Newton and I went to the São Paulo airport to catch our respective flights – one gate apart and with the same departure times – to China by way of New York and to Tulsa by way of Houston. Between check-in and immigration, we headed over to the next terminal hoping to see Elise arriving from Lima, Peru on the South American tour of American teen singer, Demi Lovato. “OK, we’ll wait till 8:00pm,” we said; then, “OK, we’ll wait three more minutes;” and finally “OK, we gotta go,” after which we walked backwards to the escalators, craning our necks all the while to see if she would appear. Alas, she did not. She later explained that she was on the ‘A’ team of the tour, meaning she traveled with Demi Lovato in order to videotape all the fans screaming upon Demi’s disembarkation from the flights. In this case, the entourage was then escorted a secret way to a VIP lounge, having been waived more or less through immigration and customs. Oo-la-la! It would be ten more days till we finally saw her in the USA.
I arrived in Houston at 5:10 am. As if landing at ‘George Bush Airport’ isn’t insult enough (OK, he looked a lot better later compared to his son, but he was never a favorite of mine), the first thing I see at an early-opening news/book stand is a display with a couple of copies of Sean Hannity’s book. More disgusting than the title was some outrageous lie for a sub-title. As I always do, I looked for books with an opposing view – which are displayed together in New York as a rule. Alas, there were none, so I noticed the clerk behind the counter was not looking in my direction and I grabbed the two books and flipped Sean Hannity’s smug little mug to the back. Now at least it was harder to ascertain what the two volumes were. On a roll, I came upon a more elaborate book store. There was Mitch Romney’s prominent mug, Karl Rove’s prominent mug, and, bigger than all of them, Glenn Beck’s mug above a particularly disturbing title and subtitle. I tried the flip-over maneuver on Glenn Beck’s book, but there he was, almost as huge, on the back cover. Then I looked again for books covering, uh, facts, perhaps, and saw none…until I finally discovered the new biography of Obama, The Bridge, tucked over on a shelf with only the binding showing. This, of course, provided me with a great way to cover up Glenn Beck’s face and make a small dent in the uneven offerings. We all try to do our part as citizens.
In defense of Houston’s airport, the bathroom was sparkling at 5:30am, unlike the JFK version where one arrives after an all-night flight to the 30th year of continuous construction and a bathroom with yesterday’s filth. I also nearly died of gratitude for the breakfast taco of eggs and cheese with salsa from a little catsup packet. Heaven at 6:00am!
At last I made it to Tulsa and to the Methodist Manor and was standing in front of my beautiful, wonderful, sharp, funny, 95-year-old Mother. She was looking fine and doing very well, to my joy. We had fun together, whether eating those strange and wondrous Manor meals, running errands, seeing people, or just being together in her room. I slept on a combination of her reclining chair and a pallet on the floor.
Mother gave up her walker for a wheel chair when the arthritis in her shoulders caused too much pain for her to press into the walker. She ‘walks’ her wheel chair to meals and activities, keeping her legs strong; she often declines offers of a push, explaining that propelling herself is her exercise! She has a motorized wheel chair for the long haul to Bridge night. The staff continues to adore her, a true friend to each of them. They take pleasure in taking good care of such a positive, loving resident.
I ventured out on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend to find a library for internet access. While waiting for the library to open, I struck up a conversation with a darling 10-year-old boy. By the time they finally unlocked the doors, he had volunteered that he had almost died of spinal meningitis when a baby, that his uncle had caught it from him, and that he was doing 9th grade math in the 5th grade. His handsome openness and innocence reminded me of an Oklahoma I knew very well.
Speaking of which, I got to see some of my old schoolmates that very evening! Linda Butler Jones and Jimmy Walker from my junior high school put on a lovely party on a perfect Oklahoma summer night for several of us who were around. Here is Jimmy with Linda on the right and our classmate Lolly Turnbull Jones of Tulsa:
Jimmy moved to Texas during high school and proclaimed, when getting too elaborate over the evening’s arrangements, that Texans do not know the word ‘prudent.’ Let’s say he was generous-to-a-fault with the food and champagne. Here he is getting birthday kisses from Linda and Steve Reeves of Jefferson City, Missouri:
It was just a wonderful gathering, with 15 of us gabbing and gabbing from 6:00pm to 4:30am. No kidding. Our classmate, Bobby “Greenshoes” Parker, showed up to play his Tulsa blues for us. He has a cool new CD, “Keep Cool Little Baby.” Linda has her own private investigation agency. One of my favorite quotes of the trip was from her: “I meet all kinds of people, but they all have an elbow half-way up their arm.”
Also pictured are Jimmy, Nikki Madeira Collins of Tulsa, and Stan Clark of Houston.
Jimmy and Linda: You are the best!
A morning walk and breakfast with my high school friends, Vivian Nemec and Jan Rogers Magee, was also hugely special. We decided we will reunite some day at Vivian’s lake house and continue our endless gab-fest. I can’t wait. Jan just moved her mother to the same section of the Methodist Manor, so is able to give Mother squeezes for me!
Meantime, back at the Manor, I joined Mother for the weekly Bingo session. Best of all was watching her quickly scan her own two cards PLUS the two cards of the somewhat challenged resident who counts on Mother to sit next to her and guide her through Bingo. Mother has that quick mind of a Bridge champ! At the end, we could go to the prize table in the order of most “Bingo’s.” I was very pleased to bring back three little plastic hanger/clothespins – perfect for a house without a dryer.
I picked up a bottle of white wine to keep in Mother’s little frig. I just needed a corkscrew. To Mother’s horror, I went to inquire (she was afraid that wine was not allowed, but I reminded her that even Methodists probably allow 80-year-olds to do what they wish). The front desk couldn’t help, as the only wine-drinking resident they knew of used wine from a box. I went back to the wine store where I received a simple corkscrew for free, as Oklahoma law allows them to sell only items with alcohol. I couldn’t get the cork to budge one millimeter. Then I wandered around with a long brown bag looking for a strong maintenance or security guy, promising Mother that I would not reveal my Manor connection to her! The security woman in charge sent me to the Nursing Center dining room, where a big strong guy was polishing the floor. He laughed as he pulled out the cork, saying, “My Daddy always said to use the corkscrews with the handles.”
Mother and I returned from a walk around the Manor ‘pond’ right when a couple of residents were watching the Capitol’s Memorial Day Concert on PBS on the large screen in the living room area. It was very moving, with actors reading narratives from a WWII soldier and a young widow from the Afghanistan war, marvelous music, and the finale rendition of the music from each branch of the armed services by a joint orchestra. As veterans and soldiers from the branches stood up on cue, Mother turned to me from her wheel chair when “Anchors Away” began and asked me to stand up for her, in honor of my father. Blubbering ensued. I could only conclude that war is hell and the worst waste of human potential ever concocted.
I could receive e-mails from Newton right in Mother’s room. Even though she does not have a computer, she has an HP Printing Mailbox that connects to her telephone and prints out e-mails once a day from qualified senders. While in Shanghai for business, Newton was able to attend the huge World Expo 2010 for one day. Most of the better exhibits had hours of waiting required, so Newt chose the tiny lines for Belarus – photos only inside - and Tunisia – a scratchy video of factories! He also managed the large Black African pavilion with dancing and drumming and the Brazilian pavilion, which had a series of very high tech videos on walls and floors. This was a 50-minute wait among 95% Chinese people who, according to Newton, pushed and shoved their way in line and, at the subsequent opening of each waiting station “acted as if someone had thrown money on the ground.” Ah! It’s amazing how different cultures enact waiting in line or, as they say in NY, “waiting on line.”
My sisters and I decided we would like to get some of Mother’s preferences for her future funeral service. Odd as that seems, the daughters are determined - for our sakes as well as Mother’s - that this occasion will reflect her presence. Mother was fine with the suggestion, and she and I spent quite a few hours over a couple of days examining lists of contacts, singing the old hymns, going over biographical facts, and selecting favorite readings. Mother had to narrow down twenty hymns to just two, so there was lots of singing. Even though she occasionally stopped and said, “I keep forgetting that this is for my own funeral service,” we had such a great time putting it together. I wouldn’t trade those hours for anything.
I took off to catch a morning flight to Las Vegas with just enough time for good-byes after Mother woke up. I hated to part, we were having such fun. I don’t know how or why the universe granted me this mother, but that was my lucky day.