This Christmas 

It’s been a year for last minute surprises. I expected to be on my own at Christmas; I’d go to Midnight Mass and have lunch Christmas Day with my dad. That would be it, as my sisters would be with their husbands’ families. A little bummer but I’ve been through it before.

Then Thursday night my sister Kandi texted me, they would be staying home after all. Their car wouldn’t make the trip.  Also my sister Layah and her husband would be here Christmas Day night. I rejoiced a little then thought about it. I offered my house, said we could bring and open presents here. I would make the traditional cheese dip and chips, Chex Mix and maybe she could get tamales. Kandi said okay.  I texted Layah and she agreed too. I only hope Kandi remembers the tamales.

So I went to Wal-Mart,  did battle and bought what I needed. Found some of it, they were out of Chex and generic Chex cereal, which caused considerable distress. Not as bad as the near riot of 5 years ago when they ran out of Velveeta. I went to Crest then and did again.

The second surprise was sudden and not. I’ve thought about getting a cat again. Porkchop passed away in July, my dad moved out and I wanted company. The empty house is too quiet and still, it’s lonely and so am I. I had looked at Petsmart’s website, saw when they would have pets from the Humane Society for adoption, looked at the Humane Society website and decided it was time. But I missed the last adoption event because of last minute stuff. Maybe it wasn’t right, and frankly the $60 adoption fee at Christmas was a bit much. Then came the 12 Days of Catmas.

The adoption fee was waived, free kitties available at the pound and Humane Adoption Center. I went yesterday. They were out of cats, the good news was they all had good homes. But they would have more the next day and the adoption center had cats too. So I went there and took my pet carrier. I had the pet equivalent of speed dating, met a couple of cats, liked one but there was no interest from the cat. Got hissed at by one. Decided I’ll never do speed dating.

I went back to the pound, telling myself the cats were probably gone and I was wasting my time. I left the carrier in the car and asked if they had any cats left, expecting to hear no again. They were very busy and I waited to ask. This time they said yes. Three cats were left, they were in that room and I could go in.

I went inside, took off my jacket and looked around. A pretty cat with a salt and pepper coat meowed at me, a solid black glared at me and another cat with a brown and tan coat hid inside the kitty tower. It did not look promising.

Then the salt and pepper cat walked over to me, still meowing. She let me pet her and crawled into my lap, gently clawing my leg. She purred and I knew I found my cat.

Her name is Cho Chang, like the Harry Potter character. I saw it as a good sign. I learned she was 13 years old, had been there 2 days and her coloring is called tortoiseshell. Her people were moving and couldn’t afford the pet deposit so they brought her there, reluctantly. She was a little timid and hid under my comforter for a couple of hours. She’s sleeping on my bed now, progress.

Christmas food and polar bear butt

Cho Chang, I call her Cho

On the bed

Checking out her new home

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Bear visit 

My son is here. He had a cold and fever when he arrived so the first 2 days were sucky. He sweated out the fever, took Zicam and feels better, not well but better.

He’s accomplished the big important stuff like talking to an immigration attorney for his wife. He got his drivers learner’s permit. He had the chicken fried steak sandwich. Now he’s hanging out with 2 of his friends, guys who went to the wedding.  He’s getting through the culture shock, mostly through food.

I took him to Dollar Tree, and he bought this for me.

Historic visit to Braum’s 

We went to Dennys, he marveled at the fast service and thst they got his order right, even let him substitute biscuits for toast. I had a veggie omelet.

Update of sorts 

I’m waiting for my son to arrive this evening. So far I’ve done 2 loads of laundry, vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms and bought some Cool Ranch doritos. So I’ve got 5 hours to kill. He’s on his way to Detroit and then here. I told him if he has time during the layover to bring me anything Wings related but his layover is a short one so not likely.  On the advice of my friend I made this sign and will be holding it up at the airport.

Since we have Internet again I’ve been online, and found this. I like it better than the original, she seems to really be enjoying herself whereas Maurice was a little wistful and resigned.

ANTICIPATION 

I am in a strange state of anticipation. It’s not a good place, anticipating something I want or to earn. Rather I am waiting, monitoring, the health of my mother-in-law and dad. Both are elderly, unhealthy and I am preparing myself for the inevitable. In other words, I am waiting for them to die.

I am not a vulture, ready to inherit money or their possessions. It’s likely I may have to contribute financially, especially for my mother-in-law who has no savings. What my dad leaves will be mostly memories and a lot of junk (sorry, dad) in the garage. I’m not rubbing my hands together in greedy anticipation. There will be stories, memories and pictures, those we will share and carry with us. I know this because I’ve been through this before. With Jerry and before with other relatives, I know what to expect and I want to be prepared, as much as it is possible to prepare.

I don’t mention this, of course. I look at my sisters and wonder what it will do to them when our dad goes. They were young when our mom died and it affected them for years after; they missed her when they graduated and got married, and when my nephew was born. Our dad was able to be there for those occasions at least y u how much longer? I know they think about this too.

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We all had lunch today with our dad; my sisters, their husbands, my nephew and me. It’s a rare thing for us all to be together but they made the effort because we all know our dad has one operating artery and there is nothing else the doctors can do but give him pills. He goes to his cardiologist on a monthly basis. He eats bacon and pork rinds without being scolded. While we were eating he casually mentioned the pastor he wants to do his funeral, he’s already asked him. I just swallowed some Diet Coke and choked a little. I know he’s made his arrangements, a military funeral and burial. I know, we all know, the funeral home handling the arrangements. He did this because he’s trying to be helpful, to make it easier on us when the time comes. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, did the same thing. Truly it did help but there are still details and hard moments, it isn’t easy. Grief is a layered business.

My mother-in-law is a contrast. She’s not planned for anything. Honestly I don’t blame her, denial is a pleasant place. She’s in Florida (God’s Waiting Room, she once called it) I talked to her and she was groggy on painkillers. She has heart problems too, but raises the stakes with a large blood clot in her left leg. She had surgery on her leg, the clot was bigger than they thought and now she’s recovering in a rehab facility. My brother-in-law is helpless and frankly useless. I ask him how she is, what the doctors said, what about her meds and treatment and he says she’s not good but that’s all the info he has. He’s never had to deal with stuff like this, I know he loves his mom but he isn’t a good advocate. Jerry did all that for them both, he was the steady and responsible one, taking care of them both from an early age. He’s not here now and neither of them seems to know how to cope, Ruth because she’s sick and weak and Mike because he never learned. Most of my info comes from Bear, who takes his dad’s role as protector seriously even when he’s 10,000 miles away. I dread getting a phone call from Bear about his grandma. I hope that when the time comes she isn’t hurting or alone and I hope someone is with my brother-in-law too. I am concerned that I may have to go to Florida, she once told us she was paying on a funeral plan with a funeral home but not sure she kept making payments and I don’t know its name.

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I don’t look forward to making arrangements, calling people, deciding whether to put it on Facebook (probably will for my dad), finding something to wear and dealing with the condolences, among other things. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again but I know better.

Bear messaged me and said he is thinking of visiting soon. His wife’s Visa is still being processed and they don’t know when it will be ready. He says he might come anyway. He says he misses Fall but we both know the real reason; he wants to see them both and say goodbye.

I’m back

I spent an extra day and uncomfortable night at Inchon airport in Seoul because I missed my connection to home. I ‘m still wired, on Saigon time so here are some pictures.  My sister Kandi picked me up at the airport and I gave her some highlights. More highlights below

I got hooked watching this, it’s really commercials for designer clothes but has some great, off the wall “what the heck did I watch?” moments.

www.fashiontvplus.com 

click on “fashion films”

The dreaded black egg. It takes 4 months to do this, it’s a delicacy. It tastes like a gummy egg, but I didn’t go for seconds

This was my room, the first night. Upgrade

My real room. Ptetty good, it had a mini fridge

From breakfast buffet

Good but no syrup

What I really came for

Tiger and Bear, Korean version

I think that’s spam but don’t quote me

Don’t know what it says but looks impressive Inchon airport

Book store, that says it all. Unfortunately no English language books

Welcome home, cart rental $4. Free at every other airport I’ve seen but in OKC?  Nooo. I schlepped my bags instead

I’m here

I came to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for my son’s wedding. It’s been worth it. I listened to my Wings lose to the Rangers, with ice cream flavored oreos in a nice hotel room instead of at home with plain oreos.

Traveling was rough, no matter how well planned when there’s a 13 hr nonstop flight in the mix. I have a flat Indian butt, like the Princess in Princess and the Pea, I can feel it no matter what. I squirmed and shifted in my seat over several countries and the International date line. It took me nearly 2 days to adjust to the time difference, climate and the idea my child was going to be somebody’s husband. 

There was a lot going on, manoeuvring not just me but his 3 friends from OK. 2 of them have never traveled outside the US and none of us speak Vietnamese. When he took us out for bun bo hue (like pho) we recreated the cover of the Abbey Road album, all in line following Bear across the streets. He looked like a mama duck with 4 confused and slightly terrified baby ducks behind.

Tokyo Narita airport 

Saigon jewelry store, took this before security told me I couldn’t take pictures 

Indoor market stalls. 

Oanh told me Bear got his hair cut here, blue sign with gold scissors.

The church Nha Tho Nguyen Duy Kang

Some of Bear’s friends, including the Oklahoma Three

On the road to the bride’s village 

Food was good 

Karaoke list. 

Views from rooftop cafe and from my balcony 

Getting ready 

I’m flying to Saigon in 2 days. I’ve planned for this, had those plans changed, thwarted and planned again. 

I’ve learned how much can be stuffed into a suitcase and been amazed. I learned that suitcase is heavy as heck and might need to be emptied a little so I can move it. The wheel really is the greatest human invention, especially those tiny ones. It’s up there with spandex. 

I’m going to see my son and attend his wedding. There’s a lot of emotion in that sentence. I know his dad would be proud and thrilled and anxious. Bear admitted he can hear his dad’s voice in his head sometimes, and remembers little things he used to say. He also admitted he doesn’t think about his dad every day like he used to, but he misses him especially now.

I’m bringing stuff from home, things Bear can’t find in Vietnam. Most of the stuff he asked for is American food like grits and my suitcase has a substantial grocery section. 

Family members are sending gifts, small ones fortunately. I’m also taking a few presents for my future in-laws. I was able to tuck most of them into the suitcase and make it fit somehow; it looks like Tetris.

My clothes and personal stuff are in the 2 carryons. It’s interesting how a pair of jeans can fold down to a tight little cube. Also how that cube can explode and nearly hit you in the eye when you open that bag to stuff in a pair of socks.

Since most of this stuff is staying there I’ll have room for souvenirs. A couple of co-workers collect shot glasses and I promised to bring some back. But the main space is going to be full of strawberry, blueberry and coconut oreos. 

There are a few things to do before I leave. I still have a load of laundry, a trip to the bank to let them know any charges coming from Vietnam will be legit and to let them go through. I also need to have at least one more diet cherry limeade from Sonic. My sister is going to look after Porkchop and the house, because Porkchop can’t open cans. Yet. 

Another thing I’m taking with me is family pictures, old ones I’ve found in photo albums and saved on my phone and a USB.