Friday, February 20, 2009

Carefree Highway

I went back to Nebraska this week for my grandson's 5th birthday. I have a love/hate relationship with Nebraska. I'm from there, grew up there so, naturally, there is a lot of pain involved with it for me. And I don't mean I had a bad childhood, just that most days I'm just busy being me and that's a full-time job, as my brother used to say about his ex-wife. I'll just say that I'm sensitive and come from a family where emotions, unless they're these particular ones: Happy, enthusiastic, cheerful, etc. were sort of frowned upon. The frowners would debate this but I'm telling you they're full of shit. They aways looked down upon people who were....sentimental, we'll say. For instance, people who express distress about other family members who have, let's say, metastatic cancer, for instance, are criticized for being "dramatic" And here I always thought cancer was dramatic. Who knew?

So it's that kind of thing that I gnash my teeth over while I'm there. That, and other stuff. Stuff like the message that everybody's feelings and perceptions are more valid than any of our's, including street people who come to my mother's home on a regular basis for her to give them, what my sister, Janet calls their "allowance". It's a long story that I'm not sure I know all of. Nor do I particularly care to know any more.

And then there are the trashcans. My mother doesn't believe in trash bags. God love her, her heart is in the right place. She says she doesn't use trash bags because they stay in the landfill too long. But apparently she also doesn't believe in lining the trash cans with newspaper (the newspaper that's piled high in her office) to keep the stuff, you know what kind of stuff I mean, off the sides of the inside of the trash can. That stuff on the sides, she says, is a result of improper catagorizing of the trash by her grandchildren (of which my daughter and her two kids were....three). She says, they shouldn't be putting "wet" things in the trash but into the compost and it is, that wet stuff that causes the mess on the inside of the can. Mother of God. I can scarcely stand it.

So just when I think my head is going to start rotating on my shoulders I go for a ride somewhere. This time it was the second day I was there and I went to look for a piece of exercise equipment that I've been wanting. And I found it. And bought it. And then I went to see my cousin and her husband who are both bus drivers. My cousin is the union shop steward at the bus station in that town and I'm proud of her. It's so nice to be around Democrats. Then I went to Open Harvest which is a great health food store where my sister-in-law works. That was balm to my wounds. Smelling the spices and herbs and seeing the people in there. All but one woman who liked to draw attention to herself by doing things like touching people from behind as she came upon them and saying, "I'm sorry, I need to get by you". Typical pain in the ass and just when I was thinking how nice it would be to work somewhere like that. But anyway, they have this perfume I absolutely love. It's called Sacred Fire and had I not just spent $900 on a Precor EFX 544 Elliptical trainer I would have that bottle, now. That wasn't the first time I've carried that bottle around the store and then talked myself out of it. But I need that shit and I'm going to go back and buy it the next time I'm up there.

After that, and drinking a really big caffeinated latte with sugar-free chocolate macadameia nut syrup, I sat in the parking lot and wrote in my journal. I drew a quick sketch of a girl in a short coat with tights and boots putting her groceries in her trunk. She was so damn cute. I need to get some different clothes. The last time I tried to buy funky little (if you can call size 14 little) clothes in a university town I ended up buying too much tie dye that just won't work here very easily. I'd feel too out of place to wear that stuff, for the most part, I'm afraid. But some natural fibers, knitted caps, cool boots, some of that stuff I saw in that parking lot, well. I need it.

And that little outing saved my mind. For a little while, anyway. When I got home, I backed the truck into my mother's driveway so my daughter could load her belongings into it for us to bring back to Arkansas with us on the trip back home the next day. I used my daughter's car to take my mother to a small town south of Lincoln named "Firth" where my cousin, Elaine, is in a nursing home. She had a stroke during aneurysm surgery close to 30 years ago. But you'd have to know my daughter's car for this to make sense.

She has cleaned it twice in the 6 years she's owned it. The windshield is a roadmap of cracks, including some forming perfect circles which I fear will pop out driving down the road, some day. Of course there was no gas in the car and I told Mom I might as well fill it up as I'd be doing so all the way to Arkansas, the next day, anyway. (Which, by the way wasn't true, after all).

The car is so filthy one cannot allow oneself to think about it focusing instead on the road before them, if that is even possible while being repeatedly stabbed in the forehead by the broken sun visor hanging down to about my hairline. How do you break a sun visor? Has anybody ever actually done that before?

She had the windows tinted and the ever present dirt on them caused great scratches down both front seat windows which make seeing out of them a challenge. All of that coupled with the fact that we were about 25 miles out of town, it was evening and getting colder, the wind was blowing, as usual, and it was already like 22 degrees. Oh, and there was no cell phone service. How does that work on the plains? I mean, what is there to interfere with the signal? I can see in the mountains like here, but...

So we come to an intersection and being the anally fixated individual I am, I sort of wanted to see if there were any cars coming before I turned onto the road. So I rolled both windows down. After I pulled out, I rolled the windows back up only my window didn't go up. I thought maybe only one switch works at a time so I tried mine again after putting up my mother's side but it didn't work and then I remembered. The driver's side window won't go back up if you put it down. How could I have forgotten? Oh damn me, damn me right to hell. I had done that same thing once before. Oddly, it was also at my grandson's birthday party in the parking lot of Chuck E. Cheese's during a dark, rainy and cold as hell night in Arkansas, that time. About 2 years ago and it stayed down until May. She drove with two kids in the car and that window down all the rest of that winter.

I seemed to recall that someone, a man, of course, got the window to go up once by playing with the switch until it finally caught somehow and rolled the window up. I immediately started doing that. I saw my mother out of the corner of my eye buttoning up her coat and pulling her collar closer around her face which made me feel more incompetent and guilty now for freezing my poor 82-year-old mother as a result of my stupidity. Seeing my mother bundle up only further strengthened my resolve to manipulate that switch into submission and it was with great relief that I heard a new, dinging sort of noise which I interpreted as an encouraging sign that I was making some sort of progress until I realized that the dinging was not related to the window switch at all but was, instead, the low fuel alert noise. I'd forgotten to stop and buy gas and now there we were with no town in sight and we didn't know for sure if there were any gas stations in this small town to which we were headed. And if there were any, were they open after 5pm which was almost upon us, we wondered? I began to look around the car for a sedative, at that point.

In a time we did find the town of Firth and there was a gas station on a corner. I got out and began to try to pump gas but nothing happened and I feared they were closed but the meter on the pump began to register and the gas began to fill the tank, at last. I went in to buy some hot coffee and inquired about a mechanic but the young girl said they were all gone at five (it was now about 10 after). I was just so happy to have gas and now coffee that I didn't care and praddled on giddily while the little girl counted out my change. After fueling, I saw a place with something about "auto body repair" on the sign and drove over there to catch the man behind the counter finishing business with another customer. I told him what happened and that we had to leave for Arkansas in the morning and that my 82-year-old mother was freezing out there and that we were 25 miles from her house. He explained that the door panel would have to be taken off (didn't sound too hard for an auto body place). I asked him if he could do it but he said, "Not right now" as in "I'm going home now and don't give two shits about you or your 82-year-old mother".

So we went on to see my cousin and drove home in the cold, stopping for more coffee before going to my brother's for him to only hit the door with his fist and roll the window up in about 15 seconds. Thank God for men, is all I can say. Sometimes things just have to have a man touch them, as our friend Marty says. And I believe it's true.

I have more to say but it'll have to wait. It's complicated and probably won't make much sense, anyway.