Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And Knowing is Half the Battle

I know you can't see it, but right now I'm doing the Dance of Joy. That's because we're finally (mostly) moved into our NEW HOME! I'm sure you want to know all about the move, but right now I want to share with you something I learned yesterday. I like to think that this blog, while ocassionally entertaining, is also ocassionally educational. Just like, as it turns out, unsolicited emails for sexual performance enhancers.

Unlike all the other emails touting a "SPECIAL 70% DISC8OUNT[sic] OFER[sic]" and exclaiming, "Just disolve [sic] half a pil [sic] under your tongue and get ready for action in 15 minutes," this one had "Order status, mummy wheat" as the subject line. Now, most of the junk email that manages to slip by my standard-issue spam filter have completely nonsensical subject lines like, "Your future, mud-exhausted," (which actually showed up in my inbox just now as I was trying to think of an example typically stupid subject line) but something about "mummy wheat" just struck me as funny. So I checked it out online to see if that word coupling had been used anywhere else.

It turns out mummy wheat isn't just some word salad in a spam email, there really is something called mummy wheat. It's wheat that was found in Egyptian tombs in the 19th century by Napoleon's army. It was believed that the 6,000 year old grains had regenerative powers, perhaps mystical in nature, and if planted, could yield seven ears of wheat. This wasn't true, of course, they were far too old to grow anything at all, but at the time, people we willing to pay good money for a few grains.

So thanks,, for sending that informative email. Now I know.

And knowing is half the battle.

By the way, when I was looking for an image from a G.I. Joe PSA, I found this. It's a site split into two categories, Realms of Faith, and the Complete Guide to G.I. Joe. Yup, someone out there created a website with a section called What Jesus Did and posted pictures of his personal vehicle collection. Yikes. Just yikes. I don't know, I've got an Obey Giant parody sticker of myself dressed like a butler on my site, am I really in any position to make fun of this guy? Let's check out a bit of his bio...

"I enjoy a wonderful family life with my wife DeKay and my daughters Snert and Plasma. Just kidding, I'm single."

Yeah. Think we saw that one coming there, buddy.

So what have we learned today? We learned that there is such a thing as mummy wheat, although agriculturally speaking, you'd be better off planting an old shoe. We learned that your purchase of online performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals is absolutely confidential and secure. We learned that Jesus Christ and Cobra Commander can coexist peacefully in the same little corner of the internet. And finally, we learned the answer to the question, "What's the saddest headline ever?"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Farewell, Sweet Prince...

You know those round tins of fancy butter cookies that every grandmother in America is required to have in her house at all times? Well my boss just came back from lunch with one of them and announced that she brought cookies for the office. Yay, cookies! But it turns out she had ulterior motives.

It seems her daughter's pet gerbil, Tom Brady, died last night and she needed something to bury him in. So she bought a tin of cookies and told us it needs to be empty by the time she leaves for the day. So we're eating out of a casket. Great, thanks for that.

Sadly, Brianna's own pet gerbil Nibbles also recently passed on. She too got a tin box send-off, although hers was an empty one we found in our garage as opposed to someone saying, "Hey, finish off these cookies, I've got a dead animal to stick in here!"

Over the years, my parents' backyard has become the final resting place of many a beloved pet. Scattered around the edge of the property line in shallow, unmarked graves are half a dozen guinea pigs, two gerbils, two parakeets and a cockatiel. Tin boxes became the tomb of choice after wild animals dug up and ate the remains of pets buried in cardboard boxes. Even the stray cat we found laying lifeless by my grandmother's shed one day was dug up and eaten the night we buried it. The next day, all that was left was a hole in the ground and a few swatches of fur.

I don't know what's out in those woods that's eating these things; wild cats, coyotes, scrunts...but whatever they are, my grandmother used to go out to the edge of the woods with plastic microwave dinner trays filled with anything from steak to salmon to manicotti for them to eat. Just like Betty White in Lake Placid. Just to make sure you understand this now, a little old lady shuffles out into the woods at dusk to feed whatever dug up and devoured an entire cat.

Speaking of my grandmother, she's now living at a rehab center just a few minutes away from the house. She's doing okay, but she keeps asking for her girdle. At least she's not out in the woods feeding salisbury steak to wolverines.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's Not All Smiles And Sunshine

As Joe would inexplicably blurt out every couple of hours, "Sherman, set the WABAC Machine to the nine-teen-fifties." Yup, he actually says that, and in true Joe fashion, it's always "the 1950's". Didn't that show come out in the 60's? (1959, actually.) In it's entire 90-plus episode run, I don't think they ever did an episode where they went back in time 10 years. It was always like the old west or ancient Egypt or something. Anyway, instead of the '50's, let's go back about three weeks.

Ryan had just come home from China, and had a little over a week of downtime before he and the rest of my family left for Bermuda. We went to see the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel that weekend. Glenn didn't go, because he went in town to see it dressed as a pirate the night it opened. You'd think a bunch of teenagers dressed like pirates would be the strangest ones in the theater, but according to Glenn there was some drunk lady there that threw up on herself twice during the movie. So I guess she gets the prize.

When we got back, Glenn said that Bunny called to say my Uncle Dan had died. That was all that was said about it; he lived in Texas, so we wouldn't be going to the funeral. Not that I'm a funeral junkie or anything, I just...I don't know. It was weird that no one really talked about him after that, like isn't somebody going to say anything?

He was actually my dad's uncle, his mother's brother to be precise, just like my Aunt Marion was her sister, but it just wasn't worth the effort to add "great-" every time you mentioned them. "Uncle Dan" worked just fine. Some people called him "Dana," but as I've mentioned before, I just can't pull off nicknames. I hadn't seen Uncle Dan in years, since we last visited him in Florida. I think it was in '99. He had a really nice house down there, with a screened-in pool and hot tub that was accessible to nearly every room in the house. And the interior doors slid into the wall instead of swinging in or out. And he had a room filled with videos, lining every shelf, three rows deep. He recorded everything and kept an organized list on his computer. He had all these tapes of A&E's Biography, which he never actually watched. The last time we were there we watched Blazing Saddles and there was a huge storm outside. At one point, we were actually in the pool, watching outside as enormous bolts of lightning struck all over the place. If I ever figure out how to upload video onto this thing, I'm going to post that.

He always wanted people to come visit, but he was closer to the Gulf coast of Florida, away from all the attractions. There was a Greek fishing village near his house, that was about it. When we did come to visit, he always tried to convince us to stay longer. My dad's sister and my cousins live in Boca Raton, closer to Disney and Universal and all that, so we usually stayed with them for the majority of the trips. I remember the car ride from their house to his, apparently there's a long stretch of Florida that's nothing but cow pastures.

I didn't even know he moved to Texas until a few months ago. And honestly, when I heard he died I could even remember if his wife was still alive or if she'd only died in a dream. That's an awful feeling, because I really couldn't tell if it was real or imagined. People always die in my dreams, especially Jose. He always gets shot; not by anyone we know, just a random act of violence that takes a friend away. Jeez, my dreams suck. The saddest dream that I keep having takes place at 'Olly's house during a party. My grandfather is sitting in his chair in the den, and gets up to join the others in the dining room, but someone tells him that he can't come because he's dead, and he looks really dejected and fades away. I really hate that dream.

I found an obituary for Uncle Dan, which indeed confirms that Aunt Barbara, his wife of 59 years, is still with us. It mentions his 20-year career in the Army, serving tours in Italy and Korea before retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer in 1964. It highlights his work at M.I.T, and Draper Labs, working with scientists and engineers designing systems for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. But it doesn't say anything about the big Labor Day party he'd have every year when he lived in Walpole. I think it was Labor Day; I was just a kid. But we'd go there once a year and he'd cook lobsters by the pool and he had a shuffle board which was really cool. There was a changing room inside the garage, which was actually more like a carport, I think. Upstairs, he had a computer with a 16 color display, which to me was amazing. My computer at home could only display four colors at a time, (black/white/cyan/magenta, or black/green/red/yellow, depending on the program) which I thought was pointless. One of my friends at the time had a black and white Macintosh SE/30, and I thought it was better to have just black and white then to have four measly colors. It looked cleaner.

The party at Uncle Dan's house always seemed like a big deal. There was always family members I'd never heard of there, and they'd come from all over the country. I remember one time being really embarrassed after running up to a woman who I only saw from the back that I thought was my Mom. My cousins would come in from Texas. Again, they're really my dad's cousins, but they're closer to my age. Wait, that's not right. Their parents would be my dad's cousins, right? So second cousins? Well, whatever. I guess that would make them Uncle Dan's grandchildren. They were always cool. The youngest, Danielle is a year older than me, and after not seeing her in years, she was one actually of the first people that found me on MySpace. (Although I didn't open her email right away, because I was sort of traumatized by the name.) The last party was for his retirement in 1992. First we went to Draper Labs, and I got a whole bunch of stuff to color and a couple of Draper Labs keychains. After that, he and Barbara moved to Florida, maybe expecting to continue having big parties, but my family and Nanna and Bunny hardly ever went down there. Maybe that woman who wasn't my mom went, but the lobster-by-the-pool parties stopped when they moved away.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a bit about Uncle Dan with you. I feel really bad for Aunt Barbara for her loss, and also for thinking she was dead.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the family...

My mom asked Michele and I if we wanted to go to the big family reunion in Lexington. It was going to be held that Saturday, the day before they left for the cruise. I always liked going, but at the same time felt out of place, and self-conscious about always showing up alone. The older you are when you go stag to these things, the more the whispers and rumors start churning. But now, somehow, I've finally managed to get a girl to settle for me, and at last I could walk into the reunion with pride!

But we didn't go. My grandmother was going, and I hadn't spoken to her since November when she and my mom got into a yelling match in the car which resulted in Michelle, Brianna and me unceremoniously packing up our clothes and moving in with my parents. 'Olly said some mean things about Michele, said there was always clothes all over the guest room (remember, we got half a closet to store clothes for three people; there were two bureaus in the room filled with her stuff that we kept asking if we could use) and that she didn't like strangers living in her house. Michele breaks down in tears every time this is brought up, and I've been too uncomfortable to even look and 'Olly since then. I know it's not her, it's what's happening to her. This isn't the same thing as Mel Gibson's tirade against the Jews. Her mind just keeps slipping away. And it's getting worse.

So we stayed home, although Brianna was determined to go, so she went with my mom. My Uncle Mike was in town from California for the reunion, and just before my family left for Bermuda, he, my mom, and my Uncle Jay had a meeting with 'Olly to give her the option of either hiring a live-in caretaker or going to a retirement home. Apparently, they'd already hired someone to come in and do her laundry so she doesn't have to go up and down the cellar stairs, but she's been re-doing the laundry after they leave.

I don't know what they decided, but it's not really relevant now. Friday night, two days before my parents were set to come back, Jay called the house and said that my grandmother was in the hospital. I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's a nation-freaking-wide heat wave going on right now. And 'Olly never drinks water, or anything at all, really, and she was out in the hot yard all day. That evening she called Jay to say that she couldn't get out of her chair. To save you the trouble of reading an extra five paragraphs, after a chain of events he now lives in the house between my parents' and 'Olly's, so he was able to get to her quickly. Except, when he got to the door, the storm door was locked. We keep telling her not to lock it for this exact reason. He got in by breaking a window in the basement or the garage; I'm not sure which, because I haven't been over there to see it. When he found her, she was crawling on the floor, so he called for an ambulance and then called us to let us know. He said she seemed fine, probably just dehydrated, so there was no reason to call my mom while she was still on her trip. He and his family were going away the next day, and asked if I could go visit her at the hospital some time on Saturday.

This was it. I didn't see her on Christmas or Easter, but I went in Saturday with Brianna to see how she was doing. Michele stayed in the car. When I got to the room her eyes were closed, but she opened them when she heard us come in. Which is to say, when we were standing right next to her. She was so happy to us and asked where my "wife" is. She always calls Michele my wife. She couldn't remember Michele's name, and said she has such a hard time remembering anything anymore. I said Michele was waiting in the car. Then 'Olly said she liked Michele and wanted to tell her she was sorry. Sorry for what, she didn't say. But I know it made me feel a lot better. I've never blamed her for what's happening in her head, but what got me mad was she keeps denying saying things. Why couldn't she just admit that she didn't remember? In the hospital with tubes in her arms she broke down and said she's losing her memory, in that same dejected tone my grandfather has in those dreams. It must be a hell of a thing to go through. Before we left, she said to ask Michele to come next time.

When my parents came home, we went to back up to the hospital to see her again, but Michele still didn't go. She said that she didn't like the way 'Olly always spoke poorly of my family, especially my mom. My mom always took her shopping and went over to fix her TV whenever she accidently changed the channel from "3" to "2," yet she always went on and on about how lucky she was to have Betty (my uncle's wife wife.) The rift is really bothering me because I know she's only got so much time left, and I have a whole lifetime of wonderful memories of her and Michele only has these last few months. It's not fair that she's going to go on the rest of her life thinking of my grandmother as only that person. When Michele first moved here, she kept saying what a nice person my grandmother was. Now she doesn't want to have anything to do with her. It's sort of killing me inside. I wish she could have met her when my grandfather was alive. I wish she could have my memories.

When Jay called, he said that they'll be moving her to a rehab place short-term, then to a home. She didn't know any of that when I saw her and she kept telling Brianna that she'd be back home in a couple of days to see her swimming in the pool. My mom and her brothers decided to let the doctor tell her that she wasn't going home. She got out of the hospital yesterday and was brought to the rehab place. In the meantime, we don't really know what's going to happen with her house. At first, it was just going to stay empty, then my uncle said something about renting it out. My mom asked if it was too late for us to back out of the town house, but we've already paid the last month's rent and Michele has already said she wants nothing to do with that house. I don't know what's going to happen, but it will be really weird if complete strangers move in there because it's so connected to the family; literally and emotionally. There's a path in the woods that connect our yards and I can't imagine ever closing it off.

On the bright side, we're finally moving a week from Friday! The place is really nice, bigger then the apartment in Quincy, and we never would have got it if all this other stuff hadn't happened first. Life has a weird way or working itself out.