Monday, April 25, 2005

texas or bust

I called my mother last week to tell her that I was coming to visit.

"Hi Mom!" I said as soon as she picked up the phone.

"Hullo?" I heard her say. Her speech sounded muffled and distant.

"Turn the phone around!" I hollered.

"Who's that?" she demanded, directly into the earpiece. She keeps picking up the phone upside down. You can't blame her, really. When she first starting using telephones you cranked it up, held a cup to your ear and shouted into a box on the wall. It was all very straight forward.

"Ma, you're holding the phone upside down. Turn it around!" I shouted, presumably into her mouth.

"Oh, wait a minute! I'm holding it upside down!" She giggled. I listened as she shuffled things around. Sometimes she says she's going to turn the TV down, and I hear her hitting the buttons on the phone. I've done the same thing, truth be told, pointing the phone at the TV in a vain attempt to change the channel. And people wonder why I don't have a cell phone.

"How you doing, Ma?"

"Yesterday I ate seven...maybe eight... chocolate Ex-Lax!" she exclaimed. She could not have sounded more delighted.

"You did what now?"

"Here, I'll let Joel tell you." My brother got on the line.

"I handed her the package," he began, "and told her to take two. I meant two squares. I don't know why I didn't snap to it ~ I should have known she'd take two whole bars ~ half the whole thing. More than half."

"How is she? Is she OK?"

He gave a low chuckle. "It was a nerve-wracking night, I can tell you. I came in and checked on her a few times. She seemed fine. Just fell asleep. She was out like a light." He laughed again. "She liked it! She's happy about it. You know how she is".

Indeed I do. My mother has been addicted to laxatives for as long as I can remember. She's refused to take medication of any kind, including aspirin, for most of her life, but laxatives are another story; she can't get through the day without them. She thinks of them as vitamins. Never having developed a taste for fresh fruits or vegetables, she has always preferred to just take a pill, then relax and enjoy a diet of fried chicken, cheese omelettes and ice cream. Need fiber? She put two desserts on the table for dinner every night when I was growing up. I developed into a rather plump teenager. She, on the other hand, weighed all of 105 pounds then; 86 pounds soaking wet now. Go figure.

She got back on the phone.
"So how you feeling, Mom?"

"Pretty good!" she chirped.

"Listen, I called to tell you I'm coming for your birthday!"

"Oh, that's nice. When?"

"On your birthday! Well, the last week in April, anyway. It's a long story. I have to fly on a Wednesday because..."

"Good, good....I have to go now."

"What...why? What's the rush?"

"I just have to go!" She laughed. "Can't wait to see you. Bye!"

She hung up.

So I'm off to Texas, to party with Mom and her Peeps, on the occasion of her 92nd birthday. I have no idea what to get her. Maybe a box of chocolates. The box will say Godiva, but the contents might be a whole 'nother story.

And poor Hubs. He'll be all alone with the Stalker.

Friday, April 08, 2005

we are the people our parents warned us about

We met our friends Bill and Marion for drinks at the local Fish House Restaurant late yesterday afternoon. We arrived to find the parking lot jammed, with people wandering about in Hawaiian shirts and belly packs. Two large tour buses loomed ominously in a tiny side lot.

“Uh oh,” said Marion. “Something’s going on. Looks like some kind of tourist convention.”

“I didn’t think tourists still dress like that,” said Bill.

“We’ll never get seats,” fretted Turk.

We elbowed our way in and nailed 4 at the bar.

“Jackpot!” sang Marion. The joint was jumping with brightly plumed revelers.

"What's going on?" asked Turk of the bartender.

"Jimmy Buffet's at the Pond, and the Angels are playing a home game!" shouted the barkeep. I looked around ~ sure enough, smartly dressed in their own colors like a very tidy rival street gang were red-shirted Angel fans mingling amongst the Parrot Heads. We ordered before a turf war could break out. From the restaurant sound system Jimmy sang:

Haul the sheet in as we ride on the wind
that our Forefathers harnessed before us.
Hear the bells ring as the tide rigging sings.
It's a son of a gun of a chorus.

"So you missin' the pope yet?" Bill, a devout Catholic asked my husband, a very lapsed one and no great fan of the church.

"Can't say as I am," he replied, drinking deeply of his frosty pint. Bill laughed.

"Wish I coulda' gone to Rome," he said.

"I wish I coulda' gone to this concert," I moaned. Jimmy sang:

Where it all ends I can't fathom, my friends.
If I knew, I might toss out my anchor.
So I'll cruise along always searchin' for songs,
Not a lawyer, a thief or a banker.

Parrot Heads and Angel fans jockeyed for seats.

"Looks like Arte Moreno is going do alright in spite of us," lamented Marion. "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? What kind of idiocy is that? Makes us all look like morons!" We ordered cheese quesadillas and oysters and drank to putting a curse on the team owner's head. Jimmy searched for his lost shaker of salt.

"So you think the pope is in heaven yet?" asked Bill. Bill likes to talk religion with agnostics, Jehovah's Witnesses, lapsed Catholics and others he considers lost souls.

"Hasn't he got an express elevator to the top?" grumbled Turk. "The bouncer's at the gate wavin' him in right now, like this.." and he did his best impression of a burly club doorman giving a VIP a cool nod signaling go ahead ; a signal we ourselves have never experienced directly, I might add.

Bill smiled. "You really think so?"

Jimmy sang:

I don't want to live on that kind of island

No, I don't want to swim in a roped off sea.
Too much for me, too much for me
I've got to be where the wind and the water are free.

The Angel fans left for the game and we left for Chinese. Over Sizzling Beef, Szechuan Chicken, and Moo Shoo Pork we debated Social Security reform and tried to answer the Geography Trivia questions on the back of our cocktail napkins. We started in teams and disintegrated into three against Turk, who is some kind of geography savant. We drank sweet pink wine and jasmine tea. I ate with chop sticks.

"Ignore her. She's just showing off," said my husband.

I shrugged modestly. "It's a gift."

"Yeah, just you and 8 billion Chinese people."

We opened our fortune cookies and added the phrase "in the bedroom" to the end of each. Bill's said "You will travel far..." Marion gave him a dirty look. Mine said "You have executive ability...." I thought that sounded promising, and indicated I would look into putting it on my resume'.

We headed out to the lot for the short drive home. Bill, who still has high hopes for my husband although he has quite given up on me, hollered "See you in church!" as he got into his car.

"Don't hold your breath!" replied the Hubs good-naturedly.
And in my head Jimmy sang:

And there's that one particular harbour
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within

Lakes below the mountains

Flow into the sea
Like oils applied to canvas
They permeate through me.