Saturday, October 31, 2009

Like a Kid on a New Bicycle

Took my bike to get tuned up today and got a bunch of gizmos put on too. I could have installed every one of them myself, but I am mechanically challenged enough that I would screw something up. The shop charged me next to nothing for the installation and I figure I helped their economy a little by letting them do it. The main thing was getting new tires. My old tires are mountain tires and I never rode this or any bike through actual mountains. The closest I ever came to that was when I used to ride my bike around the paved bike path at Lake Peru. There is one hill that you have to climb if you want to do the whole loop, but I always walked my bike up and down that.

I almost got a new helmet, but thought I'd stick with my old one for awhile.

I miss the days when I would ride without a helmet, the wind blowing through my hair--but these days, wearing a helmet is pretty important around here.

So I go to a nearby Starbuck's (I know, again) and sat and did a couple of crossword puzzles and graded a few papers.

As I walked in I found a familiar scene. It was like watching myself or an actor playing myself and an elderly woman playing my mother.

Parkinson's Disease.

A middle-aged man sitting with his elderly mother, drinking coffee and eating pastries in silence. She had the sad, drawn face my mother often wore--a symptom of Parkinson's. She was dressed up to go out--sometimes Mom would do this for the simplest trips, usually to go to the doctor.

So they sat in silence, mostly. An occasional word--the son trying to get his mother to talk. After about 20 minutes, they got up, he said "thank-you" to the barrista and headed for the door, his mother walking slowly behind him with a walker.

It reminded me of a time when I took Mom on an errand--again, probably a doctor visit. She still lived in her house at the time, but it had become more difficult. Her world had shrunk to three tiny spaces: Her bedroom, her den, and her bathroom.

Her hallways had become long journeys from one point to the next. It could take her ten minutes to get from her bedroom to her chair in the den. It could take her that long or longer to get to the bathroom when she needed to get there. And, of course, there was the trip back to her bedroom at night.

And transferring from her wheelchair took that much time as well.

She used to like to like to travel, when she was able.

A friend from her church gave her an electric wheelchair that had belonged to their mother, and that made things easier.

When we'd visit for Sunday dinner, we'd end the night by taking her to her room and setting her up so the transition from wheel chair to bed would be easy. When that became too difficult, we'd help her into bed. She would watch TV until she dozed off.

At that point, we had visiting caregivers who would help her in and out of bed during the week. But they were expensive and we could only afford a few hours a day. Eventually, of course, we had to put her in assisted living.

But back to our errand: On our way home, she asked if I would take her to Starbuck's. We went through the drive-thru window. I had asked her if she wanted to go inside, but she said she wanted to stay in the car.

We parked and she asked me to roll down the windows so she could feel the breeze. I realized that, at this point, she could no longer go outside on her own and just wanted that breeze while she was out of the house.

So we sat in silence. Once she muttered "That feels so good."

After that, when on errands, I'd ask her if she wanted to stop somewhere on the way home. And we'd sometimes go inside--but sometimes we'd stay outside with the windows down, sitting in silence as the breeze blew through my mother's hair.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another WTF @ Starbuck's

So my engine light came on this week. Then it went off. Then it came on today. So I decide that I should take it to the dealer's service center, where a former student works, and get it looked at. Whenever I take my car there, I walk over to the Starbucks about two blocks away to relax read, write, or do a crossword puzzle while I wait.

So I'm wearing my wide-brimmed hat that protects me from the sun's rays. I am a little phobic about too much sun exposure, partially because of my reckless youth and partially because a medication I take makes me sensitive to sun exposure. So I wear a hat most of the time, or duck for the shade.

But, I digress.

So, in Starbucks, I place my order--a venti, iced, non-fat, chai tea latte (not a coffee drinker). As I wait for my drink, I realize the guy ahead of me is a former colleague from work for whom I did not care. I didn't want to talk to him, so I used my wide-brim hat to incognito me. I feared that I was trapped and that I wouldn't be able to get around talking to the guy.

He didn't notice me, but I did notice that he was picking up three drinks in a drink carrier: two venti ice coffees and one venti iced, non-fat chai tea latte. He carried the drinks outside and set himself up, alone, at a table. And began reading his paper and drinking his chai tea.

Meanwhie, I stood waiting for mine. After a couple of minutes, I noticed no one was making a chai tea for me. I asked about it. They apologized for the mistake and whipped one up for me. As the barristo handed me my drink, he said that he had already made one, but must have given it to another customer by mistake.

So my former colleague was sipping on MY chai tea! He ordered TWO drinks, got three, and decided to keep them all.

Nobody arrived to join him. It was just him and three beverages, one of them mine.

And he just thought it would be ok to slurp them all down.

I have no pint here. I'm just sharing the moment.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Befell Me This Fall

I tripped today in a very public way.

I was at UC Riverbed with a flock of high school students who were working on research projects. Sophomores.

So my partner teacher and I are in the library working with the kids. I noticed one student on her cell phone. I go make sure she is on task. She tells me that another student called her to tell her that she and two others were lost.

A big bell tower with a Carillon stands at the center of this campus and the library is very close to it. That's what we told the students yesterday. So I tell the girl to tell them to keep heading towards the bell tower and I will wait there for them.

As I approach the bell tower, I see the three girls. I walk to them. As I do so, I have to walk down the steps at this series of shallow steps (there were only three or four) at the base of the bell tower.

I am looking at the three girls and think that I have already stepped on the last step and am now on solid ground.

These steps, by the way, are kind of wide. That is, each step is probably a yard or so in width. So it takes a couple of strides to cross each one.

So I step out on what I think is level ground and realize too late that I am stepping into air.

I am in mid-air and trying to correct myself--but quickly realize that I either am about to step on my ankle instead of my foot and that I could sprain it or worse,so I decide that I am going to have to take the fall to save my foot, so I collapse and roll. The minute my hand hits the cement, I let my arm collapse and roll onto my shoulder and over onto my back.

Then I get up and the three girls, who think I'm very ancient anyway, run over to me and ask if I'm alright. I tell them that I used to be a stunt man. I try to casually walk back to the library with them, pretending it never happened.

I feel a little bruised up and down my right side: my hand my shoulder, and my hip. But no real damage.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Things Ruby, Pearl, and I Saw Today

A couple of places where Ruby and Pearl tried to dig under the new fence my neighbor built.

The pain in a teenage boy's heart as he stood amongst friends, among whom was his recently ex-girlfriend, whom he clearly had not gotten over.

A half-dozen kids strumming different chord progressions on their ukuleles.

A locked front door with me on the other side without my key, which I had left inside.

A window through which one could get access to my house if they wanted to.

Ruby panic at the sight of cars or people as we took our walk.

Pearl not panic so much.

A cat who really wanted to jump over two dogs to get from my living room to my bedroom.

A fast-talking woman who didn't breath between questions nor wait for answers.

Four colleagues who sit in the front row of faculty meetings but don't all seem to pick up on what is said.