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Traveling and unraveling

Whoa, hey, that was kind of a long hiatus, huh?  Sorry about that.  I got a little sidetracked, what with holding the first-round auditions for performers, renting a fleet of chauffeur-driven bumper cars, and doing exhaustive background checks on ponies for Charlie's birthday party.

Thanks very much for all your helpful advice about that.  We'll be keeping it simple: no more than five guests, no longer than two hours, no structured games, no clever theme, and no motherfucking goody bags.  Eat some cake, pop some balloons, wreck my house, and go.  Doesn't that sound like fun?

Actually I spent the last week in Louisiana.  My mother has moved down there to take care of my grandmother, who had a stroke two days before they were slated to visit me.  (Planning a trip to my house?  I must say I don't advise it.)  It was a difficult eight days; Charlie was on unfamiliar turf, and acted out most outrageously, so much so that even the cleaning lady was darkly advising me that I don't spank him enough.  (From an anti-rod-sparing perspective, I guess "none at all" would pretty much be the very definition of "not enough.")  Mom succumbed to an agonizing toothache the evening we arrived, which put her completely out of commission for the first few days.  And Grandma has started, alas, to lose it.

From moment to moment when talking to her, you can't easily tell which effects are from the stroke and which are from encroaching Alzheimer's, which runs in our family — not that it matters when the result is the same.  Although it's wrenching and sad, I know it could be much worse; still true to her nature, she's happy.  There is even sometimes a surreal humor to it: watching her and Charlie attempt to talk to each other, all non sequiturs, impatient repetition, and puzzled looks, was funnier than Waiting for Godot.  (Of course, perhaps I'm not the best judge, since I happen to think dropping an anvil on my foot would be funnier than Waiting for Godot.)

So it was a difficult trip to take, but utterly worthwhile.  When Charlie wasn't busy inspiring strangers to comment on how richly he deserved a wallopin', he was a real delight, sharing his innate gift for joy with anyone who needed some.  Ben was only delicious, spending the vast majority of his time on some lap or other discovering his fingers, snoozing peacefully, or laughing, and holy Jesus gay, nothing could have been more welcome.  I loved seeing my mother and witnessing her relationship with Charlie, which he and I both treasure.  And Grandma — well, as off-kilter as she is, it helped me to see she's okay, where "okay" is, of course, relative.

I still have two suitcases to unpack, phone calls to return, and three pairs of underpants to launder from yesterday, when Charlie apparently decided that depositing his urine in the appropriate receptacle was optional.  (Gosh, I'm glad he brought his acting-out home.  I'd have hated to leave that behind.)  More pressingly, on the baby monitor I hear Ben criticizing his mobile in decidedly acid tones.  So I will leave you now with the announcement that I'll have a really great giveaway here this week — do check back — and a compelling photographic example of why children are not permitted to sit in the exit row on airplanes.