Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da!

Alastair's favorite new thing is screaming Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da! Da!

He screws up his face, sticks his tongue almost out to his lips, and just goes at it. It's the funniest thing I've ever seen.

This replaces last month's Buh buh buh buh buh..., often delivered with the same intensely twisted face (kind of looked like a bad guy from a cartoon, with one eye squinted).

Last night he gave out a couple of quick Da!-Da!'s, and it sounded for all the world like he was going to bust into "Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news, I gotta bad case of lovin' you". He didn't, so we did.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Family is Insane

My mother is crazy. I've known it for years, but it was solidified on my 13th birthday, when she told me that she divorced my father after he had an affair. I've read the divorce papers, and it was my father who sued for divorce, after she told him bluntly that she had had an affair.

Her purpose then was to undermine my relationship with my father, and to convince me to come live with her when I turned 18. Weird, weird, weird.

In the years since then (and really, since I was about 2 years old), my mother has been effectively a nomad. She's lived in countless places around the Richmond area, some as grandiose as a 19th century mansion, some as small as a miserable, leaky 2-room mother-in-law suite in somebody's back yard. Through all of her travels, my grandparents--particularly my grandfather--took care of her financially. She trains horses and people to ride horses, which doesn't pay the bills very well, especially when you're smoking most of your proceeds.

Mom likes to get high. When I graduated 5th grade, she took me out and taught me how to smoke a joint. Well, that ended my love affair with drugs. There's no mystery to it, so I have no interest in using.

Mom is also extremely greedy. Her whole mission is to get hold of my grandmother's dwindling estate. She believes that my grandmother should cede everything to her: the house, the car, all the contents of all her accounts, and even control over her investments. My grandmother does not trust this (nor should she), and believes that my mom would simply cast her out on the street after taking all her possessions. I'm not sure I disagree.

My grandmother is a different kind of crazy: she grew up with a thyroid problem and evidently had Scarlet Fever as a child. The thyroid problem turned her into a raging maniac, which made it difficult for my mom to feel loved. My grandmother has always been more critical of my mom because she had high expectations.

My grandmother is also the queen of guilt and reproach. 7 years ago, when I proposed to Amanda, I called her to share the good news. She answered the phone drunk, and said, "Well that's nice. Listen, it would be really nice if you could come over and rake my leaves." Kind of killed the mood, and made me less than thrilled about helping rake those leaves. She held a grudge for years. Years. I kid you not: I called her to express happiness, and not only did she piss on it, she wouldn't let it go.

We didn't speak for a very long time, and I really don't generally go out of my way to talk to her today. When we meet for lunch, she complains about absolutely everything: the restaurant's too cold, she doesn't want to sit in a booth, the music's too loud, there's a speck of dirt on the rim of her glass, and I tip too much (sometimes she'll actually pick the money back up off the table if I leave more than 15%). Heaven forbid she should actually ride in the car with me.

So that's the background to what happened this week. I don't know if it shows, but my mom and grandmother functionally hate each other.

Yesterday my mom called me in quite a state. In fact, she left a message for me at work and then called my cell phone. This is an event in itself, as I usually hear from her at Christmas and my birthday, but she was very agitated and needed to spill her guts.

She had called her mom on Sunday to ask her to lunch on the 17th, which would have been my grandfather's birthday (he died in 1998). My grandmother told her that she'd been extremely ill, and very concerned about her health. Mom asked why she hadn't called, and my grandmother replied that my mother had absolutely refused to take her to the doctor in the past, so she didn't see the point. In truth, my mother refused to drive my grandmother's car, saying that there was nothing keeping my grandmother from hoisting herself up into mom's Ford F350 pickup truck. They got into a screaming match with my mom shouting that she wouldn't be manipulated, that she'd been manipulated all her life, and my grandmother hung up on her.

So Mom wrote a letter and wanted to run it by me, but she also wanted me to find out if there was actually a medical emergency that we needed to tend to. The letter was pure drivel, and I told her not to mail it, that it would only cause more harm and further alienate them.

The medical condition, though, really did concern me. My grandmother is 8x years old, and my mom and I are her only living family. Nobody knew who had power of attorney, where her accounts were, or even how to get into her house. Of course, I couldn't just call my grandmother and ask these things: we talk about as often as I talk to my mom, so it would seem suspicious that she'd just had this fight with my mom, and now I'm calling.

So I got my dad to call. Strangely, he has a better relationship with her than either me or my mom, and he's impartial. He called and confirmed that there was indeed a medical condition, but that it was not emergent--yet.

That gave me an "in", and I called her. She's probably in pretty bad shape, but she won't let on. She, for the first time, is acknowledging her mortality, and needs guidance. Unfortunately, she can't trust my mom, and I'm not sure she'll trust me, either. But she's agreed to have me come over and start talking about options for her long-term care and financial arrangements.

I hate to think about it, but I'm probably going to have to cut my mom out of the picture entirely: I think I'm going to have to ask for power of attorney. I need to divest her of her assets before she goes into permanent care and before probate becomes an issue.

But both of them think they're investing big secrets in me, and each is playing me against the other. It's madness, and my only allies are my father and Amanda.

This sucks. And I'm busier than ever at work, and I'm also unhappier than ever at work. That's a triple dose of suck. That's teh suck. And Alastair's sick. Poor little guy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Do you know where your children are?

10:30. I'm stuck at work. 2nd night this week, and I know I'll have to work Saturday, too. Fun.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You don't have to go to the Fair to ride a roller-coaster

What a week.

It started last Tuesday, and there's no need rehashing what happened that day. It proceeded through Thursday, and went ruthlessly into Friday, when I was scrambling to help bring new systems on-line.

I got home on Friday with a lot of positive energy, though, and mowed the back yard, edged, bagged the clippings, vacuumed the upstairs, and helped Amanda pack our cars with yard-sale stuff. It was a pretty good night, and we had a nice evening.

Saturday was a bit hectic. She got up early for the yard sale, which was at her mom's house. We got Alastair up, got him ready, and she headed off. I followed, knowing that I'd be running out to a MINI drive immediately after helping set up for the yard sale.

We got to her mom's house late, I raced to empty the car and find places for things, and kissed her goodbye. I got to the MINI meeting place (Barnes & Noble @ Short Pump) right on time, and Christian, Tony, and I headed west.

Our destination was Route 56, which is wicked curvy between Vesuvius and Tyro. Click for a map. The problems were two-fold: 1. The weather was bad out there (rain, low temperatures: bad for our cars' setups) 2. I wasn't as excited about the drive as I had been.

It hadn't been too long before the drive that Amanda's family rescheduled their yard sale for the same day, and I had been hoping to help out with the sale. It wasn't tremendously fair that Amanda would need to look after the boy while dealing with hagglers.

So I was less than thrilled on the drive out, and made up for it by driving way too fast. We made it from Richmond to Afton in exactly 1 hour (down to the minute), and then hit slow-moving traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had forgotten that I'd have to go almost 30 miles on the Parkway before hitting Rte 56, so I was getting really tense.

Then, when we did turn on to 56, a very slow SUV was right in front of us. We suffered behind the guy for about a mile before pulling over for a potty break. For about the next 4 or 5 miles, we saw no traffic, and took some very wet turns at some very dangerous speeds. Several times I stopped to make sure Christian was still behind me (completely stock car--even tires--and no track experience), and a few times I had to slow way down because of gravel on the road. We turned around before getting to the bottom of the mountain, where speeds increase and turns get even sharper, and headed back. When I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, I lost my cool and drove as fast as I could to get home. I made the trip back from Afton in just under an hour and got to the yard sale just in time to help pack up.

Amanda and I took Alastair home, put him down for his nap, and got packing for our trip to Norfolk, VA, for my company's cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk (a 3-hour booze cruise).

We hit the road at about 4:30pm and made it to the parking garage in Norfolk at 6:43pm. After about an hour of standing around, we got on the ship and set off. It was a really good time. We had listened to some good music on the way down, were relaxed, we were drinking tasty drinks, and the food was good.

We enjoyed looking at the naval vessels (I more than Amanda) from the observation deck, and we spent a good amount of time hanging out with Lewis and his girlfriend Faith (and his friends Dave & John).

When it was over, we got back in the car and headed back to Williamsburg, where we had reservations right next door to the outlet mall (score!). We stayed up late, watched Dane Cook's comedy routine, and went to sleep around 2am.

The next morning, we had a wonderfully relaxing time laying around and being lazy. We wandered out, did some shopping (super cute outfit for Alastair's first Christmas), had lunch with Shana, did some more shopping, and then got gut-punched.

Leigh (Amanda's mom) called and said she'd gotten a cryptic message from the chaplain at MCV. No word on why he was calling, but she immediately assumed that we had been injured. Since we hadn't she tried to track down her mom, who just moved to Richmond a couple of weeks ago.

It turns out her mom Birchie had been in a serious car accident at around 11am, shortly after leaving Leigh's house. Birchie had put Alastair down for his nap around 10am, had some coffee, and headed out to drop some stuff off at GoodWill. On her return, she ran the red light at Parham & Broad (there's speculation that an aneurysm might have caused this: Birchie was a tremendously conscientious driver). She was broad-sided, her car spun several times, and wound up in the median.

We know she was conscious when she arrived at MCV, because Leigh's number is unlisted, and the chaplain wouldn't have had any way of getting the number without being told.

Of course, we were in Williamsburg when the details were just starting to come together, so Leigh couldn't go to her mother's side (she was watching Alastair at her house). We made a beeline back to Richmond, picked him up, and she raced down to the hospital.

For the next 3 hours, we got a stream of phone calls asking about her health, updating us on minor details, and everything seemed ok. There were reports of a broken hip, possible head trauma, and tests being performed.

Amanda's dad was driving in from Utah, too, so we were relaying information to him has we got it (Leigh's cell phone was off since she was in the hospital, so he couldn't get in touch with her).

Then around 9:30 we got a call that she was going to be removed from life support. Whoa, what? Removed from life support? None of the information we'd received up to that point even indicated she was really badly injured! I called my dad and asked him to come over and sit with Alastair so that we could go to the hospital.

We met Amanda's father at his house and took him down to the hospital. When we got there, everyone was milling around out front. Evidently the doctors weren't ready to extubate her: they wanted to run a test to see the extent of the brain damage before letting her go.

So we went home. All jacked up on coffee and adrenaline and nerves. Sleep came slowly and fitfully, and this morning Leigh called us to say that Birchie had passed away some time between 4 and 4:30 in the morning. She never stabilized enough for the test.

Funeral arrangements are being made now, and we'll be heading back to Grundy some time this week.

It's been a hell of a week. Please keep Amanda and her family in your thoughts and prayers.