Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fallout (or "Betty, where aaare you?")

Yes, folks. I am still in the land of the living--barely. My life has been filled with more than incidental events as of late--but I've still managed to find escapist time to play Fallout, a PC game involving saving my little community residing in a fallout shelter during post-apocalyptic tomorrow. During my tours in Never-Never Land, I came to two conclusions (1) there is no way to successfully complete an adventure without incidental carnage, (2) there is no way to save the world without loyal friends (a radioactive mutt in my case), and (3) the best-laid plans go radioactive when faced with Deathclaws . Strangely enough, life imitates avatar (minus the grizzly bits).

I can only thank the amazing resiliency of the human condition and blind fate that I am here writing to all ten of my readers today.

I returned to work after spending a week in Colorado. My 94-year-old grandmother's health was declining, and I went home to spend time with her and my father. I might call myself a cowgirl, but she was the real deal. She spent most of her life in the Texas Panhandle, and lived through the Great Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and WWII. She saw the Soviet Empire rise and fall and heard Orison Welles's War of the Worlds. She was courted by a cad, only to find out he visited that "widow who lived by the train depot," whenever his manly urges required professional attention. She declined to marry my grandfather because he hadn't enough money to support them--until he said he would join up and fight the Nazis if they didn't get hitched. She vainly tried to control my adolescent father's occasional fits of dancing. She also went to the beauty shop to get her hair set every week for 70 years.

We visited for an hour for the first couple of days I was at the nursing home. (My grandmother's hip broke in March, and moved from her assisted-living home to a nursing home after her recovery. We initially hoped she would bounce back--as it was hard to imagine the old cowgirl would ever die.) The following days, when we walked the two blocks from my family home to the nursing home, grandma could barely stay awake. I would comb her hair, we would hold her hands and make some chit chat. Mostly, we exchanged smiles as my grandmother fought to keep her eyes open. She enjoyed company, getting her hair set, and having her hair brushed. But eating--even chocolate ice cream--held little pleasure. The ritual of "supper" was no longer a joy but a painful chore.

On the day before I flew back, I told my grandmother I was returning to Albany. Grandma frowned and sighed, and said she was glad she could see me and I said I was glad to visit with her too. She told me to come back to visit soon--I smiled and lied to her. I said I would see her as soon as I could. I knew it would be the last time. My grandmother died the next day as I was waiting for my connecting flight in Detroit. My parents were there as she passed. Her heart finally gave out.

I wish I could see her again. But life held no more enjoyment for her anymore. It wasn't worth the bother.

I returned to work today, only to be sent home by my boss. While I was gone, she arranged everything so I wouldn't need to return for the rest of the week. She asked me why I came in. I told her the jackhammers across the street of my apartment made cold comfort, and I wanted to get back to work. One of my coworkers suggested I go see a movie by myself, a cheesy chick flick or a ribald comedy. It sounded nice to me at the time. I made my check-ins with my foster parents, and all was as it was before--filled with the usual back and forth pull of heartstrings and mania. I headed out at noon and drove home . . .

. . . only to get into an accident with a car that cut in front of me to make a left turn. I'm fine, and my trusty mare Norma Jean will need some plastic surgery, but didn't seem to suffer any internal damage. The couple riding in the car were startled, sheepishly embarrassed, and no worse for ware.

When I got out of the car, I was shocked to see the driver and the passenger who cut me off. They reminded me of my grandparents. The wife looked like she had her hair set every week. The husband (and driver) had ears that hung to his shoulders. All my anger disappeared--still flustered--I asked "are you OK?"

I had to repeat it a couple of times--the driver wore a hearing aid the size of a lime. The passenger said "We are fine dear. Are you? My husband and I were returning from the V.A. in Albany. They were running some of the usual bloodtests, and he said he was tired and just wanted to go home."

Folks came by and asked if all was well and if we needed any further assistance. We repeatedly assured we were free of bodily injuries. The local police came by, information was exchanged, and a report was filed. The fallout, as I've discovered was that no adventure can take place with incidental heartache, loyal friends and family, and crumbling of best-laid plans. That's what makes life so wonderful and so painful at the same time.

So, that's how my day went. It's been the theme for the past couple of months. How's everything with you?

P.S. Fracas, 70s, TnB, DP, and all the other cowfolk out there--all is well. I really will have a Condiment of the Week by the end of the weekend! I really promise, and this time I mean it!!


Daddy Papersurfer said...

It sounds as if your Grandma had a peaceful death.
My mother died a couple of years ago - the TG and I were there. She was 96. Your story sounds very similar.

Glad you're OK and I'm, never thought I'd say this, looking forward to 'condiment of the week'! [what is the world coming to - tee hee]

70steen said...

Hi CGB ~ lovely to see you back. I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. She certainly had an adventurous/ full life and you have written so beautifully about her. I am sure she would approve.
Best wishes to you my bloggy mate

Onknees (not_onknees at the moment) said...

Im sorry for your loss....I wish more people were close to the elders in their lives---so much to learn from them.
Hope you are back to us soon, but just make sure you take care of yourself....

Cowgirl Betty said...

Thanks all, DP, OnKnees, and 70s. I am doing quite well with the TLC of Hun at my side. He's been fantastic lately--especially considering I've been quite sensitive lately.

My work also has been very understanding. I guess there are some fringe benefits of working in human services, surrounded by folks who give a shit about each other is a nice work environment--despite some of the stress faced on the job. ; )

Stella said...

So sorry about your grandmother, Betty.