Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga

This is the third location of what was also called the Aranama Mission or Mission La Bahia, established in 1722 in Goliad, Texas.  Previous missions were at Matagorda and Lavaca Bay then named La Bahía del Espíritu Santo (The Bay of the Holy Spirit), on the south west coast of Texas on the Gulf.  On our involuntary vacation trip, we visited the town of Goliad first and then went to see the Mission itself, a short distance away on the banks of the San Antonio River.

The intention of the third location was to settle in a place that the native people, the Aranama, would be willing to stay and work, as well as establish territory to defeat the French, in particular. At its peak there were 40,000 head of cattle at the Mission making it the largest ranch in the area and run by the Franciscan order. I often wonder what the indigenous people thought – did Missions make their lives easier or was it just stolen land? They would have offered protection against some of the more warlike Tribes and a regular supply of food albeit with forced conversion to Catholicism.

One of my Irish cousins is a Missionary nun. For many years she worked in Africa. When she was older they moved her to a poverty stricken housing estate in Glasgow, Scotland. I was curious as to how she adapted but she loved it! Most people who meet me make assumptions based on my Scottish accent and seem to think I lived a fabulous life (in a castle?). Many people my age immigrated from Scotland to other countries to achieve a better life.

The building itself fell into disrepair over the years and was reconstructed as part of the New Deal in the 1930’s.  From visiting other Missions in Mexico and California, it seems authentic to me.  I was enchanted by the simplicity of the church and the pastoral lands surrounding it.

Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga is a bit of a mouthful, as was my Spanish given name – Katherine Louise Dellinger de Ortega.  My ancestors settled in Spanish Missions from central Mexico up to San Francisco.  When I was in McAllen, the Mexican American receptionist commented on my Scottish accent and I said, “You won’t believe what my maiden name was!”  After the reveal she said, “Well, that is a brown name!”  I was so happy that she recognized my Mestizo heritage despite my Caucasian appearance – few people do.

Three Act Play

Life has been unintentionally hilarious in our house and I thought I would share our silliness.

ACT ONE

Scene – Teddy had to have yet another cardiac test and he confided in his ever-loving wife that he was ‘a bit fed up with his health issues’  Instantaneously his wife transmogrified into Nurse Ratched.

NURSE RATCHED (screeching) –

“How many times over the years (40 to be exact) have I suggested that you moderate your bad habits?  I hope you enjoyed every bloody cigarette, bottle of Pinot Noir and all those business lunches!  Every time I said something to you, you responded that life was too short and it is all about quality of life not quantity.”

(Nurse Ratched pauses for breath)

“You had your quality of life and I hope you REALLY ENJOYED IT!!  How dare you complain about your self-inflicted health problems!  If you hadn’t been married to me you would be DEAD by now…like our friends X,Y and Z.”

(Nurse Ratched is incredibly relieved to shed her Joan of Arc armor and reveal her truth.  Teddy looks stricken…)

Before anyone panics, we laughed about this afterwards and it is even funnier when I reenact Act One.  I have returned to the Fantastic Frau who manages Teddy’s future life with German efficiency.  Even better, Teddy has had the all clear from the cardiologist and doesn’t see him again until 2023.  Woo hoo!  He still has to stick to his Leibchen’s regimen (no salt/no alcohol/no caffeine) but the anomalies noted on the tests were just age-related cardiac problems.  He is actually fitter than most 64-year-old ‘first world’ men.

ACT TWO

Scene – Teddy and Kerry were watching the News and much of it was depressing.  We are so angry at our Governor in Texas who would like to turn our state into a Taliban province.  Women’s rights are going down the toilet and I don’t even have to mention gun sales. The conversation started cycling downwards into a “should we have moved here – what is wrong with American society – pretty soon it will feel like living in a central American war zone”

Kerry – “Well, aren’t we prophets of doom?”  she said laughingly

Teddy – “Maybe we should get DC-13 tattoos?”

Kerry falls sideways in hysterical laughter…

(DC-13 is a reference to MS-13, a notorious gang of immigrants from El Salvador, who settled in Los Angeles. Sometimes they emblazon MS -13 on their foreheads.  They also tattoo teardrops under their eyes to show how many kills they have made.  Most streets in our ‘hood’ are what an English friend referred to Dingley Dell names.  Bluebonnet Bayou, Live Oak Lane, Primrose Pond.  Our cul-de-sac has the worst name.  It starts with a D and ends in Court.  No one, not even the locals, can pronounce it as it is French – WHY?  Every call to a utility company is a nightmare with Alpha, Bravo, Delta spellings.  Puffy the Pine Cone is our cute township mascot.)

Kerry – “What do we do about the tear drops?

Teddy – “How about little pine cones to represent the poor little critters that have passed away?”

Kerry (Giggling) – “We could wear tasteful taupe bandanas with little pine trees on them.  I could have a titmouse tattoo on my breast!”

(That made Teddy collapse in laughter as Kerry had previously given him a visual image aid so that he could remember the name of the little grey bird with a crest.  Now I just need to touch my breast and Titmouse comes to his mind.)

ACT THREE

Scene – Kerry regularly emails with her friend who lives right across the road.  The last two emails from the friend have ended up in Kerry’s spam box.  She retrieved them and they discussed why this happened.  The friend thought that perhaps it was mention of colonoscopy in the thread?  The title of her next email made Kerry laugh out loud.

Email 1 – your auto warranty /cheap Viagra pills/ lose weight fast/fix your credit rating

(This slipped right past the spam filter – why???  Much hilarious laughter from Kerry who responded)

Email 2 – Filthy sex video…

Email 3 – Horny Housewives have huge hairdos

Email 4 – Walk in Tubs/ Secret Medicare Benefits/Discreet Incontinence Pads

Email 5 – Humongously hung hunks hoovering houses

Email 6 – Real Romance with Racy Ravishing Russians /Relaxing Rubdown for Rubels

Not one was caught by our spam filters!  You can see that our excellent further education was not wasted.  The alliteration, imagination and vulgarity!

Sometimes you just need to see the ridiculous side of life.  Hope I made you titter… 😊

Postscript

It’s probably not necessary to explain the title photo but it was Halloween and we were in ‘quality not quantity of life’ stage as you can tell by the beer/pinot noir belly and my double chins…

Rain Dance

Why didn’t the early settlers to America pay attention to the giant hint about catastrophic weather events on this continent??  The indigenous people had a ‘rain dance’ because we have cyclical episodes of drought all over the two continents.  If I had faith in my ability, I would do a rain dance on my back deck because I am so fed up with watering the garden.  My sprinklers haven’t worked for a couple of years but I decided during the Pandemic that I would use a hose and be the Greta Thunberg of my cul-de-sac.  Our water bill tells me that we are doing the right thing, especially raiding the laundry basket for yesterday’s clothes…that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.  One of the things I loved about Egypt was that it was really hot, not everyone had access to water or deodorant, the trains were jam packed and you had to get used to body odor.  It was a sharp acclimation moving to the States – why do people get washed before they go out for a run in Texas humidity? I can smell their Gain detergent on their cute little outfits about half a mile away.  Just go out stinky and have a shower when you return.  The only friend who felt as I did was brought up in the South African bush and didn’t wear shoes until she was 12.  She walked the dog with her dressing gown on…my kind of gal.

Like many of us, during the Pandemic, I watched TV until I was square eyed.  I can’t tell you how many National Geographic and Discovery documentaries I ingested.  Any archeological program involving LIDAR gets me excited. LIDAR is an acronym for light detecting and ranging.  Briefly, the technology allows you to scan a wooded area, for example, and remove the trees digitally to reveal the remains of structures. There have been many recent discoveries in central and south America, showing that there were huge Mesoamerican ‘cities’, for want of a better word.  The biggest had hundreds of thousands of people and they were connected to other cities.  The Amazon is not virgin rainforest but more a peek into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan.  Imagine decayed and fallen skyscrapers overwhelmed with a forest canopy.   I was astonished to find out that the Amazon was ‘plundered’ before – once or perhaps more.  Vast cities with complicated infrastructure and agricultural methods.

The reasons for their decline are varied but mostly it was climate change made worse by a huge population.  If there is no rain, you can’t grow crops and you can’t feed the disgruntled people.  At worst war or disease or famine then decimate your population but in the case of the Maya, many of the people moved north into the Yucatan area of Mexico or further afield.  In the title photograph, I am ‘dancing’ at a remote pyramid in the Yucatan, devoid of tourists.  The area was surrounded by scrubby jungle full of structural remains that complete the large city complex.  There are so many pyramids from Mexico to the tip of central America that it is obvious there was, at times, a thriving population.  I can only hope that this is a pattern.  As a species, we spread out of control, depleting Earth’s resources but then Mother Nature or equilibrium takes over.  This is my ‘big picture’ theory and I can’t claim to be an expert just a voyeur of life with a very dark sense of humor. Let’s face it, the other species need a chance.

Recently we had the woodwork painted throughout our house.  In the main bathroom, we had all the cabinets painted.  Our fantastic white Corian countertop now looks creamy if not a tad yellow.  The countertops are 18 years old and I considered getting them coated or replaced.  Then I thought, “Is that sustainable?”  Right now, I am still in Greta Thunberg mode, but I might eventually cave and get new countertops to fulfill my naïve American Dream.  Do I need a refurbished bathroom, though?  I would happily spend all the money on a trip of a lifetime but then you have to consider carbon emissions/tax, appalling airports and the possibility of Monkeypox.  If nothing else, our newest spreading disease proves that Mother Nature is laughing at us.  What else can I throw at the horrible humans??  Monkeypox is a bit like bedbugs – really disgusting but you are unlikely to die from it/them.

I had a colonoscopy yesterday and no one really needs to know that.  That said, however, the TWO day Prep and the anesthetic might explain this post…  Teddy and I went crazy today and had two lattes that had caffeine in them.  I can’t stop writing or talking and poor Teddy had another AFIB incident.  This was a minor episode but revelatory (no CAFFEINE for Ted).  My mum died of a bowel rupture 20 years ago and every since, I have been more aware of what I am eating.  I literally eat like a squirrel – nuts, seeds and fruit.  Curiously, I noticed that the seeds were the last to be emitted from my poor body pre-colonoscopy.  Despite my healthy regime (I could power a methane plant) my diverticulosis is worse than it was 7 years ago.  WTH??  To rub salt in my wounds, the gastroenterologist sent me pictures of my colon with a note to eat more Fiber.  If only it was legal to take the notes and shove them up his backside…  On the plus side there was nothing else of note and the nausea inducing ‘elective’ procedure is free.  More seriously – go get a colonoscopy.  It could save your life even if you can never consume lime Gatorade or Jello again.

A Simpler Life

There has been very little work for me during the Pandemic but life is getting busier again.  Last week I worked an evening event in downtown. I had a couple of hours to myself so went to the restaurant next door, found a quiet place in the bar and sat down.  Then I people watched.  It was as though my life was flashing before me.

Like most of us, I haven’t been out to an event or party for a long time.  This was a midweek night but the joint was jumping.  A very loud party was on the patio close to the bar.  They looked as though they were at some type of conference; certainly they were work colleagues with briefcases or whatever you call them now…  As I gazed at them over the top of my glasses with a slight frown, I pondered how old I was and how much I looked like my auntie in Ireland!  The booze was flowing and I recognized myself in past decades.  How much fun it was to meet colleagues or even better friends after a long absence!  Everyone was talking over each other and screeching with delight.

Then another party started arriving – equally fascinating to stare at.  They were all Latino and they could have been attending a Quinceneara but I didn’t notice a teenager in a vividly colored prom dress.  I then surmised it was something like an engagement party.  They were all dressed beautifully with glamorous gold lame and shimmery high heels (not the men).  The ladies make up looked like it was professionally applied.  It was a fancy schmancy restaurant and some of these guests looked a little ill at ease but at least they were following the dress code.

A young white couple came in; she was wearing a lovely summer dress but he had shorts and a baseball cap on.  The host asked him twice to remove it – I wanted to swipe it off his head and give him a lesson in etiquette which again proves how ancient I am.  I was wearing a uniform of sorts so looked business casual but I had comfy shoes on.  You reached the restaurant by precariously climbing wooden stairs (it was a historic building) and I have no idea how the ladies with stilettos did it.  I had to walk sideways and hold onto the stair rail because it was so dimly lit.  The next day my thighs hurt as though I was doing squats.

We moved to Egypt in our 40’s and went to some very glamorous events and restaurants.  After two decades in rural Scotland with rubber boots and anoraks, I took great delight in my new wardrobe full of fluttery dresses and so many shoes!  Egyptian women have wide feet and for the first time I could buy ‘Burberry’ slides, kitten heels in embossed leather with a matching bag in every color.  It was even better in Texas and I still remember my glittery pink cowboy boots.  At the time I was prepared to suffer the discomfort of uncomfortable shoes just to look pretty – not any more.

Teddy and I used to indulge ourselves with very frequent meals out and enjoyed the buzzy atmosphere of a busy bar or restaurant.  Now we have a no salt/no alcohol/no nothing regimen.  I doubt that I would truly enjoy a restaurant meal again except on a special occasion.  When I was a child, we never went to restaurants.  All we could afford was a coffee at a café or maybe a real Coca Cola with the swirly bottles.  I still love egg sandwiches with a soupçon of sand in them. Such happy memories of Nana, Mum and I taking the train to the beach with a picnic on sunny days (the sand came afterwards).

Bit by bit, the customers started to leave.  Darkness falls early in the sub tropics so I sat there longing to be in my bed watching ‘The Gilded Age’ or somesuch. In the past I would have taken the opportunity to chat to the hostess or if I wasn’t working, I would happily engage someone in conversation at the bar.  Now I just want to sit in silence.  Finally, there were three people left at the other work event on the patio.  The noise level had decreased but the drunkenness had increased exponentially.  I watched with great amusement as a handsome young Irish man tried to wrangle his two female colleagues out of the restaurant and safely into Ubers.  It was a struggle not to laugh as the following scene played out in front of me. 

Woman staggering as Irish Man tries to hold her up, “I hate it when I drink and everything is fine and then suddenly, I am so drunk!  Why does this happen to me?”  Irish Man, “You’re alright love.  I understand.  Let me help you down these stairs and into an Uber.” “No, no! I don’t know what’s happening!!”  Meanwhile his other drunk colleague is barely managing the narrow indoor stairs that lead up to the restrooms and heading in the wrong direction.  He was herding cats and it was hilarious!  No judgment from me, however, as it took me many years to figure out exactly how much I could drink.  Two glasses of wine are my limit and even that is pushing it.

Suddenly old age and retirement seemed so appealing.  You should enjoy life to the full when you want to because one day you will be tired – like me!  So, this leads me back to the title, ‘A Simpler Life’.  It seems as though I have come full circle and I am happiest leading a quiet life full of squirrels.  The two pictured at the top were exhausted after another hot day.  One is named ‘Tail’ because hers was fractured at some point and is wonky (medical terminology) – the other is her boyfriend or sibling?  They snooze together and gently play tumbling their wilkies while giving each other wee love bites.  We look at them and just melt.  Who needs fancy nights out when you can look at wildlife all day?

Pawnee, Texas

This was one of the first places we made a stop at on our Involuntary Vacation from McAllen in south west Texas to our home in the south east – a total of 700 miles.  It was a very small community, not as wealthy as it had been in the past although there is now plentiful natural gas in the area.  Sometimes this positively affects the population but usually the oil companies or landowners benefit the most.  We like to ‘collect’ unique post offices across the states and just being named Pawnee Post Office was cool enough.

I was intrigued about why the place was named Pawnee, as they are primarily central plains Native Americans.  When the second European settlers arrived in 1826, an Irish family named the Sullivans, they found a piece of wood nailed to a tree with Pawnee written on it.  Later arrowheads discovered in nearby Sulphur Creek were attributed to the Skidi Pawnee or Panismahas.  Legend has it that they practiced human sacrifice. So does our society, with guns, every day.  Many tribes were semi or fully nomadic and the area is rich for hunting, even today.  Back in the day there were buffalo, panther, antelope and wolves (oh my).  The area was settled by Native Americans 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.  Prior to the Sullivans, Carlos Martinez was granted the first Spanish land grant in 1789 as the conquistadors invaded from Mexico into Texas.

The Indigenous tribes were Apache, Karankawa and Borrado.  This is a wide and brief generalization but Apache were known as fierce warriors with a strong religious belief.  Their territory spread from Arizona to Texas and Mexico.  Navajo and Apache are related tribes.  Karankawa lived across the southern part of Texas, skilled in hunting and warfare.  They crafted pottery and baskets that they lined with a type of asphalt that washed up on the beaches of the Texas Gulf.  Oil has been part of our culture for a long time…  Not much is known about the Borrado who were misnamed by the Spanish settlers for their striped body painting or tattoos.  They were native to Northern Mexico and the Rio Grande area.  The frequented Padre Island.

After the Sullivans settled in Pawnee they were joined by their women folks and then a range of Swedish and German settlers.  Today this tiny little town still has 12 churches that represent every possible form of Christianity.  The Methodist Church below caught my attention.  The photographs are untouched to show how dark the clouds were.  I have to be honest and say that it looked like a perfect place to shoot a thriller or horror movie – no disrespect intended! Can’t you see villagers seeking shelter behind that red door to escape from the oil companies zombie hordes (obviously interchangeable)??

There is even excellent disability access to the beautiful little church (aka zombie shelter). Perhaps zombies might be considered disabled in which case my shelter idea is terrible. Wouldn’t you like to live in my mind for a day??? 🧟‍♀️

Avocados!!

Normally, our squirrels are fed peanuts with the occasional apple core but I looked in the fridge and all four of my avocados had gone brown. I salvaged as much of the good green stuff as I could, made some guacamole, then out of curiosity, put the remains in a baking tray with a couple of fresh dates. It was hilarious watching the squirrels approach the ‘scary green fruit’ with trepidation. Once they had tasted it, however, a whole new species joined the avocado lovers of the world. The little one in the video above ran off with a skin that was bigger than her head.

Fresh dates are another delicacy rarely seen round these parts unless there are equally crazy squirrel lovers in our cul-de-sac. I love the way squirrels inflate their tails when anxious, just like cats! After tasting avocado, in this second video above, the wee squirrel girl found a date! She could hardly fit it in her mouth but was determined to steal her prize. Then she went up in a tree and alternated between one nibble of the date, followed by one bark, another nibble and a bark until it was finished. What was she communicating? “Stay away from me and this ambrosia!” or “I can’t believe how good this tastes!”

We had hoped to see more night critters but the day critters ate most of the buffet… This sweet little possum above didn’t disappoint with very noisy smacking of lips. I have no idea why possums have terrible table manners. A skunk visited too and I was surprised that she was very interested in the avocado. Usually they stick to bugs and worms.

The Seventh Decade

Kerry in her first decade

If you are 29, reading this and worried about your thirties, fear not – it gets much, much worse!  I suppose I should feel grateful that I have reached the 7th decade (60-69 years old).  Did you know that Greenland sharks may live for up to 500 years – isn’t that amazing?  I am not envious of them, however, as they spend most of their time at the bottom of a frozen sea with long periods of hibernation (similar to living in Scotland).  These last two years have allowed all of us to indulge in pointless navel gazing.  I have peered into my indifferent mirror that doesn’t even bother to tell me that “I am not the Fairest in the Land”.

Kerry in her second decade

As I pondered this subject, I thought about which decade I liked the most.  I loved being a teenager, blossoming at high school and then college.  The puppy fat disappeared and a pretty girl appeared.  One boyfriend commented that I looked much better without clothes on – not sure if that was a reference to my lack of style or a back handed compliment.  My body still looks pretty good if you are a myopic, older man in a room with dim candles.  He should also be a tad inebriated…  It’s funny and yet it’s not. 

Some of my older friends used to tell me to enjoy my 50s because it all changes after 60.  Shorts are not my friends anymore.  More exercise would help but that triggers my osteoarthritis.  I run to hug Teddy, all joints creaking, and then pull something because I moved too fast.  He creaks even more than me – it’s as though we have turned into Sequoias.  My skin tone has changed the most.  Why are my pores so large – aren’t deep wrinkles bad enough?  I was helped by a charming young man at Sephora as I was browsing skin care.  He said I really needed retinol…  At least the Israeli guys who try to sell you Dead Sea stuff at the mall, pretend you are gorgeous. 

Kerry in her third decade

Why am I so vain about ageing?  I come from a long line of relatives who look after themselves at all ages.  My aunt made sure she put on self-tanning lotion before her operation for breast cancer in her late 70s.  Recently, I had a revelatory moment about my age.  For almost 20 years I have had a reciprocal fondness for our gardener.  He always undercharges me and then I pay him more.  We have a small yard but we needed our oak trees trimmed.  If you employ an arborist to trim trees, it costs thousands of dollars.  He went up a ladder with a chain saw – good enough for me.

When he arrived, he caught me off-guard and I answered the door in my ratty old dressing gown, hair tousled unattractively with my glasses on. Even he looked embarrassed, so I ran and put some clothes on.  The job should have cost a few hundred dollars but he asked for $40.  It was a pity invoice.  I could almost hear him say “she used to be so attractive”.  Laughingly, I told one of my friends but inside I felt crushed.  Since then, I have dyed my hair blonde again, had it cut in a cute style and started wearing CLOTHES (sometimes they aren’t leggings). 

Kerry in her fourth decade

My twenties were a mixed bag – marriage to Teddy and moving house 6 times in 8 years.  Exciting and stressful.  My thirties were strange because although I finally achieved some professional plaudits for grant writing and project work, I was palpably anxious.  My forties were adventurous – we moved to two different continents in 2 years and landed in Texas.  By then I finally had my weight under control and had decent medication for my mental health.

Kerry in her fifth decade

My fifties were fantastic!!  I looked the best I had in decades, felt healthy, travelled solo to exotic locations and started a completely new career.  Had the pandemic not happened, I might have slipped into my 60s with little or no impact.  Work came to a standstill, as did the airport so I had no raison d’etre.  My husband was deeply unhappy at work and wanted to retire early which he did.  I thought we would hate each other with enforced cohabitation but we settled into a new rhythm with plenty of humor and silliness.

Kerry in her sixth decade

I should be #grateful or #blessed but I just feel annoyed.  I want to be 51 again but that’s not possible.  There are a couple of nice things about ageing.  Most people are very polite to me and younger ladies ask me for Mommy advice.  I no longer have to worry about sexy lingerie but Teddy will testify that I never did!  My one push up bra will last me forever and I need never buy Spanx or Skims.  I would pull a muscle if I tried to put them on – even Lycra stockings are the work of the devil.

The timbre of this post was intended to be humorous yet poignant.  Many of us feel a bit hopeless in the wake of war and pestilence.  I am certain that we all aged mentally and physically through the pandemic no matter our biological age or infectious status.  As someone who struggles with mental illness, I know that it really is possible to take one day at a time and move forward.  I don’t have as many happy days as I used to but that is improving with increased interaction without masks.  Long may it last.

Kerry in her seventh decade

Stylish Miss Laurel

This is our Texas Mountain Laurel. For the first time, since we adopted her (from our neighbor), she is covered in blooms. They have a very intense smell – almost like grape bubblegum. By sheer coincidence the color is exactly the same as the Pantone Color of the Year 2022, Very Peri. I think she just wants to be fashionable like her mom… I have no idea why I anthropomorphize plants but I love to hug my trees and name them. Perhaps it’s natural, given I was born in San Francisco to a couple of beatniks!

Courtesy of House Beautiful

This is one of my favorite colors. One generous boyfriend bought me a gorgeous midi length sunray pleated skirt in periwinkle blue/lilac. My mum hated lilac so that made the purchase even better! Curiously, although he was generous and I was thankful, I didn’t like my clothes being chosen for me. I have trained Teddy never to buy me clothes and especially not lingerie! He did get me a free lilac fleecy dressing gown with some perfume and I have been wearing it for over a decade but I don’t think that counts as lingerie.

This is Miss Laurel in her full glory. She was planted next to another bush, a Japanese Yew, who died despite my best efforts. That has given her room to spread her branches. We are headed into a drought cycle in Texas and I think she might like the drier conditions. Originally mountain laurels came from the Chihuahua desert in Mexico. When the blooms fall off there will be very poisonous seed pods. Teddy better behave…

The Involuntary Vacation

Two weeks ago, Teddy had gone on a road trip to the Texas-Mexico border and I was taking the opportunity to frenetically clean the house in his absence.  The phone rang when I was scrubbing baseboards.  Knowing it was Teddy calling, I said laughingly, “Guess what I am doing?” He answered, “I am in the Emergency Room in McAllen”.  My heart stopped, metaphorically, and I screeched, “What?”  At first, I thought it might be one of his allergic reactions to insect bites but then he told me that his heart rate was very fast and irregular.  They were struggling to get it stabilized and he was being admitted to McAllen Cardiac Hospital as soon as a bed was available.

As soon as I put down the phone, I went into triage mode.  I phoned his hotel and explained the situation then booked a flight for the next day.  He had driven down in his own car but it is almost 700 miles from our home in south east Texas.  When he was transferred to the Cardiac Hospital he was put into ICU.  If his heart rate, rhythm and pressure improved, they intended to put him in a regular room, possibly for another night or more.  Teddy has a long history of cardiac issues – first, a tachycardia as a young man, then high cholesterol and blood pressure in his 40s.  All have been managed very well with medication over the years and no hospitalizations or events.

I have chronic anxiety with some depression and the news about Ukraine was beginning to bring me down.  As I pondered how I was going to deal with this, my heart went out to all those refugees who were going on journeys with no end in sight.  This was the time to put on a stiff upper lip and just be brave.  What I was most worried about was the journey back in his Challenger sports car.  We would have to do it in two days, as originally planned, and I would have to reschedule the booked hotels.

Like many of us, I had no wish to go on an airplane right now.  I arrived at the airport and it was jam packed with people.  My flight was delayed by a couple of hours – it was flying inbound from San Francisco and had a mechanical problem.  There was a bar close to the gate, so I decided to have a glass of wine.  I had a nice chat with a pretty lady travelling back to Monterrey, just over the border in Mexico.  Finally, our plane boarded and I settled in the back.  The mechanical problem was non-functioning air conditioning, so we were all a bit hot and bothered.  A couple, from the north, sat across the aisle.  They had obviously been drinking and their previous flight had also been delayed.  They borrowed the phone from the guy behind them and the mask-less woman proceeded to loudly berate their travel agent about a missed hotel reservation – all while the plane was speedily rattling down the runway.  The flight attendant tried to intervene but just gave up.

I was silently furious.  It was a 50-minute flight – couldn’t she could have waited to phone until we landed?  Had she not been watching the news with people boarding trains from Ukraine with no accommodation booked?  Teddy’s phone had been running out of battery with no charger so our communication was getting brief.  Luckily, Speedy Gonzales was flying the plane so it was a bumpy takeoff and landing with brakes screeching.  I raced off, got my luggage and went out to get an Uber.  A young man outside told me that there was a 35-minute wait for an Uber so I jumped in a taxi.  Immediately I was transported back to Egypt.  There was a candlewick bedspread on the back seat, it smelled like goats had been the last guests and he spoke no English.  My Spanish is not good enough behind a mask and Scottish accent, so he dropped me at the wrong hospital and I had to get an Uber to the right one…

By the time I got there, I was utterly exhausted, but Teddy was looking good in a regular hospital room.  It was such a relief for both of us to hug each other. McAllen is not a rich town but serendipitously Teddy had his heart incident treated in one of the 50 best cardiac hospitals in the USA.  The hospital was very clean but utilitarian.  The doctors changed his medication and monitored him until his heart rate was completely stable.  It was an isolated event triggered by goodness knows what but age, a long trip, red wine, dodgy shrimp and too much caffeine may have triggered the inevitable.  As he was discharged, the cardiologist looked at me and said, “You know the warning signs of stroke, don’t you?”  With trepidation, I assured her that I did with a family history of cardiac ill health.

The staff were fantastic from the Cardiac hospital to the little ER and we thanked them all.  The receptionist at the hotel was ecstatic to see the ‘Irishman’ who had become ill.  She had a bit of a crush on that accent…  We stayed one more night in the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.  Then we set off on our very long journey travelling from scrubland with cactus all the way to rolling hill country.  We were made to pull over at a border patrol about 30 miles from McAllen, as was everyone else.  It is advisable to carry your passport when so close to the border.  They were looking for a fugitive but one look at the older white couple and they waved us on.  It was very exciting!

I had no intention on going on vacation but my soul was soothed by the bucolic vista complete with goats, sheep and cattle.  We stopped for coffee breaks at little towns until we reached Cuera.  By then we had come out of deep oil country and it was truly agricultural.  It was such a treat to idle behind a tractor full of hay bales.  Most of the towns had magnificent central courthouses in the square and each had a different feel depending on the ancestry.  McAllen was almost entirely Hispanic but then we reached German and Czech towns.  Although I had a nutritional/exercise plan worked out in my head, I relaxed the rules a little for our involuntary vacation together.

Finally, we arrived home and it was such a relief to sleep in our own house.  After a week he had another AFIB incident in the middle of the night and we went to ER.  It was a short visit and they treated him with IV medication.  His GP is now in control until he sees a cardiologist in April so fingers crossed that this was a timely warning. 

Teddy doesn’t look bad, two days after ICU – all beer and Band-Aids. May he enjoy the last beer he will ever have…😊

Which suitor did I choose?

It was Valentine’s Day 1976 and I received two anonymous Valentine’s cards.  I can still remember my excitement.  The cards and envelopes were scrutinized as deeply as a Forensic Files crime.  If it was in 2022, I would have extracted the DNA from the saliva on the envelope…  Shortly after I received the cards, two boys in our ‘Glee Club’ asked me out and then I was convinced who sent which one.  But was I correct in my analysis?

I was so mortified by the Dragon card and the pink ‘tail’.  At 15 years old, I understood the implication but I was horribly naïve despite a clinical Roman Catholic health education which, as intended, put me off everything sexual.  Thank goodness Nana had passed away the previous year.  She would have declared it vulgar and made me wear a Burka to school.  Our uniform, which included regulation American tan tights with white knee socks on top, should have been enough to tamp down the boys’ lust!  My mum laughed out loud but I could see that she was thinking, “who sent that?”

The Tiger card was so different – sweet, beguiling and innocent.  The sentiment was delightful and the sender knew I loved all kinds of kitty cats.  The true love of my life was Tibby, my first cat.  I talked about her so much in school, that at our 25-year school reunion, old school mates asked me how she was?  She crossed to the rainbow bridge many years before. 

Kerry, idyllically happy with textbook and sleepy Tibby

Of the two suitors, only one appealed to me. V was an exotic half breed like me.  He was half Italian/half Scottish with black hair and pale blue eyes.  At the time I thought I was half Spanish/half Irish but I turned out to be a Heinz variety.  The other boy, W, was averagely handsome with a vague resemblance to Starsky of Starsky and Hutch fame but there was zero attraction from my end.  With that in mind, I determined that V. had sent the tiger card as he was a soft spoken, kind natured boy (liked by all mothers).  By process of elimination, that meant W. had sent the ribald Dragon card.  I turned him down and went out with V.

My short courtship with V. started so well.  He smelled so good and seemed interested in going further than first base but we didn’t.  We sat for hours listening to Tangerine Dream. His mother did not like me.  I can’t think of any reason for her to feel like that but I suspect she felt very uncomfortable with her oldest son, aged 16, having lustful thoughts for the pretty senorita.  She was lucky that Nana is always in my head or we might have got to second base…

After a few weeks, I was bored and dumped poor V. by kissing another Glee Club member in front of him.  My girl friends castigated me and I remember them comforting V. who was crying in the kitchen.  I didn’t even feel an ounce of regret – hormones make you behave terribly and I was only 15.  Later I went out with another Glee Club Member, M.  I dumped him on a boat halfway to an island on a school trip.  He spent the rest of the trip miserable.  What a heartless floozy I was… 😊

Much later I discovered there were some other boys who had a wee crush on me, so perhaps the senders are still anonymous.  Maybe sweet V. send the rude one – I could still extract the DNA… I hope you have a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!