Monday, April 20, 2009

Here's a fun story for you

My family is planning a reunion for this summer. Because of the health of my parents, we are having it near their home. If any of you have ever been there (St. George) you know how absolutely painful it is in the summer. So hot. You just want to lie in the air conditioning with the shades drawn. Except my parents keep their house at a sweltering 85 degrees, so there’s not much relief there. I had vowed to never go there during the summer again (that story in a moment), but I did break that vow to go help Mom and Dad after her first radiation treatment of the big tumor. It was August. To my surprise, I didn’t find it as unbearable as I thought I would, and I found myself wondering if I am getting old. Don’t get me wrong—it was horribly hot. And sunny. But it really WAS a dry heat, and compared to the sticky humidity of Chicago August, it wasn’t really that bad. I just had to make sure I drank 10 gallons of water a day.

So here’s the story of my bad experience with the summers there. My dad’s parents also retired to S.G. and were living there during my childhood. When I was about 6, my whole family drove out there from NJ, and then my parents left the four youngest of us with Grandma and Grandpa. The plan was for us to stay 4 or 5 days with them and then they would bring us to Vegas where we would reunite. I can’t remember why they didn’t want us little kids with them, I think there was some event like graduation or something (cousins live there). Grandma was slightly crazy; I don’t know what Dad was thinking leaving us there. I mean, he ran away from home when he was 16 to get away from them. She had us all sleep on one bed in the basement, but the first night one brother wet the bed and we were all banished to the floor (you know the kind of basement floor—a cement slab not even covered with thin carpet). Our ages were 3, 5, 7, and 10, but we were almost to our birthdays.
Here is a typical day for us in the middle of July in the hot desert: Grandma would wake us up early, at 6:30 am and give us breakfast of wheat toast and milk (I hate drinking milk but she tried to make me, I think I gave mine to a sibling while she wasn’t looking). By 8 am, she shooed us out of the house, pointing the way to the park. We would play at the park for awhile, but the sun would soon have us sitting listlessly in the shade. Grandma would not let us back in the house. We periodically went back to check if she had left any food for us on the back porch. One time she left some watermelon slices, we were so happy! She would leave our lunch out there too, bologna sandwiches on that same wheat bread. I hate bologna. There were rarely any other kids at the park—the residents knew better than to play out there in the summer. It was brutal. Everyone was at the pool or reservoirs, or something to do with water.

My grandparents lived close to the LDS temple which has a visitor’s center. It was air conditioned. HALLELUJAH! We would spend most of our time from lunch to dinner at the visitor’s center. They had NICE grandma types there who would look at us pityingly with our dirty clothes (from being at the park all morning), un-brushed hair, sunburned faces, and let us watch whatever church movies we wanted. We memorized Johnny Lingo, John Baker’s last run, and every single Mormon commercial out there. Ah, yes, I have very fond memories of that visitor’s center.
When we went home for dinner, Grandma had us wash our feet and hands in the utility sink in the garage. She was never affectionate (hugs), or happy to see us (“Welcome back!”) and we all felt very unwanted. One day when we were playing at the park, I fell off the merry go round and cut my leg very badly. Heather (10) ran back to Grandma’s and banged on all the doors, but she wouldn’t open up. Heather even saw her through the window, and tried to wave to her, but she pretended to be asleep (she dropped her book and nodded her head when she saw H at the window). H finally gave up and came back to us. She had my brother take off his shirt and she used it to clean it up as best we could with the (very warm) water from the water fountain. I still have the scar.

There’s a little more to the story, mostly just that we all had to squeeze into the cab of a pickup truck to drive 2 hours to Vegas (Aaron and I down by their feet and the other two on the bench seat with Grandma and Grandpa), but I think it may be time to let it go because I’m getting a little depressed. I am so glad my children have grandparents who help them know that they are loved. Every kid should have that blessing.

Happier stuff: We went to an indoor water park and had a blast. And Easter was fun, though a lot more commercial than I would have liked (thanks to my big sister). Here are some pictures.