My mother fell splat, on her forehead, today. Polly tells me this.

I call my sister earlier in the day to say that I have visited Mom this morning and that I took her some macaroni and cheese. She has been dizzy for a week and threw up all day yesterday. Will Polly please check on her later today?

When I call Mom’s house, Polly tells me about Mom’s filthy forehead. Polly tells me this while she is cooking up some egg drop soup for her.

“You should see Mom,” she tells me. “She says she tripped on the hose outside in the yard and fell flat on her face. She has mud and twigs stuck all over her forehead. Then, she was watering an overhanging pot full of plants and it tipped over on her and she is covered in mud and dirt. Mom!” she shouts, “you need to take a bath, tonight.”

I hear Mom laughing. Polly has us on speaker phone.

As it turns out, I have a bit of a day myself.

When I leave Mom’s house in the morning to go up town to get her mac and cheese, I notice a dark colored car coming toward me to my left, which suddenly seems to swivel and blow up in a cloud of gray smoke and then immediately the car is in my face, heading straight at me. I sharply twist my steering wheel to the right and do a spin out of the way. Thank goodness I have excellent reflexes, (inherited from my father, I think) and an excellent car.

A very near miss. I realize as I pass the car that it’s driver failed to realize all the cars in front of it are stopped. Instantly the river hits the brakes and jerks away from them and (almost) into me. If I hadn’t been watching and been so quick, eeeh gads, it would have been The Big Goodbye. And isn’t that life? So changeable from one moment to the next. You just get comfortable with something in your life and it’s whipped out from under you.

With my heart now beating a wild disco rhythm from the scare, I proceed to the grocery store where I buy baked chicken and romaine lettuce and mac and cheese. The Chicken and romaine is for a lunch I am making for two of my grammar school friends.

Patti is down from Seattle and Nancee is coming up the mountain to see me. I have warned them about my meals; that sometimes they are excellent and sometimes they are horrid. They are willing to take a chance.

During lunch, I mention to them that Gerry Is Here.

“Gerry,” I say, “is Bill’s old army buddy from many years ago. He arrived last night for a visit.”

I mention that Gerry has barely worked in his life. That when he needed money he would get a job tending the night desk in a motel in the desert and that for awhile he worked for the forest service putting out fires.
Gerry has spent his life smoking grass; mary jane, marijuana. His day consists of cutting his grass, rolling it up into a cigarette paper, tapping it on the table and smoking it. That’s it. That’s what he does.

Recently, his mother died and left him a big portfolio. He now has more money then I do and I worked my butt off all my life!

I tell the girls that Bill told me when I first met Gerry, many years ago, that all Bill’s women couldn’t stand Gerry. Bill warned me. He told me he would understand if I didn’t like him, either, but the truth is, Gerry doesn’t bother me, at all.

Oh well, maybe one time.

It was during the first fire storms four years ago that kept burning past my house for four days. I’d go to my mother’s house down the road, to just get away and watch the walls of fire tear across the mountains behind my house.
One day my sister Candy called and screamed, “I’m sitting in my car at the end of your street and your house is next, Venus! The fire is coming right at it, you’re toast!”

She was mistaken.

Gerry and Bill stayed at the house and using Gerry’s fire skills, they put out embers on the property. I would come and go. The police barricaded the street and no one was allowed to drive down the road. I would walk it, about a mile plus from my mother’s house to mine.

At my house, Gerry was always yammering on and on about negative stuff. “It’s gonna’ burn your house, Venus. I’ve never seen worse then this. It’s just a matter of time.” Things like that. Finally, about 3 days into the continuing conflagration I looked at him and yelled, “Shut up! Shut Up! Shut, Shut, Shut Up! Shut…Up!”

He said, “oh. well. ok.”

I don’t snap very often but when I do, I do a fine job of it.

I tell my friends at lunch today, all these things about Gerry; the weed smoking and the fires and the big money by accident and then I add that he is a Jehovah’s Witness and when he leaves my home after a visit, Bill and I find religious tracks on the backs of our toilets.

The girls say, “…But…it doesn’t sound like he is living his religion…!” They seem mystified and horrified.

I agree and say, “Yes, but Gerry feels like he needs to make a stab at saving us from hell. It’s true he doesn’t seem to have much conviction behind it.”

I say brightly, “Gerry is right in the next room. In Bill’s studio. He just got back from China where he had a good time spinning silk worms. Do you want to meet him?”

Nancee says, “No.”

I’m surprised. If someone offered me a chance to meet such a character I would jump up and shout “Yes!”

Then, I mention a book I am reading by Suzanne Somers, called ‘Ageless’. It’s how she uses bio-identical hormones and HGH and other products from cutting-edge Anti-Aging M.D.s to be healthy, look fabulous and feel good. I am all excited about the subject and am researching the field and am going to see someone about retarding aging and feeling and looking good longer. I mention this to the girls.

Patti says, “Why? What’s wrong with getting old? Why not just accept it?”

My mouth is opening and closing with no sound except maybe little peeping noises.

I squeak out, “Why would you want to get all those nasty, messy diseases and break your brittle bones if you didn’t have to?”

The girls look at me as though I am daft and dumb.

“It’s not just looks,” I say. “I admit I’m going to die but I want to die healthy.”

Nobody says anything. The conversation sinks into the chicken salad.

I wonder about myself. I don’t seem normal. I am almost always up for meeting fun people and researching and trying new things. Apparently, I am not placid in life. I don’t just let the river take me quietly along while I watch the banks of Time slip past.

I grew up with these girls, these wonderful, smart and loving ladies and I care dearly for them…but it is like we are swimming in two different streams.
Their lives are their church and their husbands and their grandchildren and their friends and they’re placidly paddling along.

I can’t seem to placidly paddle. Something remarkable is always catching my attention.
As Summer sighs and says when I try and draw her into my latest discovery, ‘You know how you are Mother. You get excited about everything. You do know that don’t you?”

Well, here’s the deal. Let me run around and pick the daisies and you can drink the daisy water in the vase…..You do what you do best, and I will do what I do…If you can accept me the way I am…I will do my best to accept you, the way you are. Maybe if we all did that, the world would be just a bit less violent, and a bit more peaceful…… Or, maybe not, because the people like me are always stirring things up!
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