Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A lot details about a day in the life of....some sweet tea

Saturday, a week ago I got up earlier than I usually do for a Saturday. I had several things I wanted to accomplish before I hit the road. I did a few things around the house and then had a couple of stops to make before I was finally headed south on I-95 a little after 9 AM.

I was on the way to see my parents. They live three hours south of here in Georgia. This was the third trip I made down there this month. I must say based on my observations of traffic on those combined 18 hours of traveling I-95 that I think they must have closed Canada. The number of license plates from Quebec was far and above any other single state other than the one I was traveling in. Weird, eh?

Almost three weeks ago, my mom fell in the parking lot of Huddle House, a favorite dining place of my mom and dad. The ambulance took her to the hospital from there. She suffered a couple of fractures, lots of bruises, and a great amount of confusion because her head, face, and nose took the brunt of her fall. After a little over two weeks in the hospital, it became clear that she needed more daily help than any of us could give her. Just two days before this recent Saturday trip there, my mother was moved into her new assisted living home. My planned overnight stay at my parents’ house was to delay, just one more day, my dad having to stay at home by himself at night.

About two hours down the road I began to get the sickly feeling that surely I must have forgotten something. I called Scott at home back in South Carolina and asked him if he had put my suitcase in the car for me.

Um. No. Oops. I was going to have to make a WalMart run later.

When I arrived suitcaseless at my dad’s house, he and my sister were sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. I sat down with them and poured myself a glass of iced tea. One thing we can always count on at my parents’ house is two pitchers of tea in the fridge. That’s so when one pitcher is empty, there is still a cold one ready while more tea is made to refill the empty one. We are one ceaseless iced tea drinking family.

After we visited my mom in her new home and the WalMart excursion with my sister, my dad and I went to the Huddle House to eat dinner. It was the first time he’d been back there since Mom fell. He showed me where she fell and told me all about it. The waitress asked about Mom. Several other HH customers asked about Mom too. Dad was very brave. And he must have finally been hungry because he ate shrimp, fried squash, and hash browns. We both drank a lot of iced tea. It was the most I’d seen him eat in a long time.

Back at Dad’s house, I gathered up the new toothbrush and travel size toiletries purchased at WalMart and got myself ready for bed. My dad keeps the heat in his house on HIGH. All the time. Even a cold-natured person like me gets WARM in his house. I did what we all do when we spend the night there. I closed the door the bedroom I was sleeping in. I closed the air vent in the ceiling. I opened up both windows. I tried to sleep. All night long I kept feeling like my throat and nasal passages were drying up and were scratchy and irritated. At first I thought it was just all the dry, hot air. Later I realized it was all the pollen outside coming in through the open windows.

Sunday morning Dad and I listened to his church service on the radio, which is always a treat because one, I don’t get that kind of preaching and singing at home, and two, I get to sit in the recliner instead of an uncomfortable pew. Afterwards, Dad and I went to the Sunday brunch buffet at the Holiday Inn. Just the two of us again.

Dad put a piece of fried chicken, a serving of club steak, and a slice of roast beef on his plate along with everything else. Yes, his appetite is back after all the chemo, radiation, and shingles troubles. The waitress put a pitcher of tea on the table for the two of us. I think Dad had 2 glasses. I drank the rest of the pitcher myself. I ate navy beans and cornbread. Yum, yum, and yum. I’ve never seen navy beans on a public buffet before. It’s just one of those things you usually get at home. Nobody goes “out” to eat navy beans. We had a lot of navy beans at home growing up. Actually, a lot of things about this meal reminded me of when I was younger.

I was one of those people who moved back home after I graduated from college. I lived there 4 years, just my mom and dad and me (6 years if you count my last 2 years in high school). And no, I wasn’t the freeloader kind, not totally anyway. I had a job and made a car payment. I paid for my car insurance, all my health a beauty needs, and a few groceries every now and then. I just needed a place to put my stuff and someplace to refill my iced tea glass. Anyway, during those years, my dad and I did a lot of stuff together that involved food and/or meals. Mostly it was going to get stuff he would cook. Sometimes we would go and get some kind of take out. Anyway, just sitting across from him at the Holiday Inn made me think about all that and smile.

When Dad and I finished up at the Holiday Inn buffet, we came back to the house and I packed up my stuff in a WalMart plastic bag. We went to visit Mom again at her assisted living home, then I got back on the road to home.

I was again surrounded by Quebecians on the 3 hour ride up I-95. My mucus membranes began to compensate for the scratchy throat and nasal passages and soon they were coated with that icky, slimy substance. Congestion, ugh. I finally arrived at home.

Monday morning I went to work but only lasted until about noon, then went home and slept the afternoon away on the couch in between all the sniffling, blowing, and coughing. All day long I craved an iced tea with crushed iced. It was all I wanted. It was the only thing that could bring me comfort, not only for my raw throat, but also for my sentimental soul that had been recently been taken back to the time when my cold, sweet, iced tea dependency was formed in Mom & Dad’s refrigerator.

When Scott got home and was looking for dinner, I convinced him to go to Zaxby’s with me because they have crushed ice and good sweet tea. I ordered the chicken fingers with the hot, hot, buffalo sauce because I thought at least that would be something I might be able to actually taste through my congestion-dulled taste buds. I also got a really big sweet tea with crushed ice. I refilled it once or twice while we were there and then refilled it again before we walked out the door. Ahhhhh.

Oh, I just wanted to get back home, put on my pajamas, sip my sweet tea, suck on the crushed ice, and nurse my congestion. We arrived at home, I gathered up my purse and jumbo cup of tea from the car and headed for the front door. There are two steps up to the porch. Somehow, I missed both of them. Both of my feet went out from under me and I fell flat on the porch. I lost both my shoes and ripped one of my socks so that all five toes where protruding out. Then, almost as if in slow motion, I saw my jumbo cup of crushed ice and sweet tea leave my hand and bounce on the concrete, busting out the bottom of the cup and spilling all that precious comfort all over the porch.

I just sat there and cried. I had a little bit of a skinned knee, but that was all. I wasn’t hurt. Nothing broken. Nothing bleeding. But my tea, my sweet, sweet tea. My sweet tea and crushed ice spilled all over the porch. My comfort was seeping through the cracks in the concrete and over the edge of the porch, leaving nothing but a sticky mess behind.

No, I couldn’t go back to the few minutes before I fell and do it over, differently. I couldn’t scoop up the spilled tea and put back in another cup. I can’t go back to the time when one of the two pitchers of tea in Mom & Dad’s fridge was a gallon jug because all 3 of us were living in the house and drinking it heavily. I can’t go back to the days my dad and I went out to get BBQ or fried chicken for the three of us for dinner. I can’t go back to the day before my mom fell in the parking lot of Huddle House and changed all of our lives forever.

Truth is, my comfort is not back there. My comfort is in what lies ahead. I’m looking forward to the day we’ll never thirst again.

All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. 2 Samuel 14:14 The Message

Monday, March 1, 2010

ONE TWO THREE etc. etc. etc.

At the end of last year, I declared that this new year would be the year of getting back on the beat and finding a steady rhythm in life again after being out of sync for so long.

‘How’s that workin’ out for you?’, you might ask.

Well, in my last post I came clean and admitted my love of the musical, and since then I’ve had all kinds of show tunes running through my head. Even one about rhythm.

Remember that scene in “The King and I” where Mrs. Anna is trying to teach the King of Siam how to dance? More specifically, polka? (and BTW fun facts to know and tell your friends but not really related to this post – I saw Yul Brenner perform this in person. Not on Broadway, but later in a traveling company).

She first tries to get him to feel the beat and counts it out for him:

one – two – three – AND

one – two – three – AND

He tries it together with her.

He counts: ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three.

Which doesn’t seem to go with her one – two – three – AND count.

He then declares, “Something wrong.”

“I know. I forget AND.”

Then they dance happily ever after with the “clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen…”

Well. I experienced the one-two-threes myself this past weekend.

My father-in-law, aka Pop, is visiting with us now. His home is three hours away. When he comes to visit us, he usually stays for a little longer than he used to when my mother-in-law was alive and with him. She would always tell him she was ready to go home. Without her, he’s not as eager to leave. I can certainly understand that and he’s always welcome in my home.

When he’s here, the rhythm of our daily lives changes a little bit. Our food habits are one example. We avoid Taco Bell, at which Scott and I usually dine about twice a week. Pop just doesn’t like the “spicy” food. So, we eat more sandwiches. That’s OK too. It’s just different.

The TV is another thing. Pop likes Fox News and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Nascar. I can take small doses of all of those, but then I have to go and do something else. I can’t watch an entire hour or three of any of that. I certainly don’t mind him watching it. It’s just different than what the TV schedule is when it’s just Scott and I around the house. I’m usually tuned in to the Food Network. I should probably learn to do with a little less TV anyway.

One of the things Pop wanted to do during this visit was to attend a concert that was taking place nearby. The group he wanted to hear was the Primitive Quartet. So, we went this past Friday night. The music they make is a little bit out of my comfort zone; not a concert I would have attended without Pop’s interest and company. I guess you would classify their music as bluegrass southern gospel. I’m not really sure why they call themselves a quartet because there are six men in the group, but oh well. This post is about not being able to count anyway.

The music was a little twangy for my taste, but their presentation was intriguing. There were no soundtracks. Five of the six men played a string instrument while they sang. The acoustic sound was just their voices and their instruments. No electronic sounds at all. Sometimes they would swap the instruments out with each other, showing proficiency with multiple instruments. A violin, an upright bass, two guitars, and a mandolin.

Unlike the Fox News channel, I was able to sit through an hour of the Primitive Quartet without wanting to flip the remote to Chef Duff and the gang.

Most of the audience was like Pop, and rightly so; really into that kind of music. They sang along and clapped and responded to the lyrics with lots of “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords.”

A lot of bluegrass music has a waltz-type beat. You know, like:

OOOM–pa–pa. OOOM–pa–pa. OOOM–pa–pa.

Or in real words:

ONE–two–three. ONE–two–three.

It’s a very simple and distinctive cadence that you can both hear and feel, even for the rhythm-challenged individual.

The audience began to clap along with a particular song that moved with this OOOM-pa-pa rhythm. Except, they weren’t clapping in sync with that distinctive waltz-like pulse.

I felt the beat of the music as:

OOOM – pa – pa – OOOM – pa – pa

ONE – two – three – ONE – two – three

rest – CLAP – CLAP – rest – CLAP – CLAP

The clapping, however, ignored the emphasis on the ONE and/or the OOOM and went like this:

CLAP – rest – CLAPCLAP – rest – CLAPCLAP

Try waltzing to that. It’s like they were two beats behind.

In the words of the King of Siam, “Something wrong.”

I got the giggles. Mostly it tickled me that no one clapping could tell they were ignoring the over-emphasized down beat or that they were out of sync with the obvious rhythm of the music. One person started it, and as with that concert mob-mentality, everyone else got caught up in it and joined it – and didn’t stop until the song was over.

And then the next song the Primitive Quartet sang that had 3 beats to each measure, the audience did exactly the same thing.

It made the concert a lot more enjoyable for me, and not because I was laughing at people who were clueless about the beat. Absolutely not. I was laughing because I could finally hear the rhythm in my life again and I realized that it is not the same one that everyone else hears. As a matter of fact, I might be the only one that hears it.

And now I have “clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen. Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. Jeremiah 31: 3-4