Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The More You Complain,The Longer God Leaves You Here

Hello, friends! I have been away from the computer for a few days... well, not really "away" as in "without access"; the computer is still here, and I'm still here, and the DSL is still here. Rather, I have had so much to do the last few days that I haven't had any time to write, and only barely enough energy to read my (wee tiny handful of) emails and blogs.

On Saturday, after writing the previous post, I went to a party to celebrate a friend's five years of sobriety; it was a great party, and I had a wonderful time. I should have called it a week (like "call it a day" but longer) after that, but how was I to know that my depression and the heat were going to get together and make me miserable for the next few days?

Sunday was a driving hell... I put nearly two hundred miles on ol' Miss Jane; not a terribly long drive in and of itself, if I'd driven it in one direction on a freeway I wouldn't have been exhausted. But it was so much back-and-forth, on streets, in traffic, in glaring dry horrible heat... my weekly 25 miles route from home to Daddy's in Concord to Walnut Creek for church; then while Grandmother and Daddy were in class, I went to a few shops to see about getting gifts for a party I was attending in the afternoon; and then after church, the reverse route back home to drop off Grandmother and Daddy and Ariel (my niece... you remember her)...

...then I stopped at Bay Street in Emeryville to buy the gifts I hadn't managed to find out in Concord, and after hunting Bay Street for a store that carries gift-bags, I had to drive on to the giant new Target in Albany, where I found the cutest gift-bags you ever saw; then it was up to El Sobrante (25 miles from home, Emeryville and Albany being stops on the way) to attend a party celebrating Dalton's graduation and Dakota's birthday, where I had another really good time... despite the fact that it was far too hot and I didn't take time to change, so I was still in a dress-shirt and my chic but not-very-practical wood-heeled Giorgio Brutinis...

...then I had to go home to Oakland in the Sunday Afternoon Backup (when all the Sheep who left town during the Friday Evening Backup turn around and come home, all at the same time) and pick up those I'd dropped off; then a drive halfway back the way I came on I-80 to El Cerritto, where we were meeting my sister for dinner at Macaroni Grill in celebration of her birthday (which was Thursday); after that, it was back out to Concord via Highway 4 to drop the Daddy off at home, then the same twenty miles back home on 680 and 24 to dear old Oakland, where I fell into bed without even turning my computer on. My feet were swollen and bruised from standing around in my snappy little GBs, my hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel for so long, my shoulders were just killing me, and I had indigestion and the beginnings of heat-prostration.

So on Monday I had planned to just sit here at home, recovering from the unaccustomed activity and working on the next portion Worst Luck (during all that driving, I had decided that the next portion shall still be Chapter 5, and had figured out how to orchestrate a change in time and pace). But it was not to be... first, JB at the office called and reminded me that we were meeting for lunch at Everett & Jones (the best barbecue in Oakland) to celebrate my former boss's birthday. After that, I went back to the office and spent some time chatting with everyone and doing some bookkeeping. Then I went grocery-shopping, which was difficult and boring (but at least there were some cute boys in the store). And all this time I was absolutely fainting from the heat, struggling under the weight of my depression, and still weary from my Sunday exertions.

Then, just as I finally struggled home with my groceries and dinner for the evening, intent on stripping naked and laying down in front of an electric fan with a lemonade popsicle and a cold facecloth, Grandmother asked if I'd be willing to drive her down to San Jose right away... my Aunt Terry was about to have an emergency appendectomy, and Grandmother wanted to be on-the-spot. Well, it's the familial thing to do, and of course I'm always willing to drive Grandmother anywhere she wants to go (even when I'm not willing, if you see what I mean). So after a quick refreshing shower and a fistful of Advil, I bolted my chow mein and got back in the car to head down to San Jose (about forty miles).

Which brings me to my greatest complaint: driving with Grandmother can be such a trial. The hospital my aunt was at is just off Bascom Road, and we were told to take the Bascom Road exit from I-85; however, like most roads in San Jose, Bascom is so long that it has exits off of several different freeways; we got off too soon, taking the Bascom exit off I-880.

Well, I know this little trick of San Jose's, I've done it more times than I can count, so I just kept driving up Bascom Road, assuming (quite correctly) that I would eventually cross I-85 and there would be the hospital. But all the way up Bascom Road, Grandmother was begging me to stop and ask directions. I of course refused... it's one of my few typical male traits, along with having to hold the remote control, but I refuse to ask for directions until I'm so lost that I don't even recognize the names of the towns we're passing through.

Still, she kept nagging and nagging and nagging, so finally I called Information, which connected me to the hospital (which of course costs money), and I asked for directions... and no sooner had I explained my current location to the receptionist at the hospital than I was crossing I-85 and there it was, big as life, exactly as I said it would be. Grandmother was unrepentant, saying it was worth the money and effort to know, even for a second, that we weren't lost.

Then when we got into the hospital, of course nobody who worked there knew anything... the front desk was operated by a rent-a-cop who clearly hadn't finished high-school yet and couldn't spell the name "Robert" (the tenth most common name in the US) without careful coaching; the nurses we encountered had only one piece of information to share, that visiting hours had ended fifteen minutes ago, though when pressed would give us inaccurate and unhelpful directions that Grandmother didn't understand but thought she did.

And since Grandmother was in her wheelchair, I was still technically "driving"... and she showed as much faith in my abilities there as she had in the car, demanding that I ask for directions and that I repeat everything twice and that I go see what's down that hallway we just came from, flinching every time we stopped or started and grabbing the arms of the chair every time I turned a corner. By the time we found our final destination, the O/R Waiting Room (with the kind assistance of a passing civilian who overheard me trying to summarize for Grandmother all of the tidbits of non-information we'd been given by all the idiots she'd insisted on asking for directions), I was absolutely seething with fury and frustration.

Though her micromanaging is irritating, the thing that really grills my ass is the lack of faith she has in me. When she goes somewhere with her son, my Uncle Ralph, she never asks where we are exactly or why we're taking this route or whether or not we're going the speed-limit or whether he knows exactly where he's going and can explain it to her. She barely even looks out the window, perfectly content and perfectly safe. When he pushes her in the wheelchair, she relaxes and enjoys the ride, rather than gripping her chair-arms and letting out little squeaks of terror whenever we come within a yard of the curb or knots of people. She has complete faith in him; and that faith is well-founded, he's a responsible and capable man. But she has absolutely no faith whatever in me, despite my continually proving myself to her as a crack navigator and fairly intelligent person.

I know there's nothing I can do about it, that no matter how many times I arrive safely at a destination she will not believe I know what I'm doing. I try to not get upset about it, try to accept it as a condition of Being Grandmother, try to humor her, try to keep the whole thing in perspective. But I was too exhausted from driving and too worn out from the heat and too emotional from depression, and found it nearly impossible to refrain from hitting her. I managed, but just barely.

So anyway, we lurked around the hospital for a few hours with my cousin and her husband and Aunt Terry's friend Pat, perched in an uncomfortable chair reading a Nora Roberts novel (Hot Ice, it's interesting and I love the writing-style, but there is far too much effort spent on the romantic tension and not enough on the actual plot... I keep wanting to yell at the characters "just fuck already and get it over with!" but they don't listen) and trying to pretend I was somewhere else.

Then we drove home, and though Grandmother didn't nag me nearly as much (we weren't in as much of a hurry, and she wasn't as worried about her daughter), I was still tense and irritable... and so, after another hour in the car, we got home and I went to bed with knotted shoulders and an incipient migraine and didn't even turn the computer on.

On Tuesday, we had to get up at the crack of dawn... we were driving to Yountville, a country town some fifty miles north of here, smack in the middle of the wine country, and had to be there at 10 a.m. So there I was with a headache, depression, and muscle-fatigue on top of six hours of sleep, with another long drive on a hot day to look forward to. As you can imagine, I spent most of my morning prep-time sucking down coffee and praying for patience, acceptance, and a generous heart.

So we got out to Concord, the morning traffic only adding an extra ten minutes to the twenty-minute drive, and picked up Daddy. And as we drove up to Yountville (I had written down careful directions from Yahoo! Maps, which I gave to Grandmother so she could pretend she was navigating), I mused on the differences between Daddy's deafness and Grandmother's deafness: Grandmother doesn't hear things if she is chewing or coughing or still talking, or if you speak facing away from her, and it's irritating because she often will ask you a question when you're in a different room or will cough or chew or keep talking after asking the question, thereby drowning out any possible answer so you have to repeat it; Daddy, on the other hand, is just hard-of-hearing, but over the years he has gotten where he sort of tunes out during periods of silence or when people aren't talking directly to him, so that although he can hear me speaking in a normally projected room-size voice, I nevertheless have to repeat everything I say because he was, almost without exception, not listening... and that's even more irritating than not hearing.

I faced the fact some time ago that my issue with having to repeat myself is my problem, not theirs... it's a hurtful echo of my childhood when I feel that people aren't listening to me. I hate not being listened to more than anything else. So when I am always repeating myself with Grandmother and Daddy, I try to remember that it's just their ears and their age and their deteriorating hypothalami that are operating this issue, not them ignoring me on purpose or out of indifference. But I still react emotionally, violently even, I can't seem to get past that.

So in the hour and fifteen minutes it took to drive from Concord to Yountville (Yahoo! claimed it should only take an hour and two minutes, but I don't think they calculated the sheer numbers of ass-hats littering the roads that morning) I simply gritted my teeth and dutifully repeated everything twice; sometimes my temper got away from me and I snapped, but mostly I managed to just repeat the words without displaying the rage.

Our purpose in Yountville was to tour the facilities of the Veteran's Home. Daddy is planning to sell his house (if I might call a double-wide prefabricated aluminum box with wheels in its foundation such) and move there, and Grandmother and I wanted to see what the place was like; we both know Daddy can be impulsive, and will view things through rose-colored glasses, so we wanted to see if the place is as nice as he said it was.

And much to our delight, the place was even better than he'd led us to believe. The grounds are beautiful, the buildings are immaculately kept, the facilities are exceptional, the level of service was what you'd expect from a cruise-ship, the people are lovely and happy and kind. It was almost too good to believe... hell, I would happily live there myself, if it weren't for the complete lack of cute boys (the only attractive males I saw the whole time I was there were on a prison work-furlough crew clearing brush around the theatre complex).

After an excellent lunch in the really quite lovely dining hall, we left our very informative tour guide and drove back down to Napa, there to discover the location of a Church of Christ. Daddy wants us to come visit him once a month at least, and Grandmother wants him to go to Church of Christ rather than attend generic nondenominational Protestent services in the chapel on the Yountville grounds (which also provides services for the Catholic, Jewish, Anglican, and Latter Day Saints faiths), so I thought we'd kill two birds with one stone and find a Church of Christ nearby.

So Daddy looked online and found two Churches of Christ in Napa, which is the next town down the road from Yountville. One was on Orchard, and the other was on First Street, but he hadn't brought the addresses or directions with him. So since I knew that First Street was a freeway offramp, I got off there, and planned to drive First Street in one direction and then in the other until we found it. Simple, no?

Stop and ask for directions... here's a gas station, stop and ask... what street are we on now?... why did you turn left? Grandmother carped the entire time. Daddy was just as difficult, repeating over and over the information that he'd gotten, that the church was "on First Street near Highway 29 in the center of town," but he didn't know if it was the Highway 29 we'd come in on or if there were an "Old 29" or "Business 29" or if the "center of town" was Old Downtown or some other, more truly central, part of Napa. Such were irrelevant, since my oft-repeated plan was to simply drive the entire length of First Street, on which we knew the church was situated; all I could do was try to distract them by pointing out the lovely Victorian buildings and lush flora of Napa.

The church turned out to be on the right, less than a block from the freeway we'd come in on, and I had chosen to turn left off the freeway quite arbitrarily, but still don't see why that's a problem. When you don't know exactly where something is, you look for it, systematically and in a spirit of open inquiry. But I guess I was wrong, because the next few minutes were spent bitching about how the church was right next to the freeway and we'd "wasted" all that time "getting lost" in scenic Old Downtown Napa. I tell you, if it wasn't so hot outside, I would have just parked the car and walked away from it.

Well, anyhow, the church was found, the minister interviewed, and everything settled. The whole thing could have been done on the phone. I practically had lockjaw from clenching my teeth, and I was so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open, so we went on home after that. Another hour in the heat and the stupid-people-everywhere traffic and the "is this the right way? Are you sure?" only interrupted when Grandmother nodded off.

When I got home, I locked my door, turned on my fan, ate a popsicle, and watched Have His Carcase on VHS until I fell asleep. But I didn't feel good, even after the nap, even after the shower and the quick dinner, even after the AA meeting. I just felt crappy, and when the time came to actually go to bed, I couldn't get to sleep for the tension in my shoulder and jaw and the carousel of resentments that kept spinning through my mind.

But now here I am, feeling a little better after a good night's sleep, and determined to stay home and not do anything for anybody except myself. I don't care if the house burns down, I'm not leaving; I don't care if we're attacked by aliens, I am not getting in the car and driving anywhere.

I'm just going to sit here and complain... actually, I guess I'm done complaining, having gotten all of the above off my chest. It was exhausting, too, I've been at it for nearly three hours and my shoulders hurt again. So I will just sign off, do a couple of strictly-for-me in-home errands (like finally making that psych appointment so I can get to work on this despression shit), then maybe go back to bed and read, and then maybe get up again and do some writing, and then maybe nap and snack for the rest of the day.

Thanks for listening, and have a super cheerful day!

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