Water Blessings

image:alsplumbing

image:alsplumbing

“Oh, for a man!”  Mother said, her frustration spilling over just like the water that splattered against the stainless steel kitchen sink, tossing sprays and spurts and droplets out of the sink, splat against the cabinets and spitting rays over the edge of the sink towards the floor, where they’re interrupted when they hit our bulk, covering us both with water polka dots.

I march through the days, tackling the tasks.  Not for some glory or praise or recognition but just to keep moving forward, to keeping everything working, constantly getting the job done so that Mother can stay in her house.

For several days the faucet aerator has been acting up.  Won’t stay attached.  Turn the water on and the aerator flies off the end of the faucet, the thing blows apart and the pieces fall down the drain into the garbage disposal.

Mother’s frustration ignites the fire of my frustration.  Stupid faucet.  Stupid house that needs constant work.  On top of that, stupid that Mother is helpless enough to think only a man can solve the situation.

“Move over, Mother and let me get to it.”  She slowly inches sideways, her hand reaching for her cane so that she back out of the space between the portable dishwasher with its island top and the sink.

image source:layoutsparks

image source:layoutsparks

I move to the center of the double sink, irritated and forcefully dig for the aerator parts; making sure my body is angled away from the disposal switch.  A nitwit who wired the house at some point since it was built in 1925 thought best to put that garbage disposal switch on the front of the lower cabinet right at sink level.  We’re always accidentally hitting it just by leaning or brushing against the front of the sink.  God forbid your hands are down the sink drain at that point.

“For most of my adult life I’ve had to do it all without a man.”  The rant that has been building in my brain, threatening to lash out now spits forth.

“Not that there weren’t guy friends or my brothers who could help in a crises or that I couldn’t hire someone to help once in  a while, but for the most part it was just me to get it done.”

Mother slowly moves to the kitchen stool on the other side of the room and sits.  “I need to wash my hands when you’re done.”  She said.

“But I believe God puts where He knows we’ll best grow,” I said gripping the aerator and the faucet in an attempt to force them together so they’ll work, “even if it means we’re frustrated, irritated and sometimes miserable.”  I turn on the water and again the aerator blows off and splits apart.

“You might as well just leave it off.”  Mother gets up from the stool and heads back toward the sink.

“Or, maybe He puts us there because the misery will make us cry out to Him.”  I plop the aerator down on the counter, wash my hands and reach for the clean pot and its lid that had dried overnight in the dish drainer.

“Of course, no one could measure up to Daddy.”  I said as I moved to the pots and pan cupboard next to the stool Mother just vacated.  “He could do anything.  Plumbing, electric, H/A, car repairs, he even tested rocket fuels, for pete’s sake.”  The smaller pans clang and bang as they come out of the cupboard, the one in my hand goes in place by size and more clanging and banging until they’re all back in the cupboard.  Clanging and banging pans are hard on Mother’s ears and I generally try to limit the noise but today I don’t care.

“Although why you had to give Daddy constant direction, like you do me, is beyond me.”  Can’t slam the cupboard door shut, it doesn’t fit that tightly.

I’ve gone too far.  What must it be like to be eighty-five and have your adult daughter lecture you on your failings?  To have to push through the pain and disabilities of old age just to make it through the day and on top of that, listen to me rant?

“Maybe that’s just how you communicated with Daddy in your sixty-one years together.”

image source:trialx

image source:trialx

Mother says nothing.  Just keeps on working getting her breakfast together.  Today she’s baking corn muffins.  Then she’ll fry herself an egg.

I head to the bathrooms to collect towels to throw in the washer.

“It’s a good thing you had me learn to do things on my own, God,” towels from my bathroom in hand, I head to the hamper for the rest of the dirty towels, “because if I hadn’t, I couldn’t handle this house and its constant work.  Then what would Mother have done?”

image source:frugalbits.

image source:frugalbits.

No, I don’t do it for the glory and the truth is, if I weren’t here, God would take care of Mother some other way.  I pull my head out of the hamper and straightened up, my arms full of towels, my back creaking back into place.

Be honest, Vicky, the bottom line is that it would be nice to be acknowledged, given some credit for having a brain that works.

“Help me, God, to not take Mother’s reactions personally, and to not be insulted by her constant need to tell me how to get things done.  I know it’s just who she is.  Although it would be ok with me if you change her some while you’re at it, God.”

Back through the kitchen I trek, towards the laundry room just as Mother pulls the muffins from the oven.  “Hmm, those smell good.”  I say as I pass.

image: google images

image source: google images

“Here,” she says, “have one.”

“Thank you, Mother.”

And thank you, God, for who you made us and where you put us.  I will survive and I’ll be better off for it – working faucet aerator or no working faucet aerator.

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Albuquerque Treasures

image source:Examiner

image source:Examiner

Albuquerque is an old city with history that dates back to indigenous people (we used to call them American Indians) in the 1100’s, to Spain in the 1500’s, to early American settlers who traveled west from the early American colonies to farm and ranch its valleys, to Statehood in 1912.  Albuquerque’s long and unique history includes historic Highway 66, a high-tech era that began with WWII and included the first computer language BASIC and the start of Microsoft and continues today.  Artists of all types began their love of the startling hues and patterns of the landscape of New Mexico centuries ago and the influence of their art lives on and inspires today’s artists.

As an Albuquerque born native who left the state too early to remember anything, I know nothing about the politics that shape the city and state or about any rivalries that may divide its people, but I can say that as a recent visitor there, that Albuquerque has done a bang-up job of presenting a united front.  Reminders of the cultural mark of authentic Southwestern jewelry, pottery and adobe style architecture are everywhere.

image source:Albuquerque Homes

image source:Albuquerque Homes

Native designed towers around Albuquerque

Native designed towers around Albuquerque

We saw the theme repeated as we drove past small adobe houses, past oversized decorative pottery in the center medians along the freeway, past huge office buildings, past recent apartment complexes designed to look like the clift dweller homes early indigenous people once inhabited, past bronze statues and tall totem pole type structures and past Albuquerque Deco (art deco with a southwestern influence).  Even the highway dividers on the eight lane freeway have designs similar to petroglyphs carved into the stone walls.

image source:Albuquerque Homes

image source:Albuquerque Homes

For out-of-towners, now many decades Californians, it all seemed charming and quaint to my sister and I.  For Mother, she mostly reminisced about how the city used to look and how much it had changed.

Albuquerque High School now the Lofts at Albuquerque High

Albuquerque High School now the Lofts at Albuquerque High

One well done change was the renovation to the old Albuquerque High School on Central Ave., downtown.  Mother talked fondly about her years there and could still name her girlfriends from the classes of 1946 and 47.  The brick complex looks well maintained and is now a condominium project with private, secure access for its dwellers.  The sales woman at Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry on Central Avenue told us that her daughter owns one of the condos and they still have the original 1914 wood floors and the common area hallways still have the original tile on the walls.  Not only was I impressed with the way they preserved a historic building, it’s exactly the type of place in which I wouldn’t mind living.

Speaking of Skip Maisel’s, we hadn’t been in Albuquerque long when Winzona said she wanted some turquoise jewelry while we were in town.  Mother’s immediate reply was,

Mother and I at Maisel's

Mother and I at Maisel’s

Maisel's in silver dollars on the sidewalk

  Maisel’s name in silver dollars on the sidewalk

“We have to go downtown to Maisel’s.”

“What’s Maisel’s?”  Winzona and I asked.

The place for Indian jewelry.”

This struck me as humorous.  In one  breath Mother was talking about how  things had changed so much she didn’t know how to tell us to get to the area where our motel was located and she frequently can’t remember the names of her great great grandchildren but she suddenly remembered an authentic Indian jewelry store that I’d never heard her mention before this trip and which she hadn’t been inside of for over sixty years.

We did shop at Maisel’s and all of us found some lovely things.  And we drove the old familiar roads looking for Aunt Ellis and Uncle Bud’s house on Rio Grande and Aunt Birdie’s on Charles Place.  It took some searching and a second trip with addresses in hand, but we eventually found both.

Aunt Bertha and Mother

Aunt Bertha and Mother

One of the must do’s on our list was to see Aunt Bertha who will be 99 in a few weeks.  She’s in an assisted living facility where she has good care and other than a spotty memory, she’s doing well.  She knew Mother and said she remembered knowing about me (even though I had seen her several times in the last fifteen years), but she didn’t remember Winzona or Larry.  She definitely knew Trevie, but then she took care of him much of the first year of his life as Daddy’s first wife died giving birth to him.  He was thirteen months old when Daddy and Mother married, so Aunt Bertha and Mother are the only mothers Trevie knew.

We also saw Aunt Lois, whose dementia allows her to forget that Benard, my mother’s brother, has been dead for many years now.  Lois already had four children when she married Uncle Benard and they visited with Daddy and Mother several times over the years but all of us kids were already gone from home by the time she and Uncle Benard married so I didn’t expect her to know me or Winzona, but she chatted like all of us were old friends.  She’s in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients and she said to Mother as we were leaving,

Aunt Lois, her daughter Terri and Mother

Aunt Lois, her daughter Terri and Mother

“I’ll stay home and not go fishing tomorrow if you’ll come back to see me again.”

She also forgets that her son is dead as is one of her grandsons, but she appears happy and content.  That seems a blessing to me.  If you’re going to lose who you are, as long as you’re happy and content, what’s the big deal?

Mother was a trouper on this trip.  She just kept pushing through her weariness and the pain of her scoliosis as she was determined to enjoy having her children around her and to do what it took to see extended family in New Mexico.  She’s the last of the eight children in her immediate family.  Aunt Lois is the only surviving spouse of all four of Mother’s brothers and Mother and Aunt Bertha are the surviving wives of the Dean brothers.  Everyone else is gone now.  So it was bittersweet for Mother, but that’s part of what this trip was all about: giving Mother one last chance to see her old home, to visit family and to see the headstone for her and Daddy.

“I think what made this trip so great,” Mother said a day or so after we got home, “is that I had all my children with me.”

And isn’t that what family memories, wherever we’re from, really come down to?  Treasuring each other.

Winzona, me, Mother, Larry and Trevie together in Albuquerque

Winzona, me, Mother, Larry and Trevie together in Albuquerque

Pink Adobe

Grandma's pink adobe

Grandma’s pink adobe

We found the old house in Moriarty, New Mexico where Grandma Jones and Aunt Winnie and several of her small children lived in the 1950’s and 60’s.  I remember thinking all those years ago, as we crowded through the door into the small, pink, adobe on one of our infrequent trips from Southern California, where Daddy and Mother had moved us in late 1951, that I was so glad I didn’t live there.  The house was small and jammed packed with people.  I was a little appalled that my Mother and Daddy had once lived in this town.  That could have been me living in that tiny, two room, adobe house.  Thank God we had escaped.

I don’t remember any landscaping around the house in this desolate, dry, desert town forty-five minutes or so from Albuquerque, other than the tumbleweeds, cactus and scrub brush that were spread as far as the eye could see.  The wind always seemed to blow and the dry dirt clouded up around our feet, covered our shoes and crept up our legs towards our summer shorts or dresses.

My mind’s eye can still see Grandma and Aunt Winnie in their simple house dresses, dirty aprons, their hair flying in the breeze, surrounded by stair-step little boys and girls, the smallest only wearing diapers, the older boys in dirty shorts and shirts and the girls in dirty dresses from the dirt that surrounded their life.

I hated the strange smell of that house.

“Sulfer.”  Mother said.  “It’s the smell of the water.”

I was just happy that we didn’t stay long.  We couldn’t sleep there overnight.  There was no room.  Not that we were any better off financially.  We lived in rental houses and barely had the money for gas to make the trip and mostly took sandwich food and fruit in an ice chest rather than eating in restaurants, but we didn’t live in that dirt, jammed into two rooms, in a town with a few businesses lining the highway and scattered, forlorn houses.

On this trip, Mother, my sister, my brothers and I had been to the cemetery, then followed the road west to drive by the Dean Ranch, sold years ago when Aunt Bertha could no longer maintain the property by herself, but the new owners had added fencing and gates and we couldn’t get close enough to even get a glimpse of the old place.  We had stayed there a time or two all those years ago.  It had barns and pastures surrounding it, and the house had a great room with a fireplace and windows that overlooked Aunt Bertha’s garden.  There were at least three bedrooms and a bathroom in that house.  The kitchen, with its open bar to the great room, had cabinets made just for Aunt Bertha by her brother-in-law, my Uncle Bud.  Both Aunt Bertha and Uncle Bruce were just over five feet tall, so the cabinets of solid wood were set low down at the perfect height for them.

Their son, Allen, told us when his wife Cheryl made us a dinner of Enchiladas on our visit to their lovely home in Albuquerque last week that the new owners had appreciated the wood cabinets and had kept them but set them on a raised base so that they were now standard height.

Our drive out the dirt roads of Moriarty looking for memories had covered the rental car with red dirt and left all of us, in our sealed, air conditioned comfort, thirsty and tired by the time we headed back towards the highway.  We all saw the little pink adobe house and I threw on the brakes the same time Winzona said, “Stop!  I need pictures.”

Trevie and Melissa, in his truck, saw that we had stopped and they backed up and joined us and Winzona, Larry, Melissa and I walked around the property, while Mother and Trevie stayed in the air conditioning.  I asked Larry as we stood outside and took photos, if he remembered whether there was an outhouse or a bathroom.  He couldn’t remember.  Neither can Mother remember.

The structure is now deserted and mostly gutted, with flooring remaining in just one spot of the main room, the rest a dirt floor that somehow looked appropriate for the adobe’s current state.  There are open spaces in the ten inch thick adobe where doors and windows once hung.  The house was even smaller than my memory recalls, the main room with a kitchen on one end maybe twenty by ten with a small five by five room in the back right corner.Donna Camera 720

The family story is that the city or county bought the property when there were plans to widen the highway.  Mother said that her Mother died shortly thereafter with a broken heart because she had to leave her house.  At least that’s how I remember hearing the story.  Now in her elderly years, Mother says she never told that story.

However, Grandma’s heart did stop beating at some point after they left the little house and it seems typical of the same non-life that keeps the dry and dusty town struggling that the highway was never widened and the little house still stands.   To me, it’s another reminder of how grateful I am that my childhood was spent in the watered desert of Southern California with its milder weather and fertile sole and where plants and flowers of every description, high rises, freeways and an often frantic pace of life continue to spring to life.

To be fair, if I’d grown up in that dusty New Mexico town, I’d probably feel differently and to my cousins who did, perhaps I have a biased view of that life, but I was just thirteen months old when Daddy and Mother brought us to metropolitan Los Angeles and I’ve been a city girl ever since.

Together Again in Albuquerque

image source: Winzona Rothchild

image source: Winzona Rothchild

Albuquerque, New Mexico was hot last week.  They broke heat records the day it was 105°F which was also the day we rode the tram up to the peak of the Sandias.  Mother said that when Larry, my brother thirteen months older than me, was a baby, Daddy drove them up the winding highway to the rim.  The old photo albums have pictures taken around then of Mother sitting on the ground, on a blanket, next to the 1940’s car that Daddy had pulled to the side of the highway.  She was young and beautiful, in her short sleeved sweater and slacks, eating a pickle and smiling at Daddy as he took the photo.  Infant Larry lay sleeping beside her on the blanket and toddler Trevie followed Daddy around.

She said that she and Daddy had always wanted to ride the tram but never had the time or the money or the combination of the two on their various trips from California to see family in New Mexico and in later to years to head on east to visit more family in Texas and Tennessee, so this trip to Albuquerque, as we went to view Daddy’s and her headstone and to put Daddy’s ashes in the grave, this trip, we would ride the Sandia Peak Tramway.

image source: Winzona Rothchild

Winzona and Mother

She was tired when we got up that morning at the motel, but determined.  She had come this far and she was not going to give up now, so she and my younger sister, Winzona, and I braved the heat, turned the A/C on high in the rental car and drove to the base of the mountains.  The guides were solicitous of Mother’s age, her cane and her slowness in walking.

“Right this way, Sweetie, let’s find you a seat.”  The woman said as she took Mother’s arm, helped her over the threshold of the cable car and guided her to a corner, where other passengers moved out of the way so that the flip down seat could be Mother’s.  There was only one other corner seat so the other fifteen or so of us passengers, stood and held on to the poles or leaned against the windows.

The views headed up the mountainside were amazing and we could feel the air cooling off as we rose.  They’d had two years of drought and this year has yet to tell whether or not it will bring enough rain or be a third year of drought.  Mother was amazed at how dry everything looked.

image source: Winzona Rothchild

image source: Winzona Rothchild

“I’ve never seen Prickly Pear Cactus dying from the heat!”  She said, hanging on to the pole next to her seat and peering out the window.  The 78°F on top of the mountain would be a welcome relief.

Just beyond the half-way point of our fifteen minute ride, the guide, who was standing on the west side of the tram, pointed far below us and said,

“There’s the Mama Bear and her cub.”

And the people on the east side of the tram rushed to the windows on the west side.   Except me.  Wait a minute, I thought, are we sure we should all be rushing to the other side of the tram?  Is this a good idea?  I gripped the pole next to me, but the cable car didn’t even sway as people pressed against the windows to look and in a few minutes they moved back around the car reclaiming their spots near the poles or the east windows.  The car can handle 10,000 pounds, we were told, so evidently some rushing around by fifteen people of various sizes was no big deal.

image source: Winzona Rothchild

image source: Winzona Rothchild

The landing at the top of the rim was gentle, the car swayed a time or two, then settled and the guide helped Mother over the threshold once more.  The redwood decking around the tram station and down to the restaurant were the only places people were allowed.  The hiking trails, ski lift, mountain biking and at the far point of the granite mountain, the rock cabin that was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, were all off limits.  The fire danger was too high.

“Oh, I’m dizzy.”  Mother said.

“It’s the altitude.”  The guide said.  “Just take it slow.”

image source: Winzona Rothchild

image source: Winzona Rothchild

We made our way carefully around the redwood decking that was sloped downward for people who didn’t want to use the redwood decking stairs; stopping frequently in the shade of oak, aspen, pine and locust trees to enjoy the view, point out squirrels, chipmunks, birds and butterflies, and eventually ended up at the High Finance Restaurant, where they seated us against a window that looked out over Albuquerque in the valley far below.  The food was unique and delicious.  Try it when you get that direction!

image source: Winzona Rothchild

image source: Winzona Rothchild

We talked about how much Daddy would have loved it, the heights, the majesty of the mountains, the history of the tram, the display of the various cables used, the size of the huge pulley wheels that work the cables; all of it would have fascinated him.  We missed him, but that’s what this trip was about, celebrating Daddy, so it felt good to do something he would have loved.

I spotted a wheelchair as we left the restaurant and assured it was there for whoever needed it, worked off my lunch pushing Mother up slight inclines and gratefully paused to catch my breath at each landing.  We were reluctant to leave the cooler mountain air, but down below in the valley, Larry’s plane would land and soon after, Trevie and his wife, Melissa, were driving in from Tennessee, so we again boarded the tram and slowly dipped our way back into the intense heat.

Winzona, me, Mother, Larry and Trevie together in Albuquerque

Winzona, me, Mother, Larry and Trevie together in Albuquerque