Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dam Bridge is Done!

Some of you might be getting a tiny bit tired of hearing (reading) about me complain about crossing the Hoover Dam when traveling from Vegas down to Arizona, most recently to visit Jill and Jared and family. WELL, last week I drove down there again and at LONG LAST, the dam bridge is done!

A friend of mine is lamenting that she wanted to go down there and drive over the top of the dam (on the old road) ONE MORE TIME, and my question is, WHY? WHY WHY WHY? If you want to visit the dam, visit the dam and leave us passers-through out of it!

And this is why I'm so happy about the bridge being done. Earlier this year (around March I think) I was driving down to Arizona and, as I sat in traffic trying to cross the dam, I took a few pictures of the progress on the bridge. Here are the bridge progress pictures. The first one was up close while I was driving by it from underneath. The second one was after I crossed over the dam and was ALMOST past the mess of traffic.

While I was sitting in traffic, I accidentally snapped a picture of the dash of my car. It's not the best picture and you can't see it that well, but it does tell a story. Here it is, and note how fast I'm going when I took the picture. That's right. Zero. I was STOPPED IN TRAFFIC. Just what you want when you have a six-hour drive ahead of you.

Now take a look at what crossing the dam is like now that the bridge is done. I took this picture last Wednesday, late afternoon. I was driving in the rain, so this picture isn't the greatest, either (please excuse the coffee filter with popcorn in it sitting on the dash, that's how we Mormons use the coffee filters at the office--popcorn snacking) , but notice that it's a beautiful, wide road with no stoppage at all! And they've built it so that you can't even tell that you're how-many-thousand feet off the ground, it just feels like you're driving along on a normal road anywhere.

And here's the best part. Take a look at my dash THIS time. That's right. Sixty miles per hour. Hallelujah and glory be! The dam bridge is done!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Aww! Cute, cute puppy!

I just had to add this video I got from a friend. This doggie is so cute!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa – August 2010

The weekend before last I drove up to Salt Lake City with Dad for April’s first temple session. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t have enough material for an ‘Adventures with Grandpa’ chapter because it was such a short trip. After all, we left on Saturday morning and returned Sunday afternoon. Surely you can’t squeeze too many adventures in 36 hours or less! WRONG!

First of all, I must explain why we didn’t leave for Utah until Saturday morning. Several months ago, April called and invited me to come to the temple with her family on August 21. I said I would go. I marked it on my calendar and it became “something I’m doing a few months from now.” Fast forward a little bit, and Cheryl, a friend of mine from work, came by my office to tell me that Weird Al was going to be in Vegas this summer. I always go with her, so I agreed to go again. It didn’t occur to me that those dates might collide until after she had bought my ticket. Weird Al was FRIDAY night; the temple session was SATURDAY afternoon! I couldn’t tell Cheryl I wasn’t going with her, since she had already bought my ticket. And I couldn’t miss April’s session.

Meanwhile, Joanna had told Dad that we would drive up to SLC together. This meant that I would have to leave Vegas pretty early to meet Dad in Cedar City, as we usually do. I didn’t bother trying to explain to Dad about Weird Al. I just didn’t think he would understand. I just told him I had other plans on Friday and couldn’t go until Saturday.

Of course this meant that I wasn’t going to get much sleep Friday night. The concert was a lot of fun, as always, but I didn’t get home until around midnight, and I still had to finish packing and stuff, and I had to be up by 5:00. I had talked to Dad about meeting in Cedar City. I said I was planning to leave at 6:00 AM. He asked, “You want to meet at 6 AM?” I said NO-NO-NO; I’m going to LEAVE at 6 AM! Shoot, if I was going to get to Cedar at 6 AM, I might as well not go to bed at all! Ugh, I’m glad I got that cleared up before we left!

I was pumping gas at the Sam’s Club gas station when Dad called for the first time at 6 AM. I told him I was on my way. He said that he would get in the car and leave, and I told him NO, wait an hour! Make another sweep through the garden! Anything! He sometimes seems to think that we’re driving the same distance (actually it’s about 95 miles for him, close to 190 for me), and I always get a lot of razzing from him when he always beats me there. One trip, I was just leaving Vegas when he called to say he was already at Joe and Marie’s, and asked, am I almost there? He really gave me a hard time that trip. But I digress.

This trip, when I got to Joe and Marie’s house, Dad was there (of course) and it looked like he was about ready to jump into my car and go. His suitcase was open on the sidewalk and he was digging through it, looking for something. It wasn’t until I returned from visiting the bathroom and getting the home remodeling update from Veronica (very nice, by the way!) that I realized that Dad had locked his keys in his car and was searching through the suitcase for a spare set. His keys were still in the ignition.

I don’t know how he managed to do it (lock the keys inside), but I don’t have any room to criticize. Just a month or so ago, I did it myself. To make a long story short (and you never thought I would ever actually do that – shorten a story), I had rented a truck to move Jenny’s stuff from her apartment to my garage. After all of Jenny’s friends had unloaded the truck at my house, I locked the truck and went inside the house to take a break before driving back across town to return it. It was probably 112 degrees that day and I was melting! When I decided to leave … guess what? Keys in the ignition, doors locked. The rental place was already closed for the day, so I couldn’t call them. I could call Pop-A-Lock, but that’s extra time and expense, and it was a work night for both Jenny and me, and she was meeting me over at the rental place. I went back inside the house in search of a wire coat hanger, and it took me a while to find one (NO – WIRE – HANGERS – EVER!) Luckily for me, I had left the windows cracked open a bit in an attempt to keep the truck’s interior below the boiling point, so I had a little room to negotiate, even though the truck had those smooth door locks that can’t really be grabbed. Then I spotted the wing windows in the doors. I maneuvered the coat hanger over there and managed to unlock the wing window. After pushing that open, it was easy to reach in and unlock the door. Success! Nobody would have even known that I did such a dumb thing (lock the keys inside) if I didn’t blab about it.

Anyway, back to Dad and his car. Dad had told Veronica that he had an extra car key hidden behind his back license plate, so I suggested we just get that one so we could get on our way, and eventually he did. So off we went. We hadn’t even left Cedar City when I asked Dad if he had remembered his temple clothes. He always brings them (and how he can squish so much stuff into such a tiny suitcase, I’ll never know – it’s about the size of Jacob’s lunch box), but this time he forgot. We were going to the Draper temple, and they don’t rent clothes there. When we stopped for gas, I sent a text to everybody I could think of to see if anybody had extras that he could borrow. Before long, everybody was combing their neighborhoods for extra sets of clothes. Eventually Shayler called to tell me that his parents, who live in Colorado, had gone there without clothes (the temple clothes, of course – I’m sure they were actually wearing other clothes when they arrived – but it’s amusing to visualize) and the temple had some for out-of-towners to borrow, so it turned out that Dad could (and did) borrow clothes from the temple, so that was eventually resolved, but not without a bunch of scrambling around and panicking first, which is always a fun addition to any trip.

We eventually made it to Draper and met Joanna and Shayler at Wendy’s for something to eat before the session. Afterwards, we were all standing together in front of the temple, trying to decide what to do next. We wanted to go eat somewhere but had no idea where. Everybody was chatting, and Dad was having a hard time hearing us. He got a bit frustrated and groused that we weren’t including him in the discussion and that we were all laughing at him because he couldn’t hear. I told him quite seriously that we weren’t laughing about it, we were crying. And that’s the truth! How about we all pitch in a few bucks and get him a new set of hearing aids? They’ve got to have better ones that what he has!

Somebody mentioned Chuckorama, and everybody stampeded to their cars. Even though we were a pretty big group (10) and it was a Saturday night, we didn’t have to wait long for a table. Everything was really good and we had a great time.

We went to Joanna and Shayler’s place to spend the night. They have a second bedroom with Joanna’s old twin bed in it, so Dad slept in there. I brought my air mattress, and I slept on it in the living room. Joanna and Shayler’s church starts at 9 AM, so we were up early the next morning, competing for their one bathroom. Joanna got in there first and then came to wake me up when it was my turn, calling “Wakey wakey!” (I wonder where she got that?) She also aimed her hair dryer at me every time I passed her in the hall, saying “Whoops!” I swear, everything I did to those kids when they were growing up is coming back to haunt me now. Next they’ll be vacuuming up spiders and chasing me around with the vacuum cleaner.

Dad had brought a melon from his garden for us to have for breakfast on Sunday morning. He had explained to me that he had skipped eating any on Saturday morning just so we could have some on Sunday. We had put it in the fridge Saturday night. As I was getting ready in the bathroom, I could hear him talking to Joanna. She was telling him that it was his turn to get in the shower, and he kept saying that he was afraid that if he left us alone with the melon, we would eat it all and he wouldn’t get any. And, after all, he didn’t even get any Saturday morning. She eventually convinced him it was safe to get in the shower, but as soon as he closed the bathroom door, she decided to hide the melon from him. She grabbed it out of the fridge and put it in the ice chest I had brought. Then we sat and happily anticipated his return to the kitchen. Of course, the first thing he did when he returned to the kitchen was selecting a knife from her knife block (“none of these are very sharp”) and opened the fridge. He looked. He looked some more. Finally he asked, “what happened to the melon?!” Joanna sang out, “I guess it got eaten!” I got to watch him chase Joanna around the apartment and attempt to choke her when he caught her. Then we had some cantaloupe!

I was sitting at the kitchen table putting on my makeup and Dad, happily eating his melon, was sitting there with me and providing a running commentary on what I was doing. How many face lotions do I need, anyway? And why am I putting on another kind of powder? What’s that stuff on your eyes supposed to do? When he suggested that I needed more blush to try to better attract a new husband, I called Joanna back into the kitchen and told her that the potatoes for dinner needed peeling NOW and we put him to work at the sink. (She said it could wait until after church, but I assured her that it couldn’t!)

We walked to church. Joanna and Shayler’s current calling is to teach Gospel Doctrine in Sunday School, so of course we had to stay for that. (Dad complained that we were skipping Relief Society and Priesthood Meeting, but I told him that since we usually escape after Sacrament Meeting, we were making improvements, slowly working our way up to the full three hours.) After Sacrament Meeting I visited the ladies’ room, and I guess I took longer than expected, because when I joined them in the Sunday School class, Joanna and Shayler were already up front teaching the lesson. As I sat down next to Dad, he loudly announced, “DO YOU FEEL BETTER NOW?” My reply to him – SHH!

We had a nice dinner with Joanna and Shayler and then began our journey back home. In between falling asleep, he woke up and complained that I wasn’t talking much. I was secretly listening to my iPod with one ear bud. I needed a little peace and quiet! We parted ways in Cedar City and both made it home alive. It was a short trip, but a fun one!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa -- Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 5

Here we go with the fifth and final chapter of this edition of “Adventures with Grandpa.” If you think this has dragged on forever, imagine what it was like to experience it firsthand!

We got up early and left Ron’s house about 6:00 AM. Ron’s daughter had wanted to cook breakfast for us that morning and Uncle Frank wanted to pack us a lunch before we left, but we were (or I was) anxious to get on the road. Vera had the afternoon off! We had to get there! We didn’t get very far down the road, though, before Dad announced that he wanted to stop and visit a friend in Redding on the way, someone he “hasn’t seen in 50 years.” I was getting the idea that this might be an elderly person, and to be honest I wasn’t excited about it. Dad was sure that we would only be there for a couple of minutes, but you know how that goes. I can’t remember the woman’s name, but Dad called her with his cell phone to tell her we were passing through and wanted to stop and see her. She said that she would love to see us, but she had an important appointment that day and wouldn’t be home until around 3:00 PM. Since we would be passing through Redding more like 11:00 AM (even earlier if I had any say in it), Dad decided that we wouldn’t be able to stop. DARN!

Another thing that Dad has always done whenever we are driving toward California is sing, “California, here I come. Right back where I started from.” Unfortunately, that’s the only part of the song that he knows, so he sings just those two phrases over and over again. He’s done this all my life, and this trip was no exception. He also likes to sing a variation of our national anthem, the punch line of a joke he heard many years ago, “Jose, Can you See?” He repeats that one phrase over and over again, chuckling to himself, and will tell the joke AGAIN if you let him (I didn’t). When he isn’t singing one of those things, he amuses himself by singing, “Only 597 more miles to go. 597 more miles to go. High ho the dairy-oh, only 597 more miles to go,” every time we pass another mile marker with the mileage to our next destination on it. I can remember us kids singing that song when we were traveling as a family and it used to drive Mom crazy. Now I know where we got it! (He admitted to me that it irritated her when he sang it, too.) As a child I didn’t understand her irritation. Believe me, I do now!

A description of the trip also wouldn’t be complete without listing a few of his driving habits. During the first part of our trip (up through Nevada), I felt safe letting him drive. Wide open spaces, nobody on the road, a few animals here and there, not much to worry about. Driving on freeways in heavy traffic, though, can be a bit (even more than a bit) scary. He complains about the cruise control in my car, saying that it didn’t work. I ask him if he turned it on. He answers yes; in fact he turned it on twice to make sure it was working. I would have to try to explain to him that if he pushed the button twice, he likely turned it off again. He couldn’t seem to recognize the little light that comes on in the dash when the cruise control is on. He also likes to speed up and slow down, just using the cruise control instead of the gas pedal and brake, which can also be pretty crazy in heavy traffic. Then there’s more complaining about how it isn’t working right. In my mind I’m thinking, “If you would just flippin’ stop friggin’ messing with it, maybe just maybe it would!” Outwardly I’m just bracing for impact.

In addition to constant complaints about the cruise control, he was always adjusting the height of the steering wheel. There we are, careening down the freeway at 70+ miles per hour, and he decides to make an adjustment. He releases the lever, moves the steering wheel, and then tries to hold the steering wheel in place while fumbling around to try to find the lever to tighten it again. Meanwhile we are passing semis and zooming around corners. He couldn’t seem to tighten the steering wheel again, so there we were, driving along with a steering wheel that is flopping all around. It’s a miracle I have any hair left at all. Meanwhile, he is wondering why I don’t take a nap while he’s driving.

Back to the trip, we drove along, passing through Oregon, California, and down towards Sacramento. When Dad was driving, I relieved my anxiety by texting Vera and attempting to laugh it off. It’s either laugh about it or cry! We finally arrived at Wiscombe Funeral Home midafternoon. I doubt that there are many other visitors there who fall out of their cars and kiss the ground when they arrive! Vera came outside to greet us and led us inside. She noticed me furtively glancing around and laughingly told me that there were currently no “customers” present. What a relief! Shawn Wiscombe, who lived in Caliente for a number of years and was even Dad’s neighbor for a while there, came downstairs to talk to us. He plans to sell the mortuary and move to Texas. I was worried for a moment that Vera would follow him there (it would be even harder to visit her there), but she wants to stay in California. The mortuary is adjacent to the University of California Davis campus, and Dad mentioned that when he was choosing his college, the final decision was between UCD and Utah State. He enjoyed looking at the campus and thinking about what his life might have been going there. It’s kind of mind-boggling to think what a difference that choice might have made to our entire family’s existence! Funny how small decisions can change everything.

We had a grand tour of the facilities. Very interesting! Then we went to Vera’s place, a cute apartment. We sat down to chat for a bit before going to dinner. I thought I was doing my best to include Dad in the conversation, but before long, snoring sounds came from his side of the sofa. That meant that it was safe for Vera and me to have a REAL conversation! Just talking without repeating, explaining, and rewording for Dad’s benefit!

After Dad woke up from his nap we went to a nice Italian restaurant. Then we went on a long stroll through an arboretum that’s maintained by UCD. They have a lot of plants that are labeled with their common and Latin names, so of course we had to stop every three steps or so to read another sign and examine the plant. Of course this doesn’t mean that we only analyzed the plants that were labeled. We looked at unlabeled plants, too, and tried to divine their origins. And of course there was later the inevitable quiz. Anyone who has spent any time at all with Dad knows this drill well.

I guess I shouldn’t tell this part of the story (TMI), but here I go anyway. (Besides, I asked Vera, and she said I should go ahead!) When we first arrived at the arboretum, Dad tooted (it was just a little one), and I thought it sounded just like a quack. I looked over at Vera and asked, “Did he just step on a duck?” We grinned maniacally at each other and I started to tell her a few family stories on the subject (mainly starring her father, my mother, and one of my old boyfriends). Right then we turned the corner and there they were … some ducks, floating serenely on the river. It really tickled me and I started to giggle so hard that my vision blurred and I could hardly walk. Vera had to elbow me a few times to get me back on track. Dad apparently didn’t notice my hysteria and continued to examine all the plants, commenting on their history and origin, which got me going even worse. I guess you had to be there, but the memory still causes my eyes to leak a little.

After touring the arboretum for a few hours, we returned to Vera’s house, where she graciously slept on the couch so that I could have her bed and Dad slept in her second bedroom. We (Vera and I) stayed up too late chatting, but it was worth it. It was so nice, such a fun visit.

Early the next morning we got up and headed for home, another long, arduous drive. I have one more description to tell before I finish this long thing and get it published. It happened not long after we left Vera’s place. We were driving over Donnor’s Pass, and I was behind the wheel. Dad decided it was time for breakfast, so he got out his little plastic bowl and poured in some cereal, but he couldn’t find his spoon. I told him that I might have one in the console or glove compartment of my car, so he dug through them, but the best he could find was a spork, one of those fork/spoon things they give you at Taco Bell. I tried to tell him that it would work okay, but he wanted his spoon, so he decided to crawl to the back of the car to look for it. He undid his seat belt and proceeded to climb into the back, crawling across all of the junk we had piled back there (it seemed so full of stuff, I’m not sure how we managed to put Amanda’s cedar chest in there, too – Vera can attest to it, she had to attempt to ride back there between the mortuary and her apartment the day before). Keep in mind that we are traveling down a mountainous, curvy road and I am speeding around corners. There was an occasional THUMP from the back of the car where Dad bumped against one side or other of the car as he searched. I was also nervous that in his return to the front seat, he might kick me in the head or something (memories from long trips with my siblings and me crammed in the back of a station wagon kept returning). He never found his spoon, though, and eventually returned empty-handed. He resigned himself to using the spork. He pulled out his bottle of Caliente tap water, poured it over his cereal, and ate.

We made it back to Caliente about 3:30 PM. We loaded my newly-refurbished bird cage (it was falling apart and Dad fixed it for me – he originally made it for me many years ago) and I was on my way.

ODOMETER – 2,796. Home again, home again, jiggity jig! I survived another adventure with Grandpa!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa -- Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 4

ODOMETER 1366 (still) – the flip side

When Dad and I first started talking about going on this trip, he said that he would like to come back through Oregon and visit Uncle Frank. I suggested that maybe we could go see Vera, too, while we were driving around. We decided to check into it. We worked the mileage numbers a couple of times and I just couldn’t see how we could do it without taking an extra day. If we drove from Cristie’s place to Uncle Frank’s place and then on to Vera’s place on Monday, that would be 725 miles, a bit far for one day’s drive, especially since we wanted to be able to spend time with both Uncle Frank and Vera on that same day (plus I wanted to see Cousin Ron, too, since Uncle Frank lives near him now). Driving from Vera’s place to Caliente (575 miles) plus me driving the rest of the way to Vegas (160 miles) on Tuesday was 735 miles, another really long day, and I had to be back to work on Wednesday. It just didn’t seem possible. A week or so before the big trip I was hashing it out with Dad over the phone (again) and finally I told him that the only way we could do it is if we left Cristie’s place after church on Sunday and traveled part of the way then. I didn’t know if Dad would want to go for it, since he hates to drive on Sunday, but I guess his wish to visit his brother and Vera won out, so he agreed to it. Of course Cristie and her family were bitterly disappointed that we were leaving them a day early, but them’s the breaks. (Actually, they were probably celebrating.)

My plan was that we would leave Cristie’s house and go to Uncle Frank’s place. Since that was only about 190 miles, I figured we could hang out there for a few hours and then drive further towards Vera’s place before stopping for the night. It would make Monday’s drive shorter and we could spend more time with Vera. She had told me that she could get off work for the afternoon, so I wanted to get there as early as possible. The day after my discussion with Dad, I sent an e-mail to both Uncle Frank and Cousin Ron, telling them that we were going to be in their town on Sunday, June 20 (which also happened to be Father’s Day), probably mid-afternoon. I said that we would like to stop and visit them for a bit if they were available. I sent off the e-mail just before going to lunch that day. By the time I came back, I had responses from both of them. Ron said that Dad had called Uncle Frank and told him that we were spending the night there, and two of Ron’s sons were going to be out of town that day, so he offered those two bedrooms for us to stay. Uncle Frank’s e-mail said basically the same thing. My dad, the big blabbermouth! I should have known he’d jump onto the phone immediately! So much for my plans!

Cristie told me that her church is a half hour away from her house and in the direction we were leaving town, so she suggested that we leave from church (probably another excuse to get rid of us sooner), so that’s what we did. We went to church and then got in the car to drive to Uncle Frank’s place. The car was getting very low on gas, so we needed to stop at the next available gas station to fill up. I was also eager to change out of my church clothes. We drove off into the rainy, curvy, mountainous roads and passed several small towns without a gas station. I was starting to get worried that we were going to run out of gas. Finally, in a little town called Elba (yes, the same name as the place where Napoleon was exiled—I don’t know why that seemed appropriate), we found a gas station. I left Dad in charge of filling up (it was an old pump and we had to get help operating it from a friendly passer-by), grabbed my clothes, and headed inside, only to be told that they didn’t have a bathroom. As I gaped at the woman in astonishment, she suggested that we go to the train depot down the street. Over $3.50 per gallon for gas, and no bathroom. Elba, indeed. We drove on.

Further down the road, we stopped so I could change. Dad didn’t understand why we couldn’t just keep going to Uncle Frank’s place and I could change there, but I didn’t much like the idea of arriving and saying “Hi-where’s-the-bathroom?” Since I was driving, I exited the freeway and stopped at a Wendy’s. Dad said he would just stay in the car. I went inside, used the bathroom, changed my clothes, bought a Frostee for Dad, and returned to car. The car was empty and, of course locked. No Dad and no car keys. There I stood in the cold, wearing short sleeves and crop pants with sandals, clutching Dad’s Frostee and my purse in one hand and a bundle of church clothes and high heeled sandals falling out of the other. (I could add drama to the story by saying it was also raining, but at that moment it had stopped. And people think I exaggerate!) I walked in and out of Wendy's a few times, but no Dad in sight. I thought about trying to call him, so I pulled out my cell phone and saw that Cristie had called a couple of times (my phone was still on silent since being in church), so I stood by the car and called her back. Right when she answered, my car alarm started going off. If I was trying to be inconspicuous, that plan was over! It turned out that Dad had pocket-activated my car alarm while coming out of the Wendy's bathroom, but it took me a while to convince him that yes, that's our car blaring away, and not only did he set it off, he had to make it stop. And, of course, he didn’t want the Frostee (but he ate it anyway).

(In case you’re wondering why Cristie was calling, she had given us faulty directions and could have gotten us seriously lost while we were frantically searching for a gas station, but we were able to figure it out before we got too far afield. See, Cristie, I didn’t even mention that part! Aren’t you glad?)

We made it to Uncle Frank’s place and Dad’s neighbor, Bob, called Dad’s cell phone right when we were getting off the elevator. Bob had a gift for calling right when we were arriving somewhere. He called when we pulled into Brenda’s driveway, he called at Uncle Frank’s place, and again when we arrived at Vera’s. We were standing at Uncle Frank’s door and Dad motioned that I go ahead and knock, but I wanted Dad to be WITH me when we arrived, if you know what I mean! Finally Dad told Bob that he had to go and we went into Uncle Frank’s room. He is in one of those nice facilities with a private apartment upstairs (Uncle Frank’s is a one-bedroom with a kitchen and everything) and a dining room downstairs where they serve meals. Uncle Frank had made arrangements for us to eat dinner with him, but dinner time was a couple hours away. I sat down between Uncle Frank and Dad, and the fun began. Imagine sitting between two older men, and neither one can hear very well. Uncle Frank would say something, and I would have to turn and repeat it to Dad. Then Dad would respond and I would have to turn back to repeat it to Uncle Frank. And on and on and on. It wasn’t very long before the whole process was getting very old. The afternoon seemed to drag on forever and I was wishing that we had stayed at Cristie’s church for the classes! Uncle Frank did have the cutest dog, though. It’s a Corgi, and they aren’t allowed to walk them in the building, so Uncle Frank had a little red wagon leaned against the wall for the dog to ride in when he takes her in and out of the building. Uncle Frank had her do a bunch of tricks for me, and she was so cute. It’s so nice that the people living there can have pets.

Eventually Ron arrived, and we went for a tour around the building before going to eat dinner. In the recreation room we had a little contest throwing bean bags at a target, and I was able to demonstrate that I can’t throw at all. At dinner, they have young girls waiting on the tables and serving the food, and they were so cute with the elderly people living there. The food was really good, too; we had prime rib! It was all very nice. Partway through the dinner, Ron’s daughter called; she had accidentally locked herself out of the house, so he had to rush home and let her in. Good thing it’s only five minutes away! Also during dinner, Ron suggested that he and I go back to his house to talk so that Dad and Uncle Frank could “catch up” there. Dad immediately seemed suspicious. Where were we going? What were we going to do? I thought it was kind of funny. It’s like he thought we were going to get into trouble or something. After dinner we returned to Uncle Frank’s apartment and Ron mentioned it again. I grabbed my coat and we left.

Ron is very musical, and even back in high school he rigged old equipment so that he could record himself playing the different musical parts and harmonizing all by himself. Now he has equipment where he can record 12 different parts himself. I’ve always liked listening to his music, so he played some for me. He participates in a gospel group with some other musicians, and they had some original songs that he played for me, too, that were really good. After that, we just talked. His wife, Jean Ann, died about a year ago, and he told me all about that. He himself was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, and his own future is uncertain. He is on a cancer medication that he takes every day, and his cancer hasn’t advanced for several years. He believes his cancer has been held in check by prayer, and I admire his faith and devotion. As I’ve said in prior blogs, we don’t share the same religion, but we do share the same faith in Jesus Christ. It’s always fun to talk to him about that.

Eventually Dad and Uncle Frank arrived, and after a bit more chatting and some brownies baked by Ron’s daughter, we all went to bed. It was a very nice visit, and I’m glad that Dad blabbed about us spending the night there. We got up early the next morning and continued on our journey.

Next chapter: Visiting Vera and goin’ home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa - Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 3

ODOMETER 1366 -- bump bump bump … another one rides the bus!

We finally made it to Cristie’s place. Hooray! The weather was so nice – cool and cloudy and rainy. Some might not consider that good weather, but when you’re from Vegas, you really come to appreciate something that is something other than hot, DANG hot. Cristie has a really nice house and her back yard is enormous. There’s a little play house on stilts that I can just see my grandkids climbing into (not me, babe). Her back porch is probably about the size of my whole back yard. Anyway, I attempted to sleep in on Friday morning, but somewhere around 10:00 I heard Cristie backing her school bus into its parking space next to the house (“beep…beep…beep”), so I decided to get up. Of course Dad was already up, had been for hours, I’m sure (no “wasting daylight” for him).

Cristie offered to let us go on her kindergarten run (picking them up at the school and taking them home), so we jumped at the chance. It was pretty interesting, sitting there watching Cristie drive an enormous bus down the street and pick up a bunch of chattering kids. They were LOUD, and as she drove along, Cristie watched them in the mirror, constantly saying, “Crystal, sit down, honey. Billy, get back in your seat. Jacob, sit on your behind.” And on and on and ON. This was the second to the LAST day of school. I hate to think what they were like on the first day! One of them opened his back pack and took out his toys, which rolled down the aisle to the front of the bus and had to be confiscated until we got to his stop (not supposed to get toys out on the bus). Half a dozen of them left their papers and other things behind. They were hilarious. At some of the bus stops, mothers were waiting with gifts for Cristie. The gifts were passed back to me for safekeeping and of course I peeked: candles, note cards, earrings, candy. I swear, none of it jumped into my purse (much).

After the bus ride, Cristie dropped Dad and me back at her house while she finished driving her routes. Cristie had a gas grill in the back yard that she’d been having trouble putting together, so Dad and I went out there and finished the job. If there had been any propane in her tank, we would have fired it up!

Samantha came home from school and before long, she and Dad were out in that huge back yard kicking the soccer ball around, playing catch with a baseball, and doing a bit of batting practice. It made me tired just to watch them! I couldn’t fully represent my sister without taking a few pictures of this great Kodak moment, so I went inside and got Cristie’s camera and took a few shots. That used up the little bit of energy I had. (Like I said -- look at the size of that YARD!)

That evening we went to a graduation party at Hannah’s house, Amanda’s friend. Hannah and one of her sisters went to Nauvoo on a family trip with us a few years ago and she has gone on summer vacation a few other times with Cristie and her girls, so Dad and I felt that we know her, too. After eating grilled hamburgers and few other things there, we went shopping for a new dress for Amanda to wear at graduation. Sam and I had fun running around Ross finding more things we could try to beg Amanda into trying on. We weren’t very successful in getting her to try on much, but she did find a cute purple dress to wear (not that you could see it under her cap and gown). Sam found a dress she wanted to try on, too, but Cristie was pretty adamant that Sam couldn’t have any more new clothes, even if it was only $10. Before you know it, Dad had his wallet out and was ready to buy the dress for her. Sam and I raced to the fitting room so she could try it on before the opportunity disappeared or Cristie found out (whichever happened first), but the dress was too short, so the game was over. I thought it was so sweet of Dad, though, to want to buy it for her. (For those of you who may be wondering where I got so much energy after being too tired to even WATCH Dad and Sam play catch in the back yard … HELLO, this is SHOPPING!)

The next day, Saturday, was Amanda’s graduation. We had to be there early and I was afraid that there would be a lot of time sitting around bored, waiting for it to begin, and then the usual boring graduation thing. I’m sorry, but graduations are boring, even when it’s my own kids. BUT I was wrong! No boring sitting around before the ceremony!

Like I said, we had to be there early. Before we left the house, Cristie was busy on their front porch taking pictures of everybody in every conceivable combination. Me and Amanda. Sam and Amanda. Me and Dad and Amanda. Dad and Amanda. (You get the drift.) Amanda was getting impatient, worried about bad traffic on the way to the Tacoma Dome and the fear of being late, so we kind of rushed to the car when the photo shoot was over. We were at least half the way there when Amanda let out a wail that in the rush to leave, she had forgotten her saxophone, and she was supposed to play it in the senior band during graduation. She was upset. I suggested to Cristie that we drop Dad, Sam, and Amanda off at the Tacoma Dome. Dad and Sam could get seats for us while Amanda joined her classmates. Cristie and I would rush back home and get the saxophone. We agreed that it was worth a try. There was heavy traffic, but Cristie stopped at the crosswalk in front of the Tacoma Dome so that the others could get out. It was also pouring rain. Amanda and Sam got out of the car, but Dad, who apparently hadn’t heard what was being planned, continued to sit there in the back seat. Traffic was beginning to pile up and Cristie was feeling the pressure. After all, she could lose her job driving the school bus if she got a traffic ticket. I’m sorry to say that we yelled at poor Dad to GET OUT! GET OUT! He suddenly realized that he was being ejected from the car and into the rain and didn’t have any idea why, but probably years of being yelled at by Mom kicked in and he bailed. We roared off. I still feel a bit guilty when I remember the confused look on his face. There he was, innocently staring out the window when he was ordered out of the car. Oh well…we did apologize later, and he was fine with it. He said we just should have told him. We didn’t bother to explain that we tried. Sometimes it’s easier to just apologize and move on.

Cristie and I raced home and got the sax. I also grabbed some umbrellas, something else we had forgotten earlier. We rushed back, fighting even heavier traffic. It was almost time for the graduation to start when we got near, so I told Cristie to get out at the same crosswalk; I would park the car and walk in by myself. After all, it wasn’t my daughter that was graduating (and I wouldn’t be too heartbroken if I missed some of it … sorry, Amanda). I carried all five umbrellas into the stadium and got there right when it was starting (these things are always late). Amanda successfully played her sax with the rest of the band and graduated. And, of course, it had stopped raining by then and we didn’t need the umbrellas at all.

Next chapters -- visiting Uncle Frank and Vera!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa -- Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 2

ODOMETER 707 – Twin Falls

We stopped in Twin Falls to get some gas. I left Dad in charge of pumping the gas while I went inside to visit the ladies’ room (okay, the female truckers’ lounge). When I wandered back out, there was a crowd around the cashier and I got there just in time to hear her tell Dad that someone else was pumping our gas! I elbowed my way up to the front and asked what was going on. Apparently the payment part of our gas pump wasn’t working and had instructions to pay inside. When Dad went to the counter to pay, they asked him for his pump number. He glanced outside, saw a dark blue car, and picked the number next to it. Wrong car, wrong number, and as luck would have it, the guy swiped his card right when the Dad’s card was authorized, so he innocently began pumping “our” gas. I looked at the cashier, and she said that they take no responsibility for these problems, and I’d better go get that guy before he drove away with our tank of gas. I didn’t know exactly how we were going to get our gas away from the guy at the pump, but I ran outside. Dad was still standing among the crowd at the counter, trying to figure out what happened. The cashier had shut off the pump as soon as we realized the mistake and fortunately the pump guy was on his way into the mini mart to find out why the pump stopped at $40 and change. I was glad that he didn’t get in his vehicle and peel out of the parking lot because I wasn’t sure how we were going to give chase before we filled up the car.

I explained to pump guy what happened, but he was sure his card was charged, so there was a bit more debate with the cashier about whose card had been authorized first, and the waiting crowd at the counter grew larger and more agitated. Pump guy yelled that it was the cashier’s fault for not looking out the window and checking the pump before she authorized Dad’s credit card. The cashier yelled that it wasn’t her job to check. Pump guy repeated that it was, and Dad, who by now realized what had happened, tried to make himself heard above the din to explain that he was to blame for not picking the right pump number. I was just trying to figure out how to get our $40+ from pump guy, get some gas from the correct pump, pick up some food, and get on our way. Eventually pump guy gave us the cash and Dad used it to pay for our gas. I was grateful that we didn’t run into more trouble with pump guy, and you would think that our encounter ended there, but I wandered to the back of the mini mart where the hot takeout food case was located and found myself standing in line next to pump guy and his wife and kids. Pump guy’s wife began singing the praises of the jalapeno corn dogs and the whole pump family gave me their evaluation of everything inside the case. They had no opinion on the chicken salad I was holding. I felt almost obligated to give the jalapeno corn dogs a try just out of gratitude for the easy resolution to the gas pump fiasco. As we awkwardly walked to our respective cars together, pump guy repeated his opinion that it was the cashier’s fault, I said that it was probably Dad’s fault, and we drove our separate ways.

Our next stop was Brenda and Andrew’s house in Boise. When we were planning this trip, Dad suggested possibly staying at their house that night. Dad had the assignment to do the asking part. Time passed, and when he called to nag me about other arrangements for the trip, I asked if he had talked to Brenda yet. No, he wanted to wait because Brenda just had a baby and it seemed too much to ask. Finally I started looking at the Boise hotels and realized that I had enough Country Inn points to stay in Boise for free, so I went ahead and made the reservation. I told Dad that we could go and visit Brenda and her family, but we would stay at the Country Inn. He seemed fine with that decision.

Back to this first day of the trip, somewhere between Twin Falls and Boise Dad suggested that we should just keep driving and get to Cristie’s place today. At first I said no, we already have this room reservation, and it’s still so far to go, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of getting the driving over with and having more time to spend at Cristie’s. We arrived at Brenda’s house; I hadn’t been there before and their house is so nice and the boys were so cute. Brenda even got the baby out of bed so we could hold him. That’s sacrifice, waking a sleeping baby! After relaxing for a few minutes I decided that I really liked the idea to keep driving to Cristie’s place, so I stepped outside and called the hotel to see if we could cancel and still get my points back. They said we could, so we were set! Dad tried to claim that he was just kidding when HE suggested we do this, but there was no turning back! The room was canceled! Cute little Keagan kept asking us if we would stay and eat dinner with them, and I kept saying we couldn’t, we had to get going, but it was so comfortable sitting and chatting with Brenda, Andrew, and the boys that we were still there when it was time to eat. There is no dragging Dad out the door when there’s food on the table, so we ate dinner and then drove on our way.

The drive took longer and was harder than I thought it would be. When we stopped in Pendleton to get gas we still had over 300 miles to go, and I was feeling a bit weary. I wasn’t necessarily tired, but I was eager to get there and get this over with. If I could have changed my mind about staying somewhere, I would have, but it was much too late! When I sent Cristie a text telling her how much further we had to go, she responded that they were going to bed and to call when we were getting near. That’s when I realized that they still had school the next day. If I had realized that, we probably wouldn’t have kept driving, but it was too late now! I regretted it even more when we hit fog further down the road. I hate driving in fog, it’s so scary! I tried not to think about any critters that might jump out in the road, too (wishing for that deer navigation area right about then). We kept going. Dad was falling asleep, so I decided I would plug in my iPod and listen to one of my own audiobooks (we had been making the usual attempts to listen to Dad-approved audiobooks on the trip without a lot of success). I would use my earbuds (actually just one of them). The problem was, the earbud case was in my purse, which was behind Dad’s seat. I reached behind him and carefully managed to tug the purse free without disturbing anyone (you know who). I rummaged through the purse and found the earbud case. Yay! Unfortunately, as I was trying to put the purse back behind the seat again, I managed to smack Dad in the head with it, waking him up completely. Game over! And I had been SO careful when I pulled it up front! After that, instead of going back to sleep, Dad would sit quietly for a while until I started to relax. Then he would make a really loud >>YAWN!!<< sound and about startle me out of my seat. After a couple hours of that, I was ready to ROCK him to sleep (you know, with rocks).

We finally arrived at Cristie’s place at 3:00 AM. We unloaded the car, staggered to our respective rooms, and collapsed. Everybody, that is, except Cristie. By then it was about time for her to get up and get ready to go drive the school bus! Poor Cristie!

Stay tuned for more …

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa -- Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 1

Okay, it’s time that I get busy on the latest chapter in the continuing saga of my “Adventures with Grandpa.” This one was quite an endeavor, the main purpose being to drive up to Washington for Amanda’s high school graduation. To be honest, I had not really been looking forward to the trip – 2,800 (okay, 2,796) miles of driving from a Thursday to a Tuesday – but all of the stops ended up being a lot of fun, so all was well!

My part of the trip began on Wednesday evening, June 16. I had planned to have everything in the car, packed and ready to go before I left for work Wednesday morning. Then I was going to drive up to Caliente right after work so that Dad and I could be ready to leave for the first part of the trip, to Boise, on Thursday morning.

The closer the departure date came, though, the more I thought that maybe I should just stay in Las Vegas overnight on Wednesday. I figured I could get up early on Thursday morning and drive to Caliente to pick up Dad and then onwards to Idaho. When I left the office on Tuesday evening I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to leave until Thursday morning. I mean, why unload everything for a few hours of sleep? Might as well do it Thursday morning! (I think I may have been trying to delay the departure just a tiny bit.) That idea stayed with me until Dad called when I was walking from my office to the parking lot that Tuesday evening. By the time I got home, Dad had convinced me that I had to drive to Caliente on Wednesday night. He said I could just sleep in my clothes and not unpack anything at all. I didn’t quite take it that far, but I guess he was right that I didn’t have to unpack everything. I would just put the stuff for that one night in a separate bag. I was up half the night Tuesday night packing everything and I hauled everything to my car on Wednesday morning so that I could leave after work.

I had planned to leave the office early on Wednesday. I filled the car with gas during my lunch hour. Cary, my boss, usually leaves at least an hour early, and I figured I could follow him out of the building, just as long as I didn’t beat him out of the parking lot. Of course, since that was my plan, Cary didn’t leave early. It happens every time! Finally at about 5:45 I told him I needed to leave, and I left. Before I even got to the freeway, Dad called, wanting to know how far away I was. I told him I just left, that I said I was leaving after work. I guess he forgot that I work until 6:00, not 5:00. Anyway, I was on my way.

Seconds after I arrived at Dad’s house, Cory, Melissa, and their three cute little boys arrived. Apparently they had driven past earlier and I wasn’t there yet, so they drove around the block and when they passed by the second time, I was there. By the time I returned from the bathroom, Dad had called Kevin and Ann and they arrived. It really made me feel loved, that they all came to see me before we left. (Maybe they wanted one last glimpse of me while I was still sane.) Anyway, I had a great time talking with them and playing a bit of hide and seek with Hafen.

The company left and we went to bed. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 5:00 AM. (Reader alert: this is probably TMI [Too Much Information], but here I go anyway.) As I mentioned earlier, I packed a tote bag with the bare essentials for that day of driving. When I was getting ready to leave that morning, I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten to put deodorant in my tote bag. It was in my suitcase, but that was buried somewhere in the car. I crept upstairs to Dad’s bathroom, hoping that I could find some there, but I had my doubts. Years ago I made the mistake of putting a stick of deodorant in Dad’s Christmas stocking. He was offended. He has never used deodorant in his life, he said, and what am I saying, that he smells bad? Of course I had to do the ole soft shoe and reassure him that I didn’t mean anything by it, I didn’t realize that he didn’t use it, of course he never smells bad, that Santa had made a big mistake, and I quickly took it back and tossed it in with Jared’s haul. So, based on that experience, I knew my only hope of finding deodorant in Dad’s bathroom was if Mom had left some behind. I poked around Dad’s bathroom with no success. All I could find was a can of Lysol spray. I sprayed a small squirt under each of my arms and hoped for the best. I’m happy to report that (as far as I could tell), it worked! So, I guess I have invented a new deodorant – Lysol!

We planned to leave at 6 AM, and it was actually about that time when we were going out the front door. Dad paused a bit and wondered what he might be missing. I asked him if he had his hearing aid. He said, “It’s here somewhere.” I told him, “That’s fine, but you aren’t allowed to get cranky if you can’t hear me.” Then we went on with the last-minute check list. Did he have his glasses? Check. Tooth brush? Yep. Pajamas? Oops, Dad meant to get those but forgot them. As he pulled open a drawer to pull out a pair, he mumbled that he doesn’t sleep in them anyway, he just sleeps in his underwear. I told him yeah, I like to sleep in my underwear, too, but people often object when I’m sitting down for breakfast like that. He agreed with that philosophy and stuffed his pjs into his duffle bag. (I know, TMI again, huh?)

ODOMETER 158: leaving Caliente.
Just past Pioche, after I had repeated and reworded something I already said a half dozen times, I reminded Dad about the rule about not getting cranky if he couldn’t hear me when I talk. He tried to claim that it also meant that I can't get cranky if he keeps saying, “Huh?” I said NO, that wasn't written in the rules! After thinking on that for a moment, he dug out his hearing aid and put it in his ear. Hurdle one crossed! (Unfortunately it’s a hurdle that wasn’t crossed just once.)

After we passed Wells, we hit some unfortunate delays. There were several areas where the highway was limited to one lane and we had to sit and wait for our turn to be guided through the area. We could see that they were building overpasses that went over the highway and some places where a pathway was being dug out under the highway, but there were no roads, railroad tracks, or even a river bed at those areas, so I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. Dad noticed a lot of fencing that he said was deer fence. Then I spotted a sign. They were putting in some “deer navigation areas,” and I’m not kidding, they were putting in all of that so the deer could cross the road! Now I’ve seen everything.

In between deer navigation delays, we passed the area where we wrecked our family car, where I almost drowned. I was just a baby, sleeping on the front seat between Mom and Dad. My brothers were asleep in the back seat. We were driving in the pouring rain, and when Dad tried to pass a truck, the car slipped off the road and rolled into a ditch. The driver of the truck Dad was passing stopped, but he wouldn't help Dad get all of us out of the wrecked car. He did, however, give us a ride to the closest gas station. The gas station building was still there, but it looked old and abandoned. I could just picture us there, wet and standing in the rain while Dad used the pay phone to call for help.

Also, the sight of the deer fence reminded Dad of one of his favorite deer hunting experiences. He was out hunting with a friend, I think Dad said his last name was Edwards, so I’ll just call him Ed. Anyway, Dad told Ed to drop him off at the bottom of a hill and to drive to the top and wait for him; Dad said he would send the deer up to where Ed would be waiting. In truth, “nature” was calling and Dad had other plans before he did any deer herding. While Dad was taking care of business, a deer wandered past. Dad pulled out his gun and shot the deer while squatting there with his pants down! I know, I know. TMI. It just seems like such a John Wayne moment, though …

More to come!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa - The Lost Chapter

I just returned from what might be the ultimate “Adventure with Grandpa,” driving up to Cristie’s place in Washington for Amanda’s graduation (and several other stops while on the trip), but before I get to that, Vera told me that she still wanted to read what I wrote about my trip to Caliente for Neal’s mission farewell, so I’m going to finish and post that first. I don’t know why I never finished it and posted it (I probably decided it was too boring – but when has that stopped me before), but here it is. It’s five months ago and memory has faded a bit, but I was thrilled that at least one person wanted to read it, so here I go!

That adventure began when I drove to Caliente to celebrate my nephew Neal’s mission departure. Uh oh, that didn’t sound right. We didn’t celebrate that he was leaving, we were celebrating that he made a great decision and is going on a mission and to say a fond farewell and best wishes.

Anyway, I was driving to Caliente that Friday, January 29. Joanna and Shayler were coming too, but they weren’t leaving until after they got off work. (I don’t work on Fridays, hooray!) I had an appointment that morning and then I had to pack, so I didn’t get out of town until midafternoon. I told Dad that I wasn’t leaving first thing in the morning, but by the time I got there, he was getting anxious. I think that the main reason for that was because I told him I was bringing dinner and he was getting hungry. We do have our priorities!

Joanna and Shayler were arriving late that night, so of course we had to stay up and wait for them. Since it’s been a few months since then, I don’t remember much about the waiting part, but maybe I’ve blocked out the memory, who knows? Anyway, they arrived and after much talking, we all went to bed. The next morning Dad and I were up early (actually I was up early, Dad was up REALLY early) and Dad suggested that we go for a walk. I had made a check of the supplies and suggested that we walk to the grocery store, where we could get some food for breakfast. He agreed, and off we went.

At the store Dad decided that he wanted to make an omelet, so we bought eggs, and he picked up some red and green peppers. I got milk and some bacon. I decided that I would like to have some hot chocolate, so I asked Dad if he had any at home. He said he was sure he did. Knowing the age of some of the stuff in his pantry, I asked him how old the hot chocolate mix at home was. He declared that it wasn’t that old. Feeling more suspicious, I then asked him, Dad, I have one question for you. Did MOM buy that hot chocolate? (As most readers know, Mom died over four years ago.) Dad said that OF COURSE Mom bought it! He wouldn’t be buying anything like that! Just what I thought! Then I had one more question for him: “How OLD was Mom when she bought that hot chocolate?!” As he sputtered, I picked out my favorite flavor, the mint hot chocolate, and put it in the basket.

We paid for our purchases and left the store. As we were checking out, Dad teased the checkout clerk about various things, but she just stared at him with a bored expression and didn’t respond. I guess she’s seen him in there before.

When we got home, I checked on Joanna and Shayler (still asleep) and hollered through the door that they needed to wake up because we were making breakfast. I returned to the kitchen to unpack the groceries. Much to my dismay, I found that the can of hot chocolate mix in the bag was the wrong flavor! As I began to moan, I noticed that it had been opened before. As it turned out, as soon as we got home and I wasn’t in the kitchen, Dad looked in his pantry and found his hot chocolate and switched it with the one we had bought. He’s always up to something! He got a good chuckle out of my reaction, anyway.

I was a bit skeptical of the omelet he was constructing. He chopped up the red and green peppers with some onion and added them to the egg, along with some cheese he had in the fridge. I can’t remember what else we made, except for the bacon or sausage we bought, but the omelet was really good. I was amazed! I think it might be called a “Western” omelet and I might try ordering it sometime. No, I didn’t say I would try MAKING it. Unless Dad is here to help!

A few hours later, Joanna got on the phone with Kevin’s family and found out that everybody was going to that restaurant thing adjacent to the mini mart at the gas station for lunch. (I can’t think of what it’s called. The name “Joe’s” sticks in my mind, but maybe it’s not right.) Dad kept dragging his feet about going (“we just ate”), so by the time we got there, we were just in time to see everybody in their cars, driving away! We accused them of planning it that way (being gone by the time we arrived), but I bet they were just hungry. We WERE pretty late.

We decided to go ahead and eat something. I asked Dad if he wanted to split a hamburger with me, but he said NO, he ISN’T HUNGRY, we JUST ATE! As I ordered, I turned and told Shayler that I bet Dad would end up helping me eat my burger. Joanna and Shayler ordered something. Dad had an ice cream cone.

By the time the burger was ready, Dad was done with his ice cream. He got a plastic knife and asked me to cut off a little piece so I cut it in half and gave it to him. As Dad happily ate it, Shayler was practically rolling on the floor, laughing about how I had “called it.” Hey, I know my dad.

Went over to Kevin and Ann’s place, where Kevin was stirring an enormous Dutch oven brimming full of chili on their grill. It was so full that even the gentlest stirring caused chili to slosh over the sides. I had fun standing and talking to Kev while he cooked. He showed me his new shed/garage building he had built, I admired his Rhino, and he offered to take me for a ride, but I didn’t have an adequate coat. Next time I’m gonna do it, though!

The rest of the day is pretty much covered in my other blog about Neal’s farewell. The chili was delicious. I always thought that my recipe was the best, but this totally beat it. It had a delicious smoky flavor that was really great. I’m not one that likes spicy things, and Neal was diluting his and eating large bites of corn bread (something else that was really good, and I don’t usually like corn bread very much, either), saying that it was too spicy for him, but I didn’t think it was spicy at all, just REALLY good. I’ll have to get that recipe!

Church the next day was really good. There was a gal who was getting ready to leave on her mission, too, and she spoke at the same meeting and hogged most of the time, but Neal did very well with the little time she left him. We had a nice dinner with everybody else at the church after the meeting, and I had fun talking to the family members who were there.

As always I stopped at Mom’s grave site on the way home to check in. I know she’s not really there, but I always like to stop by anyway.

Neal had told me about some of the places near Coyote Springs he had been working, and I tried to watch for them on the way home so I could say I saw them, but I’m not sure I picked out the right ones! But it was fun to watch the electrical lines and say to myself, “Neal worked on that. Didn’t he do good?!”

It was a very fun trip and I’m glad I went!

Coming up next – even more Adventures with Grandpa! You can look forward to reading it or blocking it, whichever you prefer!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Last LR Update (at least for now) 4-2-10

WELL, I’ve been trying to get this written all week, but with my long, busy days of work and short evenings of laziness combined, I just haven’t gotten it done. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

But I did (finally) live up to my earlier promise of returning to visit LR before he went home, and it was a great visit. He’s doing so much better, and last I heard they were supposed to turn him loose yesterday (Thursday). In fact, I just texted Jill for an update and she confirmed that yes, he did go home. I’m sure he’s thrilled to be home.

Last weekend I decided to drive down to Arizona, sort of spur-of-the-moment. I was laying on the couch on Thursday night, texting with Jill, when the decision to go suddenly hit me (possibly, maybe, SLIGHTLY because she was nagging and pestering me about it). It’s probably a good thing that the decision hit me right then because not much later, Jimmy found me asleep on the couch with my cell phone still clutched in my hand. Old age is creeping up on me.

So anyway, Friday morning I got my stuff together and set off for Arizona. I thought about surprising him, but that might be hard to do, since I didn’t know where he was (I knew he had been moved from the hospital to a rehab center), so I texted him that I was coming to see him. He seemed happy and sent me the address.

I drove directly to the rehab place, using my trusty navigator. I got there about 5:30, parked near the front door, and tried to walk in. That’s when I saw the sign on the door that said that from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM, you have to use the north entrance. There were no arrows or anything indicating which way that might be. Being directionally challenged, I had no idea where north would be, so I turned right and hiked to the end of the building. There was a door, so I went on in. I found myself in a large commercial kitchen. I decided that maybe that wasn’t the north entrance, so I tiptoed back out and hiked the length of the building to the other end. The door down there was locked. I headed back to the front door, starting to feel annoyed. Why couldn’t they give just a tiny hint on where to FIND the north entrance? Then someone came out the front door, so I asked. The north entrance was around back. I got back in my car and found that all the signs and arrows on the pavement were one way around the building, and I would have to pull back onto a busy street and make a left in order to get back into the parking lot and go the correct way to get to the back of the building. By then I was totally annoyed and, in a burst of rebellion, I drove AGAINST THE ARROWS and went around back. A few employees were back there smoking, and they looked a little surprised to see someone careening around the building, going the wrong way, but by then I was just DARING someone to say something to me. They didn’t.

I went inside and started the fun process of actually FINDING my brother. Of course there was no one to ask, and the people I did ask couldn’t help me. There were names outside all of the rooms, so I started walking up and down the halls, looking for his name. I soon realized that the rehab center was more accurately described as what I would call a rest home. Everybody else in there was elderly, I mean ELDERly, and many looked pretty incapacitated, at least to my untrained eye. LR had to be the baby of the place, hands down! Some of the rooms looked like permanent residences, made up to look like a bedroom at home. One guy had team jerseys from various sports teams hanging from the curtains and other sports memorabilia everywhere. A lot of people had a pile of stuffed animals. I couldn’t help but think that we start life collecting stuffed animals and, by all appearances, we go out the same way. I saw a number of elderly women sitting motionless in the halls in wheelchairs with a couple of stuffed dogs or cats on their laps, and I thought how much nicer it would be if they could be comforted by a real dog or cat.

But I digress. As I mentioned before, I had already been annoyed by my adventures in the parking lot, just looking for an entrance, and now the fun continued as I searched for LR’s room. On and on I walked, examining every name plate, not finding him. I didn’t want to actually look into the rooms to find him. It seemed a total invasion of privacy and when I did glance inside, it was often a sad sight.

Finally, after a long march up and down the halls (and passing twice the same guy in a wheelchair, slumped to the side with his shirt pulled up, exposing a birthmark next to his belly button) I asked for more help. After the employee said they couldn’t help, I asked for directions on who COULD help and I moved on to someone else who couldn’t help, but eventually I did find someone to help. It turned out that they had just moved LR to another room and hadn’t gotten around to putting his name plate on the door yet. JUST MY LUCK! Of course I had passed his room several times.

All of my aggravation melted away, though, when I saw my brother. He was sitting in his wheel chair, and his bed was neatly made next to him. I commented that it didn’t look like he’d been in the bed for a while, and he said he tried only to use it at night when it was bedtime. Sitting in a wheelchair was an improvement from always lying in bed, which is what he had done for weeks. When I hugged him, I could tell it was an effort to lift his arms and hug me back. He definitely was still very weak, but working at getting his strength back. A couple of times a day he took a turn around the hall using a walker, and I was impressed about how determined he plugged along. You almost had to jog to keep up with him! It reminded me of when I visited Dad in the hospital after he had his cancer surgery. When we were doing laps in the hall with him, he actually tried to break into a run. (He definitely left Mom in the dust.) Like father, like son!

LR is still struggling to eat. The damage done to his throat is still healing, and he can only eat a small amount at a time, but he’s working at it. He has lost something like 40 pounds since he got sick. His legs and arms, as I said, are still very weak, but he is working to get them back.
I spent a lot of the day on Saturday with him, and that evening Rhonda babysat Jill and Jared’s kids so they could go out, and I stayed with LR. We watched a movie and snacked. (I snacked, he nibbled, but he made sure that the nurse knew he was eating. Had to write it down and get credit for every morsel!)

It was a wonderful visit, seeing LR, and being with Jill and her family was a nice bonus, as always. It gave my heart the peace it needed, to see him awake and getting better.

As I was leaving to drive home on Sunday around noon, Kadence decided she was going to go home with me. She climbed into the back seat of my car and wouldn’t budge. I tried to talk her out of the idea. I thought I had her convinced when she got out of the car and went back in the house. A few minutes later, though, she returned, carrying her Phineas, Ferb, and Perry stuffed dolls (which incidentally I bought her for Christmas). Apparently my argument “no toys at grandma’s house” argument sunk in. She sat in that seat for a long time while Jared tried to help me by changing a couple of fuses in my car under the dash. I told Kadence that Jacob would miss her, her mom and would miss her, she didn’t have any clothes, she would miss her mom and dad and Jacob, and there was no convincing her. Finally she had to be pulled from the car. We thought about calling her bluff and driving down the street with her in there, thinking that she would change her mind, but we were afraid she would call OUR bluff, which is what probably would have happened!

Thanks again to everyone, family and friends, for all of your love and prayers.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 19, 2010

Really new LR Update - 3/19/10

WELL, it's been a while since I did an update, so here we go!

LR sent me this first picture yesterday with the caption, 'Look Mom, no bed!" I sent him back a text saying, "HE'S ALIVE!" (The younger generation might not get the 'Young Frankenstein' reference, but at least I thought it was funny.)

He's finally been able to get out of bed and sit up. On Wednesday evening they transferred him from the hospital to a physical rehab facility, still in the Phoenix area. I asked him what needed rehabbing, other than his attitude (little sister joke), and he said that his arms and legs are very weak from the lack of oxygen he suffered during transport between hospitals and he still can't walk. So he's getting a lot of physical therapy and stuff like that to try to build up his strength.

Most of my communications with him have been texts, so when I got this new picture today with the flowers from the school where he works, I decided to call him. That's when I found out that he is still struggling with getting his voice back. He's a little bit hard to understand. He said that he is also working with a speech therapist, trying to get his throat back to normal and build strength there too, something damaged by both the lack of oxygen and the ventilator and everything else they had to stick down there to save his life. Whatever it takes!

I asked him today how his legs are doing, and he said that he has graduated from a wheel chair (just sitting up in a wheel chair was an accomplishment at first) to beginning to use a walker, so things are slowly improving. Who would have thought a month or two ago that he'd soon be excited to use a walker?!

Hey, I just got a brilliant idea. He now has his phone with him and I know he gets unlimited texts, so how about this: Everybody out there who has texting on their phones, send him a text! Let's flood him with texts and let him know that he is loved!

If he won't immediately know who you are, start with that ("Hi, this is Igor, Karen's neighbor"). Then say get well, glad you're better, stop being so lazy, whatever you want! Here's his cell phone number:

928 551 1118

Go get him! And if you want to, come back here and give us a report!


Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Newest LR Update - 3/13/10

Good news!

After the miserable day he had on Thursday, LR was given a blessing. On Friday, things started turning around for him. He has been able to eat a little bit of soft food without choking, and Rhonda got him the glass of water he's been dying for since he woke up. (I guess we shouldn't use the term "dying for" but there it is.) At about 3:00 this morning (Saturday), they moved him out of the ICU and into a regular room.

When I called Rhonda for an update this morning, she actually put him on the phone and I got to talk to him! He's a little hard to understand, I guess because of the damage done to his throat, but other than that he sounded good.

One thing that he said surprised me. The doctors had discussed where to fly him if they couldn't treat him in podunk-ville (wherever it was he was first taken by ambulance), and he thought they were taking him to Las Vegas! He didn't know he was in Phoenix until a day or two after he woke up. It would have been so nice, to have him here in my town. It was really great having him so close to Jill and Jared, but having him HERE ... well, you know! At the time, though, they decided to take him to the closest hospital that had the facilities he needed, so I guess that was the best decision. The other alternative was Albuquerque, and THAT would have been BAD, so I guess I'll accept where he ended up without too much grumbling. They did help him get better, after all.

I asked him if anybody had asked how much longer he would be in the hospital (something that wasn't even thought of only a few days ago) and he said probably another week or so. The lungs still need work and so does the solid food thing, but as it is, things look really good.

A big thank you to everyone, my wonderful friends and family, for your thoughts, prayers, fasting, and especially your love.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Newer LR Update 3-11-10 Prayers Still Needed

LR and Rhonda had a tough day today. It seems like with these things, you take two steps forward and one step backward. After the good advances yesterday, today was a bit of a setback.

First of all, LR was not able to swallow any food today, and he wasn't even able to suck on an ice cube without choking. The doctors fear that there may have been some damage to his throat, and Rhonda is really not sure what they plan to do about it. Today both the nurse and the doctor had heavy foreign accents, and she had trouble understanding what they were trying to tell her. They may have to put the feeding tube back, but they are reluctant to do it because he obviously already has problems there. We suppose that further tests and procedures will be needed if the problem continues.

Also, his lungs are still pretty weak. One lung has cleared up pretty well, but the other is still pretty cloudy and there is a problem with them filling with liquid. He was able to sit up a bit today, and he said that he could breathe easier when sitting up, but of course he can only sit up for a few minutes at a time.

Rhonda is also a little concerned about LR's mental functions. He seems to understand what is said to him. She has to repeat some things that are said, but she hopes that maybe he just wasn't paying attention. However, when he talks to her, he is talking very slowly. She doesn't know if that's a result of his damaged throat or if his mental capacity isn't fully functioning, either because of his illness and basic weakness or something worse.

We knew that LR was deprived of oxygen while he was being transported between hospitals. She found out today that the oxygen on the plane wasn't working at all and the only reason LR is alive today is because the emergency tech manually squeezed the round ball thing (sorry, Matti, I have no clue what it's called!) for the entire 45 minutes. Some may say that it was just his job. I say, thank heavens for you, angel from above, and may God bless you.

So, the news for today is that we need to keep LR in our prayers. We need to pray for total recovery for his mind and his body. Rhonda has asked Jared, my son-in-law, to come and give him a blessing tonight. Let's join with our prayers that he will be well soon.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New LR Update - 3/10/10

I spoke with Rhonda this afternoon, and there's very good news!

First of all, the kidney specialist has declared that he's not coming back. LR's kidneys are functioning again and all is well in that neighborhood!

The ventilator was removed today! He still has some oxygen from a tube in his nose, but the ventilator is gone and he has been able to whisper a bit. I guess it will take his throat a little while before his vocal chords are back to normal. (Some might consider that a blessing.)

They tried to feed him a little applesauce, but the first spoonful caused him to choke, so I guess he's not quite ready for solid food, but they'll try that again tomorrow.

So the improvements are coming quickly and I am so grateful. Prayer and fasting works!

Love to all...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

LR Update - 3/9/10

It's been a few days since I've had both the time and energy (at the same time) to post something, so here we go. I'll try to keep it brief, but you know me!

My last post was Saturday night, when we weren't able to go see him all day. Loren and Carolyn were there and Jared, April and Angela (known hereafter as JA&A) were on their way. They wanted to come earlier in the day, but April couldn't find anyone to work her shift, so they didn't leave Utah until after 10:00 PM that night. Kids these days!

On Sunday morning, Loren and Carolyn and family left to go home. Jill and Jared's Sacrament Meeting starts at 2 PM, so we thought we would go see LR before church. Rhonda and Dad left for the hospital and I got ready for church and followed them. It was pouring rain all day, which made everything more complicated. So much for fixing your hair for church!

When I got inside I saw that JA&A had finally arrived after driving all night. They had been there for a couple of hours but couldn't find anyone to help them get in to see their dad. Rhonda's cell phone hasn't been working very well and some nurses wouldn't let her take it into LR's ICU room with her, so contacting her can be difficult. We took our turns going in to see him (remember, only two at a time, and you have to get all suited up first). The doctor said that they might try to let him start waking up on Monday, so that was good news. I was sad that we were leaving Monday morning, but he probably doesn't need a lot of excitement when he first opens his eyes anyway.

We figured we needed 45 minutes to get to church, but just when we were getting ready to leave, one of the doctors showed up, this time the kidney specialist. He said that LR's kidney function has continued to improve, which is good. Then we had just started out the door again when the couple from LR and Rhonda's ward who were bringing her car to her showed up. Of course we had to stop and talk to them for a few minutes. We were finally rushing out into the rain with about 20 minutes until church time when we got on the freeway and found it at a standstill. A major pileup had occurred, three wrecked cars probably 100 feet off the freeway and one on its roof. After creeping along the freeway for a half hour, we dropped JA&A at Jill and Jared's place to get some rest and made it to church for the last half hour of Sacrament Meeting. Well, we tried to get there on time! I hope not partaking of the sacrament didn't cancel out our fast! (JK)

After the meetings we went back to Jill and Jared's place to cook dinner, and eat it, and relax a bit. Rhonda and I decided to go back to hospital to get her car (we had left it there when we left for church) and so I could see him once more before I have to leave town the next day. We didn't bother calling for permission, we just showed up! We found out the night before what happens when you ask for permission! LR looked pretty much the same as he did that morning. His blood pressure numbers looked really strange to Rhonda and I. They were in the range of 85/75. (85 over 75), and the top number would occasionally drop below 80, and an alarm would start beeping. No one else seemed worried, though. Finally when we were leaving we talked to the nurse on duty, and she said it was from the heavy sedation he was under. She said that they had to increase the dosage to keep him calm. We sure hoped it was okay.

On Monday morning, JA&A left for home before I got up. A few hours later, Dad and I got on the road for home, too. Rhonda told me that when she got to the hospital Monday morning, the plans for bringing LR out of the sedation were canceled. One of his lungs had partially collapsed. The doctor said that they would have to wait and see if it didn't re-inflate itself. Not a happy prospect! I guess these things are like that ... two steps forward, one step back.

When I called Rhonda this morning, though, they had just stopped the sedation and it was wakey wakey time! As I spoke to her, he opened his eyes. I called again this afternoon, and she said that he had been basically fading in and out of consciousness all day. This morning the oxygen they were giving him was at 35 percent. Twice today they tried to get him to breathe on his own, but he couldn't do it. He still had the ventilator down his throat so he couldn't talk, and a few times his throat got clogged, but he motioned to Rhonda that he couldn't breathe, so they cleared him out. His blood oxygen level dropped a bit after the breathing-on-your-own fun was over, so they had to boost his oxygen back up to 40 percent. They will try again tomorrow, and when he can manage it, they will take out the ventilator.

LR's blood pressure has been a little higher than it should be while he's been off the sedation, but I'm sure he's feeling a lot of stress over his situation.

Another thing -- Rhonda said that when she told him I had been there, his blood pressure took a little jump. Good news or bad?! Happiness or dread? :-)

I've already decided that I'm going back to see him. I can't this weekend because Jill is going to be here (Jacob's spring break) but I definitely must go back and see how high I can get his blood pressure going! (Just kidding!)

That's it for now. Many, many thanks to all the friends and family for your fasting and prayers.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Most of us didn't get to see LR (aka my Brig Bother) today. This is what happened.

Loren, Carolyn, and their kids arrived last night (or this morning) around 1:00 a.m. I was still sitting up gabbing with Jill when they arrived. As a result, we all slept in a little bit and then had pancakes for breakfast. I needed to take a shower and get ready, so Rhonda and Loren left to go visit LR at the hospital. Dad and I were planning to join them as soon as I was ready to go. We were just getting ready to leave the house when Rhonda called to tell us not to come.

Apparently they had only been with LR for a few minutes when the doctor came by. He stood in the room with them and told them that LR is showing some improvement. Apparently his kidneys had begun to shut down when he first arrived at the hospital, but tests done this morning showed that his kidney function has improved, so that is really good. The doctor then said that LR's lungs looked like a solid snowstorm yesterday, but today they have cleared up quite a bit. His blood oxygen levels have continued to improve.

Rhonda and Loren were facing away from LR and looking at the doctor as he spoke, but the nurse was attending to LR, and even though he was heavily sedated, he obviously could hear what the doctor was saying, and he started to move on the bed. They think he was happy about the good news. Right after that he realized that his son was there, and he opened his eyes and tried to sit up to hug him. This caused his blood pressure to suddenly spike and disrupted some of his many tubes and wires. The nurse was surprised that he was able to move like that, since she had just increased his medications. Rhonda and Loren were rushed out of the room. The doctor told them that too much stimulation could cause him to relapse, so they gave him more medication to sedate him further and asked everyone to leave and not come back until this evening.

After dinner, Rhonda, Loren, and Dad left to go back to the hospital. They also needed to do some clothes shopping for Rhonda. She left home with only the clothes she was wearing, and she has borrowed pajamas and a few other things from Jill. She has nothing to wear to church tomorrow.

A while after they left, I started feeling that I needed to see my brother, so I got my purse and was getting ready to go out the door to head for the hospital when Rhonda, Loren and Dad returned. They went shopping at Wal Mart (didn't find anything) and then called the hospital to check on LR before going there. The nurse told them that LR is resting comfortably and not to come bother him. She said we could see him in the morning.

So twice today I was going out the door to see him and twice I had to turn back. I'm feeling sad that I didn't get to go see him today, but I am so happy that he's doing better. Let's all pray that he will continue to improve and that he will fully come back to us in mind and health.

More tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Brig Bother

Yes, that is what I used to call my dear big brother Loren when we were growing up together in good ole Caliente. Back then I would never have admitted even liking him, and he was much the same to me. Picture this: you are attending a high school with a grand total of 150 students in four grades (on a good day, counting the polygamists out in the countryside who didn't actually attend). Loren is only one year older than me, so I thought everybody pretty much knew us both, but one day someone randomly realized that we shared the same last name and asked Loren if he was related to Karen Smith. Loren's reply? "No."

But of course I did love him and I was proud of him. And I still do, still am. And it's so hard for me to see him so sick. It brought back awful memories of another hospital many years ago soon after he was in a school bus accident and came too close to death's door.

Backing up, Loren and Rhonda currently live in a small town in southeastern Arizona, and most of you probably know that he is in a hospital near Phoenix. Apparently he got sick a couple of weeks ago and actually went to a doctor. He got some medicine and was feeling better. Then he suddenly started getting weaker. By this last Tuesday, he was so sick that he couldn't get out of bed, couldn't walk. Rhonda called an ambulance and he was taken to a fairly small hospital near their home. When they got there, they considered flying him directly to Phoenix, but then decided to try treating him there. By that afternoon, they changed their minds and put him and Rhonda on a small plane for Phoenix.

He was very seriously ill when he got there. He has a bad case of viral pneumonia and has tested positive for the flu; they don't know yet if it's H1N1 (Swine) Flu. Besides that, he had been deprived of oxygen sometime during his treatment and transport, and they feared that he had brain damage. He was put in a drug-induced coma so that they could put him on a ventilator and begin other treatments. He still is. The doctors say that his condition today is about the same as yesterday, but Rhonda feels that he is getting better. She should know, she has been at his side this whole time.

My dad and I decided to drive down to Phoenix to give our love and support, so we left this morning and I am writing this from Jill and Jared's house near Phoenix. I am so grateful that they are here. Dad and I got here this afternoon and went directly to the hospital. My dear brother is in the ICU, connected by many tubes and many machines. He appears to be completely knocked out, but sometimes when he is asked a question, he responds, which is so wonderful to see, gives us so much hope that he will eventually be okay. They only allow two people at a time to visit him, to even be in the area where you "suit up" to see him. You have to wash your hands and then put on a paper gown, gloves, and a mask. If you don't wear glasses, you have to wear a mask with a plastic shield covering your eyes. I hate to say that I wished for glasses today, and breathing behind that thing gave me claustrophobia even before it started fogging up. I was uncomfortably hot before very many minutes passed. But as I stood there, the nurse who was adjusting the various machines and tubes asked him if he was in any pain, and he shook his head quite definitively. Rhonda has asked him a few things, and he has responded by nodding or shaking his head to her, too. Dad says that he thinks Loren was aware that he was there when it was his turn to visit. I spoke to him and he didn't seem to respond, but he was probably trying to figure out what the heck I was doing in his bedroom. So we have high hopes that he will be okay.

I imagine we will be here for a few more days, depending on how he does and how soon Dad (and I) need to get back to work (Dad has an important Boy Scout meeting on Wednesday night, and I know that Loren would appreciate the importance of not letting your Scouts down). I will give an update whenever there's anything to report. I am told that we are planning a family and friends fast for this Sunday. Hey, it's Fast Sunday anyway, just toss your prayers our way for this one. We would appreciate it.

As for my future visits to his ICU, I'm wondering if anyone would object to me sporting a pair of sunglasses with one of those half-size face masks. And Jared (my son-in-law) has offered the use of his paintball mask. What a guy.

Please get well soon, brig bother. I'm not nearly done with you yet.

Your sittle lister.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Jewish Funeral

Some of you have met Jenny’s “new” boyfriend, George, but for those of you who haven’t, I’ll introduce him.

Jenny started dating George about a year ago. It was a big relief to me when she told me she was seeing someone new, because her former boyfriend, Eric, was ten years older than her, had four kids, had been to jail several times, and a recurring problem with drug addiction (which led to frequent unemployment problems). I’m not saying I didn’t like Eric; he was very charming (as people like him tend to be) and actually had been an active member of our church for a while. But the future didn’t look too promising for Eric, and I was happy to hear that Jenny had met someone new. When she told me about him, my first questions were: Does he have a job? (answer: yes) Has he ever been to jail? (answer: no). Had he ever been married, does he do drugs, does he have any kids? (answer to all: no). My response (before having even met him): I like him!

When I did meet him, I liked him even more. He joined Jenny, Jimmy and me when I took her out for lunch and a movie for her birthday last June, and guess what? He likes seafood! (Hardly anybody in my family does, so that was nice, someone to join Jared and me in scarfing up our favorite food.) He seemed nice, too, and accompanied us to see “Up” without much complaint. He’s originally from New York, so he also has an interesting accent.

George and Jenny joined us for our 4th of July celebration last summer. Jill and Jared were here, and we had fun with a little barbecue and few fireworks. George offered to help cook, and as soon as we finished eating, he jumped up and helped clear the table! I don’t know about Jenny, but I fell in love with him immediately. The picture at the top is Jenny and George in front of my house during the fireworks “display”.

As we got to know George better, we found out that he was raised by his grandparents. His parents are divorced; his father lives in the Seattle area and his mother has always been “messed up,” as Jenny said it. Apparently his mother has had an ongoing drug problem. As a result, George has been very close to his grandparents. His grandfather died three years ago, not long after the family moved from New York to Vegas. His grandmother obviously taught him manners! Several months ago, Susie and her daughter Carolyn and family (husband Erik -- not to be confused with the Eric mentioned above -- and baby Alice) came to visit me, and I invited Jenny and George over to my house for breakfast so Jenny could see Carolyn, since they used to be good friends. George couldn’t come because he wasn’t feeling well. That night my phone rang. “Hi, Karen, this is George.” I’m thinking George … George … George? Then he went on to say, “I wanted to thank you for inviting me and tell you how sorry I am I couldn’t come …” Then it suddenly hit me, THAT George, Jenny’s boyfriend! I was amazed that he was so polite that he called like that. (I couldn't resist posting a picture of cute little Alice, sippin' my favorite soda, CF Diet Dr. Pepper!)

Jenny and George came over on Christmas. At breakfast that day, he told us about having leukemia as a child. He told us a funny story about how the Make A Wish Foundation came to him and asked if he could go anywhere in the world and do anything he wanted, where would he like to go? He hollered “CHUCK E CHEESE!” His mother stepped in and said that he really meant that he wanted to go to Disney World. They had a fun trip, first class all the way, special treatment and lots of fun things. He went through four years of chemo, radiation, all the stuff. I asked him if it was really bad, and he kind of shrugged it off. He lost all his hair, and he apparently liked it like that, because he has kept his hair really short ever since.

Here is a picture of Jenny, George, and Dad opening presents and such on Christmas morning. It’s a favorite, MAYBE, POSSIBLY because my doggie Chica is sitting on George’s lap. Obviously he’s a great guy! Chica likes him! (As if she didn't like everyone -- except other animals, of course.)

George’s grandmother died suddenly on February 6. She had been diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, and she only lived two more weeks. They had taken her home to die, and Jenny and George sat with her all day. She waited until after they left to go. It was a big shock to all of them; George is really sad. I told Jenny that Jimmy and I would like to go to the funeral, and that’s when I found out that George’s grandmother was Jewish and a Holocaust Survivor.

The funeral was held at the Boulder City Veteran’s Cemetery. Even though Jimmy and I got lost trying to find it, we still beat the rest of the family there! It turned out that we had the time wrong and were a bit early. They have two chapels in the building where her service was held, and a military funeral was being held in the other chapel while we waited in the foyer. We didn’t know where to go or what to do, so one of the soldiers who was waiting to go inside for their part of the service told me where to find George’s grandmother’s name on the schedule and where to go. Then it was a pretty emotional sight, watching those soldiers march inside, unfold, present and refold the flag and handing it to the soldier’s grieving family.

George’s family finally arrived, and we met them. I put my hand out to shake George's uncle's hand when we were introduced, but he exclaimed, "Put that away!" and gave me a hug. Everyone was standing outside the chapel when the funeral director said that they needed six males to be pall bearers. I made a quick count of the people there, and they didn’t have six. I did what I normally do – I immediately volunteered Jimmy for the job. He objected at first, whispering to me that he felt strange about it, since he had never met George’s grandmother, but I told him, “You will if you’re needed!” Ten minutes later, there was Jimmy, helping carry the casket with a yarmulke (one of those little beanie hats) on his head. I was so proud of him! I wanted to whip out my cell phone and take a picture, but I was afraid it would be just too tacky of me.

The service was interesting. It was conducted by a rabbi; his yarmulke had silver symbols on it. Some of the service was in Hebrew (or whatever) and he sang some of it. George’s uncle gave the eulogy. Unfortunately, George’s mother kept interrupting him, putting in her comments or exclaiming over something he said. I was wishing she would be quiet so we could hear the story! He kept asking her to settle down and let him tell it, but she wouldn’t. Eventually George’s uncle gave up and sat back down; I’m going to have to get the rest of the story from George the next time I see him. But here is what I got:

George’s grandmother was born in Budapest, Hungary. She said she lived in the "pest" part of Budapest and that the Danube River (which divides the city) surely isn't blue! As a young teenager she worked in the Jewish underground, helping to smuggle people out of the ghetto. She eventually escaped to Italy herself. That’s where she met George’s grandfather, and they eventually immigrated to New York City. George’s uncle said that she was “really a Pip.” She was strong willed and determined. I later asked Jenny if George’s grandmother had liked her, and Jenny said yes, that his grandmother told him that he had better be good to her! I was glad to hear that. I told Jenny that I would take over and start telling George that myself (and you know I will).

After the funeral, the rabbi attached little cloth pins on the George’s mother's and uncle’s lapels. It’s Jewish tradition to tear your coat when someone dies and wear it that way for seven days. If you change your coat, you’re supposed to tear that one, too. Instead he put a cloth pin on their coats and tore it. He said they needed to always wear for the next seven days. Then they put the casket on a trailer being pulled by a little golf cart-like thing and we followed it to the grave site. There was more praying and singing and stuff, and then they lowered the casket into the grave. The rabbi led the family members in tossing some dirt onto the lowered casket. He told everyone that it was like putting someone into bed and pulling up the covers and saying goodnight. I thought that was so sentimental and wonderful.

At the end of the gravesite service, the rabbi told everybody not to come back for 30 days. He emphasized that several times, so apparently it was important!

It was a wonderful and beautiful service, and quite an interesting experience. I just wish I could have met her.