Monday, December 25, 2006

Season's Greetings from Southern California

Or, Better Late Than Never.

It's been a bit tough this year with FIL in the hospital, but here's the obligatory (though entirely voluntary) Holiday post.

Though I converted to Judaism over 12 years ago, I still miss certain aspects of Christmas. Not, surprisingly, the tree or opening gifts Christmas morning. I miss the festiveness of it: the decorating, the gatherings, the music. We were never religious when I was growing up; Christmas was the Santa holiday and we never graced the inside of a church. I knew about the Nativity of course, and we sang Christmas carols, but it was never a religious holiday for me. I do still allow myself the indulgence of listening to some Christmas music ("Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio mostly) and I did spring for a fir wreath this year (love the smell!), but that's about the extent of my recognition/celebration of the holiday.

But I was thinking about some of the more memorable Christmases in my life, and these few come to mind:

1. 1974. Back when I was in high school, we lived sort of out in the country. My parents had divorced a couple of years prior, and we'd had to sell the house we lived in at the time so the assets could be divided. We ended up renting a house just a couple of miles away, and my mom got to be friends with the couple who'd bought our house. The husband was active in the Rotary, who sponsored college and grad school students from other countries to come and study here. Abbas, one such student, was from Egypt, and was studying/teaching grad-level physics at Stanford. He was a very nice fellow, and also became friends with our family. That Christmas, he was house-sitting for the people who had bought our house. He went out to get the paper that morning in his pajamas, and locked himself out of the house. This was before the days of cell phones, and he knew none of the neighbors. So in 35 degree weather, he walked in his pajamas the two miles to our house. Abbas was probably about 6'5" and weighed all of 135 lbs. As he warmed up by our fireplace wrapped in a blanket, he joked that he must have looked very strange walking down the road and was afraid that if any people had looked out their windows and seen him walking by they'd think that Jesus had come back. That was also the year mom got drunk and dropped a can of soup on top of the glass lid on the Corningware dish that held the green bean casserole which shattered. She served the beans anyway and poor Abbas ended up chewing on a large sliver of glass. Somehow at that point eveyone else at the table lost their enthusiasm for the green bean casserole.

2. 1977. I was in college and was travelling Christmas night back from home to San Luis Obispo on the Greyhound. The guy sitting next to me was from Peru, and had been a child during the really bad earthquake in Lima in the 60's. He said that all of the buildings there were made of limestone, and just turned to airborne dust in the quake. Panicked people were running around crazily trying to find their loved ones. He was trying to get home and at one point in the chaos a woman he'd never seen before ran up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders, and put her face right up to his (she was apparently trying to find her child). He told me that as long as he lived, he'd never forget the look in her eyes. The way he told the story was so vivid and evocative, I'll never forget it. You meet the most interesting people travelling on Christmas.

3. 1980, and another travelling on Christmas story. I was working at a radio station at this point, and again was heading back home to San Luis Obispoon Christmas night from visiting my family. My sister by this point had inherited the Mustang, and she was driving back to Santa Barbara where she was in college. I'd agreed to give a ride to the engineer who worked at the station, and we were supposed to pick him up at a friend's house in Gilroy. When we got there, everyone was high on mushrooms and they had just returned from spending several hours in the emergency room due to one of the friend's run-in with poison oak while they were out wandering the hills playing wood sprites in their hallucinogenic state. We ended up giving the heavily-calamined friend a ride too, and I recall a bottle of Ouzo being passed about. I also recall that Sis was pissed, but I can't remember whether it was because of my drugged, giggly friends or the delay due to picking them up, or the open container. I'm sure she'll chime in and add her recollections to the pile.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Not-So-Great Week

As I mentioned in the previous post, FIL got sick the week before Thanksgiving and they couldn't come to Mexico with us as planned. Last Monday he checked into the hospital, and Wednesday an MRI showed some dark spots in his liver and lungs, and Thursday a CAT scan confirmed that "it" (metastasized melanoma) was in his brain as well. The outlook isn't great, although apparently radiation is reasonably effective in treating the melanoma in the brain, which they were going to start today. The next step is for him to try to build up his strength and then the medical team will assess whether it makes sense to start chemotherapy for the stuff in his lungs and liver. Everyone's doing better now that there's a plan and things are moving forward. The first couple of days after the diagnosis were pretty devastating for all of us. He's 76, and has had his share of health issues...back problems, heart problems (including angioplasties and multiple bypasses) and the melanomas on his legs and feet. So now everyone's taking it day by day; the first test will be to see how he does with the radiation.

On a not-life-threatening-but-annoying-as-hell-front, I developed a toothache last week that got really nasty over the weekend. Went to the dentist today for x-rays, and the good news is that I probably don't need a root canal. She thinks it's just a cracked filling, but dang it hurts. Thank goodness for MIL sharing her Darvocet. It's the only thing that's let me sleep the last two nights. I go back to the dentist first thing tomorrow to get the tooth (teeth?) fixed.

And on a lighter note, Doug, who was (shall I put it mildly) "resistant" to getting first Byron and then especially Coco, has decided that the dogs ought to sleep in the bed with us. We've tried this little experiment for the last two nights, and for the most part it's fine, except for Byron's snoring. Of course, the dogs had no trouble adjusting, and it took them about a nanosecond to decide that the bed was now their rightful habitat.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Viva Mexico!

Here's some pics of my new boyfriend. He's very affectionate and quite a good dancer! Didn't catch his name, though. But seriously, if you're ever able to do one of these "Dolphin Encounter" type programs, do it! It's so cool! The one we did was through Vallarta Adventures in Nueva Vallarta. They have several different programs: the one I did where you get to pet the dolphins, another for kids, and one where you can actually swim with them. I'm definitely doing the swimming one next time.

Thursday afternoon some friends of the BIL who are living on their boat in Nueva Vallarta took us out for sail. We headed down the bay to Los Arcos, some small rock formations that have caves and tunnels you can kayak through. Doug, Sam and BIL went off kayaking, and I jumped in for a swim. I put on a mask and looked in the water, and was delighted to find myself swimming in the middle of a school of hundreds of these (King Angel Fish):
It was really amazing.

Unfortunately, the in-laws weren't able to make it as FIL got sick. So we were mostly on our own with Sam, which isn't exactly the most relaxing scenario. We did have fun, but we're glad to be home, even if there is a foot-high stack of mail to wade through and about three more loads of laundry queued up.