Tuesday, July 17 - Lago di Carlo, Day Last

1) Up at 5:01 AM after a night in the guest room, where the bed is wider and flatter so that I don't feel ike I'm going to roll off in my sleep. Coffee and devotional with Herbs and the Earth and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

2) The big adventure for the morning was bringing two boxes to the Mail Center near the mall to be mailed. For all intents and purposes it's a temporary building, substantially air-conditioned, with a long counter, some mailing paraphernalia, and a microscopic Myry Kyy Cosmetics concession. Mother said "Get there before 10 when the rush starts!" and I did . . . but my order involved some research, and with unusual patience I waited and observed all the goings-on.

2a) One woman had come in and needed to order a shipping box for a bathing suit and other items that were at some resort and needed to be shipped to another person. When asked about the weight, she told the girl at the counter "They said you would know." #iaskyou

2b) Another woman, walking with difficulty, supported by a younger relative and a four-footed cane, and apparently traveling by Lago di Carlo's version of The Ride, was trying to conduct some sort of financial transaction, having been sent there by the supermarket. "Ma'am, we're a small business, we don't have that much cash here," I heard the woman behind the counter say. I felt sorry for her, 'cause it was clear that getting around town was near insurmountable in the first place, aside from whatever her transaction was.

2c) My boxes got shipped successfully - now just hoping that nothing breaks en route.

3) Back home to finish packing - yes, I did get that candelabra into my suitcase! - and then Mother and I headed off to the cemetery office to work out final arrangements with them. We were there about an hour and 15 minutes, half of it waiting around while they dealt with computer issues. But they were wonderful to deal with, and now we have a final resting place for Uncle Bill, who has been waiting patiently in a corner of the dining room lo these many years.

4) When the cemetery lady gave Mother directions to their office she said it was "past Walkons restaurant," which neither of us had ever heard of. So we ended up having lunch there; it's proper name is Walk-on's Bistreaux and Bar, an upscale sports bar with waitresses whose beauty is only surpassed by those of Hooters and who were all dressed as cheerleaders. I'd describe this as a theme sports bar rather than an actual sports bar, but my double bacon cheeseburger was greeeeezy good.

4a) Come to think of it, Mother mentioned during this visit that she had her near heart attack when she was 59, and her father died of his heart attack at age 57. #55thisyear

5) In the debate over what to do next, Bed Bath and Beyoncé lost out in favor of going over the Dreaded Charities List. I reviewed all the nonprofits I'd sent "Please remove from mailing list" letters to during this visit (almost 70, not including duplicates) and Mother checked them off her list. A surprising number were NOT on her list. But we did get held up on subtle differences in names. So glad that's over!

5a) Another 11 (!) "Please remove from mailing list" letters went out today. I was vengefully pleased that another padded "postage paid by addressee" envelope came, and ran to get another heavy book of conservative politics to put in it. Almost too late I realized that the one I'd grabbed was written by one of Daddy's fraternity brothers - oops! So instead they got a copy of The Aquarian Conspiracy, whatever that is.

5b) In light of the news of yesterday and today about the President, some of these letters about ending the witch hunt and impeachment attempts just make my blood boil. I wrote on one or two of them "Please remove from all mailing lists. Praying for your repentance as President Trump betrays the American intelligence community to Vladimir Putin." Let's hope it gets Mother off their lists for good!

6) The next task, after falling like a stone into bed for an hour, was to drop off donation stuff at a local charity that takes donations. It turns out to be in a shopping center where the familiar supermarket has been closed! Surprising to see it not just boarded up, but with a couple homeless drunks sprawled in front. We drove around to the back and left our donations where indicated in a shed with a doorway hung with heavy plastic strips that smelled like stale cola. I was very glad to get out of there.

7) Back at home, I went online to check my flights for tomorrow - and found out I was really supposed to leave today! I'd missed my departure by a mere four hours. Decidedly the worst thing I did today. Eventually a superstar customer service rep at the airline got me on the identical flights Wednesday - hurrah!

8) While waiting for all this to happen, Younger Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged and His Lovely Wife appeared; we were all going to dinner tonight at my beloved Syfyyd Palace. Over the week I've been here Mother and I found a few things they could use at the house, and His Lovely Wife was more than happy to take home Gramma's two hats that we found in the mouldy Maison Blanche box in the attic. #style

9) I do love me some Syfyyd Palace! Boudin balls, chicken and sausage gumbo, gin and tonic, and random chat about local community theatre (in which His Lovely Wife is very much involved).

10) One constant thought throughout the day: that air-conditioning this far south is truly a life support system.

11) And now it's my last night at home before returning home. It looks like Laura, Mother, and I got VERY far in our efforts this week for Mother to live a happier life in her own home.

Monday Evening, July 17 - Lago di Carlo, Day Five, Part Two

1) After breakfast, quick runs to the library to donate two boxes of books and to Our Preferred Florist to return vases. It felt good to get this stuff out of the way before 10 AM.

2) Happily all the excelsior that's been created here in the last few days has been great for packing fragile china. Still in fear and tremblin' that it will survive the USPS, where I have to bring it tomorrow.

2a) The yard men showed up by surprise today, leading to some domestic confusion when Mother couldn't find her checkbook. It did eventually turn up, hurrah!

3) After lunch at ye Grytte Harvest, Mother and I were delighted to welcome the nice across-the-street neighbor who's also an Interlochen alumna - and whose daughter just graduated this year! We three gabbled away on all sorts of topics for almost two hours. Mother was caught "resting her eyes" a couple times. :-)

4) After a NAP and weeding through more junk mail, I confess my heart sank reading the news about President Trump's behavior repudiating the American intelligence community in favor of President Putin. I am heartsick for America, and angry that so many were hoodwinked into voting for that man.

5) Originally we had a fairly vigorous plan for the late afternoon/evening: a visit to Byd, Byth, and Beyoncé, followed by dinner in the same shopping center and then the second night of the revival at church. Mother was feeling a bit sluggish after her nap and is taking some time to "wake up her body," and I am frankly too downcast by the news to be able to handle revival preaching as well. So we are staying in tonight.

6) The list of outstanding items to accomplish tomorrow is a daunting one, but perhaps I can polish off a couple tasks tonight.

Monday Morning, July 17 - Lago di Carlo, Day Five

1) Front porch coffee. So rare to do anything ouside here, but before 7 AM is the closest July gets to cool here. The traffic only sounds distant from here, so it's as gentle as the birdsong and crickets.

2) This trip is in the home stretch, and I haven't even approached the room where the Thorson family slides are.

3) I'm almost afraid to look at the news or at ye Fycebykke, since I've been away from both since at least Saturday evening.

Thursday, July 12 - Lago di Carlo, Day One, Part Two

1) In the afternoon the nice lady from the funeral home came to call and review all the arrangements for, as she said to Mother, "when the Lord calls you." Laura and I hadn't met her - I forget why, but one of her colleagues handled all Daddy's arrangements - but she was absolutely wonderful to work with and a true professional.

1a) Mother particularly wants a Christian Science hymn, "Shepherd, Show Me How to Go," which includes the lyric "Lead thy lambkins to the fold." I will admit to getting a bit testy over discussion of whether or not it's a hymn or a poem. OH MY GOD, if you sing it, it's a hymn!

1b) I took care to mention that we would not have a gold hearse on this occasion, but I did not mention, as I have joked with Mother so often, having the ushers distribute paper napkins to everyone as they arrive. It has been Mother's lifelong goal to be sure that everyone has a napkin. :-)

2) I must say, Laura and I really cleared away a LOT of junk mail paperwork today, but there is no - NO - better way to clear a table than by knocking over a tall glass of water on it.

3) Cocktail hour! I enjoyed a manhattan in the living room while discovering the music of Rosita Serrano.

4) Younger Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged and His Lovely Wife joined us for dinner at Big Daddy's, where I enjoyed a large, savory bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo.

5) Afterward we got to tour their new house, which Younger Nephew is seriously remodeling. They are growing fruit trees in their yard! I am so impressed.

6) Over ice cream at home, Mother and I wandered over a few topics, and I then asked "And what are we going to throw away next?" This led us down the wonderful rabbit hole of the remanining children's books in the house! One of the best things our parents did for us was sign us up for some sort of book club when we were little so that we got a new book in the mail - oh mercy, every few weeks. They are not all still here, alas, but many favorites are! We have just had an enjoyable journey renewing friendships with almost-forgotten friends.

6a) I am only going to allow enough children's books to remain in the house that will fit in a particular cabinet. Mother is already reclaiming some of my discards. :-)

7) Aside from alll the junk mail, we are also having to run interference with junk phone calls. Three times today - including just now, after 9 PM! - we have gotten calls from "Shreveport, Louisiana" - that have been from political organizations making "courtesy calls." I tell them all to take this number off their lists.

Thursday, July 12 - Lago di Carlo, Day One

1) Yesterday's journey included a surprise visit to my beloved Pyppadyaux at DFW terminal A (my layover was longer than anticipated), a 45-minute wait on the tarmac, and dinner at ye Olyve Gyrdynne with Mother and Laura, where our waiter was definitely one of "the Oscar Wilde sort."

2) Exhausted, I sank like a stone into bed, but still didn't sleep longer than three hours at a stretch. I still couldn't sleep in past 6 AM.

3) Mother is snowed under by junk mail, including some of the most inflammatory, outrageous falsehoods. I spent part of the morning preparing Please Remove From Mailing List envelopes (which will do no good), but coming to grips this is Tsunami of Evil is why I'm here. Fourteen requests have been prepared.

4) We ended up talking about five minutes about whether or not to throw away a particle-board box designed to store VHS cassettes. I should mention that the cassettes in question got tossed out the day before. One of the more engaging issues of this visit is going to be convincing Mother that she doesn't have to worry about whether or how something gets used after it's been thrown away.

5) Also disposed of some of my uncle's moldering Christian Science literature. Later over lunch, discussing hymns for Mother's funeral (which will not be for many years, we all hope), sudden consternation lest the relevant information have been tossed with said moldering literature. Of course, Laura confidently found what was needed when we returned home.

6) Lunch out at ye Grytte Hyrvest, which has the advantage of being new (less than two years old),  very close to home, and the employer of one of Daddy's favorite aides from the nursing home. Happily she was on the counter today, and we really enjoyed catching up.

7) I am now going to have a great big NAP to rejuvenate for the next round.

Wednesday, July 11 - En Route

I've found a relatively quiet spot with a table and a chair and a cup of coffee at O'Hare, where I can spend the next 90 minutes before the next leg of my trip home to Mother.

1) As you know, this visit is specifically to "go through the house" - and Mother initiated this, which is wonderful - so the idea of cleanup is in the air. Last week at the office I surprised myself by tossing out about two dozen notebooks of files that I had not looked at in over eight years. Yes, it felt good, and I already know there's more to purge when I return.

1a) Skimming through all those old banquet event orders and meeting notes and whatnot showed me how much my work has changed in the last five years.

2) The frosé cocktail is definitely the Hip Drink of the Moment. Yesterday I had the pleasure of lunching at ye Synsye with my colleagues from the Pops, and the streetside chalkboard menu included a frosé-related hashtag.

2a) No, we didn't indulge! Mercy, I had two meetings later in the afternoon.

3) The car service I've used for years changed their voicemail message to a crying child. That didn't inspire confidence. Found another car service where I could order online. Showed up 15 minutes early. No hassles. Peace of mind has a value above rubies.

4) Flying in first class on miles this trip (hence this atypical layover in ORD; I usually fly BOS-DFW-LCH, not BOS-ORD-DFW-LCH). Others of you may already know the thrill of being the very first passenger to board a flight, but for me I think it's happened only once before. And it is a thrill. There wasn't even a line behind me! #worktherunwaysweetie

5) I was so impressed with the stewardess, a Sooooouthun laaaaady of my generation who really had a way with children. A mother and daughter were sitting behind me and at the beginning of the flight, when the stewardess was taking drink orders, I heard her say "You look like an apple girl" with such friendliness in her voice.

6) And so lovely to be among the very first off the plane. I was so pleased, and so sleeeeeepy, that I left my copy of The Economist on the plane and had to buy another. :-(

7) Resisting the siren call of ye Vysges Chocolates (so far). But without this coffee I'd undoubtedly be slumped unconscious in a corner.

Sunday, July 8

1) Well, it was a beautiful day today, I heard - but I spent it indoors working on today's column (ridiculous) or avoiding working on today's column (typical). Still, it's done!

2) A day without Fycebykke is . . . is beautiful.

3) Next weekend is Bastille Day, the official halfway point of the summer. In some ways I feel like summer just has not started yet, and it's entirely my fault. For true summer, plans must be made in advance!

Friday Morning, July 6

1) I dreamt that a colleague and I met Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex in an airport in the Pacific Northwest, where we'd all gone for a photo shoot. The three of us were sitting outside in the rain (but not getting wet) on the stairs they wheel up to the plane. I asked her "Will your husband be joining you?" Later my colleague and I were walking about 20 feet behind the Duchess in a parking lot. The raindrops seemed to be falling in a beautiful rhythm. After I observed this to my colleague, it turned out the raindrops were white Christmas lights.

2) So, Independence Day. In the morning I welcomed two close friends to breakfast (it was the best time for us to meet). Sometimes there's nothing like dining room breakfast. And in the evening a friend in Faht Hill had a very small group over to his roofdeck, where we had splendid views of fireworks on three sides. Straight ahead through the trees, downtown Boston. To the left and across Tremont Street, Mission Hill. And to the right, practically under our noses, Faht Hill itself, where the neighbors must have cleaned out a dealer in New Hampshire. Beautiful all around - I remember some very special jewel-toned ones in red, blue, and orange - but some of them went off uncomfortable close to the ground.

2a) Seeing people waving sparklers reminded me of a forgotten incident when I was about 7, of stepping on a spent sparkler in our front yard with my bare foot. Yowch!

3) Home writing today, eager for this promised rainy, windy weather to begin!