I watched my mother with the eyes of a hawk on Sunday. There was not going to be a repeat performance of last week, and I was going to have an evening with my friends. I consoled myself that my selfish attitude of wanting to go out and enjoy myself, came a very distant second to wanting my mother to remain out of the casualty unit!
Steph arrived with Ollie at around 11:30am, and I took on the 'Grandma on duty' status with delight. We spent a long time in my dad's dilapidated greenhouse, as my grandson found new, and apparently much improved, places for pots, trowels, trays and sprays. I contemplated how my father would have enjoyed the company of this little dynamo, and how he would probably have had as much patience with him as he did with his father, namely my son! After a while, however, it was time for lunch, and reluctantly the young gardener put down his tools and succumbed to a greater authority, namely his mother!
It was a lovely lunch. Elise and I discussed how best to deal with mum, and I acknowledged that she was in charge, as I am six thousand miles away, and unable to make instant decisions. We spent a good deal of the time together chatting and laughing, as we always did, or at least as we always did in our adult years! I promised I would come and see her before I left the country!
My trip to Judy and David was mapped out and I was invited for 7pm. I looked at the map, several times, and checked the written instructions that I had copied last week, making sure that I had phone numbers, should I need them! I bid mum 'cheerio', and made her promise not to leave the premises in my absence! Any removal of rubbish to the bin could wait until I returned! I gave myself plenty of time, and headed towards the motorway, the same route as I would be taking in three days, and took the appropriate exit. I arrived at my destination within fifteen minutes, and was surprised at how easy it was to find! The previous visit had been as a passenger, and it was dark! I was accepted graciously, despite being early, and was delighted to hear that some other 'old' friends were coming. Although I have kept in touch with Sally, I had lost touch with Lesley, whom I had not seen since she was expecting her first child, which was probably about thirty five years ago! We spent a wonderful evening discussing anything and everything, and enjoyed a healthy debate over politics on the 'other' side of the pond. However, as all good things must come to an end, the evening did exactly that, and just after midnight I said I must take my leave, and reluctantly refused another cup of coffee. It was as if we were all going to see each other the following week!
Mum was asleep when I arrived home, and I knew that Dana was out with Joe, so I could not share the events of the evening until the following day, when mum and I spent most of the day together. I visited Steph and Ollie in the afternoon, and my grandson re-introduced to the world in which he lives, and we drew chalk pictures on the paving stones, paddled in the pool, and had imaginary tea in his tent, which stands approximately two feet tall! I obliged as best I could, and left shortly after bath time!
My last day was quite full. I went to say cheerio to Elise and Emma, at their workplace. Lunch was with Jan, Steph's mum, and we spent a couple of hours without children or parents! Steph brought Ollie to mum's that afternoon, and grandma and great-grandma spent time entertaining him! Eventually, we settled down to watch a television programme which held his interest for approximately ten minutes, after which time my mum watched the remainder, wondering why she had not switched the television off! I was invited into his 'aeroplane', (one of my mother's small tables) but could not fit. I wondered how my mum would react if she saw him playing with the furniture that at one time was her pride and joy, but now was being adapted by her pride and joy! At six o'clock, we strapped Ollie into the car seat, and headed towards his home. Bath time was the sequel to a major event. I asked if he wanted to use the facilities, and he did! One up for grandma! Daddy arrived home as I was attempting to initiate 'down time', the relaxation period before bedtime, which is (as was with his father) normally non-existent to the child who was going to be two the following weekend, but he succumbed to it once his father sat down, and offered him a cuddle!
The farewells were emotional. I hugged my son tightly on Tuesday evening, and drove mum back home. Wednesday morning there was a repeat performance with mum, and I started my drive to the airport. I had put petrol in the car the previous day, and all that remained for me to do was to 'top it off', before attempting to find the rental company. I had taken a wrong turn in January, and had driven past a garage after turning the car around. This time, the 'turn around' opportunity was not there. I saw two petrol stations, but was on the wrong side of the road. The sign post that displayed the bold black line striking through the large 'U', let me know that it was not possible to turn around. Eventually, I came to a set of traffic lights that did not have such a sign, and I decided that it was going to be the only chance I had of facing the other direction. I took the chance and swung the vehicle around, before the traffic heading in the direction I wnted to go, had an opportunity to move.
After pouring more cash into the tank, the journey back towards the car hire facility was easy. I knew which exit to take at the roundabout, and the 'drop off' was rather painless. The 'online' comments had indicated that this particular company only had a 30% favourable rating, and I had already declared that I would be within this percentage. I loaded my cases onto the waiting coach, and had a pleasant chat with the driver as he headed towards the terminal. Negotiating the lifts to 'Departures' is always much easier than doing the same on arrival!
Three hours later, after dumping my luggage, sailing through security, purchasing essentials, and eating more than I should have in the lounge, I boarded the plane. My neighbour was very polite, and chatty. I do not really do 'chatty', on a long haul, as I become somewhat of a hermit and enjoy my own space, but this time it was to my advantage. The flight attendant (I must get used to NOT calling them 'stewardesses') was particularly flirty with my seat companion, and he took the opportunity to ask a 'cheeky' question. I sat wondering what on earth this question could be, and must have failed to hide my curiosity, as I remember shutting my mouth rather abruptly when the attendant looked over at me. "Can I see inside the cockpit?" Apparently a teacher in aviation engineering, he had taught about the 'dreamliner', but never flown in one! The answer, after consultation with the pilot, was "Yes", and he headed north to the little cabin. I peered around the corner, and was beckoned to join him. Quite fascinated by all the gadgetry, the pilot informed us that they actually fly using a tablet! We had a short, but informative lesson in the mechanics, and after considering, but deciding not to ask a question about how driving this plane differed from others, (as I though it might sound bit silly, after all they are all 'big' planes,) my companion asked the very same question. Apparently, it was not a stupid question, although he did not use the word 'drive'!
Nine hours later, and again having eaten copious amounts of food, including several bags of crisps, which I told my companion I could not resist, and each time he helped himself to a bag, he handed me one too, we landed in Houston. I had enjoyed a five course meal, accompanied by my usual tipple, (now aptly named the chrysanthemum,) and an amaretto on the rocks! (My bi-annual treat!) For the first time in many years, there was no cloud coverage over Greenland, and I was able to capture the beautiful white land on camera, and enjoy the experience for the duration of the time over the beautiful country. The painful experience that was immigration in January had been somewhat improved, and I followed the signs to the booths, where I had to conquer the computer. Apparently, I spent too much time reading the questions, and the machine 'timed out' before I could tick the answer. My fingers were not placed properly on the screen, and again I was 'timed out'. Eventually the time came to take my photo. The instructions were to make sure that my face lined up with the box on the screen. On tip toes, I still did not manage to get my forehead in the space. I had visions of one of the 'helpers' lifting me up on their shoulders to make the grade! I jumped. The picture took! I joined the queue to see the representative. Behind me stood a mother and two daughters, who were on their way to Florida. They had a connection to make a couple of hours before mine. The lived in Uxbridge, which is not far from Heathrow, and not far from where my cousin Lesley resides. I offered them my space, albeit only one place forward in the line, but they declined. We had a pleasant chat while we moved forward an inch at a time, and eventually reached the officer that was to allow us entry into the United States of America! He took my picture, again. He took my fingerprints, again. He asked me questions, again! I claimed my bags, dropped off my bags, climbed the stairs, and entered another queue to go through security, again. In front of me was the threesome, and in the neighbouring queue was my previous companion! We chatted, again, as we inched forward, and eventually I bid them goodbye, feeling as if I had made some new friends.
My flight to Austin was delayed. Apparently, the cleaners were delayed, and spent more time than normal making sure the aircraft was fit, cosmetically, to fly! Once they had departed, we wondered why we were not called aboard. Conversations between the staff at the gate were conducted in whispers, and I started to feel a little uncomfortable. Why were we not boarding? Eventually, the ground staff started to 'make a move', and we were invited to take our seats, slowly. Once on board, I did not hear the usual, "Please make your way as quickly as you can to your seats", and there seemed to be a lot of time sorting luggage. Then came the cheer from the steward. The pilot had arrived! Delayed due to the weather, this was the reason why we were so late! At least it was nothing sinister!
Dana was at the top of the stairs when I exited the secured area, and welcomed me home with a big hug. I had to be careful not to fall asleep in his arms, there and then! One of my bags had arrived earlier, and was waiting by the carousel. We stood by the slope, waiting for the bell to ring, and the cases to start appearing. Four young children came into the arena, and one by one, they took a stand in front of us. "How rude", I said, loudly, but they did not budge. I wondered how they would react if they were hit by a case as it was removed from the belt, as they were the right height to be unavoidably swiped by a bag as it was claimed. Everyone was careful not to hit these four little ones, but it was not easy. There was no effort by a parent to remove them from the danger zone, and no one appeared to be in charge of the kids. Dana narrowly missed one head as he contorted his body to remove my bag in order not to hit a long haired girl. What ever happened to parental responsibility?
We arrived home a little after midnight, and I fell into bed about the time, English time, that I would be getting up! I lay awake for hours, and was quite grateful as the alarm ended my misery!
I visited my manicurist on Thursday lunchtime, and did not swim. Thursday evening was 'neighbour's soiree' night, and I had promised dessert! It was a pleasant evening, but I was slightly 'drunk' with tiredness.
Friday was the first dry day, apparently, in two weeks. I did swim at lunchtime, and despite having only worked two days, I was glad that the end of the day signalled the beginning of the weekend.
With our usual Saturday routine being interrupted only by rain, Samantha and I went to the supermarket and then returned home. We were surprised with a 'face time' experience while in Costco, and we were delighted to sing 'Happy birthday' to a two year old Ollie. He had thanked me earlier, via a video, for my present, a scooter, as he was skating through his living room! It was amazing to think that two years ago I was landing in London to meet him for the first time! Dinner was an enjoyable experience, and I enjoyed my husband's company.
Rain 'stopped play' on Sunday, and I wondered where the summer had gone. I knew it would appear eventually, perhaps even later, but for the moment it looked like a dreary day somewhere other than Austin. I decided to start putting together the jigsaw that Samantha had bought me for my birthday.
Jet lag is gradually diminishing, and tomorrow starts another week. I have no plans for the next few months of which I am aware, other than work, and hopefully time to play. Although I miss my family and former home very much, I appreciate what I have on both sides of the Atlantic. Life goes on, and so do I. Next week will remain a mystery as far as where it will lead, but it will lead into ...... another story!