Friday, August 18, 2006

Last Romp of the Summer

School started this week. On the night before the first day, a night that usually finds me making last-minute plans. I usually get het up with anticipation. As I grow older, this anticipation lessens, but it's still there.

Camper Van Beethoven had a gig at the Belly Up in Del Mar on this particular Back-to-School Eve. We know the bass player so we thought we'd check them out. I knew I'd be up late, but what the hey?

While driving down, the traffic slowed a couple of times. At one point, when it slowed to around 40 MPH, this guy in the lane next to me started swerving. I passed this guy and glared at him as I did so and saw that he was rapidly, repeatedly slapping his own face while trying to steer. I glanced at him in my rearview mirror a couple of times. He continued to slap his own face, swerving from one edge of his lane to the other.

This will remain a mystery to me forever.

The concert started late. When they came out, Greg Lowrey, the lead singer, seemed subdued. He is kind of cocky and arrogant, so this was a departure from his usual stage manner. Camper is a tight band and Lowrey's songs are great, but they were less engaging than they had been at the other performance I had seen a long time ago. Not much audience interaction. But the same tight musicianship for the most part and the audience seemed to love them.

I got home late and arrived at school to meet my new students. By about 4th period, I was really dragging. I could have fallen asleep at my lectern. I managed to stay awake and even stay after school a little while to finish some work.

I hope I can get my circadian rhythm back this weekend.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Music Teacher

My brother grilled some hamburgers last Sunday for our weekly family dinner. I brought Mom, which wasn't easy. She had not gotten dressed to go out and expected me to help her.

If and when the time comes that there is no way for Mom to get dressed without our help, I will do it. But she is paying big money to stay in this assisted living facility where dressing the tenants is among the things the employees are paid for. Mom said that they were short-handed that day.

A couple of the employees here don't do their jobs very well and I have made it my mission in life to be a pain in the ass until they either shape up or get fired. So, knowing that at least one of these two was on duty, I marched down to the assisted living office. Sure enough, one employee was loading the medication cart while another just stood there chatting with her. I asked if one of the could help my mother get dressed.

In these places, you don't always get what you pay for unless you demand it.

So Mom got dressed, got her pills for the day, and off we went.

We dined al fresco in cooler weather than we had expected. We asked Mom if she wanted to go inside, but she said no. The steps into my Brother's house are challenging for her, so I think she assessed the time it would take and the time she would spend in there and decided it wasn't worth it. So as it got dark, we wrapped Mom in a blanket and brought out a portable DVD player to show her our collected performances, both as The canaries and as solo artists.

My mother, by the way, had once planned to study opera. Then WWII intervened and she left college to stay with her mother. Grandpa had enlisted in the navy (he also served in WWI).

Her voice matured while she was very young. In junior high school she already possessed a mature soprano voice. My siblings and I inherited this trait, except my brother and I went baritone, of course. At thirteen, I looked younger but sounded older.

During her own pre-teen years, Mom performed in recitals and became known locally for her voice. Not quite a child star, but advanced.

So on the way home she, inspired by hearing her grandson singing (the kid's fearless and self-taught), she reminisced about a thing that happened between her and her junior high school music teacher.

The teacher had handed out grades for the semester. She sat with a smile on her face as she watched my Mom open her report card.

Mom's jaw dropped as she saw the "B" the teacher had given her. The teacher then walked up to her and said "What cost you your "A" was the fact that you did not invite me to your recital last week."

Angry, Mom left the classroom.

When Mom got home, she was greeted by her mother and the same music teacher, who had come by to apologize for her actions and said that she had changed the grade to an "A."

As Mom told this story, I could hear the same anger she must have felt at the time bubbling up from inside her.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Lifetime in Stuff

My mother has Parkinson's Disease and is living in an assisted living facility and we're trying to clean up her house for rental. The extra income will give her some disposable income--not to mention more money to cover expenses should her level of care increase.

She lived in her home for 50 years and she and my father had, in all of that time, one garage sale. So, needless to say, there is a lot of stuff there.

Mom has been a collector. Among the things she has collected: Teddy Bears, these little wooden building thingies, demis tas (French for tiny cups and saucers), pitchers, dolls. Yesterday, I tried to sort some of these things out--in retrospect, I'm not sure why. I'm not sure of there sale value or that Mom will even want to sell any of them.

Mom is also a hoarder. All of her kids have inherited this trait. I alone of my siblings am in recovery. I throw things away or donate them to Goodwill. I don't have a lot of stuff that I save, unless it has some sentimental value.

I'm not consistent about this. But I try. I really try.

I also sifted through all of the old bills and check stubs that my mother has kept from the last century. I started to be ruthless at first, but quickly realized that hidden amongst this useless stuff Mom had put old photographs, letters and drawings from her grandchildren, and other stuff that she will want to go through herself.

One of our tasks is to find an old manila envelope with pictures of a policeman the father of her high school sweetheart who had been killed in the line of duty back in the late 30's, when this town was still a sleepy small town. She had dug this out a couple of years ago and left it out on the dining room table. We don't know what happened to it. I have found scores of manila envelopes in every drawer or closet and all of them have been something else.

The demis tas collection comes from her grandmother. We found them in a cupboard in an old Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. Some of them are broken. Some are in excellent condition. I don't know where any of them came from.

Mom had an old silver set that we thought she had tucked under a hutch cupboard. It had belonged to her mother. When we pulled it out, we found that a lot of pieces were missing. Mom says that some of it was scattered inside the hutch, but we haven't found them. We suspect one of her living assistants who attended her when she still lived in the house may have taken those pieces.

Before I left put some towels in her washing machine out on the patio that had been built by my father. In one corner of the floor, you can see where my brother, sister, and I had put our hand and foot in the wet cement as children. Next to our imprints, you can see those of our beloved one-eyed dog Inky.

A swallowtail had found its way into the patio and fluttered against the screen, trying to escape. I took a closer look and saw that this butterfly's wings had become tattered. I managed to trap it in my hand without having to hold the wings. I kicked the door open and released it.