Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Any Syrup with that Waffle?

Click the picture -- kinda cute.
Remember, in my first awkward post, when I said stuff was going to get scary? Well, it has. Remember when I talked about being too much like my mother and I hated it? Well, I am. And I still do.
We’ve been looking at horse properties since early Spring.  Many houses. With many barns.  There are 82 houses for sale in Corrales right now, and I feel like I’ve tramped through every single one of them. Beds and baths and kitchens, oh, my! 
My mom had a stroke in May, and the house search veered off into the ditch. When she got out of the hospital and into rehab, it veered back out again.
If this summer had a soundtrack, it would be from a movie with lots and lots of car chases.  Lurch! Screech! Zoom!  Waffle!
Yes, waffle.  My mom is a waffler. While in the rehab facility, Mom learned that the stroke had left all her mental faculties intact, but it had weakened the left side of her body.  She decided she might not be able to stay by herself in her 2,400 square foot home anymore.  We agreed. It’s not enough to have all your marbles if the body that is transporting them falls and hurts itself.
We started looking for properties with guest houses or in-law quarters, where Mom could be close to us but still maintain her own private space.  I worried about money. She said not to, she had money.
I hate talking about money. I especially hate talking about other people’s money. I hate talking about my parents’ money even more. I wish they had spent it all in Las Vegas or something, but my mom hates to leave her house, so it never happened (hold this thought – it will become really important later.) 
"How much money are you willing to put in," I asked.
"$(Insert obscene amount here).00," she said.
ZOOM! A call to the realtor, and off we went.  We looked at a bunch of places, and settled on one to show my mom.  She loved it,  and we made an offer.
SCREECH!  The seller laughed at the offer.
Off we went again, in search of similar properties.  Found one. Showed it to my mom. She loved it.
"So Mom, how much money do you want to put in?"
WAFFLE! "$(Insert precisely half the obscene amount stated above).00."
OK, I thought, this is no surprise. Whatever.  We started writing up another offer.
LURCH! While I loved the grounds and the barn, the house needed lots of work, and it looked like something from the Northeast Heights. (Not that there is anything wrong with the Northeast Heights, mind, you, but they look kind of funny in Corrales.)  Plus, my mom would have to share the house with us, and she kept calling me and asking for more rooms, which my dogs would not have access to. She worried about my big dogs knocking her over or eating her terrier.  I had the feeling a call with “your dogs will have to live outside” was coming next, and that was so not going to happen.  Plus, the house was a short sale. No matter what the inspectors said, the sellers would not make any repairs. We might not be able to take possession for months, and the owners were demanding that we let them stay in the house for 60 days (!) beyond closing. A lawyer friend said he wouldn't touch the deal with a ten-foot escape clause.
I kept waking up in the middle of the night, in a sweaty WTFAYD* panic. The offer never got completed.
Guess what? Waffling is hereditary.
My husband is not only funny and adorable, he’s a really smart guy.  He asked me why we were suddenly willing to be held hostage by my mom’s money.
SCREEEEECH!  Holy  crap.  It’s one thing to want to take responsibility for the safety of one’s elderly relatives, but letting them control your whole life is a whole ‘nother can of worms that is so not going to be opened.
There is an immaculate little horse farm at the south end of the village. The house is small and quirky and shaped like a triangle. Not too many people want to live in a quirky little triangle house, so the property has been on the market forever.   I could totally see myself living there, and I’ve been drooling over it for months. Owners of said quirky house finally decide they aren’t going to get what they’ve been asking, and drop the price.  A lot. They not only drop the price, they drop it into We-Don’t-Need-Mom’s-Money price range.
Eureka!  Halleluia! Yahoo! ZOOM!
But, you ask, what about Mom?
“I’ll just stay here,” says Mom.
“I thought you said you couldn’t afford the caregiver?” I say.
 “I’ll look at Senior Living apartments,” says Mom.
I ignore the bait.  “OK. Which ones do you want to go look at?”
“What happened to my living with you?"
“The offer still stands, but my dogs are not going to live outside. There will be horses. There will eventually be a goat and maybe chickens. And don’t forget the septic tank.”
“I’ll just stay here.” 
“Fine,” I counter. “But you’ll have to agree to the caregiver at night and wearing the Life Alert button on your person during the day.”
“The button is on my nightstand.”
Waffles. Loads of them. Multiplying! It’s starting to look like an IHOP in here.
“OK, here’s the deal.  We found a place we love. You may like it, you may hate it, but we want to buy it. If you want to live with us, it has an enormous garage, which could be converted into a really nice guest house for you if you want to pay for the construction. You can help with the down payment if you want to be on the deed.”
We took Mom to see the place.  She likes the idea of building her own space. (If  she can build it for $[Insert precisely one-fourth the original obscene amount].00.) She hates the idea of a septic tank. She likes the city-water hookup. She made it clear that she does not want to live in a triangle house (good!)
We made an offer. The sellers accepted. An architect friend has started drawing plans for a lovely guest house that may or may not get built. Mom is still waffling, and that’s OK.
I dream panic-free dreams of horses and goats and chickens and happy people taking riding lessons.  I dream of peaceful evenings spent lounging in the hot tub or on the porch with my husband.  I dream of uncharted territory and leaps of faith.  I wake up (WTFAYD?)  laughing and terrified at the same time.
*What The F*** Are You Doing?!?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just For The Hell Of It

“The heat is on, so arm your soul.”   ---Ziggy Marley
It’s Summertime here in the high desert. High desert summers are different than other summers. I was reminded of this during a recent trip to the tropics. Yes, New Mexico summers are hot, sometimes with three-digit temperatures for days at a at a time, but as we Southwestern grammas say from our curmudgeonly lawn chairs, it’s a dry heat.
Those ain’t just gramma words, folks.  Here in New Mexico, shade means something. It makes a difference.  If you get too hot, you find a shady spot and cool down. If there’s a breeze and a beverage involved, it’s absolute Heaven. 
I was sitting on my porch last night in my private little Heaven, mojito in hand,  thinking about Hell.
I didn’t realize there were so many different concepts of Hell. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is what I call Cartoon Hell.  This is where red guys with horns, pointy goatees, and pitchforks poke hapless sinners as they slog through a lake of fire.
I dismiss this literal view of Eternal Damnation.  I figure after I die I will no longer have a physical body, and it takes a physical body to experience physical pain such as Phoenix-in-July heat and pitchfork pokeage. If you listen to guys like Pat Robertson, this version of Hell is full of gay people,  feminists, free thinkers, and Democrats.  Hmm.  Sounds kinda like Heaven to me.
Moving on.
When I was fourteen, I discovered another kind of Hell.  I’ll call this one Hell that Sneaks Up On You. A made-for-TV movie titled Haunts of the Very Rich introduced me to this concept.  The film opens on a mysterious airplane filled with minor celebrities from the 1970s and some really cheesy music.

                                                      (Click picture to view the full film)

(Are you scared yet? I am.) These folks are headed to an equally mysterious resort that looks a whole lot like Fantasy Island.  This resort appears heavenly, with rooms specifically designed to fulfill each guest’s every desire. BUT!  None of these people remember booking their vacation, and none of them have any luggage, except what they had with them when they died.  Oops – did I just say that out loud? Don’t you just hate it when someone spoils the movie for you by thoughtlessly announcing how it ends?  Scratch that.  No one knows how they got to the resort and each one appears to be the embodiment of one of the Seven Deadly Sins,* but there are drinks included, so who cares?
As the story unfolds, a hurricane arrives and wipes out all the amenities, leaving the guests stranded. Various means of rescue are promised, but never materialize, and it quickly becomes apparent that this version of Hell involves giving hope, then taking it away. For eternity.
This is a pretty strong concept, given that it comes from a big slice of television fromage. It dug its way into my teenaged brain and seriously creeped me out for years to come.  I could and did buy into the concept of Hell consisting of an eternity without hope.

Without leaving the 70s, we can travel to Hell for the Goose.

I used to love Rod Serling's Night Gallery.  My high school friends and I would watch the series in our pajamas, eating popcorn in the dark, alternately laughing at the black humor and attempting to creep each other out. There were several episodes that dealt with various concepts of Hell, but the one that sticks in my mind was one titled "Hell's Bells."  A badly-bewigged John Astin plays a hippie who dies in a car accident and is transported to Hell. Here we find that Hell has a waiting room, and the waiting room has rules.   No sleeping. No talking. No smoking. No standing. No breathing. No littering.  A cranky housekeeper pops in (literally) from time to time to make sure the rules are enforced.  Soon the protagonist, anxious to begin his exciting fire-and-brimstone-acid-trip experience, finds himself ushered into a room that contains a phonograph, hundreds of vinyl records, and some old people. The music is all straight out of an elevator, and the old people want to do nothing more than show thousands of slides from their recent vacation.

Slowly it starts to dawn on our hippie that this experience is not at all what he expected it to be. In comes the Devil (see Cartoon Hell paragraph above) who assures him that this is indeed Hell. He will be stuck in this room, with this music, these people, and their vacation for eternity. "You know," says the Devil, "It's a curious thing, but they have exactly the same room Up There."

Poor hippie.  He finally gets it.  "Bummer,"  he wails.  "Bummer, bummer, bummer!"

Hell for the goose can be Heaven for the gander, and I heartily agree.

(click picture to view full episode)
In another slice of Hollywood Hell,  the feature film What Dreams May Come depicts an eternity where you choose your own torment.
This one I understand.  For anyone with a conscience, the idea of having to relive all your mistakes, unkindnesses, and transgressions over and over without end would truly be Hell.  But people with a conscience are good, right?  And don’t only bad people go to Hell?

In the film, this actually turns out to be the case. Even if you are in Hell, there can be forgiveness. But first you must choose to forgive yourself.  (And then you can go to Heaven and see all your dogs.  Good movie. See it.)

I asked my friends for their thoughts when I decided to write about this. I asked,  “If you were to die and wake up in Hell, what would it be like?” Responses ran from a very fundamental Biblical version of Hell, to an eternity of doing stuff you hate with people you hate in places that you hate,  to the idea that there is no Hell and why the Hell was I asking.  Then came this one from a fellow writer:
“Hell would be not waking up.”
BINGO!  This is the one that scares me the most.  I’ve lived my life believing that I am here for a reason, that I am here to learn things, to become a better, more enlightened being before I move on to whatever is next. What if  we make a mess of what we have right now, and this is all there is?
Yikes. I guess I’d better do better while I’m here – just in case.
*For those who may be interested but don’t want to think too much as they watch the movie, Ed Asner is Greed, Cloris Leachman is Vanity, Lloyd Bridges is Lust,  and Anne Francis is Annoying (not a deadly sin, but it should be.)