Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Defiant One


Before we boarded our flight home from Israel, we made a quick stop at the duty-free shop at Ben Gurion Airport. We picked up some Ahava lotion for my mom. She likes the special formula of Dead Sea minerals, and the convenient travel size tubes. When I told my husband that we needed to get a few extra he said, "She probably uses them like cartons of cigarettes in the joint." Then we rushed to catch our flight.

After our son graduated, I prepared myself for the worst. Though I knew he would be eating better at home, anything could happen once he stepped out of our house. All it took was a matter of minutes for him to get lost, robbed, or kidnapped by a gang of raccoons.

It didn't matter that he lived on his own for four years at college, now he was on my turf, and I felt entirely helpless. I've heard many stories about sneaky twenty-something kids who've gotten into all kinds of trouble. Little did I know, that he wasn't the one I needed to worry about.

I usually talk to my mom on the phone at least twice a day. This rule still applies on days that we spend together. The other night, I reminded my mom that I had an early dental appointment in the morning, and that I would talk to her afterward. She wished me luck, and said that she also had to get up early. When I asked where she was going at the crack of dawn, she replied, "Downstairs." This struck me odd, as she usually doesn't go to early morning activities at her retirement home, but she said goodnight before I could get anymore information.

The following day, I tried calling my mom, but there was no answer. She finally called me back later in the afternoon. I asked her if she was feeling okay, and she said that she was fine. Then I asked her if she went to the doctor. She said, "No, why? What have you heard? Who told you?"

I told her that her story didn't make any sense, and if she was only downstairs then she would've returned my call earlier. Then I asked what was wrong with her, and why she had to keep it a secret. She gave me her standard line, "I didn't want to worry you."

I dove deeper by asking how she got to her appointment. "My nurse took me." She has a visiting nurse that is set up through her insurance. I didn't realize that they were that close. I asked why she asked her to drive her, when I could've taken her. My mom said that her nurse doesn't drive, so her husband went to the hospital.

My Novocaine was beginning to wear off, but I tried to remain calm.

"So her husband drove you?"

"No, he met us at the hospital. Her boss drove me."

"Let me get this straight. So the nurse, her boss at the agency, and the nurse's husband were all at the doctor's office with you, because you were suffering from chronic constipation? It was okay to bother all of them, but you didn't want to bother your own daughter?"

"That's right."

"Did anyone in the group bring you a box lunch?"

"No, but no one gave me any lip either."

"I'm sure your doctor referred you to a gastroenterologist. Did you make an appointment?"

"No, I need to see a spine specialist first."

"Makes perfect sense. I'm sure he'll do wonders for your constipation. And I suppose you gave your nurse a nice present for taking you."

"As a matter of fact, I did."

"The Ahava lotion?"

"It's the least I could do."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Road To Graduation


Nowadays, so many students are on the five year plus plan for college graduation. Fortunately, both of our sons took the standard four year route, and we were thrilled to celebrate with our younger son last weekend. Our road trip to the ceremony was almost as challenging as his college courses.

Last December, I invited my mom to join us after we made the hotel reservations. Though we booked three rooms over five months in advance, we still had to stay about thirty minutes away from campus. Initially my mom was sure that she would "ruin my time," and declined the offer. We continued to hold onto our rooms, in the hope that she would change her mind.

Later, when both of our boys told her how much they wanted her to come she replied, "I'll think about it." After her hair stylist agreed to take her a day early, the plans were set. Now the next step was to find the proper vehicle to transport six passengers, and my mom's luggage for a ten day stay on an overnight trip.

 Once again, my hubby was in full research mode. Though my car seats six comfortably, there wouldn't have been enough room for our bags, plus my mom's walker and wheelchair. We decided on a Ford Expedition SUV which seats eight, and barely had room to spare.

The seating arrangement was as follows: I was in the front seat with hubby, my mom and her caregiver were in the middle, and my brother and older son were in the way-back. Because the truck was so long, the passengers in the middle seat couldn't hear what the front seat was saying, the backseat couldn't hear what the front seat was saying, and no one could hear what my mom was saying in the middle seat, as she's such a low talker. We spent the majority of the four hour drive saying, "Huh, what, and can you repeat that?" Though my son and his uncle were off in their own little world in the way-back talking about everything under the sun. I tried to use my superior hearing skills, and booming baritone voice to translate for everyone, but even my powers succumbed to my husband's tin ear, and lead foot.


That night we took our grad out for a delicious Italian dinner. My dear friend from college was also there celebrating with her daughter. It seemed like only yesterday when our son took a bite out of her daughter's cheek at his second birthday at Chuck E. Cheese, and now they were graduating college together.

The next morning, my prince of a husband got up early to make a bakery run. Then he personally delivered muffins, bagels, and orange juice. When he reached my mom's room, he rang the bell, and set off flashing lights. This startled my mom and her caregiver. She thought that this was some kind of hotel emergency warning. I told her that it must have been a special system to notify a hearing impaired person that someone was at the door. It made sense that this was featured in a handicapped room. It's amazing how you just become drunk with knowledge in a college town.

Instead of being announced in alphabetical order, the graduates received their empty diploma cases, according to where they were seated. This made it difficult to gauge when to take a bathroom break, but we all managed to hear our boy's name called. Later when we dropped him off at his lovely house, his friends were in mid-celebration on the front porch. They all called out his name, and greeted him with a big round of applause.

I could've written about how hard our son worked, and how he never gave up. Though when he looks back on this day, he'll remember how happy he was that Nana and Unc came to see him, and that his friends cheered him on, no matter how drunk with knowledge he was, after we left.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

April In Paris


A few weeks ago, we flew to Paris on the way to see my mother-in-law in Israel. My husband was very thorough in his research, while I called friends and family for advice.

 At first, he was concerned about the language barrier, so he looked up the most important conversational words and phrases. They included: bon jour, au revoir, Ou sont les toilettes (Where are the restrooms?) pardon, s'il vous plait (please), and merci. More importantly, l'eau distillee which means distilled water. This is an integral component of his traveling CPAP machine (for sleep apnea), which he dragged with us, but never bothered to use.

We were determined to see everything we could in just four days, so we packed our most comfortable walking shoes, and took off. We began our tour along the magnificent shops of the Champs- Elysses, It was surprising to see how many American stores were thrown into the mix including Banana Republic, and Starbucks. Since we were on a mission to cover a lot of territory, we just window shopped, and continued on to the Arc De Triomph, and the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower

 Mr. Prepared even downloaded a free iPhone app which enabled us to have audio tours of the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay  and the Palace of Versailles. Our friend advised us to purchase a discounted museum pass to visit all of the above which helped us avoid the long lines. We also walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral, and strolled through both the Jewish and the Latin Quarters.

Notre Dame Cathedral
 The weather was comfortable with temperatures in the sixties for the first two days, though there was always the threat of rain. It began to pour in the middle of dinner in a partially covered outdoor cafe. Fortunately, it didn't last long, and was over before we walked back to our hotel.

 That night I noticed something very disturbing. When we were viewing our photos, hubby looked fine, but my hair had taken on a brand new persona. Though the Chicago humidity gave me carefree curls, for some reason the humidity in Paris left me flat and lifeless. In some of the photos, my hair looks like it was drawn in with yellow crayon, and my teeth are more horse than human. Suddenly, it hit me. I'm in one of the most romantic cities in the world, and I look like Gary Busey's twin. My husband did a great job of disguising his displeasure, as he snored peacefully during my breakdown.

The Siene River 

 When I called my mom back in the states, she asked if we had seen any guillotines. We had been to Place de la Concorde where Louis the XV and Marie Antoinette were beheaded, but there were no guillotines to be found. I thought this was an important question for our hotel concierge. At first, he didn't seem to know what a guillotine was. Then he did some research, and told us that the last execution by guillotine in Paris was in 1977. Needless to say, we were quite shocked.
 On our last day, we took a train to the artist colony Montmartre. This is where Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Hemingway found their inspiration. Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris movie was filmed there. Located atop a hill, the scenery was beautiful, as we walked along the steep, cobblestone streets. Artists were out painting portraits, and selling their wares.The unseasonably cold temperatures, and pouring rain didn't seem to slow them down. If only the weather had cooperated for more photos.

 As I walked the streets of Montmartre resembling a wet rat, a barmaid asked my husband if he was famous. Of course she couldn't remember who he reminded her of, but she ruled out my guess of Dustin Hoffman.

Moulin Rouge

 Since we couldn't get tickets to Moulin Rouge, we went to a similar show at Le Lido. I was mesmerized by the topless showgirls who looked almost identical from the neck down. The only difference being, that some had more ribs sticking out than others. My favorite act was a man who carried a lifelike floating head, that was seemingly interchangeable with his own. We were sitting close to the stage, and neither one of us spotted any wires.

 Despite my hair, and a few days of lousy weather we still had a wonderful time. We never found out who my husband's mysterious celebrity look-alike was, and I was happy to leave mine in Paris.

At our hotel before braving the weather


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IWSG: When Characters Fall Out Of The Sky


It's time for another addition of  Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit the diversely talented members who will welcome you with open arms.

The night before our flight home from Israel, we upgraded our seats to the exit aisle. Since we had to leave for the airport early in the morning with only a few hours sleep, we both took turns dozing off on the flight. Shortly after, the first character from another dimension appeared.

The exit aisle was located next to the restroom. Though I was too far away to see if the "Vacant" or "Occupied" sign was on, the man's body language led me to believe that he was first in line. He started swaying back and forth doing the "potty dance." This dance occurs at an early age when children are having so much fun playing outside that they hold it in until the last minute. This results into spastic convulsions in a panic to race home to the bathroom. Sadly, this condition often begins to reappear in middle-age, and can be set-off with as little as a cup of coffee.

As time passed, he decided to turn our little exit corner into his own personal gym. He did a series of exercises from running in place to a complete stretching routine. I was looking forward to getting back to my book, when the next character appeared.

This man was in his late sixties, and enjoyed shuffling between the galley, and the restroom. He acted like an overserved patron at a singles bar. While nursing a cup of water, he unabashedly flirted with a pretty, young woman as she waited to use the restroom. When he ran out of people to bother, he eventually used the facilities himself. Afterward, he slid into our exit corner to tuck in his shirt, zip up his fly, and buckle his belt. It was almost as if he thought he was entering a fifth wall where no one would be able to see him. If only he had been invisible, then we wouldn't have had to see his Howard Hughes toenail peeking through the hole in his sock. For all of the rules on airlines, not being allowed to take your shoes off should be one of them.

I began to doze off again, and awoke to a crowd full of people. Suddenly, our little corner was converted into a cozy comedy club. A group of men were laughing it up before their wives came to spoil their fun. Each of the three wives looked like one of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters, while each of the husbands looked like they wanted to find another hideout.

Then I started wondering what they thought about me. Did they catch me sleeping with my mouth open? Was I covered in crumbs from the tasteless lunch? Could they see that I ran out of clean socks, and was wearing navy tweed with black? Of course my shoes never left my feet, as I follow my own rules.

If the first character was The Gym Rat, the second Herbert The Pervert, the third Cinderella's Steps and Their Fellas, who would I be? Just a pale observer of unsavory characters, who looked like she could've been traveling from Wisconsin instead of a very warm climate from halfway around the world. Whoever said that you had to look out the window to see interesting sights?