
There's no emotional baggage to closing up this house. While I never told them this, I always thought the move out west was a mistake. When I leave here tomorrow, it'll be good riddance.
I've made a claim to two pieces of furniture in my parents' house, both of which were my ma's and which she stands little chance of ever using: a Singer treadle sewing machine and a watchmaker's bench, nearly identical to the one pictured.
I mean to restore the Singer - it's been in the family for generations and is fit to sew duck canvas. It was modified to run on electricity but I intend to restore it to its original non-electric state. The watchmaker's bench will be the new home for all my gun tools, leather working tools and whatever other bits-and-bobs I deem appropriate.
What sets a watchmaker's bench apart from any other workspace is the pull-out tray - it does not have a desk-type surface but rather a loose cloth. This is to catch tiny watch parts if they fall off the bench. It's an arrangement I think many gunsmiths and others who work with small parts might benefit from.
There is a cuckoo clock somewhere around here that I'd previously asked for, but i already have enough clocks at home.
Did I mention there hasn't been a working shower in this house for several years? When I get to the hotel in SLC, the first thing I'm gonna do is scrub myself pink.
I'm bringing a carload of small stuff back, and one of the things I'm bringing back is a pair of watch domes. You've seen 'em - they look like the domes for the old stock tickers, only they're for the display of a pocket watch or treasured pendant. I've got watches worthy of such display but I've never owned one.
There are now two in my car, and one of them appears to be the kind you might find on a banker's desk - it is on a sort of plinth with a place for a name plate and two pen-holders. One of the pens is missing, and one of the pen holders came unglued from the plinth. The watch is held by a brass wire coming up from the base (some have hooks embedded in the glass) and this too is missing. I have reason to believe it's my stepfather's. It's no trouble at all to restore this item, and I think he'd like knowing I did this for him - he worked in the watch industry as a parts distributor at least as long as my ma did as a watchmaker. It seems like the right thing to do, and I know he's got watches worth showing off.
I don't look forward to the drive back - I didn't care for the drive out - but on the bright side, it has three things going for it: 1) I'm going home 2) Once I hit Wyoming it's pretty much all downhill - excellent gas mileage! 3) I get to meet [FRIEND B] in Cheyenne if everything goes according to Hoyle!
As before, [FRIEND B] and [FRIEND C] have my number if anyone here needs to get hold of me.
In five or ten years, Winnemucca, Nevada will be hip and kitschy. Now, it's just seedy. All architecture and city planning, it seems, has to go through a down-at-the-heel and dejected phase before it gets "rediscovered." What's more, in order for an area to achieve the hip, kitschy vibe, it has to be self-aware enough to know it's out-of-date and wallowing in it. It's a hard thing to pin down, but you know it when you see it. Think Mitch O'Connell - he knocks it over the center-field bleachers.
The messy cobble of atomic-age "googie" architecture and phony 1950s tourist-trappy "Wild Wild West" of downtown Winnemucca is NOT self-aware or ironic. It's there because the proprietors have always done things this way, can't afford to remodel and besides, they're dead serious about it.
Winnemucca could do far worse than hire Kate Pierson or Grace Jones to come in and spruce the place up some.
One of the best things about the Tribe is how we tend to look after each other. Auntie [FRIEND B], for example, has been keeping tab on me for the entirety of my travels, and clucking over me to make sure I eat well and stay safe. If it were anyone else, I'd probably resent it. Seein' as it's her, though, I know the sentiment behind it is sincere and good-natured - she really IS genuinely concerned for my welfare, and this has been a bigger internal boost than she may realize.
I thought about her today as I pulled into tonight's hotel. It has a "Grill & Bar" (what makes it different than a "Bar & Grill" escapes me but I'm tired) attached to it and, Ganesha be praised, the kitchen was still open. [FRIEND B], I'm pleased to report that I am now one IPA and one bacon-mushroom burger to my credit, along with tempura-fried green beans that are as yummy as they sound.
This didn't happen before I showered. I really wasn't joking about there being no showers at my parents' place. The fixtures started leaking a few years ago and my folks, being too old to do the work themselves and too cheap to job it out, simply shut off the connection to the showers in both bathrooms. Today's hotel shower was THOROUGH. I've been funkier, but never inside incorporated city limits - always out in the field.
No news of the parents today, but this is because I declared today a travel day and kept commo to a minimum. As to travel, I took a route that kept me well away from the planned protest. I'm glad I did - from the attached report (very biased-sounding), it doesn't appear that my parents' now-former adopted community covered themselves in glory. But I ought to know better and not pass judgment until I'm certain my opinion isn't based on Gell-Mann Amnesia.
What a treat it was to be able to spend time with [FRIEND B] today. It was entirely worth the effort and time. She has a sympathetic ear (though not for fools), an eye for agreeable architecture, knows where to get the good chow, and knows how to have good, goofy, wholesome fun.
She also has excellent taste in friends!
Talked to my ma while on the road after parting company with [FRIEND B]. She seems to be doing okay - I don't know if my stepsister has her on the anti-anxiety meds i gave her but it didn't sound like. She's over the worst of her feistiness, it seems. There's more, but no one wants somebody else reading all the chapters of their story out loud to strangers (see circumspection in a previous comment).
Tomorrow is a long day, but for this Flatlander, it will be blessedly "flat."
[edited to add] I'm forced to use the hotel's wifi because my own hotspot doesn't seem to want to work in the lower-left-hand corner of Nebraska. Odd that it worked just fine in Mordor, but not here.
This would be unremarkable but for the fact that the wifi here is acting like a speedballing Max Headroom, and I think it's because of my tendency to prefer the sorts of hotels frequented by contractors and truck drivers.
What I mean by this is I'm convinced the wifi here is being derpy because of all these blue-collar bastards live-streaming Bulgarian monkey porn.
The entire operation is far from over. The house closing is Friday, there still needs to be movers engaged, and the stuff moved out needs to be organized/collected for my parents/sold/disposed of. That's gonna take a long time.
Things I didn't bring which I kinda wanted but didn't really need:
Things I brought which I didn't really need:
Things I'm REALLY glad I brought:
I'm ultimately satisfied not only with the whole operation itself, but also what I packed along for it. Read the above and you'll see relatively few changes. I needed damned near everything I brought, and lacked relatively few things I couldn't pick up once there.
I was once chided by a member here for keeping a "short-staff" in my car. It was during a discussion of martial arts and the member - whose name I forget - rightly pointed out that there are far better weapons. It earned its keep when my ma used it for two days as a mobility aid until her walker arrived.
* I brought two sets of travel utensils. One was a pair of roll-up holdalls with conventional utensils only made of bamboo - I took this for the airplane trip but we never ended up using them. I also brought two "Essbesteck" folding fork/spoon things which my ma found curious and intriguing, when she wasn't flipping her lid that all her silverware was packed away. Of the two things, we used the "Essbesteck" but not the set in the holdall. I think this has more to do with my ma's state of mind and unwillingness than of the sets' utility.
So much for practicalities.
More importantly, I like to think I did more good than harm with the way I handled my ma. I know better than to think that my approach with her can't be improved on, and I know this because I asked for help from a psychiatrist friend who, out of an abundance of professional caution, declined to offer a single word of advice other than "It's gonna be tough" (Gee, thanks, Dr. Freud!). Because I'm not trained for this sort of thing, I'm unable to know if I was too stern with my ma or not enough - if I "gave her space" enough or if I should have been more concerned with getting her to see reality as it really was. If I'd had more knowledge on how to do it I'm sure I would have done better.
My ma was truly sick of hearing me say "Mom, we're all doing the best we can." But I think it was necessary that she hear this, repeatedly. My ma is the kind of person who thinks everything ought to be done on her terms, even if she doesn't know what those terms are. She's never had to think about the implications of things being delegated out - she's always done whatever needed to be done herself - and the idea that someone else may have a different way of doing the same thing is simply unthinkable to her.
This showed itself especially in her repeated complaints of how my stepsister's family packed up the household items. It was not done in the right order, she couldn't figure out where anything was, nothing was properly labeled, etc. That she was busy being in the hospital and rehab facility didn't register with her, or that they did this under less-than-ideal conditions (because of her and my stepfather's stubbornness), or that we have no way of knowing ultimately where they're going to end up/how much space they'll have/etc. Ma doesn't work well with incomplete intel, but sometimes that's all we're given, and we have to do the best with what we've got.
Again, I shared all this because we're all going to be faced with these challenges in the future. If not with our parents (who may already be dead), then with our own children. Just taking a casual glance at the types of people we have assembled here, I'm comfortable in asserting that most of us are no readier for this time in their and their parents' lives than I was [remember this was not written with Rubies as the original audience - ed.].
The lessons I've learned from this episode are (including but not limited to):
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