Even though I lived in Gainesville, FL for all of my youth that I can remember, I never made it out to Payne's Prairie
, a nature reserve and Florida's largest state park.* Seriously, this was a bucket list item for me. No, I didn't see much in the way of wild animals or birds due to the time of year, but I did get to walk on a forest trail for that eerily quiet primeval vibe with plenty of palmetto, magnolias, and vines & Spanish moss hanging off the live oaks. This little walk, plus walking up the steps of the 50' observation tower, just about did Mom in.
Speaking of Mom
and her condition, well, it could be better. She's wobbly, and I wish I had a buck for each time I'd helped her remember a word since I arrived. (Unlike Ex, though, she can describe the word she's trying to remember. Get Oliver Sacks on the seance phone.) Mom has no intention of moving out of her big, beautiful house if she can help it. I don't blame her, but I wouldn't bet a lot of money on her being here in another five years. She's getting a reasonable amount of exercise, I think, but Good Sister & I concur that she isn't eating right. And I dare you to try telling her that; I already have.
Yesterday afternoon I drove up to the University of Florida
campus. That may seem an odd place to go alone over the Christmas holiday, but it was my home away from home when I was young. I went for a stroll down memory lane: my dad's old office building, the duck pond by the student union where the whole famn damily would go feed the ducks, the library where I stealthily read everything I could get my hands on about transsexuals, the Music Building where I had so many lessons and orchestra rehearsals, the auditorium next door where I played and heard my fair share of concerts. Next to the auditorium I had to sit down and cry for my dad, the state of the country and the world, and for the roads I didn't take. To be fair to myself, though, nearly all of the fucking up I did happened after I left Florida.
There's a hippy-dippy used bookstore about ten blocks' walk from Mom's house that's been around since I was here. Now that's
the Gainesville I remember. I walked over there with Mom and got something light & fluffy**. I've read it already; I don't care. And for about the umpteenth time in as many years, I walked Mom into the ground again. She's really hesitant about stepping onto verges or off curbs, and I think that's for the best.
When Mom went to bed, I bopped over to chez cardinalximinez
for some much-needed time with people my own age. I hadn't seen their daughter in five years; the girl is proudly kicking butt in school & extra-curriculars. I'm happy for them all, and not so much jealous as beat down about my own son's difficulties. But still, it was a wonderful evening and I owe them all for helping me recover some sanity. If we make it out to the University Club - Gainesville's only gay bar - drinks are on me.
Mom didn't have a proper whistling teakettle
until I got her one this morning at the big mall across the street from my elementary school. (My sisters & I remember when it was a horse pasture.) Recent events had me extra alert for signs of hostility, but the only thing remotely like that was one blue-collar looking dude taking a smoke break who discreetly checked me out - I saw his reflection - for reasons uncertain. Mom warned me about the likelihood of a crush of last-minute shoppers, but it was less crowded than a typical weekday afternoon at a Seattle-area mall. I wouldn't have known it was Christmas without the decorations and Santa hats. It is to laugh.
This afternoon, Mom took me on a tour of... new construction. No, really, new apartments and shopping centers. Why she's interested and why she thinks I'm interested I'm not quite sure. But nevertheless, I've seen plenty of evidence that Gainesville is prospering
, driven at least in part by an influx of retirees attracted to medical facilities, which owe much to the U of F.
ETA: Mom has sensibly given up climbing, so she needed me to change a compact fluorescent light for her. The base of it was so hot that it burned my hand, and I dropped it. It broke. I may have huffed a little mercury vapor, but I also may have saved my mom from dying in a fire. Go me?*The Everglades are a national park.
**Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island.