Thursday, April 20, 2006
It is a little passed 3:00 p.m.on Wednesday afternoon here in San Antonio. Satan is taking a nap and I’ve just finished a chapter of Joan Didion’s, “The Year of Magical Thinking”. The book is a memoir about the year immediately following Joan’s husband’s sudden death. It is a book about the grieving process. I suppose it isn’t the usual vacation read, but there is a certain balance in being a lazy hedonist all day and then reading about death at night.
We returned to San Antonio from Austin yesterday afternoon. Yesterday and today have been quiet days spent with Jim and Mary, Satan’s parents, while his sister, Janie, husband, Johnny, and son, Kyle are at work. Jim and Mary are in their eighties. In sharp contrast to my own grandmothers who are the same age and have basically all their faculties, Jim and Mary are much more feeble and forgetful. Jim is plagued with hearing loss, and so lives in a world of his own, and Mary is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.
Yesterday, while Satan ran some errand or another, I sat with Mary as she folded her laundry. It was a load of whites, just a few things, and when she’d finished with all the clothes, she carefully folded the shriveled dryer sheet. As she did this, she told me she was considering moving in and living with her daughter, Janie. She wasn’t sure if she really wanted to make the move or not as it would mean things would be “different”. In actuality, she has been living with Janie for the last five years.
Every day, she asks Satan if he is the youngest or maybe oldest of her children (he is the youngest). She asks about her oldest son, Kenny, and how many children Kenny has (five)? She asks if Janie is her oldest child (she is in the middle)? As night falls, she begins to talk about “going home”. She says she arrived at Janie’s some time around 10:30 in the morning and that it is late and now time for her to take her leave.
Sometimes, Janie or Tom will ask her where her house is and she’ll say it’s not far away. That she can walk there from here. There have been a few occasions when she and Jim have set out walking to try to “go home” (Jim goes along because he can’t hear, and therefore doesn’t know the destination is imaginary). But after about ten minutes, they return.
They are both tiny, Jim and Mary, and the first time I met them I was surprised as Satan is tall—by comparison anyway at 5’11”—much taller than Jim, Mary, and his sister, none of whom top five feet by much, if any. Even the elusive Kenny (his brother), I’m told, is slight and perhaps 5’ 7”. Basically, Satan is the giant of his family.
We went out to dinner with the whole clan one night last week, before the trip to Austin. Went to an Italian place and rode in Johnny’s giant Dodge Ram. With three rows of seats, it can accommodate six people. Satan and I rode in the very back, and Jim and Mary in the middle.
I watched as Jim and Mary sat silent in their seats during the ride, their tiny gray heads bobbing along and barely clearing the backs of their seats. They had already had dinner, and were supposedly going along just for dessert. I was in for a surprise, however, because once at the restaurant, they ordered, and consumed with gusto, salads, pizza and then huge bowlfuls of cake topped with ice cream.
They may be small, but they eat like Longshoremen.
Satan and I are totally out of our element, being at loose ends all day. It got the better of us this morning, when I was seized by a sudden and irresistible desire to rearrange Janie’s living room furniture. Before long, we were both huffing and puffing, and Jim and Mary’s home health nurse, Big Cindy, even got in on the act, helping us to relocate the couch.
Eventually, the whole fiasco ended with us deciding that new lamps were in order and heading out to Target (woohoo!) to pick up a couple. But not JUST ANY Target. SUPER Target. This meant that we were also able to pick up groceries for dinner. Wee!
On the menu this evening is Greek salad, spaghetti, and three cheese garlic bread sticks. Satan and I have taken over dinner cooking duties as the working members of the family don’t arrive home until as late as seven o’clock. The traffic in these parts is HORRENDOUS.
And the HEAT. Oy. Don’t get me started. Today is the first day the temperature hasn’t been in the high nineties. Yesterday afternoon, during our last outing in Austin, which included us walking for long distances outside near the UT Austin campus, I became so overheated that Satan had motivate me to continue with promises of beer and cigarettes once we got to the car. Totally false, of course. The cigarette part. Otherwise, I’ve drunk my weight in mocha frappacino’s from Starbuck’s. They have remarkable restorative effects.
We will be at Janie’s until Saturday when we will check into the conference hotel downtown. I will then finally get my first glimpse of the River Walk. I may not be able to post any pictures until then either. We haven’t had the best of luck in these parts jumping on to wireless connections.
Until next time.