Tag Archives: texas

Sobering

Last weekend, I flew down to San Antonio to help my mom handle some necessary in-person business that had to be conducted surrounding the care and condition of my great aunt. She’s had some recent health issues that necessitated moving her (temporarily, we hope) into the nursing care facility associated with her assisted living place, and nobody in the family had been able to get the answers we wanted from the care givers (the rest of the close family being in China and Canada), so my mom flew from California and I flew from here and we spent four days visiting my aunt and speaking to her caregivers.

The visit wasn’t easy. It was difficult for a number of reasons, both logistical and emotional. I did all of the driving between San Antonio and New Braunfels, where we stayed in my aunt’s empty house, and navigating strange freeways while dealing with crazy drivers wasn’t exactly relaxing (especially when we got lost or when I almost hit a dog that ran across the road). But really, it was the difficulty of seeing my aunt, always so active and healthy, depressed and so unhappy she only wanted to lay in a bed all day.

Over the course of the four days we were there, we brought her to her apartment a couple of times and even got her to take a shower, which perked her up quite a bit. The last day we were there, we sat with her while she ate her lunch in the dining area rather than her bed, and she went to physical therapy, someplace she’d insisted she’d “only been once” (in reality, 5 days a week for a couple of hours a day). (I think she prefers to remember things she enjoys; clearly she remembered we were coming to visit from one day to the next, but in discussing topics she didn’t like, she’d forget in just a few minutes.) She gets into mental loops even worse than she did last fall, and it takes a lot more effort than it used to to get her to talk about something other than how she’s had a great life, a great childhood, a great adulthood, and now she’s ready for the next thing. I think that her caregivers have equated this “I am ready to die” talk she does with “I’m going to intentionally self-harm,” which is not the case at all. While she’s currently weak because of her recent health issues, I don’t think she’d ever do anything to actually try to kill herself.

And that, right there, was the hardest part of the trip. To hear my joyful, full-of-life aunt talk about how she’s ready to go anytime was, quite frankly, depressing as hell. But there are so many things she can’t do that she always enjoyed (socializing, dancing, swimming, etc.) because she can’t see very well. And a recent ear infection has left her completely deaf in one ear. Even reading and writing are difficult for her because of her vision. So I don’t blame her for being depressed and miserable. And her short-term memory is completely shot, and I think she knows it, and we’re wondering whether there’s some dementia going on as well.

While we were at Edy’s house, I got stung by a paper wasp on my left arm. I took this photo in the bathroom, and now, over a week later, I’ve still got the pink circle (though the actual bite site is less itchy). I got about 20 mosquito bites as well, trying to steal wireless from a neighbor in the backyard. It was surreal, staying in Edy’s house with my mom, which is still full of her things and her dolls, both of our minds elsewhere, and a wasp bite to add insult to injury.

I woke up each morning to a herd of male deer in the backyard. (The first morning, one of them was uabashedly peeing right by the window). I thought about the years she spent in the house with her husband, and the years she spent in the house alone. I thought about the end of life, whether it happens due to an accident or due to an illness or due to just plain wearing out. Knowing that when people get to a certain point, generally either the mind goes before the body or the body goes before the mind isn’t at all comforting, and I found myself wishing, like Edy did aloud, that there was just a button one could push when one was ready to go.

It’s hard to know what the right thing is, for someone who is maybe no longer capable of making their own decisions or caring for themselves. My aunt may live a few more months, or a few more years, or a decade. My mom, who lost all of her parents before she was in her mid-20s, has to go through end-of-life care with a person who is, for all intents and purposes, a surrogate mother to her. It’s hard to know how to put into words everything I feel about death and dying, about the end of a long and well-lived life, about how I want to live my life and how I’d like the end of it to go. I spent nearly a week working on this post, and it still doesn’t say the right things. This sort of thing isn’t easy for anyone.

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Last-minute road trip, part 4: Old, Older

Sunday we had two main goals: to see the rest of the missions in San Antonio, something I’d never done, and to visit Natural Bridge Caverns, something I hadn’t done in many years and thought Dan would enjoy.

The day started off with a rainy breakfast of donuts, babybel cheese, and a giant shared peach in the car, and we found our way to the first mission, Mission Concepcion.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of this mission, but there wasn’t a lot to see – the main church part, the best preserved of the four, was closed for renovation, but we did poke our heads into some of the other rooms. Mass had just been held.

We made our way south to the next mission, Mission San Jose. This mission was by far the largest and most complete of the four we saw, and we were able to explore quite a bit, though mass started right after we got there so we didn’t get many photos inside the church. My favorite part was the still-functional mill. It continued to rain and my shoes and pants got soaking wet.







Next, we hit Mission San Juan Capistrano, where (again) Mass was being conducted inside the little church. We explored a bit but it wasn’t as big or extensive as the previous mission and there wasn’t much new to see – other than a priest in vestments going around the side of the building to pee. The lawn was full of giant starlings taking advantage of the rain to eat whatever worms came up out of the ground.

Finally, we arrived at Mission Espada. I really enjoyed this one, partly because the Friary is still used by the Church, partly because they were having a festival out front and I could tell the mission was a big part of the local community. We peeked our heads into the church and walked around a bit but the best part was getting lunch from the stands selling gorditas and aguas frescas. I think the turnout wasn’t quite what they had expected, given all the rain, but it was still festive.

Pants and shoes soaked, bellies full, we headed north to the Natural Bridge Caverns and took the original tour through the caverns, seeing all kinds of interesting formations, and going through back passages because some of the rooms on the normal tour were flooded due to all the rain. I wasn’t able to get the photos I really wanted to, due to the low light available, but I think I got a few good ones. My favorite part of the tour took us back up from the lowest point we were able to go, and when we got up to the top and looked down it was like seeing something out of Lord of the Rings: being in the mines of Moria or the caves that the army of the dead live in.





It was really, really wet inside the caverns, but since my shoes and pants were already soaked it didn’t matter much.

Last minute road trip, part 3: The search for Dan’s Bike


On Saturday we drove to San Antonio and had lunch with my Aunt Edy. I was so glad Dan got to finally meet her, though sadly her dementia/memory loss is much worse than the last time I saw her. We told her about how we met and that we were married about 6 or 8 times, and heard the same five stories about her life several times. But it was nice to see her and I kept thinking about what a neat life she’s had these past 90 years.
Hello, cleavage.

After that, we drove to downtown San Antonio and found $5 parking, then walked around the Mexican Market, by a big church with dead people in it, and up to the Alamo, where, sadly, Dan’s bike was not to be found. I hadn’t done these things since I was a kid, and being in the Mexican market especially brought back memories for me – everything looks the same, though I doubt they were selling Lucha Libre masks back in the early 90s.



I had one of these paper flower wreaths with ribbons for YEARS.




They showed dead people (for a whole year!)


Sadly, the Alamo has no basement.



The only blue sky/sun we saw for the entire trip. It lasted about an hour.

When we’d had our fill of downtown, we headed north to my aunt’s house in New Braunfels. We had the garage door code, had directions to access the key, but had neglected to ask how to turn the water on – sadly, we discovered it was off in a less-than-ideal circumstance. But I got to show Edy’s house and yard and stuff to Dan, which was kind of awesome, and also a little bit creepy to be staying in her house with nobody else around. I even half expected her old dog to bark at us every time we came through the door, even though he’s been dead for many years now.

We managed to find our way to a grocery store (HEB) and went to dinner at the Gristmill in Gruene (pronounced Green), home of the oldest dance hall in Texas. Some sort of art and wine festival was going on, so the town was crowded, but we didn’t have to wait too long for a table.

After dinner, we drank wine and played strip Gin. And we discovered that at some point, someone had bought a digital converter box, because the TV actually worked, sort of.

Last minute road trip, part 2: Austin

When we finally made it to Austin on Friday, we found a place to eat downtown and then explored the state Capitol building for a while.

It reminded me a lot of Colorado’s state Capitol building, which I walk by every day on my way to work, but inside the Texas Capitol everything is Texas. And stars. Everywhere.


Also, Davy Crockett.

Legs

We also did some walking around the downtown area.


Anyone want to guess how much more phallic this looks when there’s actually water coming out of it?


Then, we went to spend the evening (and night) with Yank in Texas and The Boy, got loved up by their kitties, and had delicious TexMex food.