When Herr came along, I think my mother was truly surprised that someone like him would even WANT to date me, as I was, well, not very scholarly. I was, how should I put it... more of a social butterfly--yeah, that's it. Then I think she put the wheels in motion to make sure that SHE didn't scare him off. Ever. My mother is very good at that--scaring people off. Ask anyone in my family. They'll tell you. She has spent the past 15 years pulling out all the stops when he is around, reading up on the latest drugs that are going to market so that they can "discuss" them (WTF?!) She'll plan crazy ornate dinners to feed Herr, despite the fact that she is now much too sick to preapre them. As always, Herr is the perfect son-in-law during these visits and never complains.
The past few years have been rough for my mom. After my father died, she became extremely ill with a lung fungus. She had 2/3 of her right lung removed two days before Baby Girl was born. She has never recovered from the surgery and is in chronic pain. Coupled with the strokes she has had, several arythmias, and the crippling depression, she is a mess. Did I mention that she is also a heavy smoker and an even heavier drinker? A couple of months ago, she started to cough up blood again, like she did when she was first diagnosed with the lung fungus. After numerous tests, the doctors are still unable to diagnose her problem, although they have ruled out lung cancer and the lung fungus she previously had. The recent memory loss she has started to experience is very scary for my sister and me. We hate that she is alone, but she refuses to move in with either of us. I'm too bossy and my sister is too loud. Because of her drinking and her memory issues, we always know that a trip home will always be nothing short of amazing.
Today's parent spends a lot of time tiptoeing through other people's homes, making sure they are childproof enough for their kids. Going to see Grandparents can be an especially dicey ordeal. Whenever we go to Herr's mother's house, we can expect a clean home. We can expect her "Quilting Room" to be closed so that little hands can't grab pincushions or worse. We can expect that she will put away anything that she doesn't want her darling grandchildren to get into while they are there. We know that her medications are put away in her master bathroom, away from curious hands.
To be fair, my MIL lives in a 3 bedroom condo with lots of room for her stuff. Busia's apartment is less than 600 sq. feet. And she is a packrat. We always know that Busia's apartment will be smoky. We know that it will be filthy. Part of it is the smoke, part of it is the heating/air conditioning unit that has never been cleaned. I usually spend the first couple of hours of every visit cleaning. She simply isn't capable in her condition. It also doesn't help that she won't let me hire someone. We always know that there will be "paperwork" on the floor. My mother has a desk, but has always preferred to do her paperwork on the floor. She usually has trays of paperclips, rubber bands, scissors, a stapler and piles and piles of glorious paper strewn about the living room. Imagine our surprise yesterday when we walked into her apartment and saw this:
Busia had actually done a great job of putting her paperwork away. She had also taken steps to "childproof" her important boxes of papers by running two pieces of twine from the coffee table to the television. Nothing tells a child to "STAY AWAY" better than a couple of pieces of twine. Instad of paperwork, she was in the process of replanting her chives. She told the girls that it was OK to play in the green bag of dirt if they wanted to. Of course, Peaches immediately took a shine to the little pink container next to the dirt. It's amazing how a cannister of fertilizer sounds just like a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese when shaken. Do you see the cane Baby Girl is using? She decided she wanted to "be like Busia" and play with her adjustable cane and wear some of Busia's shoes. She also held her fingers up like she was smoking a cigarette, but I didn't want a record of that.
A little later, I was in the bathroom and decided to take Peaches into the bathroom with me so that I could keep an eye on her. Herr went out to the car to get the pack and play. We both came out to the living room at the same time and saw Baby Girl out on the deck with Busia. Busia was smoking a cigarette and Baby Girl was trying to catch the smoke clouds. When we asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm catching bubbles." Embarrassed, Busia threw out the cigarette and invited Peaches to come out to the deck too. She had a bucket of water for them to play with. Every night we let the girls play in their own buckets of water after dinner. It is something they love to do. Later, I dumped the water in the sink and noticed it had a funny smell. When I asked Busia what the smell was, she told me it was vinegar water that she had used to do clean some sticky stuff off the deck.
All in all, it was a successful trip. The girls didn't get into Busia's medications, which they usually do. They didn't put the remote control into her coffee cup, which they have previously done. The girls were pretty well behaved and gave Busia a lot of love. Busia got to see her beloved son-in-law. I got to pay her bills--two months worth. They hadn't been paid since the last time I was there and paid bills. Busia also showed me her new outfit that is laid out on her bed. I asked her why she bought something so...black. She said that she would like to wear it to her funeral. Her concern right now is that by the time they figure out what is wrong with her, it will be too late. I told her that it was a bit "Stevie Nicks" for her, but whatever she wants to wear is fine for me.
A trip home to see Busia always involves a lot of breaks AWAY from Busia. Her threshold for being around people is at the most, three hours. She just gets so exhausted. It is not unreasonable for us to see her for maybe a total of 4 hours on a Saturday and 2 hours on a SUnday before heading home. Fortunately, it works out well because our threshold for monitoring our children like hawks in a tiny apartment where HUGE SHARP scissors are found next to the television by 17 month olds is three hours. That said, we usually have a lot of spare time on our hands. We found out that friends of ours who live here in Cincinnati were spending the weekend in 30 minutes away from us because one of them is from the area. It turns out that they had plans to go to Warren Dunes , which is just a few minutes from where I grew up and they invited us to meet them out there. We ended up having a fantastic afternoon with them. Maddie and Baby Girl are best friends, so they were so excited to play together at the beach. Peaches really took to the water, which was a real bummer as I was not dressed for the beach and I had to chase her around.
And no trip home would be complete for us without going to our absolute FAVORITE hamburger joint in the world, Redamak's . If you are ever in New Buffalo, Michigan, DO NOT LEAVE until you have had one of Redamak's Cheeseburgers with everything, chili cheese fries and a glass of Old Style. No Joke.
On Sunday, we spent the morning with Busia, but I could tell she was feeling worse than usual. Fortunately, we were able to spend a couple of hours with my friends Lorrie and Scott and their two kids Emily and Adam. I met Lorrie the first day of kindergarden and we have been friends ever since. She is all too familiar with my mother's shenanigans. It has been wonderful to sometimes stay with her when we come to visit. Emily and Adam are so wonderful with the girls. Baby Girl and Peaches are absolutely smitten with them. We went back to Busia's for 20 minutes before we headed home last night.
The trip home was uneventful with the exception of Peaches screaming for nearly two hours of the four hours in the car. Her screams make us absolutely miserable. I am wondering how I am going to get through our trip to New Jersey on Saturday and Sunday, then my trip to Maine with the girls ALONE next Monday. Then, I will drive with the girls BY MYSELF back to Cincinnati over the span of two days the following week. I have purchased some ear plugs and some headphones for Baby Girl's dvd player. Not sure what else I can do to drown her out.