Monday, August 29, 2011

Chromosomes and rabbit pellet ice on the surface of the sun.

The outside temperature gauge in my car.
Taylor and I spent this past week visiting family in Wichita Falls, TX. Temperatures hovered around 110, occasionally dipping down to a tepid 104. Wichita Falls has had 91 days of temperatures over 100 degrees this year which one might expect when living on the surface of the sun.

When we were just about ready to leave Houston last week I got a call from my sister saying that her daughter was being transported to Children's Medical Center in Dallas. My niece has some pretty serious genetic/metabolic diseases that require very specialized medical care that she can't get at home. With this new piece of information, we altered our route and drove from Houston to Dallas instead of Wichita Falls. There was no way of knowing how long my niece would be in Dallas so we wanted to make sure we got to spend some time with her and my sister on our trip. This ended up working out really well since Taylor and I made it to the hospital before my sister did. My niece was flown there but my sister had to go home and pack her bags before she could drive to Dallas to be with her.


Our trip to Dallas was uneventful except that Taylor finally got to see all 70 feet of the giant Sam Houston statue just outside Huntsville, TX. I promise it's Sam Houston and not P.T. Barnum although they apparently had the same barber. This was extra fun since we've already dropped by David Adickes Sculpturworx and seen some of the other things the artist is working on.

We make a pretty good team when Taylor navigates with Google Maps while I drive. She tells me which exit to take and when to watch out for when the freeway does funky stuff. At one point we were coming to a place where the freeway splits which normal people might call a fork in the road. Taylor said, "Okay the highway is about to look like a chromosome so stay to the left." A chromosome? Chromosome?! Who says that? "There's a chromosome in the road, take the left side of the chromosome." Freak.

I have to say this is the first time Dallas has ever felt small to me. The past few months of tooling around Houston have skewed my perspective. The little 4-lane freeways were almost cute compared to the 7 lanes I've been fighting with over the past few months. And traffic actually moves on the Dallas freeways, that's refreshing. Not one time did we get stuck in gridlock. Even on the chromosome.

The trip didn't become distressing (for Taylor) until we started to unload our bags at our hotel. We packed our clothes in IKEA blue bags and flea market totes since we thought we were going straight to my mother's house. Now Taylor was mortified to be checking into a hotel carrying her belongings in cheap plastic totes. I told her she should be thanking her lucky stars that I didn't throw everything into black garbage bags cuz I've done that before.

Lobby at Children's Medical Center in Dallas
Taylor & Kaelei passing time with a card game

If you've never been to Children's Medical Center before, let me warn you that it's HUGE. The only information my sister gave me was, "Don't go to the purple. Park in the blue or the green." That made no sense to me until I got there. The buildings and parking garages are color coded but even with that tiny tidbit of information I still had no idea where to go. We drove around the compound (yes, there are several hospitals taking up several city blocks) for a good 20 minutes just looking for a front door! We failed to find anything that looked like a main entrance so we decided to park in the next garage we saw which happened to be green. We also just happened to park on the same level with the skywalk which just happened to take us to Building D where my niece just happened to have a room.

My sister showed up a little while later and we stayed until well past visiting hours. We visited, talked to various resident doctors and nurses and my niece had a few tests done. She's a mature 13 year old and is an excellent patient advocate for herself but she's still just a little girl. I went with her to have the ultrasound and x-rays done on her tummy. While we were waiting for the x-ray tech to get ready, we discussed the effects of the morphine she'd been given over the past week and then we listed all of our favorite narcotics and which side effects we liked best and least. The 2 nurses that were with us, a man and a woman who were both very young, were cracking up and said that if we'd been having this conversation outside of a hospital environment they would probably have called child protective services. Then my niece had to take a pregnancy test before the x-rays and we pretended to be surprised and extra relieved when the test came back negative.

I made my niece a wrap bracelet while sitting in her hospital room but I accidentally dropped one of my vials of beads on the floor. The glass vial shattered and beads rolled all over the place. I cleaned up the glass and gathered up as many of the beads as I could but there were a few under her bed that I couldn't reach. I felt sure a nurse would come in, step on a bead then fall and break her neck. My niece agreed to claim she had never seen the bead before in her life and has no idea how it got there.

It was close to midnight when Taylor and I left the hospital and on our way out of the parking lot I discovered that me and my debit card had become separated at some point during the day. We looked all through my car and purse but it wasn't there. I decided the check-in guy at the hotel must not have given it back to me and if that was the case hopefully it was safe. We had enough cash to pay the $2 parking fee and since we were starving we stopped to eat at a Denny's near the hotel. Food first, debit card later.

We like Denny's food so we had a nice meal and watched the comings and goings of all the colorful people you see at Denny's after midnight. One such person was a black woman with lots of facial piercings and red hair. This particular red is not a shade you would normally see on hair. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it outside a box of crayons. As if her unnaturally red hair and black skin weren't contrasting enough, she was also wearing a day-glow yellow/green shirt. She had placed a to-go order and was sitting in a booth next to the cash register waiting on it. When we were paying our bill, the waiter brought out her order and asked the cashier which person it belonged to. The cashier said, "The woman in the yellow shirt."  Taylor and I both looked at each other but held our comments until we got in the car. Okay, seriously?? The woman in the yellow shirt?? What about the hair?!! She is so NOT the woman in the yellow shirt, she is the woman with the red hair! Did the cashier think maybe she didn't want to be defined by her hair?! Of course she did, that's why she dyed it that color! It's not like she was the woman with no legs, that would have been insensitive. When you dye your hair to look like a crayon you want people to notice your hair. We were cracking up all the way back to the hotel.

When we got there I went straight to the desk and saw that the guy who checked us in had gone home and someone else was working now. I asked him if my debit card was there and after digging through some drawers he found it. Whew! When we got up to our room there were no less than a dozen messages on our phone from the desk guy who checked us in. He was Indian or Pakistani or some similar nationality and I will admit that I referred to him as Hadji but I really didn't mean it in a derogatory way. I meant it in the Jonny Quest way. Everyone loved Hadji.

So I listened to the messages and this is what I heard:

Hallo, Meesus Grreeen? You left your debit caarrd at the desk.
Meesus Grreeen? I have you debit caarrd.
Meesus Grreeen? Your not een your rroom. I have debit caarrd.
Hallo?? Meesus Grreeen? You forget to get debit caarrd.

I just love how Hadji took no responsibility in my debit card not being returned to me after checking in. Yes, I forgot to ask him for it after he FAILED to give it back to me! We spent the next day at the hospital then when we got back to the hotel that evening Hadji spotted us in the lobby and chased us all the way to the elevator yelling, "Meesus Grreeen! Meesus Grreeen! You left your debit caarrd! I trried to call you!" I told him that I got his messages and I thanked him for keeping my card safe and attempting to contact me. He said he said he called the night shift guy from home to remind him about my card (which evidently the night shift guy forgot about since he had to search for it) which was very nice of him. I had the feeling that Hadji lost sleep over my missing debit card which didn't even cause me to miss a meal.

Before we left Dallas to head for Wichita Falls, Taylor and I stopped at Campisi's for lunch. Jayson and I used to drive to Dallas just to eat at Campisi's then drive home. The restaurant owners have ties to organized crime which also means they have excellent Italian food. It was one of Jack Ruby's favorite restaurants and he ate there the night before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. And baseball umpire Steve Palermo was paralyzed after being shot in the back in Campisi's parking lot. The restaurant has been totally remodeled now and I really miss how it used to be so dark in there you could hardly see. They had red velvet curtains, juke boxes in the booths, and the walls were covered with pictures of every nefarious character you can imagine dining there. Now it's all minimalist sleek and modern and I hate it. But the food hasn't changed so that's good.

My whole family still lives in Wichita Falls so we have our choice of places to stay. This time we chose to stay with my mother. My mom likes to watch movies so we watched a lot of them during the week. She is a huge Twilight fan and even has an Edward blanket, which I find disturbing on so many levels. We watched all the Twilight movies, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Sweet Home Alabama, Steel Magnolias, Beaches, Flicka, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Water Horse, Aragon and I'm sure there are some I've forgotten. In one week I watched more movies than I've seen in 2 years. On the upside, I made a lot of progress on the rag rug I've been working on for months since it's impossible for me to sit and watch TV without doing something with my hands.

I helped my mother clean out some closets and helped her further by bringing home a car load of clothes, linens, and knick knacks. My mom lives alone in a 2-story house with 5 bedrooms and every single closet is stuffed full of clothes and junk. At dinner the other night my sister counted 11 umbrellas hanging on her coat rack by the door. Eleven. And she lives alone. I am so overwhelmed by the volume of her knick knacks that I can hardly breathe in her house! Mom has agreed that she probably needs to downsize a little so my sister and I are slowly trying to help her dejunk her life, which is sort of junking up ours but we have a slightly better handle on our hoarding tendencies than she does. Or that's what we tell ourselves.

When we weren't watching movies or cleaning closets we were eating. Mom made some Lebanese food which I can't spell but I sure can eat. During the week we had a pot roast, koosa (stuffed squash), yebrat (stuffed grape leaves), dpheen (chicken, rice & chickpeas), 2 cakes, 3 pies, breakfast burritos, and since that wasn't enough we went out for burgers one night and had pizza delivered another night. My mother's clothes have always been too big for me but by the end of the week they fit perfectly so I brought home the stuff she didn't want anymore.

Of course no trip back home would be complete without a couple of trips to Scott's Drive-In. They make my favorite hamburger on the planet as well as a pretty darn tasty frito chili pie and a decent frisco burger. They also have the best cherry limeade in the universe but when you order it make sure you call it a "cherry lime". If you say "cherry limeade" they'll know you're from out of town.


Next to Scott's is one of those ice vending machines similar to the one in the picture above. I'd never gotten ice from one of these before so it was a fun vacation experience! You put in $2, press the button and out comes a 16# bag of ice. You also have the option to put your cooler under the chute, press a different button and it will fill your cooler with ice. I don't know how profitable these machines are but the idea and convenience get an A+ from me. The only way it would be better is if it gave you nugget ice like Sonic has. We call it rabbit pellet ice. I've looked into buying a nugget ice machine and quickly abandoned that idea when I saw the prices. The small, counter-top, low end models are over $1000. Apparently it takes some kind of special process to produce ice in this manner. I'll just keep getting mine from Sonic. Thankfully, they sell it by the bag.

The rest of the details of my week back home are pretty much a blur now. Let's see...we visited with my Dad and stepmom and their two furry children. Taylor wanted to go swimming at my aunt's house and I didn't have a swimsuit so my mom gave me one of her old ones. It was basically a girdle with a skirt. I suppose it was cute as far as that type of suit goes, but I'm not used to being all squished into spandex like that. I'm not saying I don't need it...Lord knows a little spandex might help control the jiggling parts I didn't used to have. It's just that I usually let them jiggle at will because I like to be able to breathe.

We have several friends in Wichita Falls that I didn't even get to see on this trip and that makes me sad. You think a week will be enough time to see everyone you want to see and do what you want to do but it isn't, especially when you have several different family groups to work in to the schedule. We're thinking about going back around Thanksgiving so we can see everyone we missed this time. Of course that will definitely make my mom feel like she needs to cook more food and there won't be enough spandex in the universe to contain all my rolls and jiggling parts. 

1 comment:

SkylersDad said...

That was really nice of you to detour to be with your niece, good for you!

And you are right, the Jonny Quest version of Hadji rocked.