Sunday, February 28, 2010

yeah, it's still February, so this is how it goes

Yesterday was my dad's 83rd birthday. I called him in the morning to wish him a happy birthday, and to let him know that Ben and I would be driving out to see him and take him out to lunch. He expressed concern that the roads would be too bad, but I assured him we would be fine. "Well, that's great, " he said. "I'll be glad to see you." A promising start to the day, I thought, and after picking up cupcakes and sparkling water and birthday plates, napkins, and cups, we headed to Elyria.

Dad did seem genuinely glad to see us, but I was discouraged to see that, as for my last couple of visits, he wasn't wearing one of the nice, new sweaters I bought, but an ugly, heavy, untucked flannel shirt. He had a bad cold, he told us right away, everyone did in that pest house. I stifled a laugh as I thought, for god's sake, that's straight out of Charles Dickens. The Wesleyan Village could not be further from a pest house. I remarked that anywhere alot of people were living together - in a dorm, for example - winter illnesses were rampant. He seemed unpersuaded.

We took Dad to his favorite little restaurant for lunch, which he seemed to enjoy, remarking on how much better the food was there than where he lived. He allowed Ben to treat, which is unusual, but we insisted as it was for his birthday. When we got back to the Village, Dad seemed reluctant to return to his room, and took us on a slow, circuitous tour. Now, I have toured the facility probably four or five times, I was wearing a heavy coat (and it is warm in there) and I had to pee. Finally, there was nothing else for it: "I have to pee! Could we please go back to the room?"

Dad had arranged his desk chair and the bench we brought from the house in a little seating arrangement, so we sat and had cupcakes and chatted. I had brought his college scrapbook along, but he was disinclined to look through it, and told me to keep it. "You guys don't have to stick around," he finally told us, so we took that as our cue to leave. I don't think he realized how personally I took his parting words to us. "Well, I still don't like it here," he said. "I probably never will."

Everyone keeps telling me, he needs time to adjust, he'll get used to it. But I'm not so sure. I tend to agree with my dad. He probably never will.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

knitter's block?

If writers can have writer's block, then I guess knitters can have knitter's block. That would explain my recent dry spell, anyway. I have finished all the projects I was working on, and I just can't think of anything new that I want to knit. It's not that I don't have enough yarn - I don't think you can imagine how much yarn I have. Oh, I haven't reached SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) yet, but I can knit with what I've got for a long time. And it's not that I don't have patterns I am interested in. I have almost seven hundred (!) patterns saved on Ravelry, the amazing online knitting community, and most of them are free, so it's not a lack of funds, either.

I am just not inspired, I guess. Working at the yarn shop was so inspiring. We were always getting new knitting magazines or books, and our customers were always coming in with new ideas they had picked up somewhere else. Most exciting of all, twice a year the sales reps came in with new yarn from all the leading yarn companies. We would come in even if we weren't scheduled to work on those days. Creativity was always in the air in our shop. At my house, not so much.

I have been working on fingerless mitts lately, almost to the exclusion of everything else. That is because I have found a market for them, and can turn a little profit on each pair that I make. Since I am still unemployed, this constitutes a little pocket money for me. And, no, I don't spend it all on more yarn. It might be that I am just sick of working on mitts, I guess, but there are dozens of patterns for them, so it is not like I am knitting the same thing over and over. (Although I find, to my dismay, that is what people seem to want : "Oh, I want a pair just like hers!")

I belong to two knitting groups that meet on a monthly basis, and those are very important to me. So much so, in fact, that I went to one earlier this month in the midst of a "major snow event," as winter weather is now called. Not everyone was there, but I was not the only one who drove in, either. I'm going to the other group on Thursday. Maybe they will inspire me. I don't know. I know for sure they will admire my work and be glad to see me. And that's a good thing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

ever had parsnips?

We had dinner with Bill and Catherine a week ago Sunday, and she made us a traditional British Sunday dinner consisting of roast leg of lamb with mint sauce, brussel sprouts with a cream sauce, and three kinds of roasted root vegetables, including parsnips. I am not proud to say that I did not even try the brussel sprouts, having a strong aversion to them since I was a child. (I barfed them back out onto my plate the first time I was forced to eat them. Boy, did that make my parents mad!) Anyway.

I had never eaten parsnips before, and they were a revelation. They had carmelized as they roasted, and they were creamy and sweet and delicious. They were my favorite part of the dinner, in fact. Catherine sent the rest of the uncooked parsnips home with us, and I roasted them for the two of us the next day. Still delicious. Right on the edge of tasting like a yucky cooked carrot, but somehow managing to avoid it. I can't wait to explore all the possibilites of the humble parsnip.

Eating cooked vegetables is still a risky business for me. Growing up, the only cooked vegetables we ever ate came from a Birdseye box in the freezer. They had no texture and no flavor, and they generally smelled terrible. At least, that's how I remember it. I used to only like cooked corn, and for many years after I left home, that was the only cooked vegetable I would eat. Gradually, I have learned that buying fresh vegetables and cooking them yields unexpected flavor and texture. Thanks, Catherine, for adding another tasty vegetable to my growing list.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

reason #4,357 why I hate February

This is how Wikipedia defines an ice dam:

An ice dam can occur when snow accumulates on the slanted roof of a house with inadequate insulation and warm air leaks into the attic at penetrations for plumbing stacks, wiring, chimneys, attic hatches, recessed lights, etc. These warm air leaks are known as attic bypasses. Heat conducted through the insufficient insulation and warm air from the attic bypasses warms the roof roof and melts the snow. Meltwater flows down the roof, under the blanket of snow, onto the eave and into the gutter, where colder conditions on the overhang cause it to freeze. Eventually, ice accumulates along the eave and in the gutter. Snow that melts later cannot drain properly through the ice on the eave and in the gutter. This can result in:

· Leaking roof (height of leak depends on extent of ice dam).
· Wet, ineffective insulation.
· Stained or cracked plaster or drywall.
· Rotting timber.
· Stained, blistered or peeling paint.

Under extreme conditions, with heavy snow and severe cold, almost any house can have an ice dam.

We currently seem to have two ice dams - one above the east window in Julie's room and one above the north window in the living room. I know this because water is drip, drip, dripping into our house in both those places. We had this problem in Julie's room last year, so that is not a surprise. The water in the living room, however, is a most unpleasant surprise.

Our living room is really a lovely room. I can honestly say this. It is a long, narrow room, with a wall of windows at either end. Ben and I have spent a lot of time and effort over the years to make this a pleasant, welcoming room. We had a hideous wood-burning stove removed from the fireplace last year. We have re-painted the walls - most recently only a couple of weeks ago. When the sun comes out, as it briefly did this morning, the living room glows, and I love to just look at it. Not today, however. The furniture is all pulled away from the windows at one end, and old towels catch the dripping water. I hate it. I hate being in there. I hate February.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

sometimes, where you least expect it, joy

"Remember my old college suitcase?" my dad asked me recently. "I want you to give it to your cousin, Davey. He always loved it. Used to drag it around the house when it was bigger than he was."

Well, of course, I remembered the suitcase, but I wasn't at all sure that Dave would. The suitcase was older than me, needless to say, and the stickers on its side - "Ohio University" and "Phi Kappa Tau" were among my earliest memories. My dad took it on every business trip, and I remember it coming home festooned with tags from airports across the country.

When my brother, Bill, and I were at the house on Monday, I asked him if he could find the suitcase for me. Of course, he could, and soon he walked down the attic steps carrying the ancient, dusty suitcase. "Are you sure Dave will remember this?" Bill asked me, as he cleaned decades of dust from the leather surface. "Not at all," I replied, "but Dad wants him to have it."

As I drove home that day, I decided to give Dave a call. "Hey, I have a gift for you from your uncle," I told him. "Yeah, what is it?" "Do you remember his old college suitcase? He wants you to have it." I was totally unprepared for Dave's reaction. "Are you kidding me?! Really?! Do you know that the family story goes that I took my first steps towards that suit case? My first steps ever! I am so touched that he wants me to have that!"

"I didn't know, " I told him. I didn't know. And I don't think my dad did, either. But he certainly remembered the strong attachment he and his young nephew - and namesake - had shared. He gave Dave a gift that he may not have known the magnitude of, but that doesn't lessen its value. My heart sang as I drove the rest of the way home. By asking me to deliver his old suitcase, my dad gave me a gift, as well. The gift of joy. Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

progress report - if you can call it that

We moved my dad to Wesleyan Village on February 1st. It was a cold, clear winter day. In less than two hours, the movers had moved everything Dad wanted to take. And then there we were - Dad and Ben and Bill and me all standing in the room that was now his home. We had lunch there with him, but then it was time for us to be on our way. It felt stranger than I can say to leave my dad there. The three of us went back to the house, and that was strange, too. My dad had embarked on his new life.

That was on a Monday. The phone call and email came on Tuesday evening. "Your dad is having some problems adjusting. He had a run-in with the RN about taking his meds. He walked out of the dining hall without dinner when he got confused. What is the best way to handle this?" I was not at all surprised to hear this. I was surprised and dismayed to be contacted so quickly, however. My reply was quick and, I hope, courteous. Dad was going to have to learn to adjust and get along. Without me. I believe my message was received, as I have not gotten daily status reports since then.

I waited a week and a half before I drove out to visit my dad. I thought that would give him time to settle in a bit and start to develop a routine. Hopefully, to adjust. He is not adjusting. He doesn't like it there. He says the meat is tough, and so he only eats salads. He is constipated, and talked about it endlessly. Dad has lost his inner filter - not that it ever worked that well. As we sat in a bank office waiting for a customer service representative, Dad turned to me and asked, "Ever had an enema?" I was surprised, offended, and pissed off. "Not that I remember, Dad," was the best reply I could manage.

I tried to shake the effects of that visit all weekend long, but couldn't quite do it. I had worked so hard to get him in the best place he could possibly be, and he didn't like it. I should be so lucky to end up someplace like that. When I talked to my brother on Sunday, however, he put things in perspective for me. "Dad was never going to be happy there. He's not happy anywhere. He's not happy." He's not happy. It's true. And I was wrong to think that changing his address would change him.