You have probably had your June quota of ‘heavy’ already. So, I thought this week, I would update a few of the personal threads that have been running through this blog from the beginning. Some of you know the characters and issues, others of you who have joined my community of friends here more recently will catch up quickly as this is all rather soft news. But, there are some issues here where, as strong as I usually am about dealing with curve balls, I would love to have help, as you will see!
As you knew, my Aunt Kate is one of the main players in my perils-of-Pauline life drama. She is actually my dad’s aunt, pushing 90, sharp as a tack, fiercely independent, robust even though wiry and slim. But, in the past eighteen months all sorts of twilight-of-life issues have surfaced. Like? Kate’s short-term memory is beginning to deteriorate. Not as severely as my husband’s mother, who is far, far younger, but noticeably.
A retired professional, well-off, and living in NYC in her own co-op penthouse, Kate has just found out that she needs ongoing medical treatment for what could be a serious condition that is being expertly managed by a team of doctors. Luckily, she has what one of my cousins calls, the Cadillac of supplemental insurance. For the privilege, this formerly perfectly healthy woman, is paying $900 per month, beyond Medicare. How many elderly people could foot that bill?
Last year I mentioned that she was begging me to come live with her (not Geoffrey, just me!). Naturally, I delicately eased my way out of those discussions by, frankly, just kicking them down the road. While that was going on, as I wrote in some previous posts, a group of family members systematically helped themselves to the contents of her beautiful apartment. Most of these people are my generation, but a few are my cousins’ kids and their new spouses. So, there sits Aunt Kate in an emptyish flat with only a view and some clothing to her name.
One of said individuals slyly moved in to the apartment, lock stock and barrel, having wailed to A. Kate a major sob story. Without going into all the seamy details, every manner of generational and lifestyle conflicts are now plaguing my poor Aunt as she tries to adjust to life without her own belongings, with strangers coming and going, and a health crisis that at her age probably seems like a death knell (even though her doctors say she will be around a good long time, like her centenarian brother).
But, two factions have formed in the family. One wants to know what’s in the will to protect her from the others, who seem to be commandeering her finances as well as her life. Both these camps have attempted to persuade me to their side and so I have spent literally hours of time over the past two months engaged in conference calls and Google Hangouts that are emotionally charged and draining. Some of them have been so transparent about their intentions that A. Kate is now fiercely defending her mind, her body, and her bank accounts. But, had already handed over power of attorney and other keys to the kingdom to several stalwart individuals who are being — there is no other way to put this — anal about their rights and responsibilities, in the extreme.
Geoffrey sits “off camera”, while our dinners grow cold and stale, listening to the histrionics and thinking, I am sure, his tea partying family are diplomats and philanthropists by comparison. One thing I will give them, they never shout. Not so the fighting Irish on my side. Sigh!
On the home front, as I have written recently, we are attempting to transform our front yard into a xerigraphic ecosystem, reducing water-sucking lawn, and replacing it with drought-tolerant, sun-loving, pollinator-attracting gorgeous flowering yard-cover. Lots of it is working. We now have a huge section that is a butterfly pavillion, stocked mostly with Milkweed to provide an oasis for Monarchs, along with Lantana, Butterfly Bush and Lavenders of various types. So far so good.
We also planted new roses that are thriving, so we will be putting more in, in the fall. But! We also decided to start replacing lawn with Gazanias. They seemed to be spreading so nicely that every morning, we would be greeted by new little scalloped red and yellow heads, sunning themselves all over the beds we made for them to call home.
Sunning. Therein lies the problem. After having one of the warmest winters ever, we have had one of the coldest, cloudiest springs. It has not rained sufficiently to end the drought or curtail the severe water rationing, but enough to spit all over the cars each morning and entice powdery mildew to take up residence on our rear yard roses, almost killing half a dozen of them. That same quirk of nature spread a blight that hit pear trees and Photinias all over Southern California, including ours, a twenty year old tree that forms part of the living screen along one of our high stone walls that separate us from a neighbor. Witnessing that blight spread, almost in one week, to the whole tree before our arborist told us what it was and what to do, was like watching a friend die. We will not know if it can survive until next spring. Meanwhile, our neighbor is now able to peer over the wall (doing so, he thinks, ever so indetectably) at last to view us in the pool or around the decks. Hmm.
As for the Gazanias, they are being beheaded!
At first I thought it was the teenagers that live in the neighborhood, hanging out in front of our house because we have (apparently) secluded sitting areas in the front that enable them to do whatever (mj, is my guess) away from prying parental eyes. But then I thought, they would nip off all of them if they were pranking us, instead of just a few. Next, rodents were in my sights and so we bought a way too expensive natural granular deterrent made with things they consider nasty, like mint, rosemary, lime oil. But, alas, after a week of that treatment, more sad little dead floral crania are lying outside. The infuriating thing, too, they keep on opening in the sun, bodyless, until they shrivel and roll out onto the walk, recriminatingly. Snails? Too much water? A beetle? Not enough sun (ironically)? The garden center suggested it could be rabbits or squirrels, but they haven’t hit larger patches of Gazanias in other yards.
Wouldn’t you know, just as we decide to make a high desert garden to replace Little New Jersey here, the sun decides to take an intermittent holiday? And I just glanced at the Accuweather report for this week: more clouds ahead. If only it would pour, it might make this easier to tolerate!
Our arborist will be coming by for a diagnosis, so I will keep you posted.
Life with a Labrador. We have now had two. Prior to that we had Snowflake, a Westie. Ollie (now with Snowy, in heaven) was such an easy dog to raise. Beautiful, almost pure white, a thoroughbred descended from champions (as Snowy was), he refused to bark at anyone. As far as Ollie was concerned, anyone who came to the door was a friend. We thought Labs are just that way and shrugged, making sure we had better gates and locks. Then Leif came into our lives. From the same breeder, and a related sire/dam but he and Ollie couldn’t be more different.
Leif is as nervous and excitable as Ollie was calm and serene. If a shoe drops the next town over, he hears it and has to assess the situation. So, for the past seven years (six since Ollie left us) we have all had to readjust the house and our nerves to a true watchdog. So much so, that we finally broke down this week and got him a ThunderShirt. I was totally skeptical but this thing really works. Ricky (our nickname for his formal title: Leif Ericson) is a transformed individual. Very early this morning, he found a way out of his crate (and when I say early, I mean 3 am, because we get up at 4) and calmly padded into the kitchen, grabbed his toy bone and was waiting for us when we came down the stairs and screamed (well, one of us anyway) when we saw the kitchen door open and heard noises inside. This is a 95 pound dog, all muscle and energy, turned into a Harbor Seal. If you have an excitable dog, I urge you to try it. What a transformation! We’ll see if it lasts and I will update you.
Little visitors. Yes! It is that time of year again already. Anna is coming to town. She and Deanna will be with us shortly, then Deanna is off to a conference and we will have our little dynamo all to ourselves. I am busy getting new books and surprises for her room. I was told gowns and costumes are her standard daytime attire and may take her right through bedtime (she refuses to change clothes, no matter the activity). One way we plan to entice her out of her glam rags is with major pool time, as Anna is already a swimmer. There will be dancing, picture-taking, bookstores, toy stores, garden trawling and, yes! Ice cream. Stay tuned for more.
That’s it! That was relatively benign for a change, dontcha think?
(But just in case this lull is too soporific, I do feel a major post about healthy diets coming on, so … enjoy this bland Bethism while it lasts!) 😀
Images: BB/Santa Paula