There is a bit of a panic. And because this is a dream, even though just a minute before the bus may have been sitting at a bus stop I recognize somewhere in Seattle, now we’re on a long, winding road going down an unfamiliar mountain.
Once, only once, I got a room in a different place, a motel even closer to Grandma’s. It cost just as much as a night at the Red Lion, but the rooms were tinier, and everything in the hotel was cheaper looking/feeling.
I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.
Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would begin calling distant relatives and old family friends. Grandma knew where just about every person descended from her own grandparents was buried, and she made certain that someone who lived nearby was putting flowers on the graves of those relatives by Memorial Day. She took care of all the family members buried within a couple hours drive of her home in southwest Washington.
She was putting flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud (Grandma’s sister-in-law) seven years ago on the Friday before Memorial Day when she died. My step-grandfather said he was getting in position to take a picture of her beside the grave and the flowers (there are hundreds and hundreds of photos of Grandma beside graves with flowers on them in her photo albums) when she suddenly looked up, said, “I don’t feel good!” and pitched over.
One weekend she had blown out the candles on the cake celebrating her 84th birthday. The following Friday, while putting flowers on Great-aunt Maud’s grave, she died. And one week after that a bunch of us were standing at her graveside. It was just down to a few family members, and we were at that stage where you’re commenting on how pretty the flowers that so-and-so that no one had heard from in years were, when someone asked, “Isn’t grandpa’s grave nearby?”
Grandpa had died 23 years earlier, and was buried in one of a pair of plots he and Grandma had bought many years before. And after Grandma re-married, she and our step-grandfather had bought two more plots close by.
Anyway, as soon as someone asked that, my step-grandfather’s eyes bugged out, he went white as a sheet, and said, “Oh, no!” He was obviously very distressed as he hurried toward his car. Several of us followed, worried that he was having some sort of medical issue.
Nope. He and Grandma had been driving to various cemeteries all week long before her death, putting silk-bouquets that Grandma had made on each relative’s grave. Aunt Maud’s was meant to be the next-to-the-last stop on their journey. Grandpa’s silk flower bouquet was still in the trunk of the car. My step-grandfather was beside himself. He’d cried so much that week, you wouldn’t have thought he could cry any more, but there he was, apologizing to Grandma’s spirit for forgetting about the last batch of flowers, and not finishing her chore—for not getting flowers on Grandpa George’s grave by Memorial Day.
The next year, several of us had the realization that without Grandma around, none of us knew who to call to get flowers put on Great-grandma and Great-grandpa’s graves back in Colorado. None of us were sure in which Missouri town Great-great-aunt Pearl was buried, let alone who Grandma called every year to arrange for the flowers. Just as we weren’t certain whether Great-great-aunt Lou was buried in Kansas or was it Missouri? And so on, and so on. One of my cousins had to track down the incident report filed by the paramedics who responded to our step-grandfather’s 9-1-1 call just to find out which cemetery Great-aunt Maud was in.Mom and her sister have been putting flowers on Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves since. Our step-grandfather passed away three years after Grandma, and he was buried beside her.
Some years before her death, Grandma had transferred the ownership of the plot next to Grandpa to Mom. So Mom’s going to be buried beside her dad. Mom mentions it whenever we visit the graves, and I don’t know if she realizes how much it chokes me up to think about it.
We had put the flowers in place. We had both taken pictures. Mom always worries that she won’t remember where Grandpa’s grave is (it’s seared in my head: two rows down from Grandma, four stones to the south). Michael helped Mom take a wide shot picture that has both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s spots in it.
I thought we were going to get away with both of us only getting a little teary-eyeed a few times, but as we were getting back into the car, Mom started crying. Which meant that I lost it.
Grandma’s been gone for seven years, now. But every time we drive down to visit Mom, there is a moment on the drive when my mind is wandering, and I’ll wonder what Grandma will be doing when we get there. And then I remember I won’t be seeing her. It took me about a dozen years to stop having those lapses about Grandpa. I suspect it will be longer for Grandma. After all, she’s the one who taught me the importance of Those Who Matter
I have remembered all of that, most particularly the part about thinking, quite firmly to myself, that I need to remember this.
But I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was I needed to change my Twitter name to, nor why I wanted to do it, nor why I thought it was so important to remember to change it.
But there is a difference with Oregon. There is a reason that none of the previous federal rulings have caused places such as Wikipedia or GLAAD or any other place that is covering his phenomenon to count those states as one that now allows marriage equality.
Oregon is the first state with one of these cases where not a single state or county official argued in favor of keeping the ban.
And that has important legal implications… Read More…
One of the last tattered shreds of my denial was stripped away when I started coughing at the office Thursday. Since a lot of other people were coughing that day, at least I can’t be solely to blame if a bunch of people are out sick, again.
Thursday evening my left ear clogged. By Friday morning I had a slight ear ache, a sore (rather than merely scratchy) throat, a cough the woke me up several times, and had been sweating all night, again.
Friday is normally a work from home day for me. The doctor was able to work me in fairly quickly. While the physician’s assistant said I had no fever (98.4 is a fever for me), when the doctor check later, she said, “98.4! That’s a fever for you!” because she’s seen how when I’m not sick I often had a temperature of 95 or lower.
She is fairly certain that I don’t have a bacterial infection in the ear and sinuses. She told me to avoid being around people until my fever was totally gone, as I was not just certainly contagions, by certainly very contagious.
Because of the cough, she was going to prescribe the usual codeine cough syrup, but while she was pulling the information up on the computer to send the prescription to my pharmacy, she noticed that my insurance now considers that a mid-level drug with the higher co-pay, but there’s a fancier version of the codeine cough syrup, that’s timed-released, and has antihistamines in addition to the cough suppressant, which is in the lowest tier for my insurance.
She said this stuff is more reliable for keeping the cough and other symptoms down long enough to get a good night’s sleep, and the only thing I would need to remember is that I shouldn’t take anything else that has antihistamines in it while I’m on the syrup.
Seemed like a good idea to me.
I’ve been having nightmares since I got on the stuff. Each time I took a nap Friday, and throughout Friday night, I had nightmares. One of them so disturbing that, even though I’m not normally a superstitious person, I can’t make myself say what it was for fear it might come true.
I re-read up on the side effects, and they did mention that hallucinations is a very rare side effect, but the old codeine cough syrup I’ve been on before lists that, as well. So I wasn’t complete sure it was the cough syrup that was doing it.
The doctor had told me I only needed to use it at night, but could use it in the day if the cough was bothering me. So I experimented not taking it in the daytime. I’ve been having to stop and nap every three or four hours since Friday morning, so I slept a couple times where none of the stuff was in my system.
Late Saturday night I was coughing and had the sore itchy eyes, so I took a spoonful before going back to bed.
No coughing fits woke me in the middle of the night. But two different nightmares did.
So, I’m not sure that the benefit of no coughing fits waking me up is worth the downside of the nightmares. Admittedly, the night I was last coughing, I was woke up far more than two times with the coughing, sore throat, et cetera. I suppose that’s an improvement.
I think next I will trying taking only half a spoonful at bedtime?
“The year was 1980,
May 18th, you’ll recall,
When daytime turned to nighttime,
In the town of Yakima…”
I never lived in Yakima, but Longview, were I was living and attending school in 1980, was in one of the flood plains that was in danger of major flooding when Mt. St. Helens began erupting in 1980. The Oregonian recently acquired some photos that were taken by a pilot that day, that have never before been published. They’re pretty awesome. Go take a look.
We were lucky on May 18, because the wind was blowing away from us. So while three of the rivers that converge there at the towns of Longview and Kelso rose so high that they almost overtopped the dikes, daytime did not turn to nighttime for us, and our houses, cars, and yards weren’t covered with muddy ash.
Than happened exactly one week later, on May 25, when the mountain had another really big eruption and the wind was blowing our way.
She had lots of little eruptions before and after. I took some really eery pictures one sunny afternoon of the mushroom-cloud shaped plume of ash rising up behind our house. I should find those pictures and scan them in. It did look scary having our house in the foreground and that cloud rising behind it.
Some time after that big eruptions, I heard one of many songs entitled “The Ballad of Harry Truman” that were written that year. The opening lines to one of them I’ve quote above. I’ve found a recording of that version, but there are several other good ones.
They are not about the former U.S. President, but about a cantankerous old man who refused to be evacuated from his home on the mountain. He had various responses to people asking him why he wouldn’t move. Usually he mentioned his secret cave, where he had a barrel of whisky stashed to “sit out the trouble.” He had other more colorful replies, including skepticism that it would be that dangerous.
Of course, not only was Harry’s home destroyed, but the entire lake it was near and hundreds of acres around it was disintegrated. Not just buried in mud, or lava, blown out as thousands of particles of gunk.
I understood, even though I agreed he was crazy. He’d buried a lot of friends and his wife on that mountain. He was 84 years old and had lived on the mountain most of his life. He didn’t want to live or die anywhere else.
Every year at this time I spent a while searching the net hoping to find a copy of the song whose opening lines I always remember. That version’s chorus called for us to raise a glass for Harry, and hope that he’s got his cats and whisky, still hiding in his cave. As I said, a lot of folk singers wrote songs about him. Of the ones I have found, I think Neal Woodall’s may be my second favorite:
When people ask, ‘Why don’t you go?
That mountaintop is sure to blow,’
And Harry says, ‘That may be so,
But it sure as hell beats dyin’ slow…'”