Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Adventures of Elmer

Note: The names have been changed to protect the innoce – – – OK, so maybe there aren’t actually any innocents involved in this at all, but I’m changing the names anyway.

Not long ago it was all about the saga of prepping and moving the travel trailer to the coast so the father-in-law, Elmer, could move back into it. Well a few days later Elmer was delivered to the trailer, handed the keys, and the adventure began!

Just moving Elmer from his home-base in Missouri down to the Texas coast has all the logistics and complexity of a minor military expedition. (and almost as many explosions and slow burns!)

You see, Elmer is nearly 90, blind in one eye and can’t see too well out of the other, almost deaf without his hearing aids, which is much of the time since they’re not high on his list of priorities and spend much of their time miss-placed, he’s had one heart attack and two notable strokes seasoned with several ‘minor’ strokes, one of the arteries in his neck is pretty much completely blocked and the other is getting there so we’re never sure just how much blood is getting to his brain (maybe not enough based on some of his decisions!), he has one bum knee (shot full of cortisone just before he came) which, along with his adamant insistence that he does not need a cane or any other sort of assistance, only exacerbates his natural lack of coordination and clumsiness (that’s a family trait, not an age thing.  For the last 3 generations every male in his line has either shot themselves, or been shot by someone else, at least once, all accidents. And falls, running into door-jambs, tripping on completely flat surfaces, shutting fingers in drawers; those are all daily occurrences, unfortunately occurrences that The Wife, true to her lineage, shares in.)

Throw in the attention span of a 5 year old and the maturity of a 15 year old and you have a great recipe for – umm – nope, I’m going to keep calling it adventure! – because if you can’t laugh the alternative sucks!

Clearly turning Elmer loose on society to make his own way between his home-base and the Texas Coast would endanger others significantly, so after a bazillion phone calls between his three daughters, (in birth order, The Wife, Dale, and Sammy) a plan is hatched. (for some reason, the fact that they’ve done this at least a half-dozen times already doesn’t seem to cut back on the abuse of the Friends And Family Plan) The end result for this particular versions of the adventure is a fairly typical campaign.

On the night before T-day Dale drove the two hours from her home to Sammy’s home, leaving her severely domestically-challenged husband a fridge full of prepared sustenance. The morning of T-day the two girls car-pooled to Elmer’s home 20 minutes away. With Elmer stuffed into the back seat of his own car along with a two day supply of cigarettes (this takes up about the same space as an Army duffle-bag! The man has his own rolling machine for crying out loud, and can crank out cigarettes as fast as the factory!), and one girl in each car, Dale’s car is dropped off in short-term parking at the airport, leaving all three of them in Elmer's car. With both Dale, who really prefers to do all the driving, and Sammy, who insists on doing her share, if not more, of the driving, in the front seat and Elmer wedged into the backseat between his cigarettes, fishing poles and snacks for all, they headed out for Marshal Texas, 12 hours away. At Marshal Elmer was installed into his own (smoking!) hotel room while Dale, a born-again non-smoker with a compromised immune system due to a previous brain cancer tries to snatch a few breaths of (relatively) clean air while she and Sammy share another room, preferably on a completely different floor!

In between leaving the home-base and actually falling asleep in the hotel room in Marshal the Friends And Family Plan continued to be severely abused with numerous status reports between Dale and The Wife, Sammy and The Wife, and Elmer and The Wife. Location updates from Elmer can be confusing because he naps then isn’t sure where he’s at when he wakes up but doesn’t want to ask, plus he has a tendency to claim ‘we’re going through  <insert town of choice) now’ anytime he sees a sign indicating it’s less than 100 miles to <said town of choice>.

In the morning, after yet another round-robin of phone-calls to keep everyone updated, Elmer, Dale and Sammy resumed their southward journey. In the meantime The Wife worked herself up into a snarling frazzle with last minute cramming of crap-Elmer-is-going-to-need-whether-he-knows-it-or-not into the car before she headed out herself. But, though the coast is 2 hours away in one direction, she headed toward the city, 2 hours away in a completely different direction, because anytime The Wife gets into the car it is going to involve eating out. (back when she still used to travel, road trips were planned from meal-stop to meal-stop, not from start-point to destination! In one way it was kind of nice, because all I had to do in order to be her hero-of-the-day, especially in those pre-smart-phone days, was to locate a Red Lobster or Golden Coral in a strange town.) Somehow, during these let’s-move-Elmer campaigns it has become tradition for them to all meet up at Little Papasito’s and to find one of those you have to go to the city.

From there, stuffed full of chips and salsa, and rice, and beans and shrimp and cheese and chicken and - well, you get the idea, they convoyed in two vehicles the 2-plus more hours to the coast and spent an intense couple of hours moving Elmer and all his crap, the stuff he wanted and the stuff he didn’t know he wanted but really did, from both of the cars into the trailer.

Then the sisters all piled into The Wife’s car for the trip back to the city where they holed up in a hotel room and partied like only 60 year old, physically tired, mentally exhausted women can. In the morning Dale and Sammy were dropped off at the airport for an early flight back to home-base where Dale’s car was waiting. By 1500 Dale had made the two hour trip from airport to home, where domestically-challenged hubby was still alive after binging on cold food and Steven Segal movies for three days, and the campaign was officially complete.

But the adventure was just starting!!

The day of arrival Elmer was pretty beat so a couple trips around the small town and talking the ear off two of the campground caretakers carried him though till an early bedtime. But the next day he was up and at it!

He’s always slightly manic when he first gets to the coast and this trip was no different. Considering all the phone calls back and forth all day long I’m not sure when he had time, but he read the paper, found out a permit had been issued to demolish the historic hotel where he and his late wife used to spend their winters, went over to visit the hotel (and talk to anybody he could get to stand still long enough! Actually, he's been wintering in this town for 30 years and is beloved by many there.), missed friend Ike by a few minutes at one breakfast place in town and friend Tommy by a smidge at another, went fishing at the pier across from the hotel, went fishing at the campground, lost his phone, went fishing at the pier again, fell off the pier (there was no declaration of pushing being involved, but he did blame the fall on too many people out on the pier, which happens to have 4' high railings, but such is the life of the clumsy.), came back to the campground because after his dip in the bay he needed to shower and wash his hair (he hates to shower, and hates washing his hair even more!!), found his phone, hooked up with Tommy who had a prior engagement but offered to leave the outside light on at his river property so Elmer could go up and do a little night fishing.

Now you have to understand that driving at 20 miles per hour around a tiny little town he knows well is one thing, but Tommy’s river-place is 10 miles away down a 70 MPH two-lane road and for Elmer to be driving at night is – well, insane! This resulted in an evening long round of phone calls between the frantic sisters that nearly had The Wife (with me driving of course because she doesn’t drive at night anymore) driving the two hours down to the coast and trying to find him. I nixed that idea but the calls went on until they finally heard that he was safely back in the trailer for the night – oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, he didn’t catch anything he could keep.

With the exception of him threatening to drive himself to meet The Wife and I halfway for lunch Monday since neither Ike nor Tommy were free to drive him, which The Wife gently coaxed him out of (Elmer is very stubborn and absolutely convinced he is not only right but also knows better than the next guy, a trait The Wife and Sammy also share, which is why those two can’t be left in a room alone together. Sammy hasn’t yet got it through her head that telling Elmer he can’t do something is a sure fired way to guarantee that he will do it, but The Wife has learned how to coax and coerce until he comes around to her thinking while believing it’s his own idea.) it was a fairly uneventful day, but Elmer made up for that this morning.

I was under the car trying to install a replacement tail-light-to-trailer-lights converter when The Wife came out all scrunchy-faced and upset. Sammy had made a checkup call to Elmer and he mumbled and slurred something about ‘on the floor, can’t get up, flies in my mouth’ then hung up. This set off a whole new round of frantic ‘what do we do, what do we do?’ calls between the sisters and by the time The Wife came out to kick me out from under the car so I could pay attention and commiserate while she hiccupped her way through the story, they had agreed to wait while Dale, the one that frets and worries the most, but is also the most rational of the gang, tried to contact Elmer.

A half hour later everything had settled down and The Wife was laughing over yet another typical Elmer fiasco.

It seems that a fly had gotten into the trailer (I don’t know what it is about old people but they sure do hate flies!) and Elmer rolled up his morning paper to go after it. (The paper is about 4 pages thick so I’m not sure it qualifies as an adequate fly-swatter!)  For some reason (maybe the fly also has blocked arteries in its neck cutting down blood flow to the brain) the fly was on the floor and Elmer got down on his knees, not an easy thing at his age, plus, for sanitary reasons as well as defense against the ever-present cigarette ember, I pulled the carpet and replaced it with a hard, unforgiving laminate floor 15 years ago. Apparently the fly, probably not the brightest bulb in the bunch, wasn’t bothered by this at all and just sat there, so Elmer wound up with his improvised swatter and took a mighty swing. So mighty he knocked himself clean over! After the shock of crashing to the floor he discovered that rather than pain, it felt kind of good laying down there, so he took a nap. When Sammy’s call woke him up he was pretty zonked out, had been snoring straight onto the floor and had a mouth full of dust-bunnies, (Have I mentioned that Elmer’s idea of clean would horrify most people??) and couldn’t get up and handle the phone at the same time.

Well he eventually managed to sort himself out and satisfy Dale that all was well. (No word on the condition of the fly though.)

Since then it’s been a fairly quiet day, other than the fact that he went to the grocery store and for some reason now has three full boxes of cereal plus the one that The Wife stocked him with.

But holy crap! He’s only been down there 4 days now and what with the cost and hassle of prepping and moving the trailer, we figure he needs to stay a good 4 months to make it worthwhile!!

Oh well, we all die in the end and he’s having a hell of a lot more fun down there than rotting in a recliner in some dark room while underpaid staff keep him going day after miserable day.


  1. Elmer is lucky to have you all make that trip happen for him. Amen to that last paragraph.

    1. Today's adventure was breaking the toilet seat. . . I don't think I want any more details about how that happened!

  2. Elmer needs his own reality tv show ... this post was some good stuff. I've always claimed by the time I am 90, I'll have my address tattooed to my forehead ... I also use a rolled up REI magazine for my fly killer and there is nothing I hate more than a bothersome fly. :)

    1. If you used magic-marker instead, with a little scrubbing you would still have the option of moving to warmer climes.