Saturday, January 23, 2010

something about walking down the same street on the very same day...

President Obama and I were both in Elyria yesterday. That is what I am told, anyway. I didn't see him and he didn't see me, and I'm fine with that.

As I crossed the bypass, I noticed police cars parked at either side of the intersection. I assume they were there to stop traffic on all the side streets so that the presidential motorcade could speed along the highway. When I went to the post office to drop off Dad's change of address form, I could see further down the street that Cleveland Street was totally blocked off, with traffic being re-routed to Gulf Road. The president had lunch at Smitty's, apparently; a working-class greasy spoon where I never ate in all the years I lived in Elyria.

I think it's fine that the president visited Elyria, and I think it's even better that we didn't impact each other's time there in any way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

expect the worst, I always say

I dragged my ass out to Elyria yesterday, having this inner dialogue as I drove that was really just me listening to me complain. I didn't want to go to Elyria, my dad was going to give me a hard time about some things we had discussed on the phone the day before, the banks and post office would be closed, we wouldn't get enough done in the time I had there. As it turned out, everything I thought was wrong. Well, the banks and post office were closed, but other than that...

When I got to my dad's house, the concerns he had expressed to me the day before were gone. (They may come back, I know.) We picked up his new eyeglasses and had them fitted. That took almost no time at all, and he liked them so well that he left them on for the rest of the day, even though he had worn his old glasses for reading, only. After lunch, we went back to the house, and I loaded my car with some books he wanted to give me, and some paintings I wanted to have.

The most important thing we did yesterday, however, was sign all the papers - so many papers - and put down a security deposit for his studio apartment at Wesleyan Village. Dad will be moving there February 1st. His third-floor "apartment" consists of one large, sun-filled room and an ample bathroom. The room's two large windows face west and overlook a couple of shuffleboard courts, the small patio homes that are part of the Village, and past those, the tops of trees in a small woods that leads down to the bank of the Black River. This is where I have wanted him to live since we first visited Wesleyan Village. I am deeply satisfied. I hope Dad is, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

did I mention one step forward and two steps back?

My dad had his assessment yesterday for his admittance to Wesleyan Village. What this means is that an RN from the Village came to his house and asked him some questions and gave him a couple of simple cognition tests. I thought he did pretty well. He certainly knew what day of the week it was, what year it was, and what state he lived in, anyway. There may be cobwebs in the corners, but he still does his own laundry, showers every day, and heats up the food Bill and I bring him. All good things.

When the conversation turned to his daily medication, however, the tone took a turn for the weird, as it so often does with my dad. Yes, he told her in answer to her question, he takes his medication every day, because he paid for it, but once he is finished with what he has, he doesn't want to take it anymore. The young lady looked up from her notes and focused her bright blue eyes on him. "Are you saying you would refuse to take your prescribed medication?" I looked up from my knitting at that point, pretty sure that Dad was on the verge of messing up all we had accomplished to that point. "I want to try to get along without it, once I am moved in," he replied. "That seems reasonable," I said, looking right at her. Yes, she agreed, that seemed reasonable. Whew.

I got a call from Roni, our incredible liason, later that day, and to my relief, she said the assessment had gone well, and we could think about setting up a move-in date. At that point, she and I laughed about my dad's comment, but for a minute there, it wasn't all that funny. What a relief it will be (on so many levels) to have him safely settled.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

is anybody there? does anybody care?

Hello? hello?

You know, I know I'm supposed to be writing this blog for myself, but a little feedback would really be nice. (I am not talking to you, Ben, although your comments are always appreciated.) One of the reasons my blog was a fail the last time was because I finally felt that I was sending it off into the void day after day. So, come on, guys, a little help.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm working through it

Okay, so, my yarn shop closed at the end of September. I don't want to mention the name here because I am still pretty bitter about it, but clever readers will find it easily enough in previous posts. I worked there for fifteen months, and absolutely loved it for the first twelve. Once it became clear to us that the owner would not be ordering new yarn or notions ever, it just wasn't fun anymore - for us or our customers.

The shop did not have to close. It was a small, narrow space, stocked to the gills with colorful yarn and beautiful hand-knit sweaters and scarves and baby things. People who came in for the first time sometimes stopped in the doorway, just taking it all in. The shop was in the upscale shopping area of a wealthy little community, and the local ladies just loved it. We held classes and helped customers who came in with a dropped stitch or a new pattern they couldn't quite puzzle through. We helped them chose yarn for new projects. Hell, we helped them chose the new projects.

We loved working there. We loved working with each other. All except for the owner. She came in less and less frequently, and finally, not at all, as she moved to another part of the country. We ran the shop without her, but could not make the purchases that needed to be made. We were hard-pressed to explain to our customers why we still hadn't re-ordered the yarn they needed, and, no, we couldn't special order it for them. In the end, the only thing we could think to do was quit. So we did. En masse. That's when she decided to close the shop.

She came back to clear out the store, and I heard her telling our surprised and saddened customers that it was the fault of the tough economy and the mean management company, but that wasn't the truth. She didn't care and she lost interest, and something that was unique and valuable to a lot of people is gone. Yeah, I'm one of them. But, hey, I'm working through it. I'll get over it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

it doesn't come in cans

Is there anything better than a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup on a winter day? I mean, if you have to live in Northeast Ohio in January, you should, at the very least, have something hot and tasty to eat.

I make a lot of soup in the fall and winter, big pots of it that only taste better with each re-heating. I make bean soup with ham and ditalini. I make lentil soup with chunks of kielbasa and lots of garlic. I make Ben's favorite, beef barley soup with turnip greens and a medley of mushrooms. New for this fall, I made up a recipe for stuffed cabbage soup. I downloaded four different recipes I found online, and took what I wanted from each. Not to brag, but that is damn good soup.

The best soup I make, however, is also the simplest and the one I have been making for the longest time - chicken noodle soup. When Julie had a cold she couldn't shake last week, I knew it was time to make some. I took a couple of roast chicken carcasses from the freezer, put them in the stock pot with onions and garlic and celery and carrots and filled the pot with water. Then I let it simmer all day. I swear, the smell alone is good for what ails you.

Once the stock has been strained, I add noodles and some fresh parsley, and that's all. Oh, I sauté some vegetables and chop up some chicken for others to add, but nothing else goes in my soup bowl. I am a chicken noodle soup purist.

For years, I have preferred extra fine egg noodles above all others, in spite of the fact that they generally slip off my spoon faster than I can slurp them up. I have, however, found a new noodle that is worthy of my chicken stock, and, I would go so far as to say, completes the soup in a way I didn't even know it was lacking.

Julie and I found these noodles in a little import store in a strip mall in Uniontown. The store sells mostly Eastern European food, and we found a whole shelf of Hungarian egg noodles. Now, I happen to know a little (well, very little) about Hungarian egg noodles, as I have a very clear memory of my Hungarian grandma rolling out noodles and cutting them into long strips on the big kitchen table in the basement of her house. I had never seen anyone do that before - nor since, for that matter.

Julie and I bought a couple of different shapes, but the ones I like best are called Csiga, and they look like little ridged horns. And I am telling you, they are perfect for my chicken noodle soup. They are eggy and delicious, needless to say, but what I really love about them is they stay on my spoon. I don't think I can overstate the importance of that.

So, if you're cold and hungry, give me a bit of advance notice and I'll cook up a big pot of soup for you. I don't think it will be chicken noodle, however, unless I have some Csiga in my cupboard.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

full disclosure

My dad, who will turn 83 next month, was recently diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. As it turns out, this diagnosis came as a relief to him, as it confirmed what he had suspected for some time. Needless to say, Dad can't continue to live by himself. This is something he realizes, and this realization has driven our current search for an assisted living facility. From the beginning, I wanted him to go to Wesleyan Village, and it now looks like that is where he will end up.

I will be writing about our journey here in the hope that it will somehow help me deal with my sorrow, anger, and frustration. As I said to a friend, this is a maze I had hoped to never enter, but we are in the thick of it now, and sometimes taking one step forward and two steps back, we proceed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

going for a ride

I remembered a car trip on a summer day. Just my dad and me – my favorite way to travel. No little brothers to share his attention, no mother to doze and snore in the front seat, admonishing us all to shut up - just the two of us speeding along quiet country roads. In those pre-air conditioned days, all the windows were rolled down, letting a wall of hot summer air rush in.

Sometimes I sat up front, on the long bench seat next to my dad. If I got tired, I lay down and rested my head on his leg as he drove along, his freckled left arm turning pink, then red in the bright sunlight. Sometimes we sang together – but not the songs you might think. “’Twas a cold winter’s evening, the guests were all leaving…” we would begin, and we would sing one of his old college drinking songs with great gusto. My mother despaired that neither of us could carry a tune, but we liked each other’s singing just fine.

Although I liked to sit up front next to my dad, that day I had clambered over the seat, and lay stretched out on the back seat, my bare feet (a no-no when my mother was along!) propped on the open window. It was hot in the car and the air blew in the windows with a monotonous roar. I stared absently at my wiggling toes as the telephone poles rushed past, the wires between them looping quickly by. It was a moment of pure contentment that I have never forgotten.

I wondered at first why that memory came to me yesterday as I drove home through the fine, driving snow of a January afternoon. I had spent the day with my dad, trying to get some of the myriad tasks accomplished for his move to an assisted living facility a block away from the house where I grew up. We made several stops: the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, the bank. At each stop, the seatbelt in my car confounded my dad, as he pulled the wrong end of it or couldn’t click it safely closed. Each time I did it for him.

My dad drove me, and now I drive him. It’s really pretty simple.