Motorheads "Fantasy Land"

On Saturday my SO (Significant Other) and I trekked to Monroe, Washington for the bi-annual mega swap meet held at the Fairgrounds.

We have gone to this event religiously, twice a year, for over fifteen years – our jaunts coming to a screeching halt three years ago when his mother had a debilitating stroke (coincidentally, the day after our last expedition three years ago this same weekend). His mother unfortunately passed away three weeks ago. We have spent the last 20 days kind of faltering around with our new freedom, not quite knowing how to spread our wings and fly. So Friday night we decided we would make it a day trip to Monroe, leaving at 4:00 in the morning.

Our trip was uneventful (which is great news for us because we have Murphy's Law happening on our road trips – another story). We arrived at about 8:45 and parked our car out in the toolies and trudged our way into the Evergreen Fairgrounds and acres upon acres of car and truck parts. This is a died-and-gone-to-Heaven experience for any motor head, of which my SO is right there in front of the pack.

My SO has approximately 26 classic cars in varying stages of disrepair that he says are "project" cars, and they are stored in many areas in Spokane, including my house, his house, his mother's house, the family's barn, and a couple friends' houses. When we go to swap meets, he has in mind all 26 cars in the hopes of finding that one particular missing piece/part for that particular car. So we are walking along and from a distance his eyes pop out and he drools and chants "I spy a 55 part…." And all I see are indistinguishable parts covered in black, sticky oil, dirt, and grass. He sees a polished, shiny, smooth piece of a part that will eventually be a front bumper for a 55 Dodge Coronet.

The day was sunny and hot, hot, HOT. On the average our voyages to the Monroe Swap Meet are challenges in the weather. I have a gear bag just for Monroe which is filled with coats, sweaters, rain jackets, ear muffs, gloves, umbrellas, and hand warmers - because it is usually very cold, damp, cloudy, and just plain miserable – raining or showering constantly as we walk up and down all the hearty, die-hard vendors and their goods that they painstakingly loaded into their trucks and then unloaded onto their little square "booth" on wet soggy grass or asphalt (good in the rain if you have a tarp for a shelter; bad on hot days when the tar gets stuck to your shoes). Normally, we will stand at the car and put on layers of clothing, hats, gloves, umbrellas, and I carry a tote bag (for goodies – but also for cast off clothes as the day warms up). As we are walking along – I am vividly aware that I, as the female of this duo, am also the pack mule – my tote bag fills up with this bit and that bit and I pray that all the bits are small bits. Once I had to drag a crank shaft back to the car because it wouldn't fit in my tote bag and I'll be damned if I was going to lug that greasy ugly thing around the fairgrounds for the entire day. As we warm up, he'll take off a shirt and I'll tie it around my waist, and then I'll take off a coat and wrap that around my waist, and I have done this to the point that I had six whatever-it-takes-to-keep-warm garments wrapped around my waist so that I looked as round as I am tall (5'2"). Eventually I crawl back to the car and unwrap myself.

There are miles of "booths" set up in a convoluted curly-q pattern in and around the Fairgrounds and my SO will eyeball each and every booth – looking for THAT part. I slowly lumber behind him, getting heavier and heavier after each booth. I have done this for years now and have finally discovered something wonderful at the Fairgrounds. In the middle of the Fairgrounds are several buildings and most of the booths surround these buildings – and inside the buildings are coveted booths of long-time vendors where they are guaranteed shelter from the weather, be it cold or hot. More importantly, for me anyway, in the buildings will be wives of motor heads selling their wares which include collectibles (bottles, Betty Boop, Coca Cola memorabilia, and glassware). Now I'm a nut for glassware, children's tea sets, and Betty Boop – so I will follow the SO for a couple hours and then when we finally get into the area along side the buildings, I make my escape. I have figured out that I can leave him drooling over some (fill in Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, but never ever Buick) part, duck into a building, wander around and scope all the tables and find treasures just for me and come back out the building a door down from where I entered and, viola! SO hasn't moved a foot! Once I despaired of ever finding him again among the throngs of people milling around booths and tables – he is not distinctive – he's a large man with white hair wearing a plaid lumberjack shirt – and that describes about 2,000 guys milling around one booth. I can look right at him and lose him. But for some reason, God smiles on me if I go into a building; my SO sticks to the pavement where I left him. Never fails.

We did this for about eight hours, collected our stash and went back to the car and headed home, arriving at 10:00 Saturday night.

It's good to be back in the living again!


Love, Life, Living, and Dying

Well, I'm not writing real well these days – catchy title though, don't you think?

April 29 was my birthday – I am celebrating the last year of the 50s.

Unfortunately, that same day my mother-in-law died.

My Significant Other (I'll name him Lovey) and I have been together for over 22 years. He and his mother (Mum) were very, very close. He is a take-charge kind of guy and he did all the "manly" things around the house, checked on her every day by phone, fixed the sink, fixed the car, fixed the hot water tank, fixed ….. Everything. Mum was very independent and ornery. That's what I want to be when I grow up. She was a little tiny thing that was filled with dynamite. Always on the go, always into something, and most times into trouble of some sort.

She loved yard sales and garage sales and would spend her days going around the neighborhood where she lived for 60 years, scarfing up treasures that she would bring home, announcing, "Look! Just like new!" (And we would observe the stain here, the scratch there.) Later we could expect to receive the same item wrapped as a gift.

Mum collected things – all kinds of things – she collected coins, glassware, rocks, gems, beads, Garfield-anything, Depression glassware and any glassware that would turn color in the sun, bottles from the late 1800s and early 1900s. She lived in a little tiny cottage (kind of perfect for her) and she had shelves everywhere with bottles, glassware, vases, Swarovski crystal animals, and Garfield. When Lovey was living there, the people in the neighborhood called her house "the Bottle House" because all the windows were lined with bottles – whiskey bottles, medicine bottles, all kinds of bottles.

She got me started on collecting Duncan Glass – a beautiful, elegant bowl or plate with a graceful five-petal base, and the glass would flute out from the petals in a fluid wave.

Three years ago, she came home from getting her hair done and was getting out of her car, when the neighbor was leaving for work and thought she looked really odd. The neighbor drove around the block and came back to find Mum on the ground. Ironically – Lovey was at the neighbor's house, fixing her hot water tank. He rushed over and picked his Mum up – she said she couldn't move her legs – and took her into the house. Within 30 minutes, medics had arrived, rushed her to the hospital, and we both had been taken to her bedside because she was going to die any minute. She had a debilitating stroke, actually called an intercranium bleed at the base of her brain, severely affecting her left side and her memory.

Three weeks after that we found a nursing home for her, and the first night the nurses gathered around us and told us to prepare for the fact that she would not make it through the night. She was going to die any minute. This was about the third time we heard this and just brushed them off and hovered over Mum and sat vigil for hours at a time – taking turns doing eight-hour shifts.

Four months after her stroke we took her home to her house. Same little tiny house, now filled with hospital bed, oxygen machine, nebulizer, feeding pump, colostomy supplies, wheelchair. I remember sitting outside the nursing home the last night before she came home, thinking to myself, "Oh God! What am I getting myself into?" I'm not a nurse. I'm not even a nurse's aid. I'm a secretary and my skill is typing. Not nursing.

From then on we have been caring for Mum's every need. Lovey wasn't working and so moved in with his Mom and started the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-by-minute process of taking care of his mother. I worked during the day and then came home and relieved him and continued her intricate care until I left for my house at 10:00 at night. Then start it up the next morning and do it all over again, packing a little bag to stay there every weekend, and then take all the family's laundry home on Sunday night and wash and dry all the clothes for the next week.

We would go along fine, we had our routines: An hour to get her ready for the day, changing her diaper, crushing her medications, push them through her feeding tube, administer her breathing treatment on top of her continuous oxygen tube, make sure she was comfy, and set her up with a magazine. Then we would give her her mid-afternoon meds, spend a half hour on physical therapy, then bring her to her favorite chair and she would watch TV for the rest of the day. An hour getting her ready for bed – two if it was bath night.

We plugged along, each of us going on and on, like the Ever Ready Battery rabbit. Twice we had episodes where she had difficulty breathing and took her to the hospital. She was on a ventilator for five days the first time. And they told us she was going to die any minute.

The night before my birthday was a normal night, just like all the three years of nights before – and it was bath night. I was teasing her that I had her pink gown and pink socks so she would be "in the pink." We held hands, laughed; she told me I was a good kid. We bathed her, fluffed her, petted her, got her tucked in for the night. I went home as usual – with all the laundry. At 5:00 in the morning Lovey called me to say that Mum was having trouble breathing and the paramedics were there – that they'd probably be taking her to the hospital. So I jumped in my clothes and raced across town and just at her exit I decided to make sure they were still at the house or maybe at the hospital. Lovey said we wouldn't be going to the hospital now because she was gone.

We were both in shock. It couldn't be so! How many times had we been told she would die any minute and she defied them all. She couldn't have just slipped away quietly like that. A few hours later, Lovey and I sat in a small room at a funeral home on my birthday making arrangements for his mother's cremation, whom I had just dressed in pink so she'd be "in the pink."

So, now you know why I haven't written. And why I won't for a while. Life goes on – but I just have to slow it down a bit, rein it in. I'll be back.