A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Archive for September, 2007

It’s National Alpaca Day!

(Photo borrowed from http://www.stevenstique.com/ )

Mother and I have coffee and read the newspaper every morning. This morning, there is a long article in the Kerrville Daily Times (Weekend Edition – they only publish one paper for the entire weekend) about how today is National Alpaca Day, and a local alpaca farm is having Open Barn days today and tomorrow. I ask Mom if she’s interested in going, and she answers in a way that lets me know that she’s actually interested, rather than saying that she’s interested just because she thinks that I’m interested, and doesn’t want to say anything to deter me in doing something I’m interested in, even though she might not be interested, and might not enjoy it, but she will go along because I’m interested. (*whew*) Anyway, she seems genuinely interested, and also seems somewhat interested in going to the local Quilt and Fiber Arts Show at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center. Our afternoon is planned!

We have a quick breakfast and head out the door. (Yes, Mother, I have my keys. And my purse.) We get to the end of our street, and notice a scarecrow holding a “Garage Sale” sign, pointing back the way we’ve just come.

“Oh, look – a garage sale on our street.”

“Would you like to go to the garage sale, Mom?”

“Yes, I think I would.”

I check the rearview mirror, and start to back up to make a backwards three-point turn, only to see that a car has come around the curve and is coming up behind me. *sigh* So, I wait for all the cross-traffic, drive straight across the 6-lane highway into the Mini-Mart parking lot, where I make a u-turn and then exit, crossing the highway again to our street. We drive a couple of blocks down to the garage sale, get out, look around, find nothing of value (but you never know….), get back in the car, and head out again. As we’re making our way back toward our house, which we will pass on our way back out of the sub-division, Mom sees the mailman in his car with the flashing yellow light on top.

“Oh, look – there’s the mailman.”


“Let’s go home and wait for him.”

“—-Okay, Mom.”

We pull into the driveway, and I put the car into park to wait for the mailman.

“Oh, I forgot my watch!”

“That’s OK, Mom. You can go in the house to get it while I wait for the mailman.”

I go to the mailbox and pull out the letter Mother has put out to be mailed. I drop the red flag. I turn around to see that the mailman and his car have vanished. I’m about to tell Mother that he must be taking a different way when he suddenly appears again from a sidestreet that I didn’t even realize was there. Now he is only one house away. I stand at the end of the driveway, waiting for him to put the mail in the neighbor’s mailbox.

“Show him the letter!”

“I have the letter, Mom.”

“Well, show it to him!”

I wave at the mailman with my letter. He stops and trades me two letters for my one. One of the letters he gives me is the October schedule for the Dietert Center, the local senior center. More on that later.

We set out again.

“Ok, Mom. First we’re going to stop by the shoe repair and drop off my boots. Then we’re going to the Dietert Center’s thrift store to drop off the box of donations for them.”

“What box?!”

“The box of donation items that has been sitting in the living room the last month. Some video tapes and coffee cups.”

“Oh. I guess so.”

“Ok. After we go to the thrift store, then we’ll come back by the quilt and fiber arts show, and then on to Center Point.”

We get to the shoe repair place right at noon. It’s closed. And there are no hours of business posted. And the little sign that says “Will Return By:” has the clock portion covered by the “Closed” sign. *sigh*

We move on to the thrift store. I pull into the parking lot.

“Why are we stopping here?”

“This is the thrift store. I’m dropping off the donations.”

“Well, I want to see it.”

“The thrift store?”

“No, the box.”

“Ok, Mom. See, it’s just some of my clothes, some children’s videos, those boots you don’t want anymore, and a few coffee cups.”

“Oh. Okay.”

We drop off the box and head out again, this time to the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center. It’s actually a fairly nice gallery, located in what was once the Kerrville Post Office.

We go in and are very nicely greeted by the volunteer. She asks that we sign the guest book, as the board likes to see how many visitors come through. I put a couple of dollars in the donations jar and we go into the front gallery. We start looking at the first of the art quilts and Mother sees the Ladies Room.

“I’m going in the Ladies Room. I’ll be right back. Don’t run off!”

“Mother, I won’t. I didn’t bring you here to abandon you!”

The volunteer thinks this is funny and laughs really loud. Mother appears to feel that she’s been made the butt of some joke, and I feel guilty for my smartass comment that was just meant to be a little snarkiness between mother and daughter, not a source of public humor. *sigh*

Mother reappears and we are looking at the beautiful art quilts and reading the names of the creators and what they have to say about their art and themselves. Then, I notice a door that says something like “Flourescent Rock Display”. I try the door and it opens! Inside the closet-sized room is dark, but there is a window across one wall with a three-tiered display of different sizes and shapes of unpolished rocks.

“Mom, look at this!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a display of flourescent rocks. Let’s see.”

“Don’t lock us in!”

There is a button to gradually dim the lights and start the short audio presentation that is synched with shining UV light of different wave-lengths on the rocks so that we can see the different minerals flouresce under the different kinds of light, and then shine both short- and long-wave lengths so we can see which ones flouresced different colors under both of the different lights. It’s pretty cool. Mother seems somewhat impressed, too.

We exit the dark closet and continue to make our way around the gallery. By the time I get to the end of the first gallery, Mother is standing near the exit. I ask her if she wants to sit down, as I am going to walk through the second gallery. The volunteer shows her the nice upholstered chairs near the entry, and she waits there for me for the additional five minutes it takes to finish my walk-through.

We thank the volunteer and take our leave, finally ready to point the car east and head out of town toward Center Point and Open Barn Day at La Sonodora Alpaca Farm.

“Center Point – 10 miles. That’s not too far away.”

“No, it’s not.”

“How’s your gasoline? Is it holding up?”

“Yes, we have plenty of gas.”

“Now, what is it that we’re going to Center Point to see?”

“The alpaca farm.”

“Oh, yes. That’s right.”

We pass the Veteran’s Hospital, and the Credit Union, and then we’re out of town. It’s a very pretty drive, and following the directions printed in the newspaper, we find our way very easily. There’s a sign on the front gate that says “National Alpaca Day” and “Open Barn Days”. This must be the place!

There are several cars parked outside the well-lit barn, and we see people milling around with what we assume are alpacas. Alpacas look like a bit like llamas, but smaller. The woman who owns the “ranch” tells us that alpaca fleece is so soft and fine that historically, only the aristocracy in what is now Peru (and wherever else alpacas come from) were allowed to wear clothing made from alpaca fleece. The common folks had to content themselves with clothing made from llama.

The husband tells us the alpacas don’t really like being petted. One of them sneezes, and he says, no, it is actually spitting at its alpaca buddy for getting to close to the food. He tells us they only spit at each other, or something or someone they consider to be another alpaca. He then tells us about one of the alpacas that used to spit at him, until he sprayed it with a water hose, convincing the alpaca that the man was, indeed, the MUCH better spitter.

We learn that alpaca babies are born between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. because the group (herd?) comes down from the mountain in the valley every morning, and the baby must be strong enough to climb back up the mountain with the mom by the end of the afternoon.

We also learn that as a prey animal, the alpaca doesn’t have a lot of weapons at its disposal, so battles between rival males consist of each competitor attempting to bite the other’s scrotom in order to neuter him and thus permanently remove him from the competition. So, the watch dog that shepherds them protects them not only from outside invaders, but also each other, as he knocks down fighting males until they decide them don’t want to fight any more.

Alpaca fleece is very, very soft. There are bags of it for sale, but I can’t think of what exactly I would do with a bag of alpaca fleece. I’m sure if I had time to give it a little more thought, I could come up with something, though.

There is only one chair for someone to sit in, and a woman who looks at least 10 years older than mother is in it. As Mother is ready to go, and has nowhere to sit to allow me to linger, we head out.

We get sprinkled on a little as we walk to the car, but decide to drive through Center Point to see what is there. We still don’t know, as we completely miss it. The only thing I notice is the cafe’, which is closed.

I see a sign that says “Camp Verde – 12 miles”, so we just continue that way and stop in at the Camp Verde General Store. I tell Mom about Camp Verde being where the army experimented with camel patrols. She thinks that sounds somewhat interesting, but she is completely underwhelmed by the store itself. We stay long enough for me to sample some of the dips they have out and purchase a jar of specialty salsa.

So, all in all, we have a very nice afternoon, and get back in plenty of time for Mom to watch Tiger Woods play a little golf.

(The Llama Song: I know, alpacas aren’t llamas, but they look a lot like llamas, and this silly video makes me laugh every time. http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/llama )

Going Out to Play Pool

I told Mom that I was going to play pool with Charlene and Shannon. (A local bar has free pool tables on Wednesday nights. It’s a cheap evening out for all of us.) And I initially told her that I would probably be home by 9:00 so I could watch CSI. But then I checked the listings and realized that the CSI that I want to watch is actually the one that comes on Thursdays.

“Mom, I won’t be home at 9:00, after all, because the show I want to watch is tomorrow night, not tonight.”

“But you’ll be home by 9:00 to watch your show.”

“No, Mom. The show I want to watch is tomorrow night, not tonight.”

“You won’t be home at 9:00?”

“No, my show comes on tomorrow night, not tonight.”

“When will you be home?”

“Probably after 10:00.”

“I got to bed at 10:00”

“OK, Mom.”

“Well, how late do you think you’ll be?”

“I don’t know, Mom. You don’t have to wait up.”

“Well, what time does the place close?”

“It’s a bar, Mom. It closes at 2:00 a.m.”

“2:00 a.m.??!!”

“Yes, Mom, but I won’t be out that late. I just don’t know exactly when I’ll be home.”

“Oh, OK. Well, you still want to get up at 7:00?”

“Yes, Mom. I’ll see you in the morning.”

The Long Goodbye

Every morning, Mother sees me to the garage door with a quick kiss and hug. I open the garage door, get in the car, and back out into the driveway, to find Mother waiting at the end of the sidewalk beside the garage so she can wave goodbye to me. I wave back.

She then moves out of sight, going back to the front door. I back down the driveway, back into the street, and then begin driving away, as she stands in the open front doorway, waving goodbye some more. I wave some more.

Satisfied that she has seen me safely on my way, she finally closes the front door and goes back to watching television. Until I come home mid-day. Then when lunch is over, and I have to leave again to go back to work, we do it all over again.

Life with Mother – Changes

Shortly after I moved to Kerrville, my niece, Vickie, and I began planning to move Mother down here as well. She had lived alone, the past 18 years, in east Texas on 11 acres that Dad bought for his retirement. When Dad died just before his 67th birthday, Mother stayed out there, working at the local grocery store. For the last few years, my sister, Margie, lived out there with her, attending nursing school. About three years ago, Margie had at least one heart attack and/or series of strokes (we’re not really sure which came first), and her health gradually declined until she passed away just before Christmas last year.

Mother decided to retire, sell her house and land, and rent an apartment in Dallas. We told her there was no place in Dallas that she would feel was affordable, that we would feel was safe. And so, after receiving my brother’s blessings, she agreed to move to Kerrville to live with me.

I rented a 3/2/1 duplex on the edge of town, and my niece in Dallas, Lisa, spent every weekend for a couple of months driving to Mom’s to help her pack up. On Moving Day, Lisa miraculously assembled a small army of sons, nephews, and friends, and her sister, Vickie, who lives in Kerrville, and their brother, Walter, and I all converged east of Wills Point, Texas to rent a moving van and trailer, pack Mother’s house, and carry her, all her earthly belongings, and her 1983 Dodge pickup 330 miles away from where she had lived for over 20 years, her last home with Dad.

It’s been an interesting adjustment for both of us. I’ve gone from not having a television and rarely even turning on a radio, to having a LARGE television on MAXIMUM VOLUME going from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days per week. Mother has gone from knowing her way all around her small community, to a different (and slightly larger) community where she knows nothing and no one. She starts her pickup once a week so the battery won’t die, but she doesn’t want to try to drive it anywhere. She’s afraid she won’t find her way either to where she’s going or back home.

Mother makes coffee every morning, and graciously wakes me around 7 a.m. We read the newspaper together, commenting on local events and national tragedies. She keeps me apprised of select sports scores (Tiger Woods has somehow captured her imagination, although neither she nor anyone we know has ever played golf) and I tell her about local art events that are coming up, although we have yet to attend one.

I now come home for lunch every day at noon, and cook dinner every evening, something I haven’t done regularly in several years. I started out washing the dishes as well, but Mother has since begun doing them during the day, so I usually just wash the pots used for cooking after I put leftover food away. I was appalled at Mother’s diet (pot pies, TV dinners, and sometimes cereal for dinner), but then I realized that mine has not that much better (ramen, sardines and crackers, and sometimes vegetables with ranch dressing), so perhaps that is just the lot of single people who feel it’s too much trouble to cook for just one. In any case, we are both eating better, and I am slowly rebuilding my rather atrophied culinary muscles.

Vickie tells me her grandmother looks so much better in the month since she’s moved here, that her posture, balance, and overall appearance have all improved, as well as her general mood. I have noticed it, too, at least the mood part. I know she was kind of in shock after the move, as I was with so many changes in the past few months. And I suppose we both are benefiting from an improved diet. We bought a couch yesterday, which will be delivered this coming Wednesday, along with my mattress and box springs, so that we will be able to watch TV while sitting on something more comfortable than dining room chairs, and I will get to sleep on something that is neither a couch nor an inflatable mattress, for the first time in about five months.
Life is good.

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