May. 25th, 2017 12:00 pm

One down

muckefuck: (Default)
The verdict is in on the first of Monshu's birthdays without Monshu this century and it's, "Not as bad as feared". Things looked grim at the start: My plans with Mozhu had fallen through and I couldn't really think of anyone else I wanted to be with. Willing volunteers would have been plentiful, but it's difficult bearing these occasions with someone who doesn't really understand what you're going through--which is nearly everyone. There are all sorts of loss in this world, but losing a spouse isn't quite like any of them. Take the intersection of that with number of people I know who knew Monshu and the pool is tiny indeed.

I'd already decided to comment-whore by posting a picture to FB of an orchid in bloom that Monshu had given me. I've kept it alive ten of the last eighteen years without his help but I'd never gotten it to bloom before. It eventually racked up enough Likes to get Mom to backhandedly say, "I didn't realize you had so many friends."

But in terms of mood, things only began to look up a bit at lunch, when I hitched my wagon to a group of guys at work who have a weekly stammtisch at the Irish pub in town. Two of them have been working here as long as me, and though we're not close, there's a rapport there. One of them joined us late and the second thing (after ordering, natch) he did was turn to me and say, "Happy birthday, by the way." Then we all toasted Monshu and after that began the usual inventory of everything the Library is doing wrong.

But work had to end sometime, and even though I stayed an extra hour to make up for the longer lunch, I eventually had to face the dilemma of having nowhere to go but home. Part of me was still hoping to hear from Turtle or Turtlewife, who have both been mysteriously absent from my life for the past couple months. Instead, I heard from a recent trick who I had a snarky response all planned for for blowing me off but didn't feel up to using.

Fortunately, that was the point at which I decided to stop brooding on my own troubles and think of someone else for a change. Namely, my father, who's in a bad place right now. I'm feeling some guilt for not doing much of anything to help (despite the fact that it's the last thing anyone expects from me right now), especially now that my brother is down there with him. So I texted Bunj and we made plans to chat on the phone later.

With that in mind, I no longer dreaded going home. I figured I'd have just enough time to throw together dinner and putter a bit before he called. I had leftover udon in the fridge so I decided to heat that up (eventually taking the noodles out of the broth to fry them because they were too waterlogged otherwise) and stuff some izarizushi--one of Monshu's favourite dishes, something he asked for whenever I got sushi--for an appetiser.

When we talked, we talked for over an hour. I commiserated with him about Dad--it's sad seeing your own father become one of those irascible old guys who alienates everyone, not to mention a little frightening--and reminded him that he was there as much to reassure Dad's wife (who's in acute rehab) and our sister (on vacation in Florida) as to do anything directly beneficial for Dad himself. But then we got on to other things--his job, my job, my mild depression, travelling. There was a time when I thought we might never have these kinds of chats again, and I really missed them.

Mom called while we were on the phone (almost the precise moment when Bunj called, in fact) and I managed to keep our call brief. She told me she's "trying as hard as I can to be good" so that she won't cause us additional trouble right now, which made me laugh. It was all a good reminder that, when the grief starts to get overwhelming, withdrawing is not the answer.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So much in the last couple weeks, where do I start? I wish I'd had the energy to update regularly. I'm sure a day-to-day account of navigating my grief would have been useful to me later. Because, you know, it's not like this will be the only time I do this and the mind forgets unpleasant details so easily.

One thing that's increasingly clear to me is not just how ill-equipped we are to deal with grief but how bad most people are at dealing with someone who's dealing with grief. And there's a copious literature on the first of these but I'm not sure there's much of anything on the latter. I sometimes feel like I'm taking notes for a manual on What Not to Do When Someone You Love Loses Someone They Love and on Monday I gave my sister an overview of the salient points.

Up until just before then, it had been an uncommonly good day. Sure, I still had my cold and there was cleanup to do from Hogmanay, but not so much that I couldn't ignore it and run to the spa to meet up with an old college friend. Getting reacquainted with her after nearly 25 years was fascinating and she was thrilled when I showed interest in "meeting her people". And her people--her tax attorney husband and actress daughter--were fascinating, too. The whole experience was very affirming.

Then I got home and found my refrigerator--still full of leftovers from Sunday--at 66°F and the prospect of having to throw everything out and replace it depressed me so much I just plopped in front of the computer to listen to moody music and play solitaire. I knew I needed to vent, so I called Nuphy, but he wasn't available. So I called my most reliable friend in the world: my sister.

As we talked, I got more and more worked up about things. It's not just the fridge--or the dead rat I found when I got back from St Louis, or the water in the lower level the day before I was supposed to leave. It's not even really the apartment as such. It's the thought of having to face everything an adult has to manage by myself. Yes, Sis can listen. But at the end of the day, I'm the one with the kitchen full of spoiling food. If I called upon one of my better friends to come over and help, they probably would. But fundamentally it's not their problem. For them, it's a charitable act. They are free to peace out at any time--and with quite legitimate reasons. Only [livejournal.com profile] monshu made me the promise that whatever my problems were they were his problems, too, and he would stick by my side until we solved them.

And from there we got on the raw subject of what I needed from my family when I went down for Christmas and what I didn't get. I needed to Feel the Love like I'd never felt it before. I needed to be taken care of. I needed someone attentive enough that they could sense what I needed without the burden always being on me to ask. I got some of that. There was one point, for instance, where after I'd been weeping quietly in my room for nearly an hour, e. decided to check on me, saw the state I was in, and offered to help me finish wrapping presents. But acts like that stand out against a background of relative indifference.

Like I said, I get that people don't know what to do. This is one of those live-altering experiences that you can't understand without having been through. I'm waking up to the mortifying realisation of how I've failed friends and family in the past when they were forced to endure something like this. That's why I accepted what was offered and immediately began trying to forgive them for doing so little. For not even bringing up [livejournal.com profile] monshu once in conversation (and eagerly changing the subject the one time I brought him up). For "giving me time" when what I needed was comfort. For, basically, not being spouses to someone they'd never agreed to marry.

Talking to other widows makes this easier--while at the same time making it only more clear how widespread the need is for advice. Before Sunday's get-together, my friend Mozhu described having almost exactly the same experience the Christmas after her husband died. My friend group is cleaving into those who Get It and those who don't--often despite their best intentions--and this isn't a new thing. Terminal illness is its own life-changing experience and even being there for Nuphy didn't prepare me for what it was like when it was my partner and not just my ex. His daughter was the responsible party then. I was the good friend with the luxury of leaving when I "needed" to because, at the end of the day, it was "not my problem".
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Since I wasn't under enough stress because of the whole insurance mess (still no word on what they'll pay for, but the caseworker says they can bill Medicare if they have to, so at least we won't be on the hook), this is the weekend Stepmom decided to come up for her granddaughters' swim meet and she insisted (in the nicest way) on seeing [livejournal.com profile] monshu. All of which is great, but she brought Dad along, too. (At least I convinced Mom to stay at home for another week.) I think it's probably for that reason alone that when I asked the Old Man this morning, "Would you prefer I were here for their visit?" he nodded yes. So much for getting a half day of work in.

Dad is losing it. There have been hints for years, but now we're getting to the point where it must be obvious even to those who don't know him well. Just during the hour together in [livejournal.com profile] monshu's room, he gave several nonsensical replies, told the same story about falling over twice (having completely forgotten he'd told it already yesterday evening), and answered questions that weren't directed at him. We've always suspected (based on the fate of the previous generation) that if he lived long enough, he'd fall prey to Alzheimer's. We just hoped it wouldn't hit for a while yet.

He's also looking more feeble. More like, well, a man in his 70s who's spent some time in the hospital recently. It's an exaggeration to say--as his wife does--that he has "no gait", but he certainly doesn't have the confident stride that I imitated without realising as a teenager. Our time together was fine--I told my stepmom about a Venezuelan restaurant near work and she drove us up there for lunch. Mostly she and I talked, but Dad made contributions at times. Still, the days when he and I would go on cross-country adventures seem behind us now.

***

Chatting with my stepmom is always a pleasure--she's still as with it as always. I was looking forward to telling her about my conversation with the director of "the Jewish place", as she began referring to the nursing home I visited yesterday after I told her there was a sukkah on the doorstep. He was a shmoozer straight from central casting. The secretary had shown me into a meeting room to wait while he disentangled himself and no sooner had we made introductions when he turned to her and said, "Did you get this man something to drink?" Then back to me to say, "I need to get someone new in the front office, someone who's not so rude to visitors. It's been, what, 19 years and I still haven't found anyone."

He was called away twice to deal with other matters and kept joking about paying me for our time. "You can take it off the first bill," I told him. He engaged in some mildly sexist banter with the staff and patients as we strode through the narrow corridors. He remarked on my surname and joke that he learned to speak German by copping a Colonel Klink accent on his Yiddish. I told my joke about the Jewish boy who takes German for an easy A and then makes the mistake of saying "Shabbes" when asked to recite the days of the week, which led to a discussion of the etymology of Samstag.

All in all, he seems like a mentsh and it looks like a good place. I do worry that [livejournal.com profile] monshu needs more medical care than they're used to dispensing. Really, if there physical therapy were more intense, the best thing for the Old Man would probably be just staying where he's at until he's strong enough to head home, but no way the beancounters are going to approve that.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Again all expectation, [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I gave our interview yesterday. A week before, Turtle had told me about how the reporter who'd interviewed her was looking for someone "who plans to be cremated and has discussed it with their family" to flesh out their trend piece and she knew we wouldn't be shy about talking. I was hesitant to put myself forward, given how unsettled things have been, but it seemed harmless enough.

Naturally, the reporter contacted me Monday of last week when we were totally focused on bringing the Old Man home. She wanted to talk to both of us and I told her we couldn't possibly set something up before the end of the week and she should probably find someone else. She must not have had many leads, since she said she'd talk to her editor and get back to us. Instead of coming home, [livejournal.com profile] monshu landed himself back in the hospital instead, so I didn't even broach the subject with him.

By this Monday, though, things were more settled. He was in a quiet private room and getting lots of rest, so I raised the possibility and he agreed. That was when I expected Tuesday to be a slow day; it wasn't, and after a constant stream of visits (including one from the physical therapist), I figured he was done for the day. But he gave the go ahead after all.

Trying to get connected was a ridiculous process. Although we'd been texting on my phone, I'd asked her to call the landline to the room (I had to ask the PCT for a phone, since none had been provided) but then discovered it didn't have a speakerphone option. I gave her the GWO's number and it took two tries to get a call through for some reason. But I consoled myself with the thought that, in the course of her job, she must have had much more trouble than that contacting someone for a story.

Her questions were basically what we expected, as were our answers. [livejournal.com profile] monshu did open up a bit more about preparations for his father's burial and how it had pushed him away from traditional funeral homes. He also revealed that he'd be open to a green funeral if only it were more convenient. (Apparently there's only one place licenced to do them in Illinois and it's way the hell out in the burbs.) I babbled a bit about not having the traditional family plot any more. She was, I think, a bit taken aback about how easy it was for us to talk about the subject (which brought to mind that terrific exchange between Mozhu and her friend about her father's demise: "Have you ever talked about things concerning...the end of life? "Oh all the time!").

Afterwards, I asked Mom about her wishes. I thought she might want to be buried in Calvary alongside her parents, grandparents, and younger brother, but she didn't even mention the idea in order to dismiss it. She's favouring cremation, too, and we both talked about the problem of not having a good spot to lay our ashes. This led to a discussion of Lake Carlotta, the vacation home west of town she still has a 10% share in, and how it's not clear how much longer it might stay in the family. (Upkeep on it runs about $20,000/year, and it's unclear if a tenth of that is something my sister's family can afford indefinitely.)
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
By now, my sister has done the first-weekend-in-August Chicago trip enough times that's she decided to make it A Thing and getting the planning done in advance. It's pretty amusing to look back at previous visits and compare how much things have changed. Late on Saturday, my sister confided in me how she found it slightly unsettling to look at her oldest "and start the see the adult he will be". For me, it's simply amusing--and somewhat exciting. I had misgivings about taking the boys to a Chinese restaurant given their insane levels of finickiness, but not only did AWI love almost everything we ordered he complained about not getting to order the seabass. Oh my goddess, kid, we are going to have so much fun going out when you come back next summer.

So here's a quick one-by-one rundown on the current State of the Niblings:
  • AWI: A geek in my own image. Watches Dr Who religiously? Check. Reading LotR? Check. Wears bowties? Check. Bores you with chatter about his fantasy game world? Check. But I think his most charming character trait is his affection toward his brothers, particularly the youngest. He seems to genuinely enjoy babysitting. (Apparently he's been able to make a little income from it, though still not enough to afford a cellphone.)
  • ECI: Still less aloof than he seems. Yeah, he spent the most time looking at a tiny screen, but he also gave me the longest hug when he left. He's smarter and more socially-aware than his older brother, but also more devious. He's also a budding scientist: For him, a cup of ice on a hot day is an invitation to experimentation. (DeGrasse Tyson would be thrilled with the amount of encouragement he seems to be getting on that score.) I'm happy to see that he still enjoys doing some little-kid stuff like riding a carousel or telling really dumb jokes, because I don't expect that to survive contact with high school.
  • IMI: For years, I thought of him as the Tantrum Child, but he seems finally to have settled down. Now he's the Enigma Child, who is the most likely to be off in a world of his own devising that he only occasionally verbalises about enough to give you a brief glimpse. Maybe I'm warming to him at last?
  • OGI: Not gonna lie--still my favourite. But with IMI becoming more placid, his whininess and fussiness stands out more. He was the only child who refused to eat anything set in front of him at Sun Wah (until the fortune cookies arrived) and he almost became the source of an I'll-Turn-This-Car-Around moment at the zoo yesterday. But he let me take him down to see the Secret Village in the basement of the home and loved the idea of bringing along his brothers one-at-a-time. (I hadn't the heart to tell him we probably wouldn't be back.) And Saturday night, he asked me to lie down next to him so he could fall asleep. (Which he did in like five minutes; of course, just as I was about to extract myself, his brother chose that moment to put down his book and rest his head on my chest. Oh well; nothing I haven't been through before with the cat.)
  • JHI: Still preverbal, which I know has my sister concerned, but what's he really got to say at this age anyway? He's also very interactive, having not discovered screens yet. In order to tire him out before the return trip on Sunday, I spent some time helping him to stalk pigeons. He was being a mama's boy much of the time, but not so much that he didn't let me hold him up to view gorillas. He also hasn't found out yet that he's allowed to dislike 99% of all food in the world, which makes him a close second to AWI when it comes to new dining experiences.
JHI got a little screechy at the restaurant, but that's okay because "at Sun Wah, no one can hear you scream". ECI discovered that duck "is just chicken" and ECI and IMI found fascinating things to do with chopsticks. AWI was reluctant to eat the fish when he realised it still had his spine, but a little quick fileting on my part and he was good.

Not sure they'll have much in the way of new memories of their Uncle [livejournal.com profile] monshu from this visit, which is a shame since it means they might not end up with many at all. Despite having only one therapy session on Saturday, he tired quickly and they were distracted by cushions and Pokémon. Maybe they'll remember more of their Uncle Nuphy, who was able to join the trip to the MSI which I decided was a longer haul than I was up on my only day for sleeping in.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[livejournal.com profile] monshu's family is in town. So far, this is working out, even though the timing is somewhat crazy. Due to flight delays, they got in at midnight on Monday. At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the Old Man and I reported to the hospital for his surgical procedure. It was an hour and forty minutes before they took him back, so I figured the day was more-or-less blown. But the whole thing took barely half an hour. He spent twice that much time in recovery. Even with stopping off to get his meds and do a little shopping, we were home by 2 p.m. and he felt good enough to invite his family over for dinner.

This threatened to go off the rails when they finally made it to the el station only to find a "police action" was "in progress". Exasperated, he paid to have them come up by cab, so dinner wasn't too late. He was apologetic to me, but I think the general rule that your own family's foibles are more irritating to you than another's was in effect, since I shrugged and told him I hadn't expected to eat earlier. (They're still operating on West Coast time, plus there's nothing easier when you're finding your way around a new city than completely losing track of the time--and that goes even when your home turf isn't small-town Oregon.)

I was more worried that they'd be trapped there by an approaching thunderstorm front, but it moved through quicker than expected. His sister ultimately decided to spend the night so she and the GWO could take care of some errands the next day, but his niece and her husband needed to get back to the hotel so they could be ready to set up the next day. By the time he took them to the corner for a cab, the rain was tapering off. He had his second wind by then, so the two of them were still chatting well after 11 when I made my excuses and crawled into bed.

Today the plan is to take them to Wicker Park for mid-range vegan cuisine. Whether I join them or not will depend on how tired I am and, crucially, whether [livejournal.com profile] clintswan still needs help getting packed for his impending move out west. Part of me is inclined to take a pass just so the four of them will be able to spend some time without me in their midst, since who knows when they'll ever have that opportunity again. But I genuinely enjoy their company--I was talking art and comics with the young'uns up until the moment they left and this will be my only chance until Monday, when the convention is over and they have a free day before heading back.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
We did nothing while my sister was in town. Well, nearly nothing. Saturday we walked over to Uncommon Ground and had dinner. (Apparently there was a stroll to the park and back earlier but I napped through it.) Other than that, we just hung out around the house. In the afternoon, some old highschool friends dropped by with their listless moppets, still jetlagged from a trip to Ireland. Nuphy arrived just as they were leaving and stayed for a couple of ouzos after dinner out.

Everyone was telling me that seven months is a great age and they were right. JHI was just starting to crawl the week before but he still has little t-rex arms and can't get his chest off the floor, so his progress is slow. As a result, baby-proofing wasn't really necessary. I could even set him on the landing knowing I'd have plenty of time to stop him if he so much as contemplated tackling the stairs. On the other hand, he was terrifically interactive--grabbing fingers, hair, and glasses; fascinated by human faces (especially Scooter's for some reason); burbling with delight at every opportunity.

I was worried I'd get no sleep with my sister right above the master bedroom, but that only really happened the second night (when JHI kept banging against the side of the crib and waking himself up). I was worried she'd get no sleep but she assured us the newly-purchased daybed was fine. JHI napped enough that he wasn't fussy, but not so much that it felt like he was always going down. I got a couple naps in, too, and that was enough to cope.

The best part of the whole visit was watching [livejournal.com profile] monshu play with his little nibling. I'd never seen him interact with an infant before and nothing in his otherwise crotchety behaviour around wee ones had led me to expect he'd get so much enjoyment out of playing with him, carting him around, and otherwise being a doting uncle. Hopefully he'll still feel the same way a year from now when the family gets together in Colorado.
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Jun. 22nd, 2015 10:05 am

Digging

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Took me a little while to track down Dad for Father's Day since he'd turned off his phone for a play and forgotten to turn it back on again. The play was in Bloomington, IN, and he and his wife were nearly across Illinois when I reached them. Dad was driving, so they put me on speakerphone in the car, which was kind of ridiculous. Stepmom kept pledging, "I'll stawp tawking so you can tawk to your Dad" and then butting in again at the next opportunity. But they both sounded good, so it all left me in a good mood.

I'd been thinking of Dad earlier in the day when I took a shovel to the hellcorner (where the hellstrip meets the ordinary verge). Coordinating with the rest of the so-called Landscape Committee has come to naught (surprise!) so I thought I start on it myself before the weeds got completely out of control. It's not as bad as I feared. There's a fair bit of sand in the middle about a foot down which will balance out all the clay around the perimeter if you we just mix it all together well. Toss in the contents of the composter and we should have a first-rate flower bed.

When I shared my experiences with Dad, he said that with landscaping (much like with all forms of construction), "You don't know what's there until you start digging." He's still in the middle of a major project for his ersatz church and he's found a helluva lot of gravel, as well as rags and other refuse--anything they could find to raise the grade so the water flowed where they wanted it to. For my part, I've found snack bags, styrofoam cups, and whatever else the Streets and San workers didn't feel like taking with them. Thanks, guys!
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
  1. die Geburtseinleitung
  2. het inleiden van de bevalling
  3. la inducción del parto
  4. la inducció del part
  5. le déclenchement du travail
  6. an t-ionduchtú
  7. yr ysgogiad
  8. indukcja porodu
  9. 노동의 유도 (勞動의 誘導)
  10. 引產 yǐnchǎn
  11. 陣痛促進剤 (じんつうそくしんざい)
Notes: Today is my sister's induction date. That is, if she hadn't gone into labour yesterday, they would've induced it today. From what my told me, they actually induced it yesterday, which may be part of the reason why it went so quickly (less than six hours, whereas her other children all required nine). They'll be sending her home today, which I guess means that the little heart murmur they found yesterday is nothing to worry about. Even better, she no longer has to worry about gestational diabetes (although with it goes any chance of losing her maternity weight).
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
No matter how many times I become an uncle, it never gets old. Last night I sent off an e-mail to my sister thanking her for her hospitality and what-not. When I read the reply this morning, I saw that it was timestamped just before 4 a.m. Later on Facebook I saw that around the same time she had posted a message saying, "Just killing time waiting to go to the hospital." She ended up giving birth at 10:21. Mom came over as they left and fell asleep on the couch. When I talked to her this afternoon, she was wrangling the niblings out of the hospital elevator.

So, despite not being completely back in the pink or on a healthy sleep schedule, I was buoyed by joy all day. It helped as I tried to motivate myself to tackle some chores. The laundry is almost done; the cleaning, sadly, never advanced beyond some tidying here and there. For dinner, I just did takeout. I wish I could say I'll do better tomorrow, but I plan to head into work for a change. Even though it promises to be a very slow day, I'm not sure I'll be able to do much in the evening.

Around dinnertime, one of [livejournal.com profile] monshu's favourite protégés came by. He's finally back from his exile to the Emirates (although living in a form of internal exile in Texas) and his librarian career is really taking off. It's a pleasure for the Old Man to see his mentoring bear fruit and it's a vicarious pleasure for me to see someone succeed in their chosen specialisation. (In his case, Grateful Dead studies.) Shortly after our meal from Thai Spice, [livejournal.com profile] monshu went back down to bed but the two of us kept chatting about music (particularly in its sociocultural aspects) for another couple of hours. When he left, I realised he was projecting a degree of confidence in himself I'd never seen before and it gratified me.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
As flight delays go, it was really nothing to complain about. Instead of being the death of slow cuts I'm used to, it was nicely straightforward: shortly before 2 p.m., I got a message that my 5:35 flight would be departing at 7:50 that evening. At 5 p.m., they were still saying it would depart at 7:50. So even though I was only guaranteed a seat if I was physically in the terminal at the time of scheduled departure, I hung around Sis' house until about 6 p.m. and had no more time to kill at the airport than normal.

I almost wished for a little more after bantering with the cheery white-haired man in the Steelers cap at the Schlafly's/Past House bar. If only I'd been feeling up to taking a drink off the sweet camp bartender. The worst part of the whole experience was the completely unnecessary panic I put myself through by misreading the Departures board right before entring security. But I was through so quickly it only lasted about fifteen minutes before I reached the gate and discover my mistake. Once again, I even had reason to compliment the agent who gave me my pat-down (taking me immediately, rather than making me stand around awkwardly like Midway seems to make a habit of).

I was able to pack leisurely, see a bit more of the boys before going, and even fit in a couple more games of Ultimate One-Night Werewolf and visit with a couple of BIL's old friends. The evening before, after getting waxed playing Carcassonne, I reminded him of the courtesy he and his wife normally pay of allowing me to win the last game we play together. "Well, this might not be the last," he said. And, sure enough, I won both games today (and would've lost the next one, since I was a werewolf both times and would've been killed outright the next time just on general principle).

All in all, better than expected given the crap-ass start to the day. At first, I thought we'd lucked out of more construction noises, but they simply started an hour later. I was so tired, though, I was able to go back to sleep mid-morning in spite of them, which should've been my first clue something was not quite right. By the time Dad arrived to take me to lunch, I knew skipping my zinc yesterday had been a mistake and my cold was not amused at being held at bay so long. Perversely, he decided to take me to a sports bar known for its meat-loaded deli sandwiches; I had potato pancakes and a salad, did my best not to lose my voiced shouting over the din, and counted the moments until we were back in the car.

I probably would've felt just as miserable at the zoo with the young'uns, but at least it would've gotten me out into the sunlight and unnaturally warm air. (The high today was over 10°C.) Dad was as low-energy as me, but he's in at least his third month of it. At least he did have a chance to show me the waterscape he's working on, but it was a little depressing to see how modest its size was given how long he's been working on it. It's sad to see an man as active as him losing his vigour. (He thinks he'll bounce back to where he was as soon as the infection's gone and his course of antibiotics is finished; I'm not so sure.)

The crowning luxury of the day was being met at the airport by [livejournal.com profile] bunj and e. and ferried back home. [livejournal.com profile] monshu was coincidentally waking up right as we arrived, but twenty minutes or less of chat drained him and sent him back downstairs to sleep some more. Something about his medication is not quite right if it's wiping him out like this. His appetite is gone again and I think a call to his primary is in order--except he's still in Pakistan and it will have to be the covering doctor. Still, much easier to do that from here rather than 300 miles away.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
BIL and OGI are in the living room trying to kill each other with foam Minecraft swords and the dog is trying to figure out who to defend from whom while Sis looks on. Big Brother is engrossed in his new RPG supplement, Little Brother and e. are safely on their way back to Chicago with a large box of heavy gifts for me, the younger generation are slaves to their screens in the playroom, and the older generation are struggling not to fall asleep. The table is groaning under the weight of cheeses, crackers, and cookies, all of which will have to be cleared to make room for the roast and its sides.

[Time to make the dinner!]

Now I know that the secret to a very successful sauerbraten sauce is a successful Einbrenne made with sugar. It's the only tricky part of the process and I very nearly screwed it up by forgetting the proportions (2 butter, 3 flour, 2 sugar) in the middle of the carmelising process. Fortunately, Sis was there to check them for me and even measure out the flour. Cooking is so much easier with two extra hands at my disposal.

Not to mention the right tools. Last year, no sooner was I back with [livejournal.com profile] monshu but we made a list of missing utensils--and then I managed to lose it until less than a week before Christmas, thus the mad dash to a restaurant-supply store on North Broadway to purchase them. So my gift to my sister ended up being a gift to me really. (I was literally standing there waiting for her to unwrap it so I could take the slotted spoon and strain the marinade.)

Still, she was happy to get it. My gifts went over well in general, which is a coup given how late I started on them. As usual, the last-minute inspirations were often more successful than the ones I've been mulling for months. My oldest nephew pitched in on Stepmom's Tillandsia ball and made it truly awesome. The nursery had one planted in a whelk, so I spontaneously decided on a beach theme and he obliged by raiding his extensive collection of tiny shells.

[livejournal.com profile] bunj and e. were willing to cart a box up for me, so everyone felt free to give me heavy gifts--including two wedding presents. I know one of them will knock [livejournal.com profile] monshu's socks off and the other will make him chuckle. I can't wait to see him again, but I've got almost another entire day to get through first. I really wanted to prepare for it by sleeping in, but once again the builders next door have other plans.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
BIL took the boys home before us so Sis and I could do a little more to help Stepmom cleanup from Christmas Eve dinner. We opened the door to find a handlettered note on a stool reading "Cookies this way!→". This turned out to be the first in a series culminating in a pair of notes next to a plate of cookies and a container of carrots helpfully advising Santa "The cookies˅and milk are for you and the carrots are for the rendeer (note: give one glass of milk for the rendeer)". The sheer amount of overthinking which went into the project is so recognisable to me from my own precocious childhood that an hour later I can't stop smiling.

The paella was a success; I managed to get through the whole preparation without my back giving out once. It helped that we had our whole village on the task: my sister stirred, my brother minced, SIL watched a pot of broth. We forgot only one ingredient, and it was once of the least essential (parsley). We learned a lesson about not getting the seafood from the Chinese market on Olive; the mussels and crab legs from Dierberg's were ultimately a better buy.

Perhaps because he'd run himself ragged trying to find that one gift for my youngest nephew, striking out at three different stores, Dad managed not to get into it with anyone. We ate too much, we laughed a lot, and my Stepmom gave me my first official wedding gift. All-in-all, I'm pronouncing Phase 1 of Project No-Stress Christmas a resounding success.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Could it be? Have the hammers and nailguns next door ceased? The next-door neighbours are building their dreamhouse. When I arrived, they had the first floor framed. Sis wasn't sure if they were taking the week off or not. They weren't here yesterday, but then it rained all day. That open question got a definitive answer at 6:53 this morning when we heard the pounding of a maul followed by the sound of rafters being hammered into place. There were...ahem...compensations (photos to follow), but on the whole I'd rather have had the zzz's.

Figures that this would happen after the first night of bad sleep. My cold has moved into the laryngitis-and-lingering-cough stage, just in time for the family Christmas party this eve. It kept me up (but, thankfully, no one else) past midnight and I was really hoping to sleep in or--barring that--get a nap. This is my chance. It's also the only chance I've had to log on in fourteen hours, thus this entry.

At least cooking went better today. With sleep not an option, I decided to knock out the red cabbage. It's simmering on the stove and my back is, amazingly, not screaming. Knowing how much slicing and dicing is involved, I forced myself to do as much sitting at the table as I could. It feels a bit awkward, but you can't argue with the results. And this is on top of helping out ECI make the waffles for the breakfast feast.

I'm annoyed I can't talk to [livejournal.com profile] monshu right now, but at least I can text him. He was meeting an old colleague today and I'm curious for a report, but looks like I'll need to wait a while. In the meantime, let's go for the power nap.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
It wouldn't be a proper visit with my family if it didn't involve at least one madcap trip to a store involving (a) erroneous directions; (b) awful weather; (c) a pressing deadline; or (d) all three. In this case, the driver was my mother (who didn't bother to write down the address and--despite having lived here almost here entire life--didn't realise Broadway is one-way through downtown), the weather was rain, and the deadline was a five o'clock closing time for the chef supply store hidden among the warehouses of the Near North Riverfront. Almost by chance, we stumbled upon the converted tractor warehouse now stuffed with wholesale restaurant equipment. Cooking Christmas dinner should be a noticeably less stressful assignment than in previous years.

Unfortunately, I had none of the new equipment while manning the stove tonight. Still, it would've turned out okay had I not been sabotaged by stick margarine (which exists why exactly?) disguised as unsalted butter. So it was one ugly frittata, but it tasted okay, and whatever emptiness left in anyone's bellies after sharing it out with my older brother (who's perfected the knack of being around Sis' place right around dinnertime) was plugged by baklava and Christmas cookies from the large and still growing store tucked behind the stove.

Afterwards we cleared the table for games, but what with trying to get the kids clean as well as put to bed, it was a while before we got started. Still, we had time for two rounds of Survive. I won the first handily, which--as usual--resulted in a target painted on my backside, so I got totally waxed in Round 2. We also had a game of Troyes on Saturday, one of those accounting-heavy German boardgames which appealed to me mostly on account of the ornate board and mediaeval theme.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The Lion in Winter is every bit as awesome as I remember it. And every bit as long--even with out an hour break to put party-hyped children to bed. It's amusing to realise just how far back my crush on Anthony Hopkins goes. (Especially when Hepburn is the only member of the cast I recalled correctly.)

Mom abandoned work on her place early in order to help us pick up the one last ingredient we needed for the sauerbraten (now souring in the fridge) and we ended buying my presents for Dad and Stepmom on the way. I planned out exactly what I needed and where to find it, and it just so happens that our route took us right past there. We actually tried to get the wrapping done while the boys were out celebrating their grandfather's birthday but the tape died and we didn't know where to look for the spare roll. Movie time!

To think that a month ago I hadn't bought a single present and, in most cases, didn't have a clue what I was getting. I should sleep soundly tonight. If only I weren't getting hoarse. (This damn cold hasn't gone, it's only gone underground.)
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today pretty much set the bar for flights home. Turtle and Turtlewife actually gave me a ride to the airport, which is a luxury so rare that I didn't even recognise Midway from the road. Security was quick and painless. Even with an opt-out, it took all of fifteen minutes--and that's including the time it took to find a supervisor to commend my patter-downer on his professionalism and efficiency. I found an end seat in the lounge and leisurely ate my packed lunch.

Despite boarding in the middle of the order, I got a sixth-row window seat. We lost ten minutes to de-icing but as compensation there wasn't a single screaming childhood or drunken douchebag. (The man across the aisle who I suspected of being one went right to sleep and didn't wake up until after landing; the nice quiet couple in my row pretty much did the same.) My only complaint about the service is that the supercute bear which I ogled all through the safety demo only started serving four rows behind me.

When I stepped into the terminal, we were so close to the exit it was actually inconvenient: the restrooms were so out-of-the-way I decided just to wait. As I was scanning the crowd for my sister's face, a small person slammed into me and clung on, then another. All four of my nephews had come to meet me and almost literally dragged me to the door as they fought over who got to sit next to me. (I sat in the way-back with one wrapped around each arm and the middle child in the middle seat squeezing my legs.)

I don't remember them being quite this affectionate before. But it continued back at the house, almost to the point of annoyance but not quite. We snuggled on the couch together before dinner watching an amusing animated feature. Afterwards, we visited the glorious foreign market in the Loop, where I counseled my brother on turkish delight choices and found marmalade from the West Muskerry Gaeltacht! After that, it was the Italian bakery for the best cannoli I've had west of Boston and then home for Lego board games with the eldest.

Now Mom and I are planning our shopping itinerary for tomorrow. Oh, and the nasty cold I had? Defeated by zinc. Seriously, I awoke yesterday feeling no more than a little tired and today there's just a hint of a sniffle. Sometimes it's a good thing we don't get what we deserve.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
By now I've told the story of the dogshit day we had on Sunday enough that it no longer feels fresh enough for posting. As emergency room tales go, it's pretty tame, but it's only the second time I've taken someone there and the first time [livejournal.com profile] monshu's been brought so naturally it stands out to us. When I saw the blood in the toilet bowl, I feared the worst, but the antibiotics we got sent home with seem to have cleared everything up. In fact, the Old Man's feeling so good today he unloaded the dishwasher, paid the bills, and made a frittata. Tomorrow he may even go shopping.

It did, however, give me some reservations about spending next week in St Louis. Mom asked, "If this had happened while you were down here, what would you're reaction have been? Would you have felt the need to be back there with him?" Honestly, yes. But it would look very different if someone I trusted had been around to handle the whole thing. So, with that in mind, I e-mailed Turtlewife and asked if she'd be willing to look in the GWO while I wasn't around.

Not only was she willing, but she volunteered her wife to take him to an appointment on Christmas Eve and herself to drive me to the airport on Saturday. And when I say "volunteered", I mean she informed me this was what was happening. Clearly it means a lot to them to do things for us, but honestly sometimes I wonder what they see in us. Or rather, me. Obviously, [livejournal.com profile] monshu is awesome but you don't have to go miles out of your way to do someone favours just because you like their spouse.

So now I feel like maybe I can pull back a bit and begin to think about Christmas with my family. [livejournal.com profile] gorkabear, you'll be pleased to hear I've gone to the mat to keep chorizo out of the Christmas Eve paella (which is a ridiculous hill to die on given that we're finishing it in the oven anyway). My sister's bought some sort of roast for the sauerbraten she wants me to make and, whatever it turns out to be, we'll make it work. That's pretty much the motto for the season right now: We'll make it work.
Nov. 25th, 2014 10:27 pm

Hazy

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
As I told my sister per e-mail, I may be living in Cloudcuckooland right now, but it's better than living under the dark cloud that descended on me days ago. I walked into the hospital today steeled for some very bad news. They ran tests, they still don't know exactly what it is. This is bad, because they can't treat what they don't understand. But it gives me hope that maybe things aren't as bleak as they seemed before.

The good news is that the Old Man is in great spirits and no pain. He's tired out from the procedures and in some discomfort as a result of one of them, but otherwise you'd never suspect anything was wrong. Emotionally, he's been taking care of me this past week and not the other way around. Which, of course, paradoxically makes the prospect of losing him that much worse. But I've already had a couple moments where I asked myself, WWMD? and did it and it worked, so there may be hope for my future yet.

Today I was flooded with positive attention in a way I haven't been in ages. I can't remember the last time I spoke to all three of my siblings on the same day without being in the physical presence of at least two of them. Crucially, we spent as much time on their good news or matters which concerned us both (such as how we're going to pull off Christmas this year) as on my woes. I'm a little afraid to go to sleep, actually, because I'm worried the dark clouds will reemerge to wash away this delightful haze.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Twenty-four hours in St Louis and the most exciting thing so far is that I narrowly avoided a spill down the basement stairs as I went to fetch my jeans from the dryer. (What was I thinking bringing only one pair?) Yesterday Sis drove me directly from the airport to the hospital. Seems our father's managed to get himself infected with a rare strain of Mycobacterium and his wife wanted us along for his meeting with the orthopedist to make sure we heard everything he did.

I expected that would take maybe half an hour. By the time he'd been x-rayed, sent up to the pathologist, and what-have-you, two hours had passed. Good thing [livejournal.com profile] monshu had sent me off with some homemade soda bread and fried chicken! We went direct from the hospital to the middle school, and from there back to the family abode. I did my best to stay aloof from the chaos, though I did get sucked into a Doctor Who two-parter alongside AWI, one of the two old enough to be allowed to watch it. (It took me a moment to realised the reason he was so insistent that we join him is that he was scared to watch Weeping Angels alone.)

By the time it was just me, Sis, and Mom rehashing family history around the dining room table, I was so drowsy that I nearly went to sleep right there. Instead, I went up to AWI's room and slept as soundly as I ever have in this house. Napping didn't really work out this morning, so I'm going to get cleaned up and do the Loop with my older brother. Then tonight I'll be escorting Mom to the rehearsal dinner. Something tells me I'm really going to need that nap tomorrow.
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