Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MN visit - part III

I need to sum up some stuff pronto, to get back into something other than a travelogue that no one wants to read!

Let's see. We had dinner with Drummer and Bro's step-sister and her husband. No, she isn't really a step-sister. But what do you call someone when her mother married the brothers' dad late in life? Anyway... we got together to discuss our feelings and options, where the parents are concerned. Step-mom was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had a pacemaker implanted just after we met for dinner. Both parents have trusts, and have provided us with copies of those (finally!). They are keeping their funds separate, mingling enough for living expenses. Drummer's dad has Alzheimer's and dad's wife is insistent on caring for him herself, at home (they live in the Phoenix area). Dad's been in a home which cares for patients with his status while his wife is recuperating - step-mom wants to bring him home as soon as possible, and she is now recovering strength, so it is probably going to happen.

We had agreed on a Plan B action (getting them both to Wisconsin, near family and possible intervention/care when needed). This is probably not going to happen, now that step-mom is feeling better. But I think it is a good option that we can leave open. It was good to meet one of her daughters - we had previously met one of her sons - and to get the "skinny" on step-mom's sense of obligation for caring for family members over the decades. One determined lady, with a strong history of doing this sort of thing.

Finally squeezed in a few hours at one of long-time girlfriends (guess that would qualify for a BFF, in text-messaging jargon) on Saturday afternoon. And saw Drummer's long-time friend Billy (he of the professional musician's lifestyle, and doing well financially). And then we headed up to Duluth on Sunday.

Strange to be "up north" and NOT be staying in the home I grew up in. I didn't even drive by the ol' homestead. Mom closed on the house in June and is temporarily staying with my sis. She'll be moving into the senior apts in my li'l hometown in about a week. Both she AND my sis are so ready to NOT be living together any longer. Sis did a good job of gritting her teeth through these co-living months - and I know it was not easy for Mom, either. They will both be happier in probably 7 days or less.

I tried to help in ways that I could. I cooked a meal that MOST of us liked - sorry, sis, about the mushrooms! But at least they were big enough for you to pick out. For some reason, Mom does not want to use sis's washer/drier, so Mom asked me to do a load of laundry for her. Sis and I have discussed why Mom will NOT do laundry at her house - and came up with the only logical response: damned if WE know why!

Friday one of sis's cats had to be put to sleep. She was 16 and had just recently started having "accidents". And sis said she was down to about 5 pounds, from 10. Sis left work early and I went with her to the vet's clinic. The guy was really nice and basically said that Puff was was in kidney failure. So sis decided to have her euthanized. Poor kitty. She was the one that the family referred to as the "lap slut" - she's go to anyone who would pet her. With this current visit, I was always available and the little beggar knew it, too. Sad to have to have this done - but sis had noticed that she had recently not been eating, also, and it was the humane choice. But still hard, especially when she has been a family member for so many years.

Mom turned 80 on 15 Sept. She only wanted to go out to a local restaurant, which was within walking distance of my sister's house. So that's what we did. My sister's oldest son was up from the Cities with his wife and 2 boys, and he picked up the tab. Thanks, nephew! Sis provided the recipe for a cake and icing, which I made for Mom. When we got back to the house, we lit one candle and Mom blew it out - twice. I had to have a re-enactment, for my photo. My Duluth cousins sent a lovely bouquet to her, and nephew and wife gave her a nice gift, too. Sis and I decided to give her cash toward things for her new home. Mom was pretty content with the whole "fuss" and then Drummer and I headed to Hinckley for lodging. Nephew and his family "bumped" us from our free lodging (offspring outranks siblings - and I do understand), so we went to Hinckley for Friday and Saturday.

We said our good-byes, since we were hitting the road early on Sunday morning for our return to Houston. And by late afternoon on Monday after 2 more days of driving, we were home again, home again. Nothin' left to show for it all except laundry, bills, some digital photos and a few extra pounds.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

MN visit - part II - 35W bridge

Hmm... on Sept. 6th we went to see The Bridge. The 35W bridge which collapsed in early August. I drove over that bridge twice a day, for years, when I lived in southeast Mpls. and worked at Valspar. It was not old then, it was not deteriorating then. It was just there and I drove across it mindlessly. And now it isn't any of those things at all. It is just old, broken. Just gone.

Enough time had elapsed that the large chunks of concrete had been removed from the river (the Mississippi, for those of you asking What river?). I was told that they were moved to a location downstream for analysis or whatever the Powers That Be will do with them. Portions of the collapsed pavement still were on the riverbanks, and huge portions of twisted metal were still in the river itself.

Folks, it was so sobering to see in person. We had seen a lot of news coverage, photos, videos. But nothing compared with seeing it ourselves, with our own eyes. And yes, we took photos, but not as an obscene remembrance. It was kind of like when your childhood school closes or is razed or something like that. A part of your life is gone, in a way. Hard to explain. I don't think the word sobering is all that descriptive of my feelings, but it's the best I could come up with. I am thankful that only 13 lives were lost, which is amazing when you see the wreckage. I may post photos with this day's blog. Haven't offloaded them from the camera yet.

Don't want to muddy this posting with anything else. It is still sobering, in hindsight. (I tried to find another word to use, instead of sobering - only found humbling as a distant second.)
Note: photos were taken from the 10th Ave. bridge, which crosses the river only a bit to the east of the collapsed bridge. See locale of this bridge on this Wikipedia entry:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Visit to MN - part I


I'll try to make this somewhat painless for anyone reading (the numbers are HUGE!).

Let me start with the idea that I assumed I would have lots of time to go on solitary walks while in MN. Weather was beautiful when we first arrived and it would have been ideal. Never happened folks, NEVER. Big mistake.

First coupla days were spent with family. Saw Drummer's aunt and her kids (cousins) on the 3rd. This started our packin'-on-of-the-pounds. Cousin Chuck and siblings provided a feast, including the beef tenderloin that ol' Chuckie barbecued to perfection. Drummer, Chuck and self snagged the rarest slices - mmmmm-mmmm-good!

Tuesday morning we had breakfast with Drummer's friend Scott from high school. His wife had a late night (or early morning, depending on your viewpoint) so we saw her later. Oldest daughter and girlfriends had a t.p.-ing mission, including an early morning visit to the high school to festoon the tree limbs there. Drummer and Scott have a common interest in music, including drumming. The suburb where Scott lives - and where Drummer's bro now also lives - had a drum shop opening recently. Drummer and I eventually got there - I will now know where to find Drummer, when we return to the Cities. He offered to fill out a job app right there and then!

Saw his cousin Carol (couldn't get to the Monday night gig, due to former commitment), hubby Dennis and their two kids on Tuesday. More food - burgers this time, but at least she tried to feed us some healthy stuff, proceeding the red meat by a veggie tray.

Wednesday we actually ate with our hosts - Drummer's Bro and his Wife. Bro is a director at a facility for emotionally challenged kids in a town 60 miles from where he lives. Wife works for a caterer at an upscale women's club, and also was trained as a landscape designer. Her cooking skills are not in doubt, and Bro likes to barbecue. We had some great ribs, and lots of garlic in the side dishes.

I should pause here and comment about the state of the hosts' home. They spent probably over a year having their 1940's or 1950's era home (wife's childhood home) remodelled. They chose to NOT add a 2nd bathroom. They also chose to not insulate the upstairs level - we never saw it, so cannot vouch for its state.

However... we did let them know our arrival date and approximate time, and they were still scrambling to make it accessible (that's the correct word, folks). Apparently Wife is notorious for saving entire publications, when she wants to clip an article or whatever. Evidence abounded for the truth of this - stacks and HEAPS of evidence. But they did clear things enough for us to find their bed (they were gracious and insistent about us staying with them). Bro snagged a bed in the "office" - it did have a desk, after all. Wife borrowed an air mattress from a friend and slept on their living room floor. Well in advance, we offered to find other accomodations, but they insisted that they would be ready -well, sort of ready - well, scrambling-to-make-room ready. That's when we pulled in the driveway.

I have a feeling that lots of stuff got stashed upstairs, and Wife probably doesn't know that Bro occasionally dumps paper stuff into the recycling containers before she gets to it. Probably just as well, although she complained to me that he had thrown out some important paperwork.

But staying with them was so good - actually gave Drummer and Bro a chance to reconnect. It is hard to be the younger brother (Drummer), when the older brother always views you in that way. I think Bro realized that Drummer is an assest to the family, particularly when it comes to working with their father (Alzheimer's) and the unique challenges there. It also provided Wife and me a chance to get to know each other. She is genuinely excited about us moving back to MN and showered us with some real estate publications. Even scoped out a house in their neighborhood (where we will NOT be living) for our possible investigation. I can let my hair down around her - she can match cuss words with me, and we have the same liberal views on politics. What's not to like?

Time to pause and allow me to get my thoughts in order for Part II of this Visit to MN journal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back at the keyboard again

Just a coupla paragraphs...

Got back to our own hacienda last evening - by the time we stopped and picked up some milk and English muffins, it was about 6 pm when Drummer turned off the alarm at the home. Lots of crap to unpack... fair share of it was dirty laundry (even tho' I had washed clothes at my sister's), and the usual stuff that we manage to pick up (printed material - the Onion, the Reader and other things that we don't easily find here, if at all).

The two days of driving back were pretty intense. Seemed much longer than the journey going up to MN. when it really was just the same total hours in return. Guess we were much more tired on the way back...

Ate way too many calories - folks mean well, and it is hard to say no when good stuff is put before you. Also had 2 terrific pizzas - one from Broadway Pizza in Richfield and the other at Sammy's Pizza in Duluth. Those two places know how to do thin-crust 'zas good!

More will be written about these past two weeks, in small installments. It was good to see family, and it makes us more anxious to return to our roots, I guess.

Mom turned 80 on Sept. 15th (which is why we chose this time of year to travel). It was fun to help her celebrate - she is happy when a small fuss is made over her, and I hope we contributed to that. She stepped outside of my sister's house, when Drummer and I were heading to the car. I gave her a hug, and she said (as she does whenever we leave to return to Houston), "I always hate to see you go." I tried to give a little pep talk when I replied, "Well, we'll be living back here in less than 3 years." And her final comment was, "I'm so glad you are coming back to Minnesota, back where you belong." That put a lump in my throat, and I gave her another hug before I walked to the car.

She stood at the back door and waved as we left. I hope she will still be doing as well, as these last 34 months pass.