Monday, February 05, 2007


I flew to Texas on Wednesday afternoon. Yank in Texas picked me up; we drove to my aunt's house, stopping for barely passable "Mexican" food along the way (we figured it was a step up from Crapplebees). She met my mom and then left. I was up until nearly 2 talking to my mom and then unable to sleep until 3.

Thursday: up at 9 after restless, cold sleep. I spent the day wrapping my grandmother's paintings (she was an artist) in brown paper and packing them up in a ginormous box to be shipped to my mom's house. I also got to look through some things and pick what I wanted to bring home with me, including a Bouguereau print that I knew I would get and the old Irish wedding lithograph on silk that I thought my mom would take. I also ended up bringing home some glass serving bowls and platters, a gorgeous old wooden salad bowl and small bowls to go with, several books that belonged to my great great aunt May (most of which are pre-1920), and two beer steins from when Edy and Bill lived in Germany.

We also managed to get Edy out of the house to go for a walk on Thursday. She walked two blocks and then wanted to turn around and go home.

I was up late again Thursday night, unable to sleep again until at least 2 AM. The stolen wireless connection I found wasn't very reliable, so my plans to blog during the trip didn't end up coming to fruition.

Friday: up early, prepping the house and packing things for Edy's month-long visit at her son's house (staying with her granddaughter and ex-DIL). The spot in the assisted living place wasn't open yet. We'll be going back in a month to move her into the permanent place.

My mom and I brought the Huge Box O Paintings down to UPS, where they told us the insurance wasn't valid since they hadn't packed the box themselves. (Saturday morning we brought the remainder of the paintings and figurines to be packed by UPS and mailed and it cost nearly twice as much for half as many paintings. Go figure.)

This is a portrait of my mom as a child, done by her mother.

Edy was showering every day, and taking some pain meds for what we think is bursitis. But she wouldn't remember if she'd taken a pill, or if she'd eaten, but she'd take the pill or eat if my mom put it in front of her. She's moving a little more slowly than I remember, and she definitely has some dementia (though I don't think it's Alzheimers). I spent over 30 minutes on hold Friday afternoon trying to get her phone service shut off, and got transferred to the Spanish language line twice - luckily, my Spanish wasn't so rusty that I couldn't understand the touchtone phone options, and each time when a live person answered I asked nicely in my five-year-old Spanish to please speak to a representative in English. "Necesito hablar con una persona en Engles, por favor" got the CSRs to tell me that they spoke English, but hey, at least I tried, right?

My mom was trying to determine the value of a set of Haviland china (12 place settings, several serving pieces) that had belonged to a great great great aunt and uncle. It turned out that Ebay was the best way to view pictures of Haviland china (who knew there were so many collectors?) but we also determined, after a couple of hours of pouring over Ebay photos, that the china was so old that it was never given a pattern name - and therefore, probably irreplaceble. Mom decided that UPS wasn't trusty enough to pack and ship the Haviland, so she found some company that specializes in that sort of thing to do it for us instead. My guess is that it's worth several thousand, but priceless to the family.

Friday evening Edy's granddaughter and ex-DIL drove over from College Station and visited for the evening. Her granddaughter is a year younger than my middle sister, a senior in college, and has always been very quiet around me, but this time we stayed up after the grownups went to bed and bonded a bit. Her older brother, my exact age, wasn't there, but that was OK - it was nice to get to know her as a person without siblings to be in the way. Of course, we were up until 2 or 3 and up at 8. I got a kick out of finding Edy's liquor cabinet and a bottle of coffee liqueur that might have been 30 years old.

Saturday was the big day - getting Edy's things into the car, last-minute packing, another trip to UPS, and me trying to figure out how to pack everything into my duffel bag with the broken zipper, the other one, my backpack (with laptop), and still have a free hand for the two framed pieces of artwork. I also helped my mom wrap the fantastically old family bible (circa 1840s) in an old quilt and decide how to get that home. I think Edy finally understood when we were about to leave that she was really leaving her home of 35 years and wouldn't be living there again. It's a sad thing to dismantle a person's life in front of her, scavenging her things like a pair of vultures circling, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Edy's long-term memory is fine, and everything in the house has a story. I heard my favorite new Edy story during this trip. Here it is:

Edy and Bill were stationed somewhere in the midwest (Ohio?) and were assigned to base housing. Their large backyard backed up to the backyard of the general's house, whom Edy hadn't yet met. Soon after they moved in, Edy surveyed the yard and realized that someone who had inhabited their house before had prepared a section of the yard to be a vegetable garden, tilled and amended soil and edged the area. Edy thought it would be a shame to waste someone's hard work, so she planted tomatoes and other veggies and went out to talk to them every day.

One day, she was out in the yard, giving the tomatoes a piece of her mind. "Now look here," she told them. "I expect you to do much better than this. Someone went to all this work to make the ground nice and prepared for you, so the least you can do is to grow better. You'd better shape up!"

Behind her, she heard a booming voice, asking her, "Is that how you go about growing vegetables? Learn something new every day." And that was her introduction to the general.

My flight on Saturday was uneventful, and Hulk was able to pick me up in a friend's car. But I was plum wore out, and having Sunday to recover wasn't long enough. I was wore out all day today, too, and struggled to stay awake during this morning's staff meeting. The worst part, of course, is that I had to check my laptop in the backpack on the flight home, because I had too many fragile things that I had to carry on. And some bag thrower did their best to fuck up my laptop (protected in padded internal laptop sleeve), because when I pulled it out on Saturday night it had a nasty scratch on the front, and when I opened it up the LCD screen was totally fuckered up. At work today, I tried to find out what I needed to do, but nobody called me back. Something I'll have to deal with tomorrow, I guess.


Yank In Texas said...

Your Aunt sure did have some cool stuff. I so covet that bookcase and the possible Versaille clock. Ah well.
And that was barely passable food. Ugh. Oh well, it was food. Not like we were really paying attention to that really.
Was great seeing ya though!

MLE said...

Yeah, her son is taking the Versailles clock. My sister gets the bookcase.

It was lovely to see you, too. Thank you so much for the ride; my mom said that you'll never know how much of a help it was to her. I'll let you know if/when I'm going back to finish the job!