December 2011 Archives

bath house

Yesterday at 10:30 in the morning Scuba and I were deciding what to do with our kid-free till 8 p.m. day.  We were going back and forth about San Francisco (coffee in North Beach, walk the streets, lunch at Fog City Diner, dinner at ChaChaCha or Suppenkuche) or Monterey (champagne on the beach, Phil's Fish Market, the aquarium) when he checked his email and saw that the Triumph motorcycle group has an upcoming ride planned to Mercey Hot Springs, a place in Fresno county we'd never heard of before. 

We both thought that spending the day soaking sounded mighty fine, even if it was over 100 miles from home.

By 11:20 we were headed south (in his car, not on the bike) on the most beautiful bluesky day with towels, swimsuits, a case of water, warm jackets, a Hank Williams CD, and my Poppa's Polaroid Land Camera.  He wore shorts, I wore a skirt , and we both had on flipflops.  God bless California. 

Mercey Hot Springs is 13 miles west off of Interstate 5, and about 50 miles east of Monterey, putting it really right in the middle of noplace.  After you turn off I-5, all you'll see until you get there are hills, cows, barbed wire fences, hawks, some lonely power lines, zero bars on your cell reception, a few old barns, and I think only one farmhouse.

We were two of maybe 12 or 15 people there all afternoon, and we spent the first hour soaking in side-by-side outdoor tubs.  The tubs have two taps - one with hot spring water and one with cold mineral water, both straight from the ground.  We filled our tubs with hot water (it's a little smelly, but you do get acclimated) and just soaked there under the blue sky, warmed by the water and the sun, listening to the birds and a little naked infant with his family and a couple of dogs barking now and then.  I'm not usually so good at meditation, but my mind was very nearly empty.  When I did think, it was mostly about my dad and death and how grateful I am to get to spend my life with the man in the tub one over from me.

There's a swimming pool filled with hot spring water, and a dry sauna.  We made a loop from the tubs to the pool to the sauna, all the knots in my back coming loose. 

I took a short walk to take a couple of photos.

I'm still learning how to set the camera for different kinds of light, and could have spent much more time and film refining my shots, but, you know, there was a sauna waiting for me.  I accidentally set the camera case on that photo, which is why the tear in corner. 

The day passed like a dream, really.  We headed home just as the sun was setting, the mountains turning all purple. 

We hit a long traffic jam on Highway 152 after it got dark.  152 connects I-5 to 101, and winds up through the hills and past the huge San Louis Reservoir.  We figured it was an accident, and before too long a plain white van with "Merced County" passed us on the shoulder of the road.  It was still there as we passed by the horrible wreckage of the cars involved.

We got back just before the kids did, and before too long I was picking candy wrappers up off the floor and busting up arguments.  It was like we never left, except I think I'm still a little zoned out.  Next time we go, hopefully we'll be able to stay in one of the little cabins.  Cause finishing a day by soaking in one of the outside tubs under the stars and then climbing into bed sounds about like the best thing I can think of.   
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Happy happy

like a truck.

My To-Do list owns me, even though Scuba spent all day long doing things for me: taking the boys to get inner tubes for their flat bicycle tires so I don't have to drive to the high school so often; fixing the watch Alex got for his birthday in October (it arrived broken); shopping for all the ingredients for Nate's birthday dinner tonight; washing my car; taking the boys shopping for jeans and socks and boxers. 

I spent the day wrapping presents, coughing, doing laundry.

Nate is thirteen now.  He really wanted a TempurPedic pillow for his birthday, so that's what we got him and dude was he ever happy to see that box under the wrapping paper. 

Our tree has been up for almost two weeks.  We like to cut down our own tree every year, but last year didn't work out so we liked the idea of it even more than usual this year.  The day we went to get it, Scuba was still sick (pneumonia) and so I drove us up into the mountains and he rode shotgun.  There are a number of things that I do well, and many more that I'm competent at, and even more than that that I'm passable at.  Driving isn't on any of those lists.  I know where a few tree farms are, but since we saw people coming down a road closer than the places I know of, we decided to get off the highway sooner and go to a place closer to home. 

We drove up the mountain.  And drove.  And then I accidentally hit the curb, whoops.  And still, we drove.  Every so often we'd see a sign:  TREE FARM ^    And we did keep passing cars coming down the mountain with trees, so we kept on.  Finally we got to a point in the road where things had narrowed down to one lane.  Out the passenger window we had dirt mountainside stretching straight up.  Out the driver's window there was just the air blowing above the tall trees far, far below us.     

So we are driving up this and I'm nervous as hell and the kids are chattering and every time I successfully allow a car coming down the hill to pass me I'm feeling a little bit better.  Then we come to a bend in the road that is clogged up by at least four cars.  Slowly from around the bend comes, well, this:

The giant truck towing the tractor passed by the other cars one by one until he got to us.  I scootched the van right up to the side of the mountain, folded in my side view mirror, and hoped for the best.  The truck driver and I both had our windows down, and as he passed us with about an inch to spare, he looked down at me and said, I sure hope I don't fall of the edge here!

We did finally find the tree farm.  I parked and looked at Scuba and handed over the keys.


It was a perfect day and there wasn't a fistfight over the saw (almost, but not), and we got a great tree. 

My little family gets a tree

At one point I told all the kids to turn around for a photo and they all independently decided to give me some of this:

Happy Holidays

That night we got the tree set up in the living room and I put the lights on.  We did up the strings of popcorn and cranberries and had apple cider and listened to the Pandora station that you get when you put in Nat King Cole Christmas


During Jingle Bell Rock Bing Crosby sang, Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet, and Sophie turned to me, shocked, and said, MOM!  WHY is he singing about whores in a Christmas song?

Horses, Sophie.  HORSES

How has it been five years already since I first talked to the Bingle Jells lady?  I call her that because she came to the kids' Christmas music performance a little bit lit, and my grandmother, Tooty, had this awesome wooden plaque that she hung up every year over the television during the holidays.  It was a wobbly Santa with a drink in his hand and it said Bingle Jells!

I really wish I had that thing.  I'd put on the front door instead of a wreath, maybe.

Anyway, the last time I talked to the Bingle Jells lady was last winter or maybe the one before.  I had dropped the girls at school and was stopped at the stopsign in front of her house and she walked into the road and slapped on my window.  Scared the hell out of me.  She wanted a ride to the coffee shop so she could go hang out with her friends.  We used to see her walking there every morning, all bundled up.  She'd been in the hospital recently and couldn't make the walk but really wanted to go visit.  She said she'd get a ride home, no problem, so I told her to hop in and we drove off.

Dear sweet honey did she smell bad.  I had to crack my window. 

Anyway, there were signs up yesterday announcing an estate sale in my neighborhood.  I didn't really pay attention until I pulled up at that stopsign this morning and saw all her stuff all over her lawn and driveway.  Chairs and tables and furniture and dishes.  A rocking chair.  And a couple of men there, waiting for people to come and buy everything up. 
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Yesterday on NPR I heard a news story about a 14 year old Syrian boy who was tortured to death, and a soldier who said he shot and killed a 2 year old baby so she wouldn't grow up to be a demonstrator.

I'm grieving for my dad in the most heartbroken, raw, awful way.  But when I hear terrible stories like that I remember the time in the hospital after he came off the ventilator and could talk again.  He looked at me and he said that no matter what happened, he had a wonderful life and couldn't have asked for more.  He loved his family and his job and he was happy.  He didn't want to die, not at all, but he said that he felt like he'd lived a happy and very blessed life.

At one point, I hugged him close and said to him Everything is going to be okay.  And he said, No, it isn't.  He said it kind of accusatory, like it was easy for me to say that since I wasn't the one with cancer and COPD and rheumatoid arthritis.  Then he paused and started over.  Well, it is.  I know it is.  I felt like an idiot for saying it, but it was all I knew to do.  I always want to hear that things are going to be okay, even when they're clearly not. 

What's so difficult, I think, even maybe more than missing him so badly, is that he loved being alive.  There was so much he wanted to do and learn and talk about.  He wanted to cook and build this awesome computer that had so much stuff in it it had to have something like six fans to keep it cooled off.  Right before he went into the hospital he ordered a woodcarving book (he used to make furniture and carve smaller things - I have a letter opener he made) and a bunch of cookbooks.  He retired in October and his life was pretty much over on April 1st when he went into the hospital and never got to go home again.  We had some wonderful moments even in that hospital, but it wasn't his life. 

I've been in the hospital for over a week before.  It doesn't take very long to get really used to and kind of dependent on being there.  It doesn't take long before it's hard to remember your real life, the one where you got dressed every day and stood in the kitchen to make your coffee and did the crossword puzzle and listened to the radio.  The one where you checked the weather report and ran to the hardware store on a Saturday and put stamps on bills and dropped them into the mail and merged into traffic and made small talk with the cashier at the grocery store. 

I pick at my sadness by thinking to myself that if my dad didn't get sick, he'd have been here to visit us by now.  He'd have come to soccer games and wrestling matches and cheered for the kids with me.  We would have cooked supper together and had political debates and talked about physics and stars and funny TV commercials.  We'd have put the kids to bed and stayed up really late, drinking beer and telling stories.  He told the best stories and I'd give anything to have that on video. 

I know my dad was happy and he really did have much more than most people do.  But he also had so much more he wanted to do.  I can't put into words how much I was looking forward to seeing more of him after he retired, of the kids getting to really know him, of celebrating his 90th birthday by getting all my kids and my granddkids together for a big party.  Of him helping the kids with their physics homework and coming to see them graduate from college and start their own families. 

I still talk to him.  I send him IMs to his gmail account.  And you know what it says on his status?  It says, Stan is offline and can't receive messages right now.  Messages you send will be delivered when Stan comes online.  I don't really believe that he can read what I write to him.  A lot of times I tell him how mad I am that he died.  Not at him, but just at how unfair it is.  He used to tell me that life isn't fair.  That you're not issued a guarantee with your birth certificate and if you expect things to be fair you'll be disappointed.  But it's still not fair.  And I'm still not able to really and truly believe that he's gone.  Sometimes I dream about him, and he talks to me and I don't want to wake up.

I think I believe in an afterlife, but I am not really convinced that we keep anything of who we are here when we move on.  I mean, I don't think he's out there somewhere missing us.  What I hope is that he's learned every single fascinating secret about the universe and the stars that he wanted to travel to.  I hope he is finally an astronaut, just like he wanted.  And I hope that he has a little bit of us with him, like we have some of him here.    
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Jenny lives about 110 miles north of me. Yesterday afternoon we were on the phone and she was all OMG the wind!  About an hour later I looked up from my desk and out the window to see a big clump of leaves fly past and all the trees bending.  All night the wind blew, and this morning it's still kicking up leaf piles and spinning pizza flyers down the street.

Yesterday when Sophie came home from school she had a story to tell me.  Background: whenever her class has a substitute teacher, she speaks with a British accent and tries to get the teacher to believe that she moved here from London.  She does a pretty good job, considering her age, though I'm guessing that most little Londoners don't usually throw a Chip-chip-cheerio between every other sentence.  Yesterday they had a sub they'd had before, and she remembered Sophie from last year.  Didn't you go to the royal wedding? she asked in front of the class.  Oh, yes, Soph told her.  My parents are friends with the royal family. 

Really?  What do your parents do? 

Well.  My father is a businessman, and my mother is a maiden.

A maiden?

Yes.  A maiden.  She cleans houses

She said that her friends were laughing so hard they were crying, but I'm not convinced this story is true. 

Why did you tell them that I clean houses?
I asked her.

Because.  I have no idea what a maiden is.

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