Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Me and Rio rocking out in Texas sunshine

We made it safely back to Mississippi this afternoon after a whirlwind trip between Christmas and New Year's Day.  Sis took off for San Antonio to have late Christmas with her kids, grandkids, and great grandbaby.  My Sister by Another Mother and I held down Fort Rio and took care of the parents.  It was tag team at its finest.  After all this time, my biological sibling Sis can manage Dad, Mom, Tinka, Rio, cooking, laundry, and the household chores for up to 4 days--if she has to. Fortunately, that has not happened except during a couple of ice storms.  I suppose most of us could do what we had to when it was a matter of life and quality of life for those we love, though I think some of us would even do it for strangers if circumstances thrust themselves upon us.  You know, like an ice storm or some other catastrophe.
Three shifts have to be covered every day, and due to unforeseen circumstances, we had one person...and me.  Now while I can do a whole lot of things and have a wide and varied skill set these days, there are some aspects of Dad's care that I do not know how to do because it has not been necessary since the first time he came home from the hospital with a broken hip and it was necessary.  Would I do my best if need be?  Of course I would, and we would manage just fine.  But Dad does not do well with change at this point and unless it is absolutely necessary, we avoid forcing him to deal with new experiences in the routine.  SbAM is really great with dad, having been with us for a little over 2 years now, and though young, is smart and a quick learner, and knows his quirks and how best to deal with them as it relates to caregiving--and better yet, he likes her and trusts her.  The deal was if she just took care of Dad, I would take care of Mom, Tinka, Rio, house, cooking, and dishes.  It is one thing to do all of that on an 8 hour shift, and quite another to do it for 24 hours, 3 days straight.

I sat in Dad's room every night and watched old movies with him, just being there in the chair so if he woke up from a nap doze, he could see me or talk to me.  Sis does that with him every night and I wanted to keep the routine as routine as possible.  He does not like to be alone, nor not be able to see us or hear us.

It was a hard week in so many ways, but it was also one of those times that you appreciate and honor, and for which you are thankful.  It is part of the cycle of life, and when you can embrace it, even in the hardness, even in the painfulness of impending unknowns and potential loss, it offers joy if we can have the heart to see it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The time of year for threes

 Yesterday I had to go in for lab work at 8 AM, and it seemed like the perfect time to head on up the road to Memphis while I was up and dressed.  I made the rounds of my three intended stores and back home by 4 p.m.  I splurged on some pecan-crusted pork chops about the size of a roast and put them on...about the same time that I remembered R was staying in town for the basketball game...and about the same time that J came out and announced he was going to get Chinese take-out.

Undaunted, I proceeded to sit in the living room with the dogs and music going full-blast, savoring my bit of time while the chops cooked, occasionally dancing to a tune.  My movements seemed to fascinate Abby--the baby of the three and she also danced around me in excitement.  Even though there are 3 dog beds in the living room, all 3 of them finally settled on one together.  It might be a metaphor for life.
Later, after my delicious dinner, followed by a mini pumpkin cupcake with buttercream and caramel frosting, I texted with my sister.  Sis and I have been discussing the new family information I found this past week, and some new resources.  Mother at 89 is pretty much the last of her family of origin, except for a few distant cousins.  While she grew up, as did we, with frequent contact with the extended family, she did not know much about those before her grandparents' generation other than their names.  That task has fallen to me, and has taken on a level of fascination as I have uncovered the journeys of the ancestors to the Colonies that would later become the United States of America.  Family history has always reported that we were descended from Scottish and English.  While that is true in the sense that some of the ancestors did live in England for a period of time, I have been able to discover Irish roots as well as Scottish.

I told my cousin the other day--as she and her sister have also been doing parallel research on her father's side of the family as well as her mother's who is the sister to my mother--that the more I find, the more I am seeing my "carefully constructed identity" take on new meanings and new clarity.

The ancestors tend to have that effect on me.  Since I take it as true that life is a construct, in that we "make it up" for how we understand everything, I find myself wondering what I might have constructed had I known some of this earlier.  The thing about assimilation of new information is that generally, if we can fit it into what we already know, we do not have to spend much time with it.  If not, and we find we have to develop new information and meanings in order to accommodate this new knowledge, it takes a little longer and might even be uncomfortable or difficult.

I find myself these days listening to women who are near my age or older, as they speak about their experiences of constructing lives and meaning in a time of "traveling uncharted terrain." Several years ago, I heard an interview done with Patti Scialfa, and last night, I ran across it again.  At the time, she was 54, and said she wanted to write songs that reflected her in this stage of her life.  I think for many of us who are reaching this point, and we are now all 10 years beyond the date of the interview, there is a certain nostalgia for some of the moments of our younger selves, while at the same time there is a sense of anticipation for what might lie ahead.

Can we be comfortable with that?  Can we be comfortable with being uncomfortable with the new identities that may be forged from these transitions?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Could you direct me to the telephone booths, please?

 I had just stepped off my flight after landing at New Orleans Shushan Airport...it was sunny, but cool...a typical New Orleans March day...in 1934.  The terminal was new, and so was I...a green and untested journalist-wanna-be.  
Excuse me, could you direct me to the telephone?  I need to call my editor.
I am certain I detected a subtle roll of his eyes as the porter nodded toward the left...and then the right.  Take your pick, lady--either side gets you there.

 My hands were shaking as I dug through the coins in my change purse, grasping the crumpled number in my hand.  Luck was with me, and all three booths were empty.
I pulled the door closed behind me, and sat down.  This could take a while.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Sure, go on in." Messina's Runway Cafe

 Peering through the glass at the stunning Art Deco stools, I was startled by a voice that said, "You can go inside; it's open."  Because pretty much the entire airport looked rather deserted, I was not expecting that.  All I can say is those New Orleaneans know how to do an airport.

A restoration/renovation project was recently completed, and a mid-century Art Deco gem has been saved.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Segregated Burials--Updated

 While searching for family ancestors on my recent trip to Texas, Sis and I found ourselves at the South Bend cemetery nearing sunset.  This was not my first exposure in Texas cemeteries of a distinct line of segregation for burying those of Mexican descent.
 Three isolated graves, next to the fence in the most remote portion of the cemetery--all three were born and died around the same time--birth in the late 1880s, and death in 1926 and 1927.

I did not really expect to find any information about these three individuals, nor why they were in South Bend at the time of death.  The Narbais name is found in Argentina.  Fernandz spelling is found in California, Florida, and Colorado as well as other isolated locations, and there are many Casas throughout Southwest Texas.

There were many farms and ranches located in the South Bend area of Young County, and it is probable that these individuals worked on one of the farms or ranches.  Vaqueros in Texas were highly regarded for their horsemanship and cattle skills.  I will keep up the search as time permits, but for now, my day job calls me.

December 9th update:  I spent more time searching for information on these Young County residents--who died in the years immediately after and the same as my parents were born in the area.  My ancestors would have/could have/probably did know these individuals--or at least who they were--because they were living in the same area at the same time. I am still not even close to learning about their lives, but I did locate some ancestry information for records of those born or baptized in Mexico, as well as other information on Latino ancestry in Texas.  I cannot connect Anastacio Casas with those of the same name that I located, but I did find several in Texas with similar dates of birth, and also several leads on Francisca Narbais.
 Additionally, when looking back through photographs, I realized I missed the 4th grave in the group: Francisco Garrisalez.  Based on the similarity of the tombstone design and the dates of death of the others and what appears to be the top of a 9, 2, and 7, I speculate that Senor Garrisalez' date of death is 1927 also.

That raises a new question of why did four persons of Mexican/Latino descent die during the same general time period in South Bend, Young County, Texas?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Skunk 1, Sisters 0

When I got home Thanksgiving week, sis advised a skunk was under the house. She had been taking Tinka out on a leash after the first night that Tinka ran over in a full charge and got a snootful of eau de Pepe Le Pew.  She had closed off the crawl space and winterized the opening with the foil sealant.  Sis underestimated the skunk, who merely pushed the foil seal aside and went on his or her merry way.  

The following day, we added the large rocks and I secured them with metal stakes so they could not be rolled away or dislodged.

Later, I went out to check...and duly noted the little critter had chewed a hole in the board that has blocked the crawl space for years, and climbed over the rocks.  He probably even thanked me for making his entrance more secure.  Cue the Internet search for skunk removal.

The trick according to the University of Nebraska professor whose scholarly paper on skunk removal (I am not kidding here--yes, a scholarly journal article, but I like to trust my sources of Internet information) gave the following suggestions:
Pour flour around the opening during daylight hours.  After dark, examine the flour for footprints leading away from the opening.  Once you determine the skunk has exited from under the building, secure the opening with sheet metal and metal stakes.
We sprinkled the flour around the opening, and checked after dark for foot prints.  Between the dew moisture and the wind, we could not be sure there were any footprints.  I suggested we rake away all the leaves, remove the rocks again, and then try again.

Things always seem to have a way of happening, do they not?  Every day brought a list of things that were more pressing and by the time the end of the day would come, or dark, we were no longer much inclined to go outside and battle skunks, and would put it off until the next day.

Friday I packed and loaded to leave for the trip back to Mississippi, so there went the last opportunity.  I confess, I did not want to risk an encounter with eau de Le Pew and then have to drive 12 hours with it.  Ah, the joys of country life.