Friday, November 21, 2014
Tonight was one of those rare perfect drizzling nights in the swamp – when the air begs to be breathed & the tiny droplets of rain beg to caress your face. A light enough drizzle to turn naturally curly hair fetching & irresistible but a little too many droplets for the fantasy of making love in the rain. A night for walking one’s neighborhood & thinking.
In another time, even in the space I currently occupy, I would not hesitate to take that walk. Indeed, I have walked & glided on a bike through this neighborhood at all hours in the past, oblivious to any danger or any threat.
But the world, the square mile hamlet I live in with Jean is not the place that allowed me to leave my parents’ house at any hour & explore. Always trying to replicate the mornings I left Jack & Jean’s house in El Paso, crossed the desert behind our back yard & climbed a hill to watch the sun rise or set over the Franklin Mountains.
I used to wander the streets of this one square mile hamlet on my bike with a friend, or alone, just for the joy of owning the street early in the morning. My way of replicating that trek to the top of the hill to watch the sunrise. Only the Borden Milk Man’s truck invaded our space - & he always offered us a sample of the latest Borden frozen delight.
Of course, he always asked if our parents knew we were out so early & we always glibly lied & said yes, sir.
Tonight I cannot walk in the drizzling rain that begs me to let it curl my hair & give me time to walk the neighborhood & think.
So I open my laptop & write about what I am thinking.
Jean & I have spent nine days & eight nights at Methodist Hospital Sugar Land. It is a wonderful hospital, doctors & nurses vie for positions there. It was not our first rodeo at MHSL, & it will not be our last. God willing.
Because I am not yet willing to let my mother go.
We went through Emergency at the hospital on instructions from Jean’s primary physician. Results from a test for a suspected UTI indicated the need for IV antibiotics.
And in the Emergency Room, the doctors & nurses detected an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia that descended to dangerous levels while Jean slept.
So I took my mother to the ER for a severe UTI & she received a pacemaker & we spent nine days & eight nights in the bizarre dimension & time zone of a hospital.
Coming home late this afternoon was an adjustment. It always is. After nine days & eight nights, I suddenly am once again responsible for the dispensing of medication (which I monitor like a hawk – hospital pharmacies make mistakes & Methodist make a big one this soiree) -- after nine days & eight nights, I face the laundry I left when we went on this latest jaunt to the hospital. I cannot pick up a phone & order a meal. No wonderful cleaning fairy named Dora will come & clean, no charming aid will come & give Jean a bath, no one will bring a pair of fresh socks.
As I sit at my laptop, remembering & savoring that drizzling rain, I think about all the times I have been able to walk & think, caressed by a mist of tiny raindrops. Jean can no longer walk anywhere. All of her thinking, all of her life & experiences are played out in a single space, confined to a bed with an air mattress. And most of the time, with me as a companion.
When we came home, I moved my computer space to the top of a Singer sewing machine, built in 1921 (I looked up the registration number on the Singer website). The same machine that Jean’s mother Luna Sims used to make clothes for my aunts & uncles, Lorrine, Ronald, Mansel, Allyne, Edsel, Janette, Melba, Barbara & for her baby, Jean.
When my cousin Linda Wiley offered me the machine, I responded with a joyous yes, please, we would love to have it.
I took out a page I tore out from a magazine at Methodist Wound Care Center – I am an unapologetic thief of recipes & interesting articles discovered in waiting rooms. And just before Linda mentioned Luna’s sewing machine, I found an article on what to do with old Singer machines.
My sister has our grandmother Helen Irene Roberts Ettinger’s Singer machine. So I felt that it was quid quo pro for me to take Luna’s as my own. The picture I robbed from the magazine table at Methodist Wound Care Center showed an amazing transformation - with a minor investment – spray paint the cast iron a deep purple, remove the top of the cabinet & replace it with a coffee table top from IKEA.
When my cousin Larry & his sweet wife Frances brought the sewing machine from his sister Linda’s place, I discovered that the cabinet had two missing knobs, some damage to the top of the cabinet, a bad paint job & the machine itself intact.
The machine Luna’s hands & my aunts’ hands & Jean’s hands worked while learning to sew.
And the purple based table left the building.
I sit at Luna’s machine & write, my always tile weary feet moving the cast iron petal, & I summon bits & pieces of Luna & Rush’s farm outside Canton, & vivid memories of visiting them after they moved to Dallas. Rush leading grace before each meal, his deep, rich voice forever implanted in my being. Sitting on Rush’s lap in his giant rocking chair, that same rich, deep voice singing softly. And my grandmother Luna, who always greeted us with a smile to melt anyone’s heart.
Luna always served a stack of sliced white bread & butter at every meal. For a long time, before Jean got heart healthy with Jack, she did the same. Once I asked her why & she explained that on the farm, the ingredients for bread were always available & it was a great way to fill out a meal. After all, Jean said, your grandmother was feeding nine children, your grandfather & whoever appeared at her table.
Jean has Luna’s smile. And implanted in my being is the feeling that I should offer bread at every meal.